Meet San Diego’s ‘pink punk’ band: The Havnauts
The Havnauts uses experimentation, collaboration and a splash of color for its genre-bending, SDMA-nominated album
The Havnauts isn’t your typical punk band. For starters, all the members dress in a surprising shade: pink.
“At some point, I was like: ‘What if we all just wore one color … and what if it was pink?’ And then you just start going to Party City and buying the pink decorations that are on sale,” vocalist and rhythm guitarist Shelbi Bennett says, laughing.
This bold color choice certainly packs a punch on stage, but for Bennett — along with fellow band members Jenny Merullo (drums), Zak Kmak (bass, vocals) and Josh Smith (lead guitar) — the decision goes beyond aesthetics. The “pink punk” band’s informal dress code unifies the group, and the bright shade also carries into its musical approach.
“The pink color just kind of matches,” Merullo says. “I think it lightens up a lot of our sound as well ... so often music and art are about a juxtaposition. Our music has a definite edge to it, but it’s also really accessible.”
With lyrics that explore heavy themes like heartbreak and growing pains, paired with metal-inspired guitar riffs and powerful drums, The Havnauts’ sound definitely draws on the elements for which punk isknown.
But both of its albums — debut EP “Go for It!” (2018) and sophomore album “Real Good Now” (2020) — aren’t afraid to add other genres like pop and rock to the mix. The band puts an intensity behind tender songwriting, creating an upbeat and anthemic track list more likely to make a listener dance than scream.
To achieve its sound, the four-piece outfit embraces each member’s varied musical backgrounds, from Berklee College of Music to School of Rock San Diego. Bennett and Kmak take the lead on songwriting, but everyone is involved in the inventive creative process.
“I think that the friendliness between us all really translates in the music too,” Bennett says. “Life is hard sometimes, but you just write a bouncy song about it and try to shift the perspective a little.”
Making the best out of a bad situation proved to be paramount last year when the pandemic hit only two months after the release of “Real Good Now.” Unlike other local bands, The Havnauts opted out of livestream performances. Instead, the members focused on visualizing the album and produced a series of DIY music videos.
“We’re such a live band ... for us it’s (about) the room and the energy,” Kmak says, adding that making the videos allowed The Havnauts to “give people something to talk about and keep the creative juices flowing.”
The Havnauts plan to release more music videos this year, but the band is now shifting to live performances and kicking things off with a headlining show at Soda Bar tonight.A second show is scheduled for Aug. 14 at the Pour House in Oceanside.
Returning to the stage gives The Havnauts a chance to bring “Real Good Now” back to life, as well as add two new songs to the setlist: an original track called “Bummer Man” and a cover of The Stooges’ “Search and Destroy.”
Looking into 2021, Merullo says the band, who is nominated for its third San Diego Music Award this year, hopes to play larger venues like Belly Up in Solana Beach and Little Italy’s Music Box, and possibly plan a West Coast tour.
However, the band members measure their success by more than the size of the nightclub or how many albums it sells.
“We barely get enough money for a burrito — once we split it up four ways — from any of the venues in San Diego,” Bennett says. “We play shows because we love them and because we love each other ... it’s not about the money.”
Listen to the band’s two albums on Bandcamp, Spotify or Apple Music.
When: 8 p.m. today
Where: Soda Bar, 3615 El Cajon Blvd., Normal Heights
Who: The Havnauts perform with openers Smiling, Genuine Jones and Leavers
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