If you grow up in the San Fernando Valley, it definitely helps if you can develop these two things: a down-to-earth attitude and a self-deprecating sense of humor. I should know. I have lived in the SFV for most of my life. And so have Johnny, Jan, Joey, and Rafe, who are better known as Blue Collar Special.
It is seven o’clock on a Wednesday night as I sit in the office at Destroy All Music, talking to the band. Blue Collar’s Rafe owns Destroy, which is located on Sunset Boulevard in Silverlake. Rafe may be from the Valley, but he knows where to run a punk rock record store.
“Rafe, you sing about being from the Valley on a song called ‘Socially Dependent,’” I say to him, starting the interview. “Is everyone in Blue Collar Special from the SFV?”
“Yes, sir. I live in North Hollywood,” Rafe answers, trying to sound serious. “Johnny and Jan live in Van Nuys. Joey lives in Sherman Oaks.”
“Well, I’m ORIGINALLY from Studio City,” Joey says, correcting Rafe in a fake snobby voice.
“And where do you live now?” Rafe asks Joey, knowing that Studio City is only blocks away from Sherman Oaks.
“First, I lived in Studio City,” Joey clarifies, before naming off a bunch of cities that are all within a five-mile radius of each other. “Then I lived in Sherman Oaks. And then I lived in Van Nuys for a little while. But now, I’m based back in Sherman Oaks. There was a time, though, that I lived in a part of Van Nuys that is now Sherman Oaks.”
“We’re proud of the Valley,” Johnny says quietly and seriously.
“’Oh, you’re from the Valley?’” Rafe quickly cuts in, doing his best stuck-up-girl-with-a-phony-voice imitation. “You can’t get a date if you’re from the 818.”
Despite having an 818 area code, Blue Collar Special has released a ten-song CD and several singles on its own label, Destroy All Records. And over the last two years, Blue Collar Special’s current line-up of Rafe (guitar/vocals), Johnny (guitar/vocals), Joey (bass/vocals), and Jan (drums) have performed with many nationally known bands in some of the 323’s best clubs.
“We’ve played with the Ataris,” Johnny begins to name off, as Rafe and Joey playfully repeat the list after him in funny, weary voices. “Flogging Molly. Swingin’ Utters. Youth Brigade. 999. Mest. Distillers. Angry Samoans.”
“And do any of those shows stand out as being among your best?” I ask the band.
“Yeah, there is one,” Johnny answers, this time without Rafe and Joey’s help. “I really enjoyed when we played on St. Patrick’s Day with Flogging Molly at the Troubadour. Flogging Molly is one of my favorite bands.”
“That show wasn’t on St. Patrick’s Day,” Joey says, as Rafe agrees with him. “We played with Flogging Molly on the night before St. Patrick’s Day.”
“No, we did play with Flogging Molly on St. Patrick’s Day,” Johnny argues, as Rafe also agrees with him, too. “It became St. Patrick’s Day at midnight on the night we played.”
“We played a good show, yeah,” Rafe says, now speaking for both Johnny and Joey. “We didn’t mess up at all, and none of our instruments went out or anything. I didn’t have to do ‘The Blue Collar Comedy Hour.’”
“It was a really fun night,” Johnny continues, picking up for Rafe. “We all just got loaded and hung out with Flogging Molly.”
“Matt Hensley let me play his accordion,” Jan says, finally adding to the conversation.
“My best friend puked,” Joey remembers, fondly.
“I guess it’s good when Rafe does not have to do ‘The Blue Collar Comedy Hour,’” I say to Rafe and the band before ending the interview. “But Rafe can be really funny, especially when things onstage are not going exactly as planned. Hey Rafe, do you have anything to say about that?”
“I’m just a fucking funny kid,” Rafe answers, smiling. “I’m into it.”