The Musical Drug of Choice

Playing the official record release show on Feb. 8 for their new album, Uckhole Futah, On Drugs proved themselves to be a band that can put on an energetic, exciting, memorable and engaging live show, where simply being present feels like a vivaciously transcendent experience unto itself, and one who excels in crafting high quality and thoughtful songs.

Sangi Lama/Portland State Vanguard

“We are a band that procrastinates to the very last fucking minute; we’re really good at it,” said Cameron Gates, who plays drums for the band. He also said that despite having six months to write the album, they did so in about three weeks.

On Drugs formed four years ago, consisting of Elias Avila on vocals and guitar, Derek Housh on vocals and bass, Steve Gartman on guitar and ​Cameron Gates on vocals and drums. On Uckhole Futah, On Drugs flex their apparent ability to straddle a comedic, uncaring punk rock attitude, with something more thoughtful and pensive. They lace erratic, quirky, lively and bustling garage rock songs with sobering and impassioned ballads, blending the two together until they become seemingly inseparable. The album opens with “Bees,” a track that slowly builds and results in spastic, busy guitar licks complemented by smooth, soaring falsetto vocals. The next track, “Science Isn’t Real,” is comedic, wild and eccentric, with lyrics such as “deny Bill Nye,” and “Kim Jong-Un’s ill,” followed by the ardent and anthemic song “Squish.

Sangi Lama/Portland State Vanguard

The whole album flows effortlessly, moving back and forth between strange, outlandish and exhilarating punk rock energy and a sort of comforting angst that most of us are familiar with. On Drugs have this balance down to a science. During their set, one member asked the crowd if they wanted a fun song or a sad song, joking that a song couldn’t be both. However, despite their own words, On Drugs prove this not to be the case. They have found the balance between exciting and comforting, between extraordinary and familiar.

In comparison to the band’s previous work, Avila said the album is less serious. “[We were] less focused on trying to sound like something. We said ‘let’s make the dumbest thing we can.’”

Sangi Lama/Portland State Vanguard

On this album, On Drugs effortlessly demonstrates what punk rock should really be about—freedom. They don’t seem bound by musical expectations, either their own or others’. Perhaps equally important, it’s abundantly clear how much all four of the band’s members care about what they’re doing. They collectively concurred that without On Drugs they would all be “a lot more broken.”