It’s been three years since The Bombpops released their last full-length album, Fear of Missing Out, and the last we heard from the band was the Dear Beer EP in 2018. The Southern California, pop-punk quartet have released their long-awaited follow-up album, Death in Venice Beach, on March 13, through Fat Wreck Chords.
In the time since their last release, the band has been working hard and touring non-stop. In doing so, they went through some of the hardest and darkest personal times to date. A life on the road inadvertently lead to members becoming too involved with booze, bad situations, and behavior that’s unsustainable at best, destructive at worst.
Reminiscent to a character in a movie having gone through previously inexperienced trauma, co-founders, guitarists, and vocalists Jen Razavi and Poli Van Dam have now resurfaced from the lower recesses to express gratitude through rad songs of resurgence.
The personal mixes with the metaphysical in lead single “Notre Dame” for which the band released a music video. The video is an ode to David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” and explores the dark side of Los Angeles. The fire at the famed 700-year-old Notre Dame cathedral prompted self-reflection in Razavi, who was inspired by its centuries-long history and had the following to share about the genesis of the song:
“I’ve always loved the idea of souls being here together in past lives and the notion that space and time have never really mattered. I’ve always thought when you meet somebody that you like, or even a friend, it’s not the first time. I saw Notre Dame in flames on the news and immediately sat down to write a song. It was the exact imagery I needed to convey a theme I had been exploring about knowing someone so deeply before ever meeting them. A centuries-old cathedral in flames became a perfect representation.”
The foundational elements that define The Bombpops’ sound remain, as high melody, big guitars, vocal harmonies, and ‘the SoCal sound’ pair perfectly with a solidified rhythm section in bassist Neil Wayne, and drummer Josh Lewis.
Although the band has decided to explore darker themes on this new record, the songs are catchier than ever.
“I want people to feel this dark, uneasy feeling,” says van Dam, who suffered a potentially life-threatening diabetic seizure on tour in the fall of 2018.
The incident is referenced in, “Double Arrows Down,” one of album’s standout tracks. While other songs “13 Stories Down,” and “Can’t Come Clean” recount the comedown after the high, the remaining memories from life’s rougher moments when clarity pierces the morning-after haze.
Van Dam sought treatment for alcoholism while the new album was in post-production. “I went to rehab right when we were finalizing the mixes, and so listening back to the songs when I was in rehab, I’m like, ‘Oh shit, I was going through some stuff without even realizing how dark everything was and how shitty of a place I was in.”
The album’s title is an allusion to Thomas Mann’s celebrated novella about the price of an artistic life. Jen Razavi read it as the band debated titles for their second full-length. “It’s a cautionary tale to those that want to become an artist,” she says, “but it’s also really comforting to artists who can’t help or necessarily contain being who they are and what they’re drawn to.”
As much as their personal lives shaped Death in Venice Beach, the art, the culture, and overall ever changing vibe of band’s hometown of Los Angeles is perhaps their biggest muse. Razavi devoured all manner of Angeleno culture while writing the album, from books like those in James Ellroy’s, “L.A. Quartet” and John Fante’s Ask the Dust, to films like True Romance, Falling Down, and Natural Born Killers, lines from which appear in “Blood Pact.”
It’s not all darkness, though. Listeners are treated to a comical snippet of one of The Bombpops’ intraband arguments at the beginning of “Can’t Come Clean,” and “House on Fire” begins with a piano-led singalong at Fat Mike’s Six Floggs Abusement Park studio. Even the album’s darkest moments are laced with van Dam and Razavi’s wit, like when van Dam sings, “I’m not an alcoholic, I just play one on the weekends” in “13 Stories Down.”
It’s an extremely nice surprise to not only see the band back from the brink but ready to tackle whatever lay ahead with a newfound focus and drive. Bands like The Bombpops aren’t a dime a dozen, and this new album is something to be appreciated, as listeners will likely find connection in the lyrics of highs and lows while being moved by some of the best pop punk music around.
The album’s themes and sounds were captured with maximum nuance by a production team consisting of Yotam Ben Horin (Useless ID), Fat Mike (NOFX), and Chris Fogal (The Gamits), who also recorded Fear of Missing Out.