Winds of Promise Rediscover the Fire and Fraternity of the ’80s Hardcore Scene

Winds of Promise (Credit: Jason Cook)

Contrary to popular belief, learning to be in a band again isn’t exactly the same as re-learning how to ride a bike. Sure the mechanics of performing and writing songs might be familiar, even if it’s been over 20 years since you’ve tried. However, it’s less about muscle memory and more about who you’ve become as a person. You can decide never to ride a bike again, but the love of music is forever ingrained in you. For vocalist Joe Nelson, who co-founded OC band Ignite in 1994, even his hesitation with rejoining a band after being off stage for 20 years couldn’t compete with his desire to relive the glory days of the ‘80s hardcore scene in a band with his longtime friends.

“I just thought there’s no way I could be in a band, I hadn’t been in a band in 20 years, I just can’t do it,” Nelson says. But after joining his friends Pat Longrie, Joe Foster and Mike Kenyon in Winds of Promise, he realized the normal anxieties of being in a band changed when he focused less on success and more on being a good bandmate.

“It’s so different doing a band older than when you’re younger,” Nelson says. “There’s no stress, no fighting, the shit that used to be petty, fighting over parts and songs just goes away and becomes a more collaborative effort.”

He’s not alone in that regard as everyone in the band has deep roots and appreciation for punk, not only as locals but as veteran musicians who idolized the D.C. hardcore sound while growing up in Orange County. Bands like Minor Threat and Fugazi were their sonic mentors as well as less political, early emo bands like Rites of Spring, and Dag Nasty. Combined with their experiences in bands like Ignite and Uniform Choice, Winds of Promise creates a sound that’s both manic and mature.

After starting the band earlier this year, the band recently released their debut, self-titled album on storied OC hardcore label Revelation Records. They’re celebrating it this weekend with a show at Programme Skate & Sound in Fullerton.  For Nelson, the new band and album were both products of growth, the kind he hadn’t experienced in his longtime adult role running merchandising deals for bands in LA. Since moving out of OC years ago, part of him has always stayed connected with being in a band, mostly in the spirit of working with others to make something happen.

It’s telling that the band’s first single “The Circumstance” originated from lyrics written by Longrie, their drummer, when he was in high school around the time he co-founded Uniform Choice–the first straight edge hardcore band to come out of Southern California. Together, he and Nelson improved on the lyrics and write melodies and parts that rebuilt the song into something they could work with today.

A hallmark of the band’s sound is their revival of early ‘90s emo that, unlike a lot of the hardcore punk they listened to, took a decidedly a-political stance and showed the unifying catharsis that comes from singing about broken hearts and shattered dreams.

“It just felt like we could be more of a unifying kind of thing, music should be a space where people from all kinds of politics should be able to get together and sing songs together,” Nelson says. “Coming from the punk rock community of the ‘80s that’s what was so great about it. People come from all walks of life but when you’re all together singing an Adolescents song, it doesn’t really matter.”

As important as the music and past experiences are, nothing is more satisfying for Nelson and his bandmates than reconnecting with the scene they love, even if they’re the old guys in the crowd.

Now 48, Nelson is still active in seeking out up and coming bands who, like him, were compelled to search for the loud fast music that speaks to them.

“There’s something about the spirit of punk rock and hardcore that still resonates to kids who can find it and get tapped in like I did as a kid,” Nelson says. “For them to go down a rabbit hole and find a Crass record, that’s legit, good for them.”

Considering how nihilistic it felt to live in the tick of the early hardcore movement, the fact that it’s still around makes it an honor for the members of Winds of Promise to participate in it, not in hopes of getting famous, but rather bringing wisdom to a scene forever fueled by the rebellion of youth.

“When you’re older in a band and you’re not doing it for fun, you’re wasting your time,” Nelson says. “I have been telling my friends when they ask what I’m doing with myself these days I’m like ‘Yeah I’m in a band we’re gonna break big.’ I think you’re just calmer, your steps are more deliberate you understand more about the process of everything.”

Winds of Promise perform with Wise and Pro-Youth at Programme Skate and Sound, Sat., Oct 20, 7 p.m., free, all ages. For more info, click here.

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