Fletcher Dragge – Pennywise ‘A Punk Drunk Love Affair with Australia’

Can anyone tell me how many times Pennywise have actually toured Australia? Wall of Sound’s resident bogan Duane James asked guitarist and founding member Fletcher Dragge, and even he’s not entirely sure. They first made the trek down under in 1995 for the Alternative Nation Festival and the lads have been here almost annually ever since. Their most recent Aussie run was in February 2020 (our Perth coverage here) and after a two and a half year pandemic-filled wait, the lads are returning to our shores THIS WEEK!!!!

Kickstarting with an already sold out show this Saturday 17th September at the Chelsea Heights Hotel in Victoria, the lads are embarking on an 8 show run with punk rock royalty Circle Jerks and local noise merchants CIVIC. Having seen Pennywise a few times myself, I ask the big man himself just how many times he thinks they have made their way down under.

I’d say we probably been down there at least 12, 13 times. I could be wrong on that. But I feel like it’s somewhere up in that neighbourhood for sure. We came in ’95, and I think almost every year after that we’ve tried to make it down. There might have been a couple of skipped years. But yeah, we’ve been, Jesus, probably even more. Probably 15 times, who knows?”

With that many frequent flyer miles in the bank, it’s fair to say that these legends from Hermosa Beach, California can be heralded as honorary Aussies. What is it that brings the boys back time and time again?

Said it before, said it many times, it’s California in the late 70s and early 80s. All the way up to almost the 90s was really cool. We live in a sleepy beach surf town where partying was key. People treat people with respect and it was just like, everywhere you went, you knew somebody and said hi. I think at one point, this city, Hermosa Beach, had more alcohol consumption per capita than anywhere in America. That’s a fact. Like, for the 20,000 people that live here. We drink more alcohol than any other city that had 20,000 people. So that’s pretty crazy. Australia kind of reminds me of California back in the old days before all these people moved out here and, you know, money and attitudes and basically ruined all these beach communities.

Australia’s just got a friendly vibe, a lot of beach communities. We obviously live on the coast, so that’s a plus. We all like good beer and you guys have got good beer. And the energy and vibe of the shows, it’s just always been insane from the very first show. It just blew our minds how the crowd reacted to us. But I mean, the loyalty of our fan base, and the fact that they’ve come out over and over again. None of us would even bat an eyelash if it was like, Hey, let’s move to Australia. It’s all on our list of one of the places to move. Actually, I married an Australian girl. So I’ve got a pad in Melbourne whenever I want to come so you never know. You might see me lurking around there someday permanently”

THAT IS FRICKEN COOL!!! So many musicians talk about making the move to our great country. Fletcher is already halfway there. With so many Aussie tours under their belt, are there any particular memories that stand out for the guys?

“There’s so many good memories of tours. I think Australia was the first place we ever did an album tour with About Time and I’ll never forget that first night of just playing the songs back to back, the crowd knows what’s coming. They were just amped up out of their minds and the energy was like off the hook.

The Sydney show. We played on Alternative Nation tour (Eastern Creek 1995). It was like one of the greatest shows of all time. We got there, we’d never been in Australia. There was no one on our stage. Just a huge grass field that was like five people. It was drizzling. Live was playing on the main stage, like one of the biggest bands in the world and we’re sitting down this hill thinking, wow, no one’s coming to see us. Well, here we are. Slowly, people started coming over the hill. Before you knew it. There was 5000 people in front of our stage, they went absolutely bonkers, broke the barricade down. Cops on horseback came in. The barricade literally turned into a ramp to the stage. The stage got overrun and it went from zero to 60 real fast. The energy of that show will never be forgotten. There’s a video of it on one of our home movies. Man it was crazy. It’s one of the best shows of our lives. I still got a smile just thinking about that show.”

“So yeah, there’s been some legendary moments. We did a boat tour on the Warped Tour in Australia. We rented a boat with Kevin Lyman and Vans did a couple of those, just complete mayhem out in Sydney Harbour. And the cops surrounding us, taking us back in the harbor and throwing a couple people off the boat, arresting a couple people. So yeah, there’s been there’s been some good times down there man for sure.”

Given that this is their first return to Australia after two and a half years away, and four years since their last album, will we hear any new music?

“I’m thinking that’s probably a hard No. Because we haven’t gotten together and rehearsed in this stuff since since all this COVID. I mean, I probably wrote 25 songs and I guarantee Jim and Randy have been writing. But I would say that, that probably won’t happen. We have so many songs now. I think we have 100 plus songs. I think we’re all looking forward to just coming down and having some fun and playing stuff off of a bunch of different albums, putting together a really cool setlist and it’s going to stoke everybody out and give everybody a little bit of everything. So I think probably won’t hear anything new. But throw in a couple good covers, probably a little ‘Land Down Under’. No one’s gonna be disappointed I will tell you that.”

As if the return of Pennywise wasn’t enough, these punk rock legends are bringing (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) CIRCLE JERKS with them. This will be a rare experience for Aussie punters as this is their first trip to Australia in the 43 years they’ve been tearing it up on stage. It’s got to feel good bringing these absolute legends on tour down under.

“We’re stoked. They’ve been in the band for 40 something years. Their shit is just so good. They’re playing so good right now. They’ve got this guy Joey C (Joey Castillo) on drums and he is just ripping balls. They’re so tight. Keith (Morris) is singing as good as he was 25/30 years ago. Just firing on all cylinders and the songs are just so epic man that they that they wrote back in those days. That first album Group Sex, it’s just like one of my favorite records of all time. We got to tour some years ago and like ’06 or something and that was epic. They’re just good people. (Greg) Hetson, Zander (Schloss), Keith, they’re all good people. Keith’s a storyteller, he’s just an entertaining motherfucker to be around so we’re lucky to be able to share the stage.

It’s crazy that we grew up listening to Circle Jerks. You know they’re from Hermosa Beach. We grew up going to their shows and stuff as kids and it’s crazy to think that they’re coming on tour with us. We’re the headliner, which is okay, We’ve got three gold records. We’ve been down there 15 times. Obviously, there’s a reason why we’re the headliner. But they’re equals to us, man. Like they, they’re better than Pennywise man in my opinion, like 100%. They wrote some of the best music I ever could remember in my fucking life. I think people that don’t know them are going to be blown away and if you don’t know them, go get a fucking Circle Jerks record and start listening to it right now on Spotify, or wherever you can find it and get get those songs in your head because it’s going to be a good night for sure. Then we got CIVIC, who also is doing really well in Australia on a whole and I got to listen to some of their music and they’re fucking kicking ass. So I think the whole night is going to be pretty goddamn wound up from the minute the first note hits, and the first beer gets cracked. It’s gonna be good.”

Speaking of beer, Pennywise has their own beer out called “Unknown Road”. It’s a bit hard to get it here in Australia. I mean, we have our own beer and we’ve got shit tons of it, but is there any chance that Fletcher will be sneaking any “Unknown Road” into the country.

“That’s great. You know what, I’m texting my manager right now because that shit was supposed to be ready to go for this tour. I’m texting him right now. You’re making me mad. MAD!!! I just remember that because they promised us they were going to have that beer released by this tour so I’m about to find out. We’ll see if he texts me back… We got some local brewery called El Segundo Brewery to brew up this batch and it actually turned out really good. We kind of wanted something you can drink all day long. Not get completely out of your mind on three beers. You want to be able to drink 10 of those things, right? So tailgate parties, gigs, whatever. So people seem to like it. It’s definitely going to be down there eventually. And I’m going to find out right now. So maybe we’ll sneak in a couple for you.”

 OH HELL YEAH!!! I’ll give that a red hot go for sure. In sadder news, there are rumours of fellow punk legends NOFX calling it a day in 2023 as they roll over 40 years as a band next year. So I was wondering how the news of Fat Mike pulling the pin has affected Fletcher, not just as a fan, but also as a member of Pennywise, a band that has forged their own legacy for more than 30 years.

“It’s kind of surreal to me because I don’t see any reason why they should stop playing. They’re crushing it still, their shows are great. Mike and the guys are writing great music. Every record they put out is is gold in my opinion. The last record was fucking awesome. And I don’t get it you know, I mean, maybe Mike’s getting tired of traveling or something I’m not sure what the reasons are behind it. But I think it’s pretty serious.

I mean for me like I don’t ever think of Pennywise ending. I picture being up there at 70 years old doing it and and I mean I don’t know if our bodies will hold up. We play fast music, it’s crazy but it’s not unheard of. I mean look at the Rolling Stones. Our shit’s a little bit more demanding. You know, some of these bands are in their 60s. I mean Circle Jerks, I think Keith’s got to be 62 or something like that and he’s still up there killing it.

So that’s definitely weird to me to hear that they’re calling it quits because musics music, fans are there, you’ve changed people’s lives, you’ve become part of people’s lives. People got their shit tattooed on their bodies. You know that one show you play in their city is like their salvation. For me like this is what I love to do. This isn’t a job. This is a passion. This is not a hobby. This is like what I live for and have lived for since I was like basically 14 years old. So I don’t see any reason to ever stop this shit. So hopefully, they change their minds. But if you get a chance to see NOFX, I would definitely go see him because I think it’s pretty serious tone of voice that they’re saying this. They’re not pulling a Mötley Crüe. I accused Mike of pulling a Mötley Crüe and he said Fuck no, this is not a Mötley Crüe. So be warned. They’re probably calling it quits for real.”

Australia will have their chance to see NOFX one last time in December when they perform Punk in Drublic in full at Good Things Festival but in the meantime the might Pennywise are gracing our shores, they’re looking forward to the trip and it’s shaping up to be one for the ages.

“It’s always good. You guys have got it in your blood down there. You have a couple of beers, get out, cut loose. I mean, it’s COVID times. We’re coming off some hard times and we’ve lost some friends and family. A lot of us out there. So I think us getting down there is going to be therapeutic. I think ‘Bro Hymn’ is going to be therapeutic for some people. I think it’s going to be pretty emotional. The fact that Circle Jerks are out there firing on all cylinders is a treat beyond a treat. If you never heard them, you’re gonna be pretty happy. Man, just good vibes all the way around. We love it, looking forward to it and can’t wait to get down there and have a couple of cold ones and get on stage and cut loose with everybody. It’s gonna be awesome.”

Interview by Duane James @duanejames666

Pennywise‘s tour kicks off this week via Live Nation.

Pennywise – Australian Tour 2022
with special guests Circle Jerks

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 17 @ CHELSEA HEIGHTS HOTEL, VICTORIA SOLD OUT

SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 18 @ FORUM, MELBOURNE

TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 20 @ UNIA BAR, WOLLONGONG

FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 23 @ ENMORE THEATRE, SYDNEY

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 24 @ FORTITUDE MUSIC HALL, BRISBANE

SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 25 @ HINDLEY ST. MUSIC HALL, ADELAIDE

TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 27 @ METROPOLIS, FREMANTLE

Tickets Here

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About duanejames (46 Articles)
Wall of Sound's resident Heavy Metal Bogan. Father. Husband. Professional Tattooer. Untrained Artist. Part time writer. Full time fanboy.