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Attack of the Swamp Punks

From sticks to big city with roots intact

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Palatka, Florida, is the “Gem City on the St. Johns River” and the “Bass Capital of the World.” It’s home to Ravine Gardens State Park, built by the Works Progress Administration during the New Deal in the early 1930s and includes a stone tower dedicated to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. None of this meant a hill of beans to J.R. Nowhere, however. He grew up in the 1990s and was hooked to the groove of punk music.

J.R.’s punk project, FFN (From F***ing Nowhere) has been cranking out solid punk music for more than a decade. Those involved call their sound “Trap Punk and Roll” and “Punk ’N’ Roll our way.” In case you missed the message, their recording includes an explanation: “If you don’t like FFN, we don’t like you.”

FFN performs at Surfer the Bar with four other acts with no—you read that right—no cover charge on Sunday, May 26.

J.R. was raised on the first wave of East Cost punk, with the likes of the New York Dolls, Dead Boys and Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers. He was also influenced by musicians from the West Coast, including Mike Ness of Social Distortion and 1990s punk bands Rancid and The Stitches.

FFN’s raw blue-collar sound is supported by the high-octane percussion from the precocious Eddie Dyall. Dyall’s love of music developed when, as a kid, he heard “Dreams” by Van Halen in the Power Rangers’ movie. He’s been tearing up the guitar since age 11 and picked up the drumsticks six years ago. Dyall’s passion for music was bolstered by his siblings’ music collection. His love of punk accelerated when his brother was shipped off to military school, leaving plenty of gutter punk jams to corrupt Dyall’s maturation.

Dyall, who played guitar for Full On Assault, was a fan of FFN. When Assault dissolved, he talked to J.R. about joining FFN as their drummer. Dyall hadn’t played drums in a band, but felt he could pull it off, and FFN recognized his musical talent. The band worked with him while he vastly improved his skill set, practicing twice a week for two years.

Once Dyall got up to speed, the band’s practices took a turn for the chaotic. “We would just get sh*thoused and play ’till we fought.” He explained that he “ended up cut up and drunk every practice. We all had a great time.” At one practice, Dyall screwed up a song and J.R. threw “an empty whiskey bottle at me,” which broke on the wall behind him. Take that, Whiplash: J.K. doesn’t have sh*t on J.R.

Dyall explained, “Practices these days are much different. We are structured now.” Getting more serious about the music created some friction in the band. J.R. explained that things work out once the other band members see things his way. Dyall responded, “We were all hard on each other. J.R. was hard on us because he wanted his vision done properly. He drove us to be our best on stage. He and I spent a lot of time angry at each other. But it always worked out.”

The tension has made the band grow stronger. As Dyall explained, “FFN is a machine and we don’t stop. I don’t think we’re ever gonna quit. It’s just part of life now.” Their method has worked. Dyall’s beats are as powerful as they are fast, but what makes FFN’s sound special are the double-times, triplets and accelerated fills he throws in to kick their tunes up to 11.

The term “Nowhere” refers to the city of Palatka, Florida. It’s J.R.’s hometown and, until recently, the place he called home. “FFN has deep roots in Palatka. Several songs, like ‘From Nowhere,’ were written about [the city] and its lack of anything to offer,” according to J.R.

“Tired of Nowhere” is on the band’s 2016 EP, Words & Music. The song is a point of departure for J.R., who recently relocated to Riverside. He explained, “It’s funny ’cause it makes more sense now, since the Palatka chapter has closed.”

Don’t tell that to guitar player and back-up singer John Peters. He still resides in Putnam County and commutes to Jacksonville for practice. He joins recently added bass player Allison Mathews, who descends from Northeast Florida punk royalty. She played with the Stevie Stiletto in the late 1990s.

Last year, FFN had the opportunity to play with the Dead Boys at Nighthawks in Riverside. J.R. shared, “I always had a list of bands I wanted to play with. When the Dead Boys reformed recently, I was, like, I gotta play with them. To share a stage with a band I like[d] so much was a dream come true.”

In addition to the Dead Boys, FFN has been on a Johnny Thunders kick. J.R. admitted, “I’m huge fan of all things Thunders.” In the 1970s and ’80s, Johnny Thunders played with the New York Dolls, the Heartbreakers and as a solo act. His guitar-playing has been described as “raunchy, nasty, rough, raw and untamed.” FFN’s sound could be described that way as well.

FFN covered the Heartbreakers album, LAMF at Rain Dogs in Five Points on Halloween 2018. Through a connection with Heartbreakers’ guitar player Walter Lure, FFN traveled to New York City. They played at The Bowery Electric with other bands, covering Thunders’ material. The audience was packed with Thunders devotees. J.R. explained, “It was nice to perform the song in NYC with our spin on it in front of a crowd full of people who grew up listening to Thunders.”

FFN’s 2016 EP, Words & Music, includes the song “Open Your Eyes” about government control, corruption and dysfunction. It asks, “Do you wonder why send they us off to die? Is it freedom? Do you feel like you’re just another number in the system? Do you feel like a government whore?” J.R. screams, “Don’t believe the lies! Open up your eyes, don’t be surprised when you find out why.” To accentuate these points, J.R. cranks the neck of his Les Paul, throttles up the distortion on his Marshall amp and pulls out leads that rival the best of rock & roll and rockabilly—then punches them up with sheer punk force.

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