Keep Your AAA Card

Local punks lose the horns, keep the logo

Everything is overlabeled now," Against All Authority guitarist Joe Koontz asserts during some rare downtime at a chiropractor's office where he works as a masseur. "In the Eighties bands like the Circle Jerks and Bad Brains would play together -- bands with totally different sounds -- and no one would complain. Now it's, “I'm only going if it's an indie-rock show, or a ska-punk show.' It's stupid."

This remark might come as a shock to those familiar with Against All Authority's first release -- a split single with Gainesville's Less Than Jake -- and the ska-punk boom that both bands rode to worldwide popularity. But a sampling of Against All Authority's discography reveals much more depth than the flavor-of-the-month outfits (remember Goldfinger?) that went the way of the Hula-Hoop when the ska trend fizzled in 1999. Its members never caught at a loss for words, Against All Authority has evolved from party-with-a-message ska-rock to the musical equivalent of David Lynch's "Angriest Dog in the World." They're snarling, brutal, and punk as hell.

Against All Authority began in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, when Koontz and high school buddy Danny Lore played acoustic guitar to pass the time during a monthlong power outage in South Miami-Dade. "We were so bored that we got the idea to climb a bridge and play acoustic punk songs to the people driving by," Koontz recalls. After the juice was turned back on, Koontz and Lore went electric and recruited Koontz's pal Millan Aguero to drum. Aguero's inability to perform didn't faze Koontz: "We wanted to play out desperately, so we weren't going to let a little thing like his not knowing how to play get in the way." Six months and three house parties later, Against All Authority did its first club show at South Beach's Gallery of the Unknown Artist. Shortly afterward Aguero left the band. He was quickly replaced by percussion whiz Kris King, and Against All Authority became a sonic force to be reckoned with. "For the first time," Koontz affirms, "everyone in the band was a real musician."

Call these guys for roadside resistance
Call these guys for roadside resistance

With renewed confidence Against All Authority set about making a name for itself. Lore drew up an American Automobile Association oval logo with anarchy signs replacing the standard letter A; it soon became the bane of janitors all over South Florida when Lore, Koontz, and King blanketed the tricounty area with stickers. To beef up its ska-punk menu, Against All Authority added a horn section. In 1994, after a series of successful shows at the Kitchen Club in Coconut Grove, Farout Records owner Tim Farout was hip to Against All Authority. Not only did he want to release something by the band, but he offered to play trombone with it. Unable to resist gaining a label and a band member simultaneously, Against All Authority hitched its wagon to Farout. In May 1995 AAA recorded both the aforementioned single with Less Than Jake and the full-length Destroy What Destroys You. A snapshot of the tastes of the times, Destroy combined snarling slamcore anthems ("Hard as Fuck") with bouncy, horn-laden calls to arms ("Disobey," "The Corporate Takeover"). Lore's sneering, machine-gun vocals weave in and out of King's rock-solid drumming and Koontz's melodic guitar lines.

To peddle Destroy What Destroys You, the band members embarked on a two-month U.S. tour. Over the next few weeks, Against All Authority performed in some bizarre places. "We played a racquetball court in El Paso, Texas," Koontz chuckles. "The acoustics were so bad it was like playing in the Grand Canyon." Living rooms, church basements, and city parks were typical stops. As can be expected, the compensation left something to be desired. "We were so poor that we had to siphon gas from parked cars just to get to the next town," Koontz recalls. "We became rock and roll criminals."

Against All Authority returned from the road to find its grassroots tour had created an insatiable appetite for Destroy What Destroys You. Farout couldn't afford to produce more than 1000 copies at a time, so demand outstripped supply. To date the album has been pressed 50 times. Independent labels began tripping over themselves to sign the band. Epitaph records offered to fly Against All Authority to Los Angeles. Unfortunately no contract was inked. Maybe it was the band's lyrics: "Take your money/Shove it up your ass/I ain't selling punk for cash."

After severing ties with Farout in 1997, Against All Authority signed with well-funded California independent Hopeless Records. The following year's All Fall Down was an instant smash. Hopeless aggressively plugged the group, putting full-page ads in skateboard magazines such as Thrasher and many of the planet's punk zines. A booking agent was hired to keep the band in clubs and off racquetball courts. Against All Authority even toured Europe with labelmates Falling Sickness -- but then came a cease-and-desist letter from the American Automobile Association regarding the pirated logo. Undaunted, Against All Authority kept the oval, then superimposed two cops and a corporate honcho holding a contract on it. All three had their legs spread just wide enough to make perfect letter A's.

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