A recent meme popularized (maybe even created) by music writer Dan Ozzi poses as a multiple-choice survey. The query is as follows: "You’re a punk dude over 30. Choose your path: CrossFit, barbershop culture, craft beer, MMA, Facebook rants, enamel pins, Tinder creeping.” Funny and topical, sure, but also timely because it forces into perspective the aging environs of South Florida’s punk-rock third wave.
Not to get lost in a “where are they now” kind of way, but the generation of punk and hardcore kids from the late '90s to the late '00s can now identify with the aforementioned list. And because we’re not Breitbart or other forms of #RealFakeNews, we'll tell you that at least three, maybe four, of those bullets qualifying as convo points for Phantom Drive.
Relatively new on the South Florida scene and with an enviable pedigree, the band is, in a way, a product of its self-description. “It’s tongue-in-cheek, to poke fun at the fact that a lot of the songs are references to a rough relationship/breakup I recently endured," guitarist Peter Santa-Maria explains. “Before the end of June 2017, I hadn't played seriously in over a decade — I didn't have the motivation. Suddenly, on a day that was particularly rough, I grabbed my guitar for fun and wrote ten songs in less than a day. Of course, I could only write about the breakup.”
Santa-Maria elaborates: This batch of music has come from an honest place, and there is humor, because “tough guys” usually don’t like to admit heartache. Rounded out by his brother Philip on bass, Chip Walbert on guitar, Alex De Renzis on drums, and Armando Soler on vocals, the band enjoys a serious chemistry. The members have played for other bands such as Twice the Sun, Soler, Destro, and All Hell Breaks Loose. Philip, a trained multi-instrumentalist, is debuting professionally in Phantom Drive.
The result is meaty and lives in the neighborhood of stoner rock, '90s alternative, and progressive arena rock. Think Helmet, Quicksand, and Failure meeting Fu Manchu and the Fucking Champs. There are catchy, melodic, deliberate riffs and calibrated rhythms. Santa-Maria says time is more valuable now than before, so "everyone brings their A-game every time."
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Their four-song EP, artfully recorded and mixed by Miami rocker and music producer Ryan Haft, is an impressive calling card or letter of introduction. The band hasn't performed live yet, but a quick listen indicates a balance of shared interests has evolved from its members' younger, more hardcore days. The album might be catchy, and it might be sensitive in a way, but it is still heavy. This makes sense for a group of guys who have already experienced the many facets of band life.
“It was supposed to be a fun little project, but we have all been pleasantly surprised by the band's chemistry, the catchiness of the hooks, the amount of work we can get done in such a small time, and the positive response we have received so far,” an enthusiastic Santa-Maria says. So far, they’ve evoked nostalgia without the sap of the nostalgic.
In case there's a question of snark, here are some picks from the aforementioned meme: MMA, barbershop culture, and CrossFit, for sure. Enamel pins, maybe. This is tough music, created during a moment of tenderness, for tough guys.
Phantom Drive’s self-titled EP is available via phantomdrive.bandcamp.com.