In 2014 Decent Criminal was already an established and touring band. However, when one of the founding members of the band decided to leave, Hunter Martinez (guitar/ vocals) decided to call on his brother Tristan who had previously filled in as bassist on occasion. Hunter switched to playing drums while Tristan became the band’s guitarist and main songwriter. Rounded out by Jesse Hernandez (bass/vocals) and later Brian Gellman (guitar/vocals), the band’s sound took a radical turn for the best. A catchy, energetic blend of pop punk, surf, 90’s alternative and layered guitar and vocal harmonies, Decent Criminal have established themselves as heavy hitters in the music scene whose sound can’t be pigeon-holed.
With their latest album ‘Bliss’ released in June of this year, Decent Criminal have received nothing but praise – and the band continues to gain momentum. Decent Criminal will be embarking on a west coast tour in December in support of ‘Bliss’. As this article was being written, the band made the announcement that they will be performing at Punk Rock Bowling 2020, a massive accomplishment and milestone for any band.
Skunk Magazine had the opportunity to touch base with Tristan Martinez about being in a band with family, the insane Kendrick Lamar snafu that got them a lot of unexpected attention, and the art of letting go.
In 2014 you revamped the band which forced a sound change and saw the addition of new members. What are the pros and cons of working so closely alongside family?
In the case of essentially restarting Decent Criminal in 2014, being brothers with a shared drive proved to be really beneficial. We needed a drummer back then, so Hunter switched from guitarist/vocalist to drummer and I switched from bassist to guitarist, then eventually main singer/songwriter. So yeah, having two people that are like “let’s make this work by any means necessary” has definitely been a pro. Hunter’s always been supportive of my material as well, so having the trust of your brother means there’s less fuss creatively. Hunter and I have always been fans of what Brian writes as well and Jesse is just killer. So yeah, we’re a good squad. Cons, no one’s quicker to call you on your shit than family. We’re not afraid to speak our mind and there’s no filter you might have with a regular friend. We work on our stuff when troubles arise.
Some of you guys are multi- instrumentalists, how does that affect the writing process?
For writing it definitely helps that everyone is able to contribute ideas regardless of what their role is in the band. Helps for recording too. For instance, Hunter was asked to help our friends in Culture Abuse on a tour while we were recording Bliss, but while he was gone we needed some more drum stuff done, so I hopped in there and all was well.
In 2018 your music was accidentally pressed onto the B-side of vinyl copies of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Good Kid M.A.A.D. City’. What was the reaction and how did that affect your band?
It was tight to have an article about us in Vice for sure! So many bands out there. So yeah, we were really surprised to learn that our band ended up on there. We’d been promoting “Deviant” from our album Bloom at the time too, so I think that helped more people check it out.
Your latest album ‘Bliss’ deals with topics such as letting go of people, moving to a new city. How does music factor into dealing with the inevitable hiccups and changes that come with life?
Music has always been an extremely important constant in my life for sure. I’m very sensitive to it and it evokes emotion like nothing else. So it factors in heavily, and definitely did so while writing songs for Bliss. Like songs trigger memories, every song I wrote during this period holds a place in time for me along with the emotion I felt at the time. Which is why they’re on there. They tell a story, and leaving people/places behind had a lot to do with it. But learning to embrace the new, and grow from the changes, instead of seeing them as hiccups, was a big lesson in this one.
What is your favourite munchie food?
Walking away from good chips and salsa might be one of the hardest things to do.