Quick — name the most popular rock band from Arizona. At a loss? Consider Mesa’s punk-rock royalty Authority Zero. Formed in 1994 by a merry band of moshing high-school friends, Authority Zero did the usual local grind for almost eight years before putting out its first LP, “A Passage in Time,” and embarking on its first nationwide tour in 2002. But since then, the band has clawed its way to the top of the three-chord heap with a propulsive, straightforward blend of skate punk, reggae and even Spanish influences. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, though, as Folio Weekly found out when we chatted with founding vocalist (and last remaining original member) Jason DeVore.
Folio Weekly: Authority Zero’s latest album, “The Tipping Point,” came out in April, only weeks after founding bassist Jeremy Wood left the band. How have you and the new lineup, including two other members who joined in 2011 and 2012, powered on?
Jason DeVore: We’re more connected now than ever before. All the new guys bring a fresh and positive energy that’s really showing on stage. We just got back from a hardcore European tour, where we did 39 shows in 40 days. So we had a real chance to connect and feel each other out — discover a new excitement. We’re also playing seven or eight new songs each night, and our fans are already singing along.
F.W.: Since the beginning, Authority Zero has mixed straight-up punk with reggae and other exotic influences. Where did that come from?
J.D.: A little bit of everywhere. We didn’t want to be a straight punk band or a straight reggae band or a straight rock band — to be honest, we didn’t know what the hell we wanted to do. We just knew that we wanted to play music, and since we all came from different musical inspirations, those influences came about naturally. Even the new members who’ve joined bring everything from metal to reggae to surf to spaghetti Western music to the table. That’s kept Authority Zero honest and earned us respect for trying new things, especially among kids who got into this band because there was so much going on.
F.W.: Guttermouth lead singer Mark Adkins told Folio Weekly last month that young punk bands have to “conquer their home market” before moving on to bigger success. Did Authority Zero do that between 1994-2002 in Arizona?
J.D.: Yeah, although in all reality, no one was really interested in us at the beginning. We were just a bunch of high school friends that didn’t have goals or aspirations about where we wanted to take the band — we just loved what we did and loved being together. The foundation of this group was always not having any rhyme or reason for what we were doing. We just hammered away at it until we realized, “Oh shit — we can actually do this for a living!” The rest is history.
F.W.: Yet you’ve suffered several business setbacks over the years, bouncing between four labels over the course of five albums. Have those struggles only made Authority Zero stronger?
J.D.: Most definitely. We’ve learned some hard business lessons, and really it’s a big F-you to the industry that we’re still here at all. But all the crap we went through financially wasn’t going to hold us back from doing what we love. Hopefully, that shows people that you can still do this on your own.
F.W.: Focusing on the live show is one way to cultivate grassroots success, correct?
J.D.: Yes. No matter what, I’ll never forget my first punk show in the basement of The DV8 in Salt Lake City. It was The Joykiller, which was Jack [Grisham] from T.S.O.L.’s band, and they just got crazy on stage and blew my mind. I said, “One day I’m going to start a band and try my best to be like that guy.” That’s always stuck with me: giving to fans whatever I had in me so that they could take away that same experience.