A band built on a lifelong friendship, Traitor Joe is the creative collective of Oliver Jackson, Derek Obregon, and Jason Kamura. Raised in the heart of Victorville, CA, the trio started playing together in 2003 as The Phozteks along with another dear friend, Jake Rubio. While The Phozteks dissolved in 2007 to allow everyone to focus on their own projects, the passion to create something special as a group never died away, and in the Summer of 2014, the trio found themselves with a renewed creative vigour.
Joining forces as the newly minted Traitor Joe, the band started writing together once again, blending their talents and ideas together in what would be the first of many new sessions. Filled with promise, the band independently recorded and produced their debut demo in later 2016, bringing the DIY spirit to life in a series of visceral, original cuts. It was a triumphant return to form for the trio, one that gave them hope and drive to do more with their sound.
Enter ‘Wowabunga!’ a rough and ready album that the trio recorded in each other’s homes before cutting it all together in Oliver’s laundry room. An eight-track release of unrelenting DIY spirit, the album is a visceral cacophony of pop-punk influences and rampant indie rock, arriving in brilliant form with ‘Homo Noeticus’. An upbeat and brilliantly textured sound, it’s DIY spirit backed by impressive songwriting ability.
Second cut ‘Canadian Break-In’ impresses in a similar fashion, offering a rustic melody and uplifting choruses that you can easily get behind. It’s a simple, but effective track that you can’t help falling for, particularly when that sonic stretch of guitar slides into view, creating an absolutely epic bridge between the two halves of the song. Following number ‘Your Worst Influence’ maintains the intoxicating contrast between playful melodies and a harder rock edges, contrasting two distinct sounds in a patchwork piece of nostalgic joy.
Bringing a more emotive sound to the fore, ‘Restless’ is built around a stellar vocal performance, creating a more harmonic sound that reflects the emotional weight of the piece. As ‘Restless’ fades, the silence is instantly broken by the immediate rock vibes of ‘Armistice’, a driven, lo-fi rock cut that lingers with a deep melancholic tone. It’s a deft balance between old school anthemics and a modern, evocative spirit that flows with an undeniable, passionate sound.
Elsewhere on the album, songs like ‘Overprepared’ and ‘Sunny Day Nights’ shakes things up a bit with some vibrant guitar chords and deep bass tones that shape the band’s sound into something wonderfully new. It’s a last creative dalliance before, ‘Leslie’s Song’, arguably the most accomplished and enjoyable song on the album arrives, bringing the full release to a close with a perfect illustration of Traitor Joe’s talents.
An album with a distinct timeless appeal, there’s obvious chemistry at play, with each member of the trio bringing their own style and sound to the mix. It’s a triumphant return to form that marks a bold new chapter in the lives of Oliver, Derek, and Jason, making ‘Wowabunga!’ an essential album of 2019.
Stream the full album above via Spotify, or find it on Apple Music, Tidal, or Deezer.