Three years ago, on late-summer weekend nights, crowds of musicians, artists, and indie aficionados would pack into the basement of a house known as Wadzilla Mansion in Allston to listen to live performances from loud underground bands. When then-residents Socrates Cruz, Karen Reddy, Elias Bouquillon, and Justin Marchetti moved in to the place, Wadzilla had been a fixture in the local punk scene for almost 15 years. Together, they endeavored to reestablish the space as a mecca for the local creative counterculture. From its rebirth in February 2010, Wadzilla became one of the most successful DIY venues in the city.
In February 2011, after hosting more than 50 shows and booking two consecutive “Boston to Austin” showcases at the annual arts and music festival South by Southwest, the grass-roots venue was ordered by the City of Boston to close its doors, citing a “failure to secure a permit to operate a live entertainment venue.” Wadzilla’s premature closing left a hole in the fabric of the DIY community.
During its subsequent brief but successful run, Wadzilla became a home to an aggregate of local bands loosely referred to as the Half Pint Collective — including bands like the angsty-experimentalists SuperVolcano, post-punkers Grass Is Green, and aggressive genre-benders Trespasser. “It was the pinnacle of what we were all doing at the time,” said Trespasser vocalist-drummer Gio Coviello.
Musicians associated with the collective had been weekend regulars on the basement stage since Cruz first started scouting local bands to play the Mansion’s redesigned cellar. “As a musician myself, I appreciate really good performers,” said Cruz. “That’s what I like about them. You get into it.”
Band members often describe the collective as “incestuous,” referring to the fluidity of members among lineups of acts. It’s not uncommon for one musician to be involved in several bands, be it as a fill-in or a founding member of a new project. It’s a quality reminiscent of the London shoegaze scene of the ’90s, which rock journalist Steven Sutherland termed “The Scene That Celebrates Itself” — in which bands attended each other’s shows, shared bills, and generally disregarded the competition of local rivalries. Sutherland intended it as a critique of the social and sonic landscape of the region, but in doing so, he identified the strong, regenerative force behind a tight-knit scene — the same kind of energy that fuels Half Pint.
“It’s all about supporting each other,” said Jesse Weiss, drummer-vocalist for Grass Is Green. “We are constantly learning and growing as musicians and as listeners.” Because the Boston DIY scene is prone to instability, the resilient hometown bands that stick around are all about the music.
Aside from being bonded geographically, the collective bands share an uncompromising commitment to playing what Coviello calls “music with balls.” Coviello, Weiss, and SuperVolcano vocalist David Khoshtinat cite local bands such as KID:NAP:KIN, Vending Machetes, and the Shills as being hugely influential on their musical tastes. “The Pixies too,” Weiss added, “Probably the best band to come out of Boston ever.”
From the ’90s pop-punk accessibility of Grass Is Green, to the heavy-rock riffs and wailing vocals of SuperVolcano, to the distortion-filled sonic tension of Trespasser, the bands of Half Pint cover a vast array of subgenres of unapologetically loud rock music.
Perhaps the most notable feature of this indie microcosm is that their immense support for one another extends, not only as bandmates but also as friends. Some live together, some work for the same companies, and somewhere along the lines they may have dated the same girls. These things are bound to happen in small cities, and in a way, it’s part of what keeps them in the scene despite its uncertainty, continuing to create their distinctly raw and honest sound.
“I met these people in Boston,” said Khoshtinat, “and I couldn’t make the music I want to make without them.”
Trespasser is currently promoting its hard-edged, genre-spanning sophomore album released on Aug. 2, titled “Bedside Manner.” The diverse 8-track LP reflects the breadth of the band’s musical style and influences, ranging from mellow alternative to high-energy, post-hardcore. . . . Super Volcano is finishing their third album slotted to drop this winter, which offers a more matured sound from the band. “We believe in this record,” said Khoshtinat. “It was a test to see if we could play a song with the same bass line throughout, if we could get over our ADHD and ground ourselves.” They will be playing a local music showcase at the Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge on Oct. 4 with Strange Changes, Bent Knee, and School Tree. . . . Members of Grass Is Green spent their summer writing for an upcoming album they plan to begin recording next month. On Sept. 10, they will play Great Scott in Allston with ’90s indie favorites Girls Against Boys.