Chatting with NJ’s O.C. Rippers: ‘Have a good time, think for yourself, never mind the bullshit’

"New Jersey's a shithole, but it's our shithole. Especially in Ocean County... there's a different kind of weirdo down here." 

According to Spotify, I listened to a track called “Piss” by OC Rippers more than any other song last year. Now, I don’t really know what that says about me—admittedly, the optics aren’t great—but I WILL offer two notes: 1) Song-shame me all you want, but that tune rips and I defy you to listen to it just once; its addictive, and 2) What better way to make a new friend at the bar than by unsolicitedly sharing, “‘Piss’ was my favorite song last year!”? Thanks, OC Rippers!

Hailing from Beachwood, NJ (Ocean County = OC, get it?), the Rippers’ raw, high-energy brand of punk rock & roll commanded my attention back in 2021 with the release of their first full-length, “Wasteland Blues.” At a time when plenty of influential punk(ish) bands are smoothing out their rough edges and further blurring the lines of punk, powerpop, emo and indie, the Rippers’ sound is something of a glorious anachronism, hearkening back to early and proto-punk à la Dead Boys and The Stooges, respectively. 

Don’t get it twisted, I embrace the evolution of punk rock or music at-large, and will still spin the Menzingers, Iron Chic and the like; however, I simultaneously celebrate OC Rippers’ unruly, vintage quality and their brazen disregard for what’s seemingly in vogue. Many bands want to follow in the footsteps of Green Day or My Chemical Romance, and be the next big mainstream act; the Rippers don’t give a fuck about that, and their music is better for it. 

Last month, OC Rippers dropped their second full-length, Happy Hours Air Travel Club—16 relentless tracks, with an average length of about two minutes each. If you were worried that the Rippers might explore a new sound and thereby slow down or lose their edge, track one, “Mean Streets,” dispels that notion with the quickness. With Happy Hours Air Travel Club, OC Rippers are better than ever, so go buy the record and listen loud, friends.

Following the release in February, NJ Indy was able to catch up with OC Rippers to discuss the new record, influences, upcoming dates and more.

How/when did OC Rippers come about?

Rob (bass): The summer of 2019. Myself, Johny (guitar) and Kris (drums) were jamming. Johny and Lyle (vocals) were also jamming and writing stuff separately and we all just came together at one point. 

For garage/early punk fans your sound has a familiar quality for sure, but it’s also very much your own and distinctly different from a lot of the punk that’s being put out right now. Was there a concerted effort from the beginning to take your music in a certain direction? Or was it more of an organic thing, like, “this is just the sound that happened when we got together and started playing” ?

Kris: I think it was just the sound we came up with playing together. Johny brought the riffs, me and Rob brought the rhythm and Lyle brought his character to it. 

Rob: I feel like we had a genuine idea of the kind of sound we wanted and the direction we wanted to go in. At the same time, we have so many different influences between us. ’70s hard rock, early punk, to like ’80s cock rock and ’90s death metal. 

Who are your biggest influences? Where do you draw inspiration from as a band?

Rob: Blackfoot, Dead Boys, Mountain.

Kris: UK Subs, Ramones, Phil Hartmann.

Johny: I dunno, I dunno…

Rob: Johny’s really good at interviews….

Johny: I’ve only had one half of a beer so far. 

Rob: Like I mentioned before… a mix of ’70s hard rock, ’70s punk, ’80s punk. A lot of Adicts… we’re big on the Adicts.

Johny: I like Sabbath, the Wipers, the Stooges… shit like that. Organic, guitar-ey rock & roll always gets my pickle going, ya know. 

Kris: I wouldn’t say it’s garage rock. It’s an amalgamation of what we like. High-energy rock & roll that’ll get you out of bed, gets you through the day. 

Considering you gave Ocean County a nod when naming the band, I imagine there have to be some strong feelings about NJ. Did you all grow up here? How do you feel about NJ? 

Johny: We’re definitely a bunch of suburban boys! I dont think we’re ever leaving this fucking state. City living? No thank you. I think I could speak for all of us when I say that. 

Rob: New Jersey’s a shithole, but it’s our shithole. Especially in Ocean County…there’s a different kind of weirdo down here. 

Jonhy: A special kind of trash for sure.

Rob: I guess we fall into that category! I’m 41 years old and I still enjoy going into the middle of the Pine Barrens and breaking random shit or crank calling people. 

Johny: I like the woods too…

Rob: and mushrooms….

Johny: Yeah… and space. I like personal space. Got a lot of that down here. 

Kris: Plus all the access to record stores, college radio stations. We are spoiled out here, musically. 

Rob: …Skanks.

There’s been some really good shit coming out of New Jersey lately with respect to punk/hardcore: OC Rippers, GEL, School Drugs, Beach Rats, Phantom, Dusters. How would you describe the current scene out here?

Kris: Lots of fantastic bands that you mentioned. The Operants, Fear Gods, Dusters, Freezeheads, there’s always a lot of over-the-top bands here in Jersey.  

Johny: I don’t leave the house. I don’t know what’s going on out there. I like Mister Face Records. 

Where did you record the new album? How long did it take?

Johny: We record at Pat’s house at Swamp City studios. He’s a Swamp City Rocker and we like his vibe. It took us about six hours.

Kris: Including lunch. 

Rob: Swamp City Studios is a basement in downtown Toms River. Like Johny said it took six hours. The process was really not that much different than recording on a 4-track. 

Johny: He has a Tascam 388, he loves that thing.. .I love that thing. Works great! 

Rob: We recorded there because that’s where we recorded the first LP and we were very happy with that one. And Pat’s a stand-up dude. He also plays in a band called Swamp City Rockers. 

Kris: I think the first LP took four hours, this one took six. 

Rob: Yeah we took our time with this one. 

Do you feel like your songwriting has evolved since the band’s inception? 

Johny: No, it went backwards. 

Rob: I feel like it’s definitely evolved. If you listen to the demos, the first album opposed to the material we’re putting out now, not that we ever allow ourselves to be pigeonholed, but we’re broadening our horizons… I mean, a lot of the new songs we are writing can go from anywhere from Blackfoot, to Skynyrd, to Talking Heads. 

Johny: We’re absolutely seeking to disappoint the people who followed our band when we first started—full on alienation! Get ready for the worst music you’ve ever heard! 

Upcoming dates? Understanding that it’s probably a bitch to manage work with scheduling shows out of state, are you planning any long weekends or extended runs on the road?

Kris: We’re working on New England, down South to the Carolinas and Virginia, possibly California if we can swing some air fare. 

Johny: Need money. Give us money.

Rob: Buy our record so we can afford to go to California. Following the release of the new record we have a couple gigs coming up around here. March 4, we’re playing our record release in Lake Como at Salty’s. April 13, we’re playing House Of Independents with Fake Names. 

Bands you enjoy playing with? Bands you’d like to share a bill with? 

Johny: I enjoy playing with everybody.

Rob: We’ve played so many different kinds of shows. For bands we play with frequently, we did a bunch of shows with Mystery Girl from Albany, the Parasitix. I’ll play a fucking ska show, I don’t give a shit. 

Johny: Yeah, we’ll play anything. I feel like a lot of bands nowadays just want to play within a certain circle within the scene or whatever. That’s all fun and games but I’ll literally play anything as long as it sounds like it’s gonna be somewhat of a good time. If it doesn’t sound fun I don’t want to leave the house. 

Rob: I’ll play a fucking bar mitzvah, I don’t care. 

Kris: We have played a bar mitzvah, haven’t we? 

Johny: Did we? No, we did a wedding. They’re divorced now.

Lyle: Are they really?

Johny: I don’t know.

How would you describe the ethos of OC Rippers? 

Johny: We believe everybody should have a good time, think for themselves, and not pay attention to any of the stupid bullshit that goes on around you. Don’t let any fuckers ruin it for you.

OC Rippers Record Release Party is Saturday, March 4 at Salty’s Beach Bar in Lake Como, NJ. Also on the bill: Dusters, Kirkby Kiss, Fright, Operants. Listen to “Happy Hours Air Travel Club” here: Bandcamp. For upcoming dates and more info, follow OC Rippers on Instagram.