Iron Chic is a band that’s been around forever, at least in spirit. The Long Island quintet formed six years ago from the ashes of post-millennial pop-punk acts Small Arms Dealer and Latterman. However the sound and attitude they channel go back much further.
One hears echoes of smart passionate predecessors like Jawbreaker and Face to Face, as well as pop-punk originators the Descendants and the Dickies. Iron Chic’s shout-along gang vocals, big chiming hooks, and punchy, hard-charging rhythms sound like revolution. But the music is rarely a call to arms as much as it is a fist-raising cry for the band’s fans to shake off the chains of self-oppression.
“There’s always a source of anxiety. There’s always something else that needs to be done,” gruff-voiced frontman Jason Lubrano says from his Long Island home. “You just have to let it wash over you and be what it is and not necessarily stress over everything that comes up.”
He adds, “I’ve almost made a career out of being a kid as long as I could, escaping real jobs and responsibility. But you kind of just got to do what makes you feel happy. It’s hard to escape that stuff, but your life can be a lot easier if you let it be easier.”
Punk’s like a rite of passage on Long Island, where awkward teens and tweens follow in the footsteps of Glassjaw, Taking Back Sunday, and Brand New. Lubrano and his mates were shaped by the local scene, which gave them agency. You didn’t need to be good in those high school days of basement shows and VFW halls, just passionate. That attitude’s helped make the borough a thriving musical community outside the glow of Manhattan for more than two decades.
“Everybody wants to have something that’s theirs. Even as close as we are to the city, it’s always been a sort of separate world,” he says. Though Lubrano went to a couple big arena shows as a kid, it didn’t hit him the way those local punk shows did. “Going to punk shows at VFW halls and churches and stuff like that was just a lot more real, and it made you feel like you could do it.”
Lubrano’s been in several bands since that first awakening, including Small Arms Dealer and West Phantom, among others. He knew lead guitarist Phil Douglas as the go-to-guy on L.I. to record your album and had played with his band, the Latterman. Douglas not only produced some of Lubrano’s music, but filled-in on drums for a short while. Lubrano clicked with him, and they set about doing something else together.
At first, it didn’t stick. There was friction within the band and a health issue popped up for another member after 2009’s Shitty Rambo EP. The band briefly went on hiatus before Lubrano and Douglas decided to forge ahead with a new lineup. Iron Chic’s subsequent album, Not Like This, drew a lot of underground attention and buzz. Eventually, the Long Island outfit caught on in Europe, which helped sustain the group while it cultivated a grassroots American following.
“Even our first tour there was really good and almost leaps and bounds over anything that we’d experienced to that point,” he says. “We were really lucky to get that kind of reception so early on.”
Lubrano and company have gotten another positive response to their latest album, last year’s The Constant Ones. Not only is the music vigorous enough to shake you from your seat, but it employs a number of clever scientific metaphors. On “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow,” Lurbrano weighs our indecisiveness against Earth’s inevitable celestial comeuppance at the hands of the sun and wonders what might happen to him when entropy leaves him in pieces: “Whatever might be left of me might mean something to someone now I’m all out of energy.”
On one of the album’s most striking tunes, “Spooky Action at Distance,” Lubrano compares the behavior of electrons linked across space and time to being separated from the one you love. As the swell of guitars recedes and returns, Lubrano asserts “time’s a wheel, and if we stand right here, you can see for miles. You could even see for years.”
“I’m no scientist, but I do find those kind of quirky physics things interesting, like Schrödinger’s cat and the brain teasers part of quantum theory,” Lubrano says. “A lot of times when I’m trying to think of a song title, I’ll just go on Wikipedia and get into a Wikipedia hole until some phrase pops out. That’s how I came up with ‘Spooky Action at Distance,’ and the theory behind it works in a metaphorical way.”
Buoyed by the album’s reception, Lubrano and his pop-punk mates are pushing harder than ever. This show’s part of a seven-week U.S. tour, and it’s followed a few days later by a two-week European tour. “We’ve never been out for more than a couple weeks at a time. So that is our first big push to see what happens with that,” Lubrano says. “It’s rougher for some of us than others, but we definitely have a goal to push into as much of a full-time thing as we can.”
In the meantime, the Iron Chic frontman maintains the same positive, clear-eyed attitude that’s represented in his songs. “You can wallow in your misery and let it control you, or you can take it and do what you can. It’s easier for some people, and some have things that hold them down and they just can’t get away from,” he says. “I’ve always had family and friends around to support me. That always made it a lot easier to get through hard times. But I think your mental outlook is a good part of it. I’m lucky enough to have the ability to say, ‘This is fucked up, but I’m going to deal with it and push on.’ ”