Barely old enough to smoke, Captain Samurai is teenage punk music way ahead of its years

Young people rarely do what they’re told. They often act carelessly, floating by responsibility with hardly a glance at the path deemed right by those in authority. The less thought the better. This common defiance can be their undoing — we all know a burnout or two. But when a young person peels away from the societal norm, reveling in their own little rebellion, a chance for brilliance is revealed.

The promising Phoenix band Captain Samurai is currently swimming in its chance. Already poised for a headliner album-release show at Valley Bar on Nov. 27, the buzz around this band is gaining momentum. The trio has already brought its brand of punk to a slew of house shows, impressing the legions of tight-knit college students ingrained in that scene.

With the solid debut album “Hey Thanks Goodbye” now officially available, Captain Samurai feels like a legitimate rock outfit. These guys are even getting some minor radio play in the U.K. That’s quite a resume considering the band’s year-and-a-half long lifespan.

What’s more evocative are the members’ ages. Amador Diaz, the sly-faced lead singer and guitarist, is just 18-years-old. He’s fit with a personality that teeters between silly adolescence and someone 10 years his elder. The voice he speaks with barely resembles his vibrato-laced singing. He’s also a high school dropout, fully encompassing the disobedience I mentioned earlier.

William Carrasco is filled with youthful energy. He really breaks the mold of rock’s stereotypical stoic bass player. During my interview with the band, Carrasco was the quickest to speak, constantly reaching for the microphone with the “gimme-gimme” hands of a person in love with their craft. He also told me Captain Samurai’s biggest influence is Akon. No surprises there, everyone’s biggest influence is Akon.

As young as Diaz and Carrasco are, I couldn’t help but drop my jaw when drummer Aaron Medina revealed his age. He is 15-years-old. Let that sink in. At 15, I was still drumming in my high school’s lame jazz band and performing for parents who were obligated to clap. Medina has already done a mini-tour out of state and is preparing a set at South By Southwest with the band. I’d love to see his ventures five years from now.

Knowing the members’ ages, Captain Samurai’s popularity with college students is far more remarkable. Then again, “Hey Thanks Goodbye” is a rough-hewn treasure of Arizona music. Everything about its brand of soft-punk screams DIY with heart, traits that are hard for anyone to deny.

The antithesis of the album’s fast paced punk and downtrodden lyrics works well. It’s an intentional effect the band chalks up to thinking happy songs are just flat out boring. Diaz’s lyrics on the song “Tired” resemble an internal suicide note. Don’t worry though, he was wearing a Goodwill Gatorade polo and a big smile the whole interview. I’d sooner call him “coach” then depressed.

Hearing the band’s progression from EP “Nothing Part Zero” to the new album is astounding. Medina’s drumming has tightened up, Diaz is confident in his voice and the sound quality is polished. The seven months spent creating the record really shows.

“Well (Nothing Part Zero) is mainly songs I’d just written all by myself, and I told Willy and Aaron what to play – it was more of a solo thing,” Diaz said. “I was just starting to write songs, so naturally it wasn’t going to be as good, but for the new album, we all put a split into writing each song.”

“Hey Thanks Goodbye” is a subconscious coming of age for Captain Samurai. It’s the logical next step in being taken seriously. 

“We were more focused on just having fun and getting wild,” Diaz said with reminiscence. “Now we’re more focused on actually writing good songs.”

A theme of the record is bitter breakups and the teenage angst attached to them. While listening to it, I couldn’t help but remember the dark-hearted poetry I’d write in response to my own high school heartbreaks. Unsurprisingly, the diary-left-open lyrics come from Diaz and Carrasco’s failed relationships. When I asked about why they focus so much on lost love, Carrasco unleashed a tirade of unpunctuated speech that we all couldn’t help but laugh at with awkward understanding.

“It comes from the corazon ('heart' in Spanish), you know?" Carrasco said. "We all really like the girls and we feel sad when we can’t have them. We wanna tell them that you guys missed out on a very awesome person ‘cause, as far as I know, Amador and I are pretty loyal and we just gotta let ‘em know in a song version."  

Diaz made sure to chime in at the end and say, “I’m not writing a diss track to a chick or nothing. It’s not like that.”

I hate to focus on age (it’s just a number, right?), but it’s really so much of what makes Captain Samurai appealing. The typical jaded college student, me included, could learn a thing or two about how to live within the means of who you are. Diaz and Carrasco’s absence from school is refreshing — revelatory even, if they manage to breakout as a band.

The trio benefits from having supportive parents as well. While most of us shudder at the thought of our parents’ reactions to dropping out, the feeling isn’t mutual for the band. Diaz’s mom and dad are ecstatic to see their son’s project garner acclaim and attention. Medina’s mother just wants him to stay out of trouble. And Carrasco’s parents? Well, that’s a story in and of itself.

“My parents don’t even believe me that I’m in a band, half the time I tell them we’re gonna go play a show or practice,  they’re just like, ‘Oh OK, he’s gonna go play, OK sure,'” Carrasco said while mimicking the rolled eyes and tone of disbelief his parents make. “They’ve heard (our music), but they just think it’s just jamming — just for fun. They look at it kind of like people playing 'Guitar Hero.' They don’t even take it serious. They just look at it like, ‘Oh that’s a song? Hm, that’s cool.'"

I’m not entirely sure this was Captain Samurai’s first interview — it certainly felt that way. But I do know that if it was, I feel honored to have been the one to give it. Captain Samurai is full of unrefined potential and adult provocation. Time should treat them well.

Related Links:

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Contact the reporter at nlatona@asu.edu or follow @Bigtonemeaty on Twitter.

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