After a decade of political punk, Bent Left still has plenty to say.

Bent Left's political punk, 10 years in 

After a decade of political punk, Bent Left still has plenty to say.

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I hear echoes of bands like Against Me on Fabergé — punk but with sturdy, memorable hooks. But maybe you hate those guys? Just curious what kind of punk you gravitate toward, and what kind of nonpunk music you gravitate toward.

We are all huge Against Me fans. I've always loved the simplicity of a sturdy fist to the jaw, and their music has that quality. The closing track of Fabergé is actually a sort of response to the response to Tom [Gabel, Against Me singer-guitarist] coming out as transgender.

I will be the first to admit that I do not have the most diverse musical knowledge. I can't name 60 percent of the shit I listen to. I can tell you, I started digging Lagwagon, NOFX, the Vandals and Green Day around third grade; learned to play bass with Miles Davis and Mozart in sixth grade; got to see Pearl Jam in seventh grade; and went to see AFI, Against Me, Anti-Flag, the Code, the Explosion, Bouncing Souls and a ton more in high school.

These days, it's our contemporaries that inspire me. The Rackatees and Smash the State are local bands that recognize the importance of community in a beautiful way. I was at Making Movies' record-release show recently, and the level of professionalism those guys display is amazing. The skill and precision demonstrated by bands like Mr. History and Diverse is always fun to watch. I got to see Propagandhi in Florida last year, and I don't think there are enough hours in my life to practice that much.

I also think that despite its intellectual qualities, Fabergé is more accessible musically than the average punk record. Is that something you aim for, to make the music accessible to audiences outside of the usual punk crowd?

Accessibility is something we definitely discussed while writing and recording Fabergé. It was sort of a make-or-break record for us. This is our eighth release, and we have never quite pulled it off before. None of us are great musicians or singers, and we've just sort of grown up playing together. This is not a formula for instant success, but as we've aged, I think we are slowly starting to master the sound we've always looked for.

Interesting that you say it's accessible despite its intellectual tendencies, because that's one of the underlying problems we are trying to address. Our society has veered so far from celebrating intelligence that smart people are looked down upon as uncool in a culture where the blingiest car bullshit or new dance move is more important than developing one's ability to understand and solve life's basic academic challenges.

How's Club Mustache going? What are your thoughts on the state of punk in KC at the moment?

Club Mustache is running strong in its fifth year, and the spring is filling up as we speak. When we moved into our current place, the basement was just too perfect not to be a show space. It was pretty messy, so we spent two months cleaning and building it and had our first show on July 24, 2008. We'd had the opportunity to tour Japan a little while before that and modeled it off the Japanese venues we had played. We wanted to bring a degree of professionalism to the basement-show culture and make it a consistently great experience for the bands.

When we started doing shows, I think Kansas City was in need of a DIY space with standards that consistently brought in good acts. These days, there are great places, like the Roost, that have stepped up to the plate and are doing amazing things for the house-show community. There are also a few all-ages spaces opening now, like Art Closet Studios and FOKL. We've needed places like this for a while to encourage younger bands to develop. I am hoping these new spaces will help bridge the gap between the younger crowd and the bar crowd to give KC a more well-rounded support structure for local artists.

You also have a community garden and a newsletter-magazine thing. In some ways, it seems like Bent Left is kind of an extension of a large movement that you are working toward. Can you elaborate on that?

Bent Left has always been the part of my life I'm most excited about. We've been together through schools and jobs, always maintaining a drive behind the band, and have taken our extracurricular development seriously throughout. When we got back to KC from a disastrous eight-month tour in 2008, we came home to an amazing group of friends and moved into a nice building with great neighbors. For the first time in our lives, we were out of school, 98-percent broke and had nothing to do but play music. That's when we moved 400 pounds of dirt out of our basement to open Club Mustache, we tilled up a 1,200-square-foot plot of land in our back yard to plant a garden with our friends, and that's when the Insider's Guide to Midtown Mayhem was born. All of our projects are extensions of the band and who we are as people.

The constant traveling we've been lucky enough to do with Bent Left has given me a great appreciation for hospitality. Literally thousands of people have put us up and taken care of us over the years. Complete strangers have brought us into their homes, fed us, drank with us and offered everything they had to keep us going for that one extra day. We are trying to give that sense of belonging back, in as big a way as possible to both Kansas City and the national punk-rock community.

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