Sin 34 in 1982 (L to R) Mike Glass, Phil Newman, Julie Lanfeld, & Dave Markey

(Photo by Jordan Schwartz)

 

The Sin 34 Story

I had the name Sin 34 for a punk rock band in my head at age 15 in 1979. I even created a logo for it centered around a crucifix with S on the left side of the top center of the cross, the center being the "I" and N on the right, same with the 3 and 4 on the bottom of cross. It sounded real cryptic, but in actuality it was just a UHF television station based in Los Angeles (Spanish International Network -channel- 34).

Long before I ever ventured out into the actual punk scene in Hollywood, or beyond, I had an alternate universe in my mind of what "the punk scene" actually was. In some ways it was more interesting than the reality of the scene at the time. In addition to making up fake bands (some of the names were hilarious), I would also make up fake punk-rock clubs. It was all innocent teenage fantasy. It was a couple years before I decided I was going to actually be a drummer at the age of 17, as a senior at (Santa Monica) High School, and make "Sin 34" a REAL band.

The environment in So Cal at the time was decidedly very anti-punk rock. You would constantly being yelled at from passing cars, just because you had short (or colored) hair, and Salvation Army (thrift store) clothing. The jocks and surfers at school gave us a ton of shit, but this just fueled us. It's hard to imagine that now, I know. I try and imagine now how the geeks and misfits in the high school social structure nowadays find ways to rebel now that "punk rock" is normal and accepted.

I met Julie Lanfeld at a Middle Class show at the Starwood that year (in 1981), and she promised she would steal a drum kit from a neighbor's garage. It was a kick drum with a tom-tom, probably hadn't been used since the 60's. I didn't have any hardware so I used a metal lamp shade as a cymbal, and I bought a floor tom from a friend. I used to kick the kick drum (literally) WITH MY FOOT!

Julie and I bonded over our love of Devo and Black Flag. There were only a handful of punks at my high school (Samohi), and even less at her school (Beverly Hills High). But she managed to talk 11th grader and bassist Phil Newman into joining our band. They were both somewhat uptight about being known as Beverly Hills Punks, so I recall when asked where we were from (not unlike a gang, right?) it was always "Santa Monica". We rehearsed in Julie's basement in the spring of that year as a three piece sans guitar, and came up with a set of four or five songs. The early material sounded like a scraggily version of Siouxsie and the Banshees meets local LA band Mad Society.

Without a snare drum at first, I relied on very tribal-like beats to keep time. My drums sounded more like (early) Adam and the Ants or Bow Wow Wow than a lot of the punk we were into and surrounded by. We actually did a cover of The Specials "Concrete Jungle". That soon fell by the wayside, as Julie turned me onto her friend's band (Cory Rusk), The Necros (she was selling their first EP herself, for the band to the two or three local record shops that would carry them at the time.) Soon after, we got the first Minor Threat EP from Ian himself (who was selling them at Oki-Dogs one night.)

Sin 34's material quickly evolved into pretty-much straight ahead hardcore at that point. Julie's singing was very aggro, and not at all what you would have expected from a 16 year old Beverly Hills High School 10th grader. At some point I procured a snare drum from a new wave band playing at Dillion's in Westwood, a fact I am not proud of, but very much keeping with the vibe of the rest of the kit. I was now sort of learning how to play by watching local drummers like Don Bolles, George Hurley, & Bill Stevenson.

At a Black Flag show at the Santa Monica civic in June of '81, the day I graduated high school, we met some skater punks from Palm Springs; Mike Bates and Sean Wheeler. They were throwing a party and invited us to come and play. We jumped on the gig excitedly, but one small problem. We had no guitar player. So on our way to the party we picked up our friend Mike Vallejo of the band Circle One, and taught him the songs in the car on the way to the party.

Mike Vallejo played a few more shows with us, but he was committed to Circle One. We went through a couple other guitarists (Chris Pederson, star of Suburbia, and Scott Silverman) before meeting Mike "Geek" Glass, a fellow Santa Monica high schooler who was a surfer, who was just discovering punk rock, tho he was much more into Led Zeppelin at the time. He was learning guitar, but he clicked with Phil, Julie and I, who were more-or-less in the same boat.

We didn't waste time in writing songs and aggressively getting as many gigs as possible. It wasn't long before we were playing shows with many of the area's "big" bands like Social Distortion, TSOL, CH3, Circle Jerks, Fear, and even the Dead Kennedy's had us play with them just on the strength of our first couple demos. The first demo was an extremely lo-fi 4 track, which a few songs would soon appear on the Charred Remains and Meathouse compilations.

By spring of 1982 we recorded our debut EP Die Laughing at an 8 track studio in the Hollywood Blvd. at Western building (as in The Cheifs Hollywest Crisis). Phil put up the (meager) funds to record it, and press 1500 7" EP's (which sold quickly and effortlessly, I recall). We then recorded for Smoke 7 Records compilation Sudden Death and my own fanzine's compilation We Got Power Party Or Go Home. We also recorded for Gary Kail (Anti & Mood Of Defiance) Nu Underground Label and the "Life Is..." (So Ugly, So Boring, So Beautiful) series. I believe our contibution is on the Life Is So Boring, So Why Not Steal This Record.

In early 1983 we began work on our first (and only) LP Do You Feel Safe. Recorded at the 16 track Mystic Studios (before they would start releasing hardcore records.) Doug Mody offered to put our LP out, but Phil wanted to do it on Spinhead since the experience with the EP went so well.

Phil did all the work for the label, and he did a great job. 3000 copies were sold, and the band enjoyed a bit of local radio airplay. We continued to play a lot of shows throughout the year, and the into next. We had built up a great momentum locally, and we began headline shows at The Vex and The Cathay De Grande.

The band continued to play many shows locally, and even made a couple trips north to San Francisco, one of which was documented in my short film "Sin 34: Trip To San Francisco". We played shows in the bay area with Frightwig, Flipper, GBH, Scream, Social Distortion, & Toxic Reasons. Fresno and Bakersfield (to play with the Faction and DRI), Santa Barbara (to play with The Misfits), and South-east (Phoenix, to play with JFA and Red Cross). This was the extent of touring this band would do.

1984 would prove to be a dark year for the band. The scene around us was changing, and so were we. Internal pressures soon dissolved Sin 34 sometime in mid 1984, just as the band was poised for bigger things. I remember feeling really let down after all the hard work we did as a band. Phil and I managed to keep playing together and formed Painted Willie before the final "official" break-up of Sin 34. By the end of 1985 Painted Willie was signed to SST records and hitting the road with my all-time heroes Black Flag for what turned out to be their final tour documented in my film Reality 86'd. Final tour, that is of course until their reformation in two separate incarnations 28 years later.

In 1995 Grand Theft Audio released a Sin 34 CD entitled "Die Listening" which contained all the early demos, compilation tracks, and live recordings from the Olympic Auditorium in Downtown LA.

The band reformed out of the blue in 2008, and has played a handful of shows in the Southern California area each year through 2012.  The unlikely reunion after a 23 year hiatus was initiated by Julie, and all original members were on board. Highlights include playing the Santa Monica Civic for the Goldenvoice 30 show with old friends TSOL & Bad Religion, and with NOFX (who's very first show was opening for Sin 34 at the Cathay De Grande) at the Henry Fonda Theater, which just so happens to be right around the corner from the former location of the Cathay De Grande. The Die Laughing EP was made available through Itunes in 2008. 

After a June 2012 show at Webers in Reseda, the band took a break. Six months later Julie attempted to underhandelely form a new line up of the band behind the backs of Phil, Mike and myself. I learned of this by stumbling across a questionable Wikipedia article that was nothing more than a press release for the "All New Sin 34". Julie's "all new" version of the band imploded before ever playing a show. Once again, I felt really let down, but this time by the actions of an old friend. Needles to say, this put the big chill on Sin 34, once again.

-David Markey

 

Sin 34, first reunion show @ Liquid Kitty, West Los Angeles, 2008

(l to r Phil Newman, Julie Lanfeld, Dave Markey, & Michael F. Glass)