Formed in the 'White Rose City" of York, PA in 2018, Coffee With Lions consists of John Grove, Doug Moore, Aaron Pendergast, and Kevin Ness. I heard their name mentioned here and there over the years, but it wasn't until recently that I sat down and gave their EP, Balancing Act, a fair listen. Released this past summer, I was expecting pop punk tunes for some reason. Man....was I wrong about that. Instead, what i got was just shy of 15 minutes worth of the raw, gritty punk rock of my past mixed with the polished capabilities of current technology.
Firing off with "Daily News", Pendergast comes in hot with, "Welcome to the shit show, ladies and gentlemen!" Immediately, and collectively, this southern PA band lets you know that they plan to show up and bring it with this EP. In true punk rock fashion, they begin with a warning and a strong distrust of the information presented in the media. They set the bar pretty high on the energy scale from jump here.
"Bleed Like Me" kicks off with a funky bass line delivered by Moore before Ness and Pendergast come thundering in to join him. Delivered by Grove, this is the most melodic song in this collection, by my opinion, and has the perfect amount of noise and air. The bridge takes it down a notch, gives you a chance to breathe for a moment, and then gradually climbs back in the ferocity that I've come to expect from this band.
I grew up with a couple of hardcore boys and "Free Hong Kong" gave me flashbacks of driving around town and blasting Agnostic Front before the $5 hardcore show at our local VFW. This was the track that solidified that I need to see these guys in action as I'd imagine that pit would be at its zenith. The conclusion of the song made me want a mini meatball sub from the Qwikmart as was customary after an evening of being covered in other people's sweat and impeding bruises.
This album comes to a close with my favorite song on the EP, "Look How Far We've Come." At first, I thought I was getting a Dead Kennedy's vibe from Pendergast, but that wasn't quite it. The more that I listened, however, the more that I was reminded of the vocalization style of Richard Hell from the Voidoids. Coffee With Lions succeeded on ending their album with the same musically intensity, but a lighter vibe then when it began.
Nostalgia and comfort are the best synonyms that I can use to describe this EP. Every song reminded me of the music of my youth, but in a way that I couldn't definitively say, "this song sounds exactly like such and such." To me, that means that a band has effectively used their past influences to develop their own unique blend of music.
Breezy McMullen is the Editor in Chief for Beyond the Pit. She also co-owns Allegedly Records and Punk Box and is a founder of the Scene to Scene co-op. When she's not herding children and musicians - you can find her in the woods or on a lake getting stoned....probably.
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