Drift Again was a hardcore band from Orange County, California that burned quickly and brightly. The group existed in the early '90s and featured drummer Dennis Remsing (Outspoken, Kill the Messenger, Conversion Records), guitarist Randy Johnson (Against the Wall, Pushed Aside), bassist Mike Hartsfield (Outspoken, A18, New Age Records), and vocalist Michael Garceau (Fast Break fanzine).
Released on Network Sound in 1991, Drift Again's The Cold Season EP remains a favorite among fans of melodic hardcore of the era. During their brief existence, the quartet played on live bills with such heavy-hitters as Rage Against the Machine, Strife, and Undertow.
I caught up with singer Michael Garceau to chat about Drift Again and what he's been up to in all the years since their break up in the early '90s.
Let’s start at the beginning, always a fine place for perspective’s sake.
I was born in a small town in Rhode Island. My parents decided they’d had enough of the East Coast winter, so we ended up moving to Orange County when I was four. We moved around a couple different places, but we ultimately ended up in Huntington Beach. I think I was seven or so. The first friend I met was Matt Enright who sang in Function and 1134.
One of my first outdoor interests was BMX and then I got into surfing a bit later. I used to ride my bike over to the beach with my surfboard in a rack on my cruiser because surfing wasn’t the most accessible thing for a kid that young. I think I got frustrated with that aspect and ended up getting a skateboard.
My cousin and I lived across the street from each other for most of our childhood. And we started skating roughly around the same time. We were 13, maybe? Our parents brought us to the Orange County Swap Meet to get set-ups. I had a Madrid John Lucero deck with the jack in the box graphic. Skid plate, copers, rails, big ass soft Sims wheels; a full on relic.
Soon after that, he and I started skating around the local neighborhoods. We lived in suburban tract housing which meant that each tract had their own elementary/middle schools with one high school that fed from each tract based upon where you lived. One of the schools across from our tract was Mesa View, which ended up being a massive skate spot in the '80s and '90s.
We’d hang out there basically every day and skate the benches, stairs, and drops. That’s where I met Randy and Madrid. Those guys introduced me to hardcore.
Huntington in the mid to late '80s was a wild place for skating. You’d see so many kids progressing at light speed. I’m gonna guess that was 1986. We’d skate Mesa during the day and then we’d go skate Huntington High and Pay-N-Play at night. Pay-N-Play was across the street from the high school and kids ended up setting up jump ramps on the basketball courts.
You could spend hours and hours out there just rolling around watching kids that would end up shaping the future of skateboarding. My cousin ended up skating for World Industries and then Black Label a bit later.
It was pretty easy for me to come to the realization that I wasn’t progressing as fast as my friends were. That’s when I started bringing my camera along to shoot photos. It’s funny, but that same feeling of inadequacy is how I got into taking photos at shows and then, eventually, doing Fast Break. I wasn’t then and still aren’t talented musically, so I felt doing a zine was a way to contribute.
I remember you telling me about the Solitude and you, Mike and Dennis starting it up. When did Randy join up?
After the first couple shows, I think. The first show we played as Solitude was as a five piece, with Mike, Dennis, this kid named Jason Craze (who lived in Texas) and another friend of ours from Huntington named Micah Panzich. How that all came to be, I can’t really remember. The first show was at Loyola Marymount University with Inside Out, Outspoken, and Farside.
I’m pretty sure that Randy’s first show with us was with Chain of Strength, Outspoken and Strife (who weren’t called Strife at the time). It was in Simi Valley or somewhere out there. It was also our first show as Drift Again. That was 1991.
You guys did the Solitude demo, made some shirts and played a handful of shows before changing the name to Drift Again, what was up with the name change? I remember something about a metal band lawsuit?
It was more about the threat of there being a possible lawsuit, than anything. I had heard that there was a metal band in Europe that was using the same name, so we discussed changing it. It wasn’t a huge deal since no one really knew who we were. It wasn’t like it is nowadays where you can have an almost immediate following without putting anything out and a name change could cause all sorts of confusion.
So now, Drift Again is a thing, and then you guys record The Cold Season 7 inch for Network Sound. What was that process like?
From what I remember, it was cool. The guys ran through the music pretty quick and then I went back and tried to record the vocals on my own. The first pass was awful. I didn’t scream at all; I tried to sound like Layne Staley from Alice in Chains which was a fucking disaster [laughs].
I’m pretty sure that when I went back to record what ended up being on the single, that I had a chaperone. I’m super glad that we got to record over that shit.
I always loved the graphics/layouts you guys used. I know the answer to this, but who came up with those shirt/flyer ideas?
Yeah, Drift Again was predominantly my aesthetic. Dennis likes to joke that we were one of those bands that had more shirts than songs. Which might be true [laughs].
I was pretty vocal about how we were marketed (for lack of better term). With Mike and Dennis being involved and both being members of Outspoken, it would have been super easy for us to become “just another straight edge band from Orange County."
Not that we weren’t all still straight edge at the time, but it wasn’t important for us to convey any sort of message and I think we all actively wanted to stay away from it. I’m also of the opinion that we might have benefitted by being able to play shows with different bands because of that.
You guys had the demo songs, the 7” songs and the Words to Live By compilation song. Was there any unreleased Drift Again stuff?
There were a couple songs that we never recorded. One was called “Pacifier” and another was called “London Bridges Fall." There’s footage of us playing “Pacifier” on YouTube from the show we played at Pitzer College. Our style was evolving with the time; it was more groovish and less hardcore, I guess you could say.
For us, we were just being influenced by what we were listening to at the time.
Tell us about your setlist and the covers you guys did? That always got me stoked.
We did two covers. “No Sleep ‘til Brooklyn” was the first one. I had totally forgotten that we covered it until I saw some quite awful footage on YouTube. “Anything, Anything” by Dramarama was the one that we played most. I think kids enjoyed that one.
As for the rest of the set list, we didn’t have all that many songs to begin with. We would sometimes try to run them together with a bunch of feedback or we’d come up with a slightly augmented beginning like we did with “Drag."
Did Drift Again or Solitude play outside of California? The one time I was fortunate enough to see Drift Again was in Riverside in the summer of 1991.
We only played in Southern California – Orange County, Los Angeles, and San Diego. I’m not too sure why we didn’t get to play out more or why we never toured. I’m pretty sure my work schedule at the time wouldn’t have allowed me to do a full tour anyhow.
What are some of the more memorable shows you guys played?
The Pitzer show with Rage Against the Machine was our biggest show, by far. From what I remember, their demo had just come out or they had just been signed, but it was before they ended up being what they ended up being. I felt like we got a great reception from the crowd.
We’ve talked at length about loss, you and me. How did it shape your lyrics and outlook on life in general?
I mean all the lyrics are about loss. Being able to channel that energy into something creative is what makes it relatable to others. I know that, for me, when a song hits a nerve and makes me feel something, that makes it so much more powerful. Sure, there’s positive messaging in songs that I absolutely love, but they’re in the minority.
I’ve honestly never intended on hurting anyone. I don’t think anyone goes into a relationship intending that. But I’ve realized that’s how I’ve learned to deal with being hurt. I lash out and end up being shitty to people I love because I think that’s how I can get my point across, instead of being able to communicate how I’m feeling like an adult.
The late great Skip Candelori (Turning Point) wrote a song for the 7 inch. Tell us about your friendship with him.
Yeah, Skip wrote the lyrics for “Wishing." He told me he wasn’t going to use them for anything; I think it might have been right after Turning Point broke up and before Godspeed got started. He mailed them to me, and I honestly can’t remember if I added anything to them or not. He’ll always be one of my favorite hardcore frontmen.
We ended up being pretty good friends. I met those dudes at City Gardens in the summer of 1988 when I was on tour with Up Front. I had heard the Turning Point single and was super stoked on it. Hardcore is so accessible. You can just walk up to someone that you don’t know and immediately be able to strike up a conversation with them and that’s what ended up happening.
When I got back to California, we spoke often on the phone, as kids did back then. My parents long distance bill was a frequent source of frustration in our house. If I’m not mistaken, I called Skip and said that Mike wanted to put out their record on New Age. I could totally be wrong, but that’s what comes to mind when I think about that time.
After I graduated high school, I spent some time out there with him at his mother’s house. We basically hung out, talked about girls, listened to the Trashcan Sinatras whole fuckton and ate pizza. I got to meet Jay and Ken when I was out there too. I saw Godspeed on that trip, too. There’s a funny photo I saw from that show of Jay playing guitar on the ground with me sitting on the stage with my fingers in my ears.
I remember being at work when I heard that he had passed. I ended up getting a hold of Darren Walters (Jade Tree, Railhed) and he told me that it was true. At the time, I hadn’t had any contact with any of those guys for years. Social media was just starting out, in fact I think I messaged Darren through Friendster or an early version of MySpace when I inquired about Skip’s passing.
Did you guys just stop playing out because you and Randy moved to the Bay Area?
We had broken up way before that. I think our last show was in 1993, maybe? I moved up here in January of 1997. Both Randy and Dennis moved up after that, so it was pretty easy to get together to start playing again.
What have you been up to since?
Like I said, I’ve been in the Bay Area for 23 years and in Oakland for the last 20. I moved up here to work in the elevator industry and that’s what I’m still doing. For hobbies, I’m a fairly avid cyclist and even though I haven’t shot film, or with an SLR in decades, I still consider myself a decent photographer. I’m of the opinion that it’s not about the equipment, it’s how you frame things.
We talked before about what Drift Again was going to do going forward, what about now?
We were practicing and writing new songs before COVID came and fucked everything up. We’re hoping that we’ll be able to play some shows and record another single, at some point. When that happens, it’ll be the four of us with another friend of ours from Huntington that lives up here, Reid Black (1134, Innaway, Into Another), playing bass.
I’ve also got some layouts for graphics that I’ve been messing around with that could end up somewhere, too.
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