I met Give You Nothing vocalist Spencer B. outside a Karate show at UC Santa Cruz where I was going to school. I was in a dark place. No friends. Failing classes. Directionless. Spencer and the local kids lifted me up, took me to countless shows in San Francisco and at Gilman, invited me to play parking lot hockey, and helped me book shows for bands like Nerve Agents, Kill Your Idols, Carry On, Throwdown, and 18 Visions there in Santa Cruz. I went from not going to class because I was too depressed to leave my room to not going to class cause these guys always had something better to do.
Over the next 20 years, I would watch Spencer get pissed on by a turtle, helped save his wedding when everyone realized there was no knife to cut the cake, played decades of seasons of fantasy hockey and analyze NHL teams' salary cap situations.
While you may not have heard of his bands, Spencer has been crucial to the Santa Cruz hardcore and punk scenes for over 20 years and now he is fronting the aforementioned Give You Nothing (who will be doing some California shows with San Francisco's Tuning).
Tell me about Santa Cruz. What makes it so unique as a punk scene?
We have been super-lucky to always have so much history or punk rock here and always a very strong diy scene. From BL'AST! to Fury 66 and Good Riddance to the new bands killing it like Drain and Jawstruck, we have just always had a steady supply of awesome bands. And the thing that I love is you still see the people from all of those bands still out supporting and booking shows. Being a smaller market we have always had to book our own shows.
What was the first show you booked?
The first show I booked at a real venue was Brother’s Keeper, 18 Visions, Racetraitor, and a bunch of rad locals at the Vets Hall Basement in February 1999. Before that I’d been helping set up house shows.
The footage below was shot at a show Spencer booked when he was still in high school:
How old were you?
16, but I knew if we wanted bands like that to play we had to book them ourselves.
How does booking touring bands at 16 fall into your lap?
I just knew that we wanted to start getting more shows here and I started to reach out to bands. The first band that got back to me was Brother’s Keeper and I set that show up for them and it went off. You can still find videos of that show on YouTube. After that I think word just got out and bands began to reach out to me and the shows kept getting bigger and all the bands always had a great time and would come back. Then we were super lucky to have the Nerve Agents be a mainstay for us and they brought so many great bands through and helped us out so much here. They were truly a big part of building up the hardcore scene here.
Whoever booked those Nerve Agents shows should be a legend up there.
Yeah, if only we could remember his name.... But after you moved back they stayed a mainstay all the way until their last shows.
They could have been one of the biggest bands in the world.
They should have been. Anyone who got to see the chaos and energy of their shows would agree. And so many people that they all brought together are all still friends.
I think one of the things about Santa Cruz punk is the element of violent people who come in from the mountains or beaches.
That has always been lurking around too. Those shows in the late '90s always had a lot of problems with the local bro dudes coming to all of the shows and causing problems and would attack the punk and hardcore kids.
I remember the show where it all turned. Good Riddance, AFI, and Ensign all played and it was the show where all the young punk and hardcore kids banded together to put a stop to it. Still to this day, it's the most fights I’ve ever seen at one show. But after that the scene stayed really strong to keep that element out of the shows here.
And now you have bands like Drain, Gulch, Scowl, Jawstruck, and you guys. Santa Cruz is a relatively small place. Why is it always so vibrant?
I really think it is because of the way all of the bands and promoters have always worked really hard to always make sure Santa Cruz was never forgotten. All of the years I booked bands would always want to come back and play Santa Cruz because they knew the shows would always be super fun and that we would always take care of all of the bands. I feel like everyone has worked hard to keep this place as a pretty special scene.
Throw some Santa Cruz bands at me I may have missed.
I think the bands you mentioned are pretty much all the more active hardcore bands in Santa Cruz, except The Deathless. You could include Fast Asleep, even though they broke up last year. But The Deathless should be in there. It’s Joe Clements' (Fury 66) newest band and they rip.
Would you consider Santa Cruz part of the Bay Area scene or its own thing?
Honestly, a little of both. I think there are a lot of people who go back and forth and a bunch of kids that just stayed in this area. But our vibe here was always way different. Shows here were always all about having fun and including everyone. It’s one of the best things here is that you would have mixed bills with metal bands and street punk bands and hardcore bands and all the kids would come out and have a great time partying together.
Do you think the strength of your scene is a reaction to the hippie/weed culture?
You know I don’t necessarily think that’s a huge part but I guess it’s natural for kids to reveal against whatever the norms are for their place
Now you personally were in some hardcore bands that did ok, but now in your mid-30s you’re in a band that I feel has the most potential of any of the others.
Thanks, dude! Yeah my first band, Over the Top, straight out of high school got to play some rad shows. Then when we got At Risk rolling we really hit our stride when the Bay Area hardcore scene was just killing it. We got to play some rad tours and played a bunch of rad shows and we were so stoked to be able to bring a bunch or rad bands to Santa Cruz to play. After At Risk broke up I did a band called Among the Living for about a year but everyone had lots going on so the band ended up breaking up soon after our record came out.
After that it had been a long time since I had played in a band. Once this band came together I felt so lucky to be in a band with so many rippers. All of us had played in a bunch of bands and it just came together pretty quickly. Everyone was stoked on playing a mix of that melodic hardcore and skate punk we grew up with here in Santa Cruz.
And what bands did the rest of the folks in Give You Nothing come from?
Tommy played in No Truce and was in Downpresser for a bit. Blake was in Uzi Suicide. Pat was in Abhorrance and Static Revolution.
And Give You Nothing now has two full-lengths, correct?
We have our first EP called Your Revolution, which we self-released here and was released by Umlaut Records in the UK. Those were the first songs that we wrote. Then earlier this year we released our first full length which is self-titled on Snubbed Records and Umlaut Records.
You never played out of California but a UK label came calling to release your first LP?
Yeah, we were super stoked. We hit up Mark Bell Illustration to do our album art. He was super stoked on the record and wanted to release it on the label he works with. The response from the UK has been really killer.
So, you hit him up to do art and it turned into a label putting out your record?
Yeah, that’s how it went down. It was super-cool of them to be so stoked on the record and to take a chance on us.
Your email is arasc (anti-racist action Santa Cruz). What's your involvement in that?
In the mid to late-'90s, there was actually a lot of activity in the Bay Area and even in Santa Cruz we would have the surfer nazi types and then some of the more traditional white power types that would come down from the mountains. We always wanted to have that anti-racist presence at the shows so I helped set up to distribute ARA materials around Santa Cruz. It’s been one thing that has been awesome is that the scene here as always been strongly and vocally anti-racist
I haven’t actually been active with the ARA organization in a very long time or know if they even still exist.
I can even remember a few shows from my nine months living there that had their share of racist chumps. We were teenagers getting into it with full-blown nazis.
Yeah, man, it was kind of crazy for a bit there were a bunch if fights but after a while they just stopped showing up.
As a band who’s a little older and playing music that’s as melodic and almost Fat Wreck as you do, what is the most important thing to you about being in Give You Nothing?
Honestly, I know it will sound cheesy but for me it’s all about having fun. We all have jobs and family’s and obligations, but we really love playing music and it was really important to us that it always stays fun. And with the style we play we really wanted that throwback to those Bay Area bands of the '90s that we grew up on. AFI, Fury 66, Screw 32, Good Riddance, Redemption 87, NOFX, No Use for a Name, etc.
We were so spoiled to have all of these bands around us. It was such a rad mix of melodic punk rock but still very hardcore. It’s rad to hear when people think we are hitting that sound. I always tell people we sound like '90s skate punk played by hardcore kids.
Have you taken any heat for being a 30-something and playing that style?
Honestly, none at all. That’s a rad thing around here is we will still see a lot of the people from the bands we grew up watching still coming out to shows and playing in new bands. And there seems to be a bit of a resurgence happening with the style we play and people seem to be appreciative of what we are doing.
Got anything else to say?
Thanks for taking the time to do this. I’d just always like to give a shout out to all of the friends and the rad bands that we have met and played with. And just to thank everyone for all of the support it’s been overwhelming and awesome and encourage anyone to reach out it’s always rad to hear from new people.
And keep supporting your local DIY and punk scene.
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