Fake Names Bio
If credibility were currency, Fake Names’ wealth would be off the charts. Composed of Brian Baker (Minor Threat, Bad Religion, Dag Nasty), Michael Hampton (S.O.A., Embrace), Dennis Lyxzén (Refused, INVSN, The [International] Noise Conspiracy), Johnny Temple (Girls Against Boys, Soulside) and the newest member Brendan Canty (Fugazi, Rites of Spring), the band is a veritable post-hardcore dream team. However instead of rehashing the past, Expendables is a reinvention that sees the band dialing back the distortion and leaning into the melodies. The result pairs their unparalleled pedigree with a pop sensibility that’s slightly unexpected and wholly satisfying. “On our last record [2019’s Fake Names] the general influences were 70’s U.K. punk and power-pop; but it wound up with a little classic rock vibe as well, like the Vibrators meets Aerosmith. We never saw that coming!” Baker explains. “The pop influences are a little more out front on this one and the production really helps it shine. It sounds more direct, more urgent.”
While the band’s debut album was actually a demo that Epitaph founder and Baker’s Bad Religion bandmate Brett Gurewitz wanted to release as is, for Expendables the band enlisted producer Adam “Atom” Greenspan (IDLES, Yeah Yeah Yeahs). “On the new record the guitar tones are pretty clean, which is not what we normally do, but we’re old enough to know to give Atom’s ideas a shot because that’s the whole point of bringing someone in,” Baker explains. “Atom had me play through amps and pedals way out of my comfort zone, but the sounds he built were perfect for the songs.” That sense of curiosity is a major thematic component of Expendables, from the chiming harmonies of “Go” to the moody melodicism of “Madtown” (the latter of which could have just as easily been written in 1982 as it could in 2022). There’s also an economy to these songs that’s rooted in the fact that they were recorded in the span of a week, which eliminated the option to add superfluous instrumentation or arrangements. The result is an album that retains the members’ purity of vision in a strikingly refreshing way.
The ten-track album opens with “Targets,” a driving post-rock song that features jigsawing guitars and a massive chorus. “In general, Dennis writes about revolution, and Michael and I write pop songs. I’m amazed at how it works, but somehow it strikes the right balance of salty and sweet. With ‘Targets,’ however, the music sounds like the lyrics: that grinding riff, the pocket, the tempo are all in concert with the words.”
This imagery is paralleled in the artwork for Expendables, which Baker describes as ‘70’s dystopian’ and features an eerie army of mannequins set against a cold urban backdrop. That dichotomy of lively music and bleak imagery is an important thematic element of Expendables because the album is more than just a collection of catchy songs: it’s an artistic statement about our own impermanence.
That said, if the world is going down in flames, Fake Names are doing it in style—and that is exemplified with the title track, which wouldn’t sound out of place on Dischord’s classic catalog if it weren’t for it’s modern production and Bad Religion-esque backing vocals. “That song has so much classic Michael Hampton in it that I just laugh every time I play it,” Baker says. “It’s just so hooky and it’s got this soaring chorus that still excites me now and I’ve heard it, like, 175 times.” That mutual admiration between Baker and Hampton truly lies at the core of the musicality of Fake Names. Whether it’s the sixties-garage rock vibe of “Delete Myself” or satisfying syncopation of the album closer “Too Little Too Late,” Expendables is the latest exchange in a musical conversation that spans four decades. (In case you were wondering, Baker’s favorite Dischord release is Embrace’s 1987 self-titled album.) Baker aptly refers to the lineup of Fake Names as a “mutual admiration society” and says that once the five members got in the same room together, it felt as if they had already been in the band together for years.
“It was so comfortable because even though I hadn’t played with Brendan before, I could kind of figure out where he’s going to go just by understanding how he plays drums and listening to him so much,” Baker summarizes when asked about the current lineup of Fake Names. “There’s this intangible energy, a clairvoyance that comes from our shared experience.” That spark and this album could only be created by these five people at this exact moment in time, so listen to it loudly and listen to it while you can… because, ultimately, we’re all expendable.