People of a certain age who used to frequent Ventura County’s many clubs throughout the ’90s might be excused for the surprise they express at seeing the latest concert listings and finding out the Hymen Blasters are back and performing live. What’s next, the return of Phooey? Entering its 25th year as a band, the original core group — singer David Lavine, guitarist Rich Goodin, bassist Ryan Spears and drummer Aaron Abelt — have been plying a curious blend of jazz, funk and punk since their formative years at Buena High School.
Kicking off its sporadic “Re-Hymennation Tour” after a 17-year absence from the scene, the reinvigorated band plans a new album to follow up its 1995 release The Year of the Gun, as if its sudden reappearance across the hemisphere of public consciousness wasn’t remarkable enough. The world has turned several times since then, and across the span of those years, “the good old days” might as well be time spent in the womb for all the good nostalgia does for a musician developing now.
In the early days of the Hymen Blasters, some members would regularly commute from Burbank and Los Angeles to play out with the notoriously named band. That’s a different kind of toil, and traveling that kind of distance is almost an unthinkable labor to put forth for a band these days. But what does hard work mean to the Hymen Blasters now? Blasting hymens isn’t the easiest job in the world. For Lavine, the hard work involves the brutally simple act of becoming a better human being.
“I got caught up with drugs, alcohol, the whole thing. . . . The end result was that I got over it,” he says.
“The guys got tired of dealing with my flakiness, and we decided to go our separate ways. Then they’d heard through Facebook and other ways that I was involved in programs and counseling and that I’m clean and sober. They contacted me and said, ‘We’d like to get the music going again.’ Singing is something I’ve always loved to do.”
It was perhaps rather cosmically pristine that the day Lavine spoke about the reunion was in fact the founding date of Alcoholics Anonymous. “All these things that happened over the course of 17 years.” He trails off suddenly, deep in reflection. “We got a management deal with Warner Brothers at the time and it was looking like they were going to sign us. They were going to give us a little bit of money and see where it went. My head got so big and out-of-control. I just really screwed the whole thing up. It was kind of my fault. You get a tiny, tiny, tiny, infinitesimal taste of success, and you start to think that you’re something that you’re not.”
Does Lavine look at these newest live actions by the band as a second chance for him?
“I do. So many things happened over the years that it’s exactly — it’s funny you should say that because it’s exactly how I approached it. First came sobriety, and you reach the bottom, and you come up with nothing.”
So where do you go from nothing?
“If you continue to do the right thing, one thing after another stacks up and then finally . . . the band was always a therapeutic outlet for me. Once it was gone, I lost it. So when it came back years later, that’s exactly what I saw it as: a second chance. To be given an opportunity to start off where I left off, all those years ago, and go forward from there having the wisdom of those years and try it again — and not be such a jerk about things — I’ve actually seen some video that people had of me interacting with our fans at some concerts, and I was such a jerk! I would have punched me in the face.”
The Hymen Blasters will perform at Sans Souci on July 5.