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The Townies: Trinidad's Best, Worst and (Probably) Only Punk Band

The Townies release its new album Friday, June 24.
The Townies release its new album Friday, June 24. Mike Clark
The Townies are the alpha and omega of the Trinidad punk scene, if only because the quartet is the sole punk band in the southern Colorado hamlet of about 8,300 people.

“It’s non-existent,” guitarist Curt Wallach says of the town’s punk scene. “[We are] Trinidad’s best and only...therefore also the worst.”

He says this with some trepidation, as if it might draw out of the woodwork an angry young Trinidad hardcore band that no one knew existed and is way better than the Townies.

“I have the music venue,” Wallach says. “If they pop out of the woodwork, I’ll book them.”

In 2020, Wallach and Townies frontwoman Suzanne Magnuson, former lead vocalist of Space in Time, left Denver — where they’d both been active in the music scene for many years — and moved to Trinidad. They renovated the old Trinidad Lounge and reopened as the TriniDAD Lounge. Wallach, once a member of Denver punk outfit the Taints, is also a silent co-owner of the hi-dive in Denver and was the talent buyer at that club before relocating.

“We didn’t want to live in Denver anymore,” Wallach says. “It was expensive, and the city was not growing in a direction that was with us anymore. We sat around depressed with our then-five-year-old kid for four months and made a list of where we wanted to go.”

Music has been a big part of both of their lives, so Wallach and Magnuson intended to start some kind of new project. Trinidad didn’t exactly fit their overarching musical tastes, however.

“All the bands here were like country and folk and all that stuff,” Wallach says. “We have played a lot of punk together. … We thought it would be fun to start a punk band in Trinidad.”

Wallach and Magnuson recruited Philadelphia-bred Fred Bohlander on drums and Ben Gallagher on bass. Gallagher is not a punk rocker, but was basically shanghaied for this gig, Wallach says.

The Townies' first full-length, Meet the Townies!, debuts on Friday, June 24, via Denver-based label Snappy Little Numbers. Magnuson’s vocals evoke an angry Neko Case, and she cites Fear’s Lee Ving and Gillian Welch as her favorite singers.  Sonically, the Townies takes their largest cue from ’70s San Francisco punks the Avengers, but Wallach also took early inspiration from bands including X, Black Flag, Circle Jerks and Fear, groups that all graced the 1980 Penelope Spheeris punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization. The movie influenced Wallach heavily when he was first discovering punk rock; the bands it showcased were a far cry from punk bands that were popular at the time he saw it, such as Green Day and Blink-182.

“When I first saw it, it was so raw,” he recalls. “It was just unfiltered. To me, it was un-stylized punk, and the only punk I’d seen looked very stylized to me.”

The band’s debut record covers a variety of thematic ground, including politics and disliking cops, jazz and one of the world's most popular bands. “I Don’t Like the Beatles” is about almost exactly what the title implies.

“That one is a little tongue-in-cheek,” Wallach adds. “There are elements of the Beatles I do like, but ‘I Don’t Like the Beatles’ is a better title than ‘I Kind of Don’t Like the Beatles.’”

He adds that he believes the Beatles are an overrated band that’s been crammed down our collective throats all of our lives. For the record, he did try to watch The Beatles: Get Back, Peter Jackson’s nearly eight-hour documentary about the making of Let It Be. Twice.

“When they got to the ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ part of it and they had the producer/cameraman guy playing the anvil, I had to turn it off,” he says. “The next day I went to start it again, and I watched about forty seconds of that segment. I kept it going for less than a minute. It was just so pretentious. And so English.”

His feelings on the Beatles might come with some nuance, but he legitimately doesn’t like jazz, so “Jazz is for Assholes” — while also somewhat tongue-in-cheek — more accurately conveys his feelings on the genre. The song comes from an earlier Wallach- and Magnuson-populated band, Dudebabes.

“That’s one my mom was mad at me about, because it has the line ‘Maybe I don’t get it because I’m not my mom,’” he says. “My mom called me. She didn’t hear it for a long time, because she’s not into this type of music, but she called me up and was like, ‘I don’t like fucking jazz.’”

But while the Beatles and jazz get some derision, Wallach reserves the brunt of his ire for “Texas Weeds,” a diatribe against annoying tourists from Texas who flood into Trinidad to buy weed and piss off all the locals in the process. Wallach claims that Trinidad, which has somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty dispensaries, moves as much weed as Pueblo with a tenth of the population. The song is hyper-local and plays best in Trinidad.

“It’s funny to play that one not in this area,” he says. “As you get further away it doesn’t go over well, even in Denver. It doesn’t have as prominent a weed tourist scene as Trinidad.”

Wallach sees the debut album as possessing a quality that marks the band as maturing, and playing punk music that is a love letter of sorts to bands that the members liked when they were younger. But that shouldn’t be taken as the band being old and out of touch.

“I read about bands that do a throwback sound like this, a lot of them fall into talking about punk not being as good as it used to be,” he says. “But that’s not true. There’s great punk out there now that is doing totally new things.”

Meet the Townies! is available on Bandcamp Friday, June 24. The Townies play the Skylark Lounge, 140 South Broadway, at 9 p.m. Thursday, June 23; tickets are $10.
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