On August 1, 2012, I was on my computer, and everything was absolutely normal, until I came across a disturbing post on the Fat Wreck Chords facebook page. I didn’t believe it at first. I was completely in shock. I mean, I had just seen Tony Sly, and Joey Cape the week before in Brooklyn, performing their acoustic sets. I immediately called my friend Billy, who had introduced me to No Use For A Name while we were in college, both majoring in music. I had to break the news to him that I thought Tony Sly had died; he didn’t believe me, but then I sent him the link.
That entire day, I sat on my bed and listened to four NUFAN albums, front- to-back, reminiscing about how much of an influence this guy, and his band, had been on my life. I wasn’t always into punk. I listened to a lot of nü metal, and classic rock when I was in high school, and I was a huge “grunge” fan in middle school. Well, I was somewhat introduced to this type of punk rock when I was in middle school as well – Green Day, The Offspring, and Rancid – because these were bands that were on the radio. But when I heard More Betterness! for the first time, it changed my life.
I got obsessed with drumming faster, catchy melodies, meaningful lyrics, and tasteful songwriting. I am able to view this as a life-changing moment because this was the band that had influenced a new direction I was about to take in my music making, alongside my friend Billy, who, at that point, had asked me to play drums with him. In our seven or eight years playing together, we developed our own style, totally rooted in the punk rock we listened to and loved, with No Use For A Name at the forefront.
This path I was heading down led me to where I am today. I am now a music teacher, performer, composer, and music preparer, but I will never stop listening to punk rock. To me, the music makes as much sense as any beautiful aria, an intense string quartet, swift jazz combo, or boisterous percussion ensemble.
I knew there had to be some sort of idea to memorialize Tony Sly in the works. It turns out there was. Fat Wreck Chords, NUFAN’s record label (they were the second act signed to Fat), announced in April 2013 that they were putting together a tribute album. The lineup was incredible – Bad Religion, Bouncing Souls, NOFX, Anti-Flag, The Flatliners, Lagwagon, Pennywise, Rise Against, The Gaslight Anthem, Frank Turner, Mad Caddies, even Simple Plan. The catch was Fat Mike encouraged the contributing bands to cover the songs differently – make the slow songs fast, and make the fast songs slow. Great idea, but I had no idea how great of an idea it actually turned out to be.
The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute was released on October 29, 2013 (I received my copy two days before for some reason) and, all the proceeds go to the Tony Sly Memorial Fund. I believe it to be the best album released in 2013. Karina Denike (who is heard singing backup vocals on the No Use For A Name track On The Outside) opens the album with her positively bone-chilling arrangement of The Biggest Lie. Her arrangement is very slow (because the original is fast), and utilizes the sounds of a vibraphone, and electronic sounds. Her vocal harmonies are beautiful making use of open intervals as if it were a Medieval motet). Another high point is Strung Out’s cover of NUFAN’s MTV hit Soulmate. Strung Out, label mates of NUFAN for years, took a fast song, and made it faster. I would expect nothing less from them. They didn’t really change the song too much – added some signature Strung Out guitar hammer-ons, and sped up the drums – but I believe it’s the best track on the album. Other high points include Bad Religion’s cover of Let It Slide, which is the biggest surprise on the album. Fat Mike mentions in an interview that he was surprised that Bad Religion is on the album because they don’t do covers.
Pennywise – Devonshire and Crown
The Bouncing Souls – Homecoming
Old Man Markley – The Feel Good Record Of The Year (my friend Dave’s favorite track)
Mad Caddies – AM
Teenage Bottle Rocket – Via Munich
Lagwagon – Discomfort Inn
Rise Against – For Fiona
I highly recommend you listen to this album. If you like what you hear, I’d like to suggest getting a few No Use For A Name Albums:
Don’t Miss the Train (1992)
The Daily Grind (1993)
¡Leche con Carne! (1995)
Making Friends (1997)
More Betterness! (1999)
Hard Rock Bottom (2002)
Keep Them Confused (2005)
The Feel Good Record of the Year (2008)