Legendary underground Los Angeles rockers the Hangmen are back in full throttle with their seventh studio album, Stories To Tell, and boy do they have ‘em.
Stories To Tell showcases lead singer Bryan Small's penchant for gritty love songs, interspersed with unapologetic, no-holds-barred tracks that shed a harsh light on life's darker and seedier corners. The guy really knows how to turn a phrase. And that voice can still send shivers down the spine - this is a guy who sounds like he's been through it all.
Small's journey began in Montana and continued in Boise, ID, before he made his way to the dirtier streets of Los Angeles. In 1986, he formed the Hangmen, quickly catching the attention of Keith Morris, the frontman of Black Flag and Circle Jerks. Morris not only produced the band's early demos but also took on the role of their manager. They secured a deal with Capitol Records and released their eponymous debut album, produced by Vic Maile of Motorhead fame. However, their ascent was met with an abrupt descent. A shift to DGC Records, a Geffen subsidiary boasting acts like Nirvana and the Nymphs, seemed promising. Unfortunately, their Rob Younger (of Radio Birdman fame) produced album, Suicide Doors, never even saw the light of day, and the band succumbed to the grip of addiction.
Undeterred by adversity, a newly sober Bryan Small eventually resumed his songwriting journey, resulting in the release of Metallic I.O.U. in 2000. Tours alongside steadfast supporters Social Distortion and the Supersuckers followed suit. In fact, it was Social D’s Mike Ness who would later produce the Hangmen's 2007 album, In The City. Small fondly recalls the camaraderie, citing both bands' emphasis on "simplicity and staying true to one's musical identity."
In 2010, Finnish label Hype Records paid homage to the band with Lost Rocks, an 18-track retrospective, proving that the band wasn’t just some sort of Hollywood-only favorite. Soon after, Rontrose Heathman, a former Supersucker, joined the band, leading to the critically acclaimed 2012 release, East Of Western. Fast-forward to 2019 when Cactusville emerged as the most recent chapter in the Hangmen's story… until now.
In the end, Stories To Tell is a testament to the Hangmen's refusal to die as Bryan Small's songwriting skills reach new heights. This is not just a band, but a force that defies setbacks and refuses to give in, forever charging forward like a runaway train on the tracks of rock n’ roll.