Fake Names, the debut full-length from new punk supergroup Fake Names, comes out May 8 via Epitaph Records. Summer jams rarely, if ever, are this bright and vibrant, seething with a political edge that will stoke any rage fires you’ve kept alight since 2016 (or before). This is a masterclass in how old legends can write excellent new noise that’s as resonant as their past and shines a bright light on their possible future.
The story of Fake Names clearly begins and ends with two individuals. There’s a central connection that goes back decades, to the inception of D.C. post-hardcore. Michael Hampton (Embrace, S.O.A., One Last Wish) and Brian Baker (Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, Bad Religion) are likely to share the blame/credit for a whole host of emotional hardcore bands over the past four-plus decades, and your favorite band probably lists one of Hampton’s or Baker’s bands as an inspiration. Their friendship has persisted over the years, but it was rekindled one day when Hampton was inspired to write a Dag Nasty riff.
“I write a lot of music for T.V. and commercials,” Hampton shares. “And I just wanted to try to write a song like I used to write. So, I tried to write a Dag Nasty song, and it just happened to be a week where Brian came over and visited, and he was like, ‘Oh great, you want to start a band?’ That’s actually the first song on the record.”
“So, Brian and I just recorded it quickly in my bedroom. We wrote three others at the same time. It didn’t feel punk, necessarily. It didn’t feel hardcore, but it felt like a comfortable amalgamation of stuff we had listened to then and now. So, you hear Cheap Trick or The Beatles or whatever, but it’s basically the kind of music that we were, mid-tempo kind of stuff. It just came out the way it did because I can’t really write a Dag Nasty song.”
Behind two living legends grinding out tunes in a Brooklyn abode, there’s a homeliness, a comfort that radiates from every musical pore of Fake Names. Don’t mistake that for laziness, but it’s as if Hampton and Baker have honed in on their strengths and play to them masterfully throughout this debut. That ease was a relief to Hampton.
“I’m glad you had that impression,” he smiles. “Because that’s sort of our impression too, that everything went pretty quickly. It was an easy thing to do, and it’s just been a joy to do compared to other bands that we’ve been in as kids which are fraught and emotional and filled with teenage drama. I haven’t really been in a band for 20 years, so it’s a different world for me to be an adult and in a band.”
Was there excitement or nerves, or just a midlife crisis thing, with this band?
“Probably yes to [all] of those things,” he laughs. “But, I think for Brian too, obviously it’s different for him because he’s been a professional rock musician in Bad Religion for 25 years now. But there was a time in the ’80s when we were done with hardcore. We were done with punk, and we wanted to do different things, and so it’s a little bit weird too, to sort of come full circle and realize that just because it wasn’t our music anymore necessarily, that it didn’t stop, that it kept going.”
Fake Names encapsulates so much of the best parts of different eras of music while still being its own thing. Rounded out by the vocal talents of Dennis Lyxzén (Refused) and the sultry basslines of Johnny Temple (Girls Against Boys), Fake Names have clearly cemented a name for themselves on this self-titled statement. The fact that this happened at all is a minor miracle, according to Hampton.
“I’m sort of amazed that anyone gives a shit about this stuff at all,” he laughs. “From the ’80s, it’s been a long time. And the fact that we’ve done this record as middle aged men, and people are still enjoying it and asking about it is pretty mind blowing.”
With apologies, Hampton is incorrect here—what’s amazing is that Fake Names have managed to write something more impressive than their collective pedigree. This is a record that stands tall against any punk record you compare it to. Thankfully, if you’re not in the business of needless comparisons, just sit back and enjoy punk royalty killing it as middle aged maestros.
Fake Names is out today; pick up a copy here.