I love music even more than I love toys. I’ve been playing in various punk, noise, and indie rock bands since I was 14 years old. Punk rock may not interest some of you, but I’m willing to take that chance. Everyone likes music, after all– even toy collectors. If nothing else, this article will please exactly one of my friends (RTG from Attica Gazette).
The next review I have planned is a big one and photography is taking a bit longer than normal, so I’m doing something a bit different in the meantime. You might also see a smaller review between now and then as well, but no promises.
Today we’re going to look at a CD I randomly bought in Idaho Falls, ID when I was 16 years old. It was a CD I bought purely because it was in the “punk” section and because of the band’s name.
Prepare yourself for Boba Fett Youth.
My Youth and Boba Fett Youth
I bought Boba Fett Youth’s self titled album (their only full-length, clocking in a hair short of 30 minutes, as most good punk LPs do) in 2000 or 2001 when I was 16 years old.
At the time, most of my music tastes skewed towards 80s and 70s American punk. I was obsessed with The Germs, The Adolescents, The Circle Jerks, The Ramones, Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, DEVO, Dag Nasty, Rites of Spring, The Faction, JFA, Bad Religion, Misfits, Gang Green, DRI, The Dead Milkmen, FEAR, and all the basic, entry-level punk bands of those eras. Those are (mostly) all great bands, but it was just stuff my older friends and record store clerks were listening to.
I was also into some 90s punk, most of which you’d find on either Epitaph or Fat Wreck Chords. At that point, the most I branched out in any direction from my home base of 80s Made-In-The-USA punk was listening to Public Enemy, Murder City Devils, Wu-Tang Clan, Judas Priest, and Motorhead.
Image Courtesy of Punks in Vegas
But, I was as nerdy at age 16 as I am now. And, at that point, I was way more into Star Wars than I am now, too. I saw Boba Fett Youth’s self titled CD in a bin at our local favorite spot, CD Warehouse, and could not believe my eyes. A band with a Star Wars name that none of my friends had heard of! I had to have it. Of course I was only working a part time, minimum wage job after school then, so I didn’t have the cash. I asked the manager Ricky to hold it for me and he did.
I picked it up the next week and took it home.
To my friends, it was a novelty they listened to once. They were amused, but they mostly went back to Rage Against the Machine, Anti-Flag, and NOFX. They took some interest in the intro to the track “Join the Club,” which was a bizarro, noisy instrumental cover of “The Imperial March,” but it didn’t have much staying power past that.
To me, though, it was a revolution. This was a cool-sounding punk band that I discovered (by accident) at a local record store. This was not a band you’d see on Nitro or Honest Don’s compilations. This was a small label punk band named after the guy in the cool armor who never did anything but get eaten by a toothy sand sphincter. And it was mine.
Who are Boba Fett Youth?
Boba Fett Youth were a punk band from Las Vegas, NV. According to the band’s guitarist, Nate Robards, they formed in either late 1993 or early 1994.
“It was basically one of those bands where a few friends got together and said “Hey, let’s start a punk band! What do you want to play? Bass? OK, I guess I’ll sing!” They found short time guitarist Andy Bullock and my pal drummer Chris Crud and within weeks I was in the band. We all did our own zines and went to just about every show in the scene…
… Our first real show was at a place in the desert called The Caves. All our friends showed up in droves donning Star Wars’ masks and lightsabers and kicking up tons of dirt. We were really lucky to have tons of support due to all our previous contributions to the punk rock scene and the years that we played together were a blast!”
Their first demo tape was called If This Is Living, Freeze Me In Carbonite, which showed an early commitment to the Star Wars bit.
The bit was not a “theme,” though, according to Robards: “The title was a play off the Star Wars reference in our band name. We never set out to be a Star Wars themed band or anything, it was just funny to us, and the joke just kept going.”
In my teenage years, it was rare to find people who loved both punk and Star Wars. Star Wars fandom wasn’t nearly as common back then, even during the prequel era, and the crossover between DIY basement punk and space wizards was almost zero. Outside of my group of friends, at least.
Image Courtesy of Punks in Vegas
It’s wild to think that in 1994 or 1995, there were a bunch of smelly punks in Star Wars costumes crammed into a garage or basement, crowd surfing and spilling beer all over each other to a local three-chord DIY band. That could not have been any further from my experience, where the punks were only serious about getting drunk in the Burger King parking lot and the nerds were only serious about Playstation and anime.
Boba Fett Youth released their demo tape, a self-titled 7,” and their self-titled LP/CD through their own label, Bucky Records. Though Star Wars factored heavily into album artwork, flyers, and crowd participation, they were much more concerned with touring than they were with Greedo shooting first.
The self-titled CD I bought as a teenager was released in 1995, and they embarked on a tour of the Western United States to promote it.
“The band also managed to do a west coast tour at the end of 1995, and I was lucky enough to tag along as a roadie. We had many adventures along the way, and we celebrated the arrival of a new year at a rad house party/show in Boise, ID. That trip was my first taste of touring, and I had an absolute blast traveling for two weeks with the goofballs in Boba Fett Youth.”
I live in Boise now, so I asked a few of my friends if they remembered the show. I was 9 years old at the time (and also living about 400 miles away in Southeast Idaho), so I obviously was not in attendance.
(I asked some friends who attended the show about it, and I’ll update this post if they ever get off their asses and get back to me.)
The band played a final show in 1997, which you can watch here. They’ve since reunited for a few shows in their native Las Vegas and one band member works for Nevada Public Radio. Several of the band’s members have gone on to play in other bands, as well.
Boba Fett Youth left the best possible legacy for a DIY punk band– a few tours, a few record releases, and a ton of fun shows in a short period of time.
Boba Fett Youth – Self-Titled
In a former life, I was a music journalist. I wrote cover stories for magazines you might even know. But I’ve never been an album reviewer, so you’ll have to bear with me on this one.
Boba Fett Youth’s S/T really clicked with me when I was 16 years old. I was all about raw, angry, “authentic-sounding” punk. My definition of “authentic sounding” has since broadened a huge amount, but back then I was looking for a very specific thing.
I’d describe the sound of Boba Fett Youth’s full length as aggressive, melodic punk that’s well performed, but not polished. Despite coming out in 1995, it doesn’t have a distinctly “90s” punk sound. It’s not the skate punk of Strung Out or Lagwagon, the pop punk of J Church or the Mr. T Experience, the early “orgcore” of Avail or Dillinger Four, or the hardcore blitz of Born Against or Man is the Bastard, or even the SoCal standard sound like Offspring, Bad Religion, Pennywise, and NOFX.
Image Courtesy of Punks in Vegas
It’s kind of its own thing. If I had to compare it to something, I’d say it sits somewhere between Crimpshrine and Less Talk, More Rock era Propagandhi. This is forceful, noisy punk rock that is nowhere near studio polished or mainstream radio ready, but it’s also tuneful and interesting. If you have 28:29, you can hear it for yourself via the embed above.
The vocals are “snotty” in the classic punk sense, but they don’t do what bands like Green Day and Blink 182 were doing at the time. The guitar whips up a three-chord frenzy until it doesn’t– some of the little guitar lines and instrumental parts will absolutely surprise you.
What struck me upon my recent re-listen to BFY was how interesting the whole album is. The band doesn’t step outside of a sound you’d identify as “punk” at first listen, but there are engaging little tempo shifts, vocal melodies, and interludes that totally catch you off guard.
As I mentioned earlier, “Join the Club” starts off with the band’s own writhing, churning version of “The Imperial March.” The song “Ska Bus” hits the 90s milestone of every punk band having at least one ska-punk song, even if it’s totally tongue-in-cheek. “This 150lb Vegetarian Is Gonna Kick Your Fuckin’ Ass” slinks along with with a fun, mid-tempo groove, and both “Pablo” and “Health Nut on Crack” sound positively unhinged, veering into tempos and arrangements the band seems to be barely holding together. What I’m saying is it’s great.
Image Courtesy of Punks in Vegas
For me, the standout track is “Everything’s Fine,” which is both deeply weird and a total earworm. It’s a twisting, churning blast of nasty punk rock with an absolutely infectious vocal melody. If the people at Maximumrocknroll weren’t raving about this song back in 95, then there was something wrong with them.
There’s another blatant Star Wars reference on the record, too. “Yearn for Mandalore” is a song title only a pretty diehard Star Wars fan would get, and it shows that the band knew their Boba Fett. These were the days before Wookieepedia admin were making asses of themselves, so you had to learn about this stuff through novels, comics, and RPG books. This track name, combined with the band name and the cover art, were what totally sold me on the album.
The artwork backed that hardcore Star Wars fandom up more than the songs themselves, many of which were political in nature.
From Nate Robards:
“The artwork is one of my favorite album covers. The art was by Greg Higgins and features an alter ego/caricature of each of us portrayed as a different Star Wars character with a funny story about how old school Star Wars we each were.”
I know Boba Fett Youth are held in high regard in the Las Vegas punk scene, but I don’t think they’re very well known outside of that area. They were a fast, loose punk band who kicked up maximum dust for a few years and then called it quits. But, for me, they were the first punk band I felt like I discovered on my own.
I only revisit this record every once in a while, but it’s important to me. It represents one of the first times I branched out on my own, away from what the elders and scenesters were showing me, and found a band that wasn’t on anyone else’s radar.
This is an album I’ll take with me to my grave.
- You can listen to the album with the YouTube embed above, or download it from Punks in Vegas.
- You can also download BFY’s other two releases over at Punks in Vegas.
- Interview with Nate Robards part 1 at Punks in Vegas
- Interview with Nate Robards part 2 at Punks in Vegas
- Boba Fett Youth live on 91.5 KUNV 11/24/94 at Keep Laughing
Huge thanks to Punks in Vegas and Eric Setzke for helping me out with this one!
If you want to discuss this band or any other obscure 90s (or science fiction related) bands, you can let me know in the comments!