At just 11 and 14, brothers Steven and Jeff McDonald began to morph their middle-school band into the stuff of punk, pop, and glam/indie-rock legend. In the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne where they were born and raised, the band's first show — an eighth-grade graduation house party — was played with their friends in the punk band Black Flag. In the years that followed, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and Melvins would all cite Redd Kross as a core sonic and visual inspiration.
Now in their fourth decade, Redd Kross have released a total of nine full-length albums and over two dozen EPs and singles. After joining seminal hardcore band Melvins as their bassist in 2015, Steven is currently playing bass on three projects — Redd Kross, Melvins, and OFF! — all while being a devoted husband and father.
The band stops in Memphis on Friday, April 22nd, for a show at Growlers. I talked with Steven about the tour, teaming with Dale Crover, dad life, and Goner Fest.
I understand you were at Goner Fest a few years back.
Yeah, I worked for a bunch of record labels over the years, and in 2009, I went to Goner Fest to see some bands. There's this phenomenal band from Omaha called Box Elders. When they found out the dude from Redd Kross was there, they invited me on stage to play, and we played pretty much all the songs off our first EP. When I think of Memphis, I still think fondly of Jay Reatard, who we were friends with. And Jeffrey Novak, too.
It's been five years since you released Researching the Blues, and yet you have a mammoth tour schedule ahead.
It's just one of those things where everyone was available and could do it, so I seized the opportunity. It seems like it could be the beginning of something.
Your relationship with Melvins goes way back.
Well, Dale and Buzz were early supporters. They were excited that there was another band coming from the punk world referencing all this other music that they loved, too, like KISS. And unapologetically doing so.
Is there a new Redd Kross album coming?
Well, there's Octavia. ... That got started because the Melvins put me to task to make a solo record, and they had their solo records in the 1990s. They were inspired by the KISS solo records. And they very graciously asked me if I'd be interested in participating in that reissue and doing a solo record of my own for the Melvins.
They used the KISS solo records as their templates — and they never did the blue one, which was the Ace Frehley. They kind of saved that for me.
I know you and Anna (Waronker) have been busy being parents. ...
Dad life is great. I love it, and it's definitely a hard trade-off about making the decision to do more road work, because I miss out on some stuff. It's daunting, because these human beings, they're not simple creatures. And from day one, you're responsible for them. Crazy details like, "Should you circumcise their penis?" From that point on, it only gets more complex.
Andrew Earles lists your 1982 album, Born Innocent, in his book Gimme Indie Rock as one of the 500 essential underground rock albums of punk/indie rock. But I read that you picked your 2012 album Researching the Blues as Redd Kross' best album.
[K Records founder] Calvin Johnson told me I peaked at age 12. The fact that any of this is notable in the annals of rock history is cool and fun. I can't take it very seriously. But in terms of some things being dismissed and others being infantilized, you can't please everybody. That's been a learning experience for me, to realize that I don't necessarily know how this is gonna turn out.
Redd Kross (with Viva L'American Death Ray Music) play Growlers Friday, April 22nd.