Since their sudden implosion in January 2010, the members of local punk rock powerhouse Bolth have gone their separate ways to work on new projects. Drummer James Lyter found himself behind the kit for mathy post-punks Step Dads and hardcore champs Chaotic Neutral. Bassist Will Wissel covered guitar duties for pop-punk outfit Giant Giant Robot. Guitarist Mitch Vice took his pop-punk project It's All Happening on the road while frontman John "JS" Saxen slaved away on his hardcore experiment, Elle.
With a high-profile reunion/farewell show with ska-punk heroes The Suicide Machines scheduled for Oct. 6, it's high time to sum up Bolth's impact on the scene.
On a brisk evening at The Sinking Ship, Saxen and Lyter sit back and reminisce about the glory days of Bolth. Saxen formed the band in 2005, but it never really took off until Lyter joined a few months later. "You can function as a band with a bad guitarist," begins Saxen, "but you gotta have a good drummer. It wasn't until James joined that we had a solid foundation."
With a revolving door of bassists, which at one point included John Orr, now of The Last Domino, Lyter and Saxen recorded two albums and toured as much as possible, building a name and a following.
While their first album, Ten Shakes of a Lamb's Tale, was more of a high school pop-punk record, their second, Short Sighted, headed towards the hardcore territory for which they're now best known. In the years following Short Sighted's release, the band reached their peak in local popularity, despite being at odds with the naysayers of the local hardcore scene.
They began touring extensively, according to Lyter: "We played about 100 shows a year. We toured around a college schedule: huge tours every summer and week-long tours for Christmas and spring break."
Despite all the momentum following Short Sighted, it wasn't until 2008 that the band was blessed with a more solid lineup. Wissel, who had previously played with street-punks The Five Second Cummings, joined the band on bass. Fellow Five Second Cummings alum, James Odae, took over guitar duties from Saxen, leaving him free to focus on vocal duties.
And as the band worked on what would become their third and final album, Mitch Vice joined, taking over guitar duties from Odae.
"Mitch joined and learned all of our songs in like, two days," Saxen says. "We left on tour right after that."
With a solid line-up finally in place, Bolth began writing songs in a more collaborative manner than before, according to Saxen: "There's actually a lot of Mitch on that last record. He would chime in with ideas like a second opinion."
Despite having settled on a stable lineup, the stresses of being in a band began to take their toll. "When you tour as much as we did, work as hard as we did and consume the insane amount of chemicals that we did, it was like shaking two rats in a box together," Saxen jokes. "Shit got really explosive."
"JS (Saxen) and I took the band really seriously," Lyter adds. "If someone didn't do something right or something didn't sound right, we were very vocal about setting things straight."
The same intensity that helped Lyter and Saxen keep the band focused eventually became a source of conflict between the two. "We were getting at each other constantly," Lyter confesses. "The last year or so of touring was really rough."
Lyter says that the fuse finally hit the powder keg as the band returned from a winter West Coast tour. "It was a really shitty and exhausting tour. We nearly died coming back across the Rockies during a blizzard. Tensions were really high."
"Our homecoming show was supposed to be with Hellmouth [a Detroit metalcore outfit featuring Suicide Machines frontman Jay Navarro], Counteractive and Picked Clean," Saxen adds. "It was supposed to be this huge show, and we were supposed to tour on with Hellmouth later. But it never happened.
"When Will and I got to the E.S. Jungle, we were about ready to load in when I got the word that JS (Saxen) would not be coming," Lyter explains. "I was absolutely beside myself."
The passing of time eventually mended broken friendships between band members, but there was little talk of a reunion. That is, until this summer, when Saxen received an intriguing text message from Vice. "All it said was, 'Do you want to play one last show with the Suicide Machines?' My response was obviously 'Yes!'"
While a proper farewell show seemed appropriate, playing with the Suicide Machines, a top band in the '90s ska-punk explosion, was certainly an added incentive for the band.
"I think a lot of people have a lot of nostalgic feeling for them today," Saxen says.
"This farewell show will be a lot better than the Hellmouth show would have been had we ended up playing it," Lyter says. "We're all friends now and we are all personally in better placed than we were when we broke up. Will really has his shit together now."
"Now that we've gotten things smoothed out we feel that we owe ourselves and our fans one final show," Lyter continues. "When we were putting together the setlist for the final show we used mostly songs that we knew that fans would want to hear, not necessarily songs that we wanted to play."
While it may seem odd that Bolth is reuniting only to breakup, Saxen is almost certain that it will be the band's last show: "Of course, I'm never gonna say never, but there's no reason why this wouldn't be our last show, ever."