|Sacramento straight edge band New Deal|
Photo by my friend Matt Gill
PMAKid: First off, can you tell me who is in New Deal? What they do outside of the bands? (I know Mark is in law school.) What bands everybody played in before?
Mark: Definitely! I play guitar, Mike Sofo is on vocals, Colton Tokunaga on bass, and Thomas Vanderpol on drums. Like you said, I'm in law school right now and have about a year left before I can take the Bar Exam. Mike is going to be going to law school sometime in the near future and lives/works in Davis. Thomas is in cosmetology school and should be done this summer, and Colton just got back from basic training for the Coast Guard. Mike, Colton, and I were all in a short-lived straight edge band called Alive & Well before we were in New Deal. Mike was in a straight edge band from St. Louis called Resolve (you'd probably really like them) and Thomas was in a few Redding bands before moving to Sacramento (Forte Emprise).
PMAKid: You guys are a straight edge band, right? Where did you get the name New Deal? Would you guys call yourself a PMA kind of band?
Mark: Yes, we are a straight edge band. Also, Mike and Thomas are both vegan. As far as the name goes, I'd love to say we have a really great origin story for the name but in truth it was the only one we all could agree on. We had a bunch of different names we were throwing around but wanted the decision to be unanimous. One day one of us said "How about New Deal" and we were all almost simultaneously like "Yeah, that's actually pretty good." The name stuck. As to the last part of your question, yeah, I'd definitely say we are PMA kind of band. All of us try to live really positive lives, and we try to reflect that in our lyrics. We write songs about being yourself, rising above hatred and in-fighting and focusing your energies on the real problems rather than divisions in the scene. Also, trying to always be introspective when dealing with your problems rather than turning to substances to hide what you don't want to deal with. I'd say positivity is essential to our band for sure.
PMAKid: I am really excited that there is a straight edge band in Sacramento now! My dad and I usually have to drive to Berkeley or San Francisco to see hardcore bands, now there is somebody local! Even though my Uncle Kevin Seconds lives in Sacramento lives here, 7 Seconds hardly ever plays! How do you think the scene is here?
Mark: I think no one would be upset if 7Seconds started to play more regularly haha. However, I do think the scene here is really growing and has been for a few years, you just need to know where to go. The guys over at Branch St. House have been doing a good job of booking quality tours through Sacramento again and bands from around the country have all had really positive things to say about Sacramento's scene. There are more bands from Sacramento than ever with Plead The Fifth, Pressure Point, Shambles, and a new melodic hardcore band called Retrace coming up, we have a really diverse group of local bands. I'm really excited about Sacramento's scene at the moment.
PMAKid: I know that there are people who think being straight edge or just not wanting to drink is weird. Sometimes people get teased or bullied because they don't want to drink. That is totally stupid! As an adult, do you ever face this? How do you deal with people who don't understand why you made a choice to be edge?
Mark: I don't really face a whole lot of pressure from anyone to drink anymore, but used to quite a bit. I think as you get older, you stop worrying so much about other people's decisions because the pressure to be part of a group or not stand out sort of dissipates or becomes less important. It's just not something people tend to stress about later in life. I have had people ask me why I choose not to drink, and usually I just tell them that I don't have a problem with people who do drink, but it's just not something I support with my money and it's not a lifestyle I personally condone. Shouldn't really need to say more than that. I've always thought of Straight Edge as a personal choice with a really strong communal culture. I like to surround myself with straight edge and non-straight edge people alike though. I try not to be a dull person though too, so that definitely helps. When people can see I'm just as fun and conversational as they are without needing to drink I think it puts them at ease that I'm not judging them for their own decisions. Diversity is the spice of life haha.
Here come the questions I always ask!
PMAKid: Give me your favorite songs and why.
Mark: Oh man that is a really tough one. I'm sure I'm going to pick three and then wish I had picked some other ones, so here goes nothing, I'll pick a couple classics and one song sort off the beaten path. In no particular order:
1. Bad Brains- Riot Squad I think this is my favorite Bad Brains song. It's an odd choice, but there is just something about it that sort of encapsulates what hardcore/punk should sound like, to me at least. It's fast, has great lyrics, great guitar-work from Dr. Know as always, and it's freakin Bad Brains. No list of songs would be complete without at least one of their songs.
2. Minor Threat- Out of Step Definitely my favorite Minor Threat song and an all time classic. Since I first heard it, this song's message has always stuck with me as I've always sort of felt (and I'm sure plenty of other hardcore/punk kids can relate) truly out of step with the rest of the world. One of my favorite songs ever.
3. Shai Hulud- Set Your Body Ablaze If you haven't listened to Shai Hulud, you should definitely do so. They are one of my favorite bands of all time and have some of the best lyrics of any hardcore band ever. This band fashions itself a group of "misanthropists" meaning hating of mankind. But it's not as simple as just hatred of all men good or bad, it's more like a hatred of the tendencies of man, of greed and destruction in the name of power. This song is about becoming more than just flesh and bones. The lyrics "hollow words will burn, and hollow men will burn" are some of my favorite lines of any song. I know that sounds intense haha, but it has beautiful guitar work backing it up and is really moving. Check em out!
PMAKid: And three books please!
Mark: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand- While I don't agree with much of Ms. Rand's philosophies, I love this book from a creative perspective. It's about being uncompromising in the pursuit of your passions or whatever it is you are good at. It's an ethical theory about being "self-centered" meaning that if you create for your own enjoyment and purpose, it will help others more than if you try to serve others first. It sort of changed the way I thought about my career path.
Crime & Punishment by Fyodr Dostoevsky- It's a great story about...well...Crime and Punishment. Great social criticism wrapped in an exploration of guilt and the human conscience.
And finally, I'm currently really digging the Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire) series. Its a medieval series set in an Earth-like place with dragons and what not. I can't put em down! Purely pleasure reading but it's a great story.
PMAKid: When you are facing really tough things, how do you keep a positive mental attitude. I know sometimes it is really hard too, but what do you do to keep positive?
Mark: Well, when I'm facing trials and tribulations, I always try to remind myself that it will pass, that nothing lasts forever. For as many bad times as you have, you have just as many good times. Good times are sort of like little rewards for learning and growing through your bad times. Believe me, law school definitely has a way of crushing your spirit, but to quote another influential punk band, you just gotta learn to "Rise Above" /cheesy. It's always good, I find, to have goals in the distance, something to strive for that will make your struggle worth it.
PMAKid: Non-band question: What kind of law are you studying Mark? My great-grandmother was a lawyer a REALLY long time ago, so I am kinda interested.
Mark: Right now I'm sort of in between what I want to do. I'm working all summer for a public interest legal group (one that helps low income people with free legal counsel) and I've always felt like I want to do something positive with my legal degree rather than something that will totally sap my soul. I also want to work in environmental or water law in California. Water is a huge part of the politics of this state, so if there's anyway I can lend my talents towards helping California's water mess, I'd like to do that as well. I guess we'll see in the coming year what I decide on but it's definitely going to be somewhere in that realm. That's cool about your great-grand mother. I'm sure she was a pioneer in her field as female lawyers weren't as prevalent back then.
PMAKid: I know that there are some people who think we should end the "war on drugs" and legalize drugs. Other people think we should keep them against the law. A lot of people think we need to spend more money on treatment to help people get off them and do things like drug courts. What do you think about all this - especially being straight edge/drug free?
Mark: I think a lot of this nation's problem with drugs is our mentality about the whole thing. The reason people turn to drugs and other substances are usually twofold: as coping mechanisms for pain or trauma, or often simply for recreation/experimentation. I don't think much can be done about the recreational/experimentation side of drug use because curiosity will always be a part of the human condition, but I think education can help deter a lot of people from heavier drugs. A stitch in time in prevention education, could save nine in rehabilitation. Of course it's a very complex topic and I could probably talk at length about it. I think devoting money to treatment and drug courts could be a step in the right direction.
Like many straight edgers, I think marijuana should be legalized. Our jails are overcrowded with pot users and dealers, and the violent gangs in Mexico are arguably a direct result of America's prohibitionist stance on marijuana. I think it should be legalized, maybe throw a tax on the sale of it, to stop the needless violence and destruction prohibition causes. I mean at best it's far less addictive than alcohol (if at all), far less destructive on the body, and at worst its effects just make you lazy and hungry. Haha, hardly seems worth death or jail time at least from my perspective. While I've never thought it was for me, I think banning it does far more harm than good.
PMAKid: Here is another question I have been asking a lot lately: What is the weirdest thing you have ever seen?
Mark: Haha oh man, weirdest thing I've ever seen huh....that's a tough one, I've seen some weird stuff. At a show in Sacramento one time, I saw a kid get buck naked and start moshing because a local band promised they'd give him a free shirt if he did it. It was pretty wild. I also once saw a man eat his own head. All of that is 100% true, except the last part about the guy eating his own head. That didn't happen.
PMAKid: Are you going to Revelation Records' 25th anniversary show? We are! Excited!!!
Mark: Man, I wish I could go. I didn't think I'd be able to make it down there with work and other responsibilities so I slept on buying tickets and I believe they have all sold out. Those line-ups are unbelievable though. Have a blast down there and make sure to get some sweet interviews. You'll tell your kids how you saw the best bands to ever play hardcore on one stage before you were even old enough to drive! Only problem is, life will be all downhill from there man...just kidding. Thanks for the interview and thanks for supporting local hardcore. I wish I was as cool as you are when I was your age.
Oh and here's the link to our demo online, and we have a few tapes for sale online as well.