When Burners played their final show at Jabroni Fest last November, the feeling was more of inevitability than catharsis. After all, the explosive punk group founded by guitarist/vocalist Nathan Streeper, bassist Zac Hobbs, and drummer Alan Hamilton had all but disappeared from the scene in 2014, just as the trio’s spinoff band Bodyfather — a more limber and calculating beast fronted by guitarist/vocalist Marc Hitchcock — was catching steam. For a year they had been trying to give equal weight to each project, but the experience ultimately proved to be counter-productive. So Burners, for all intents and purposes, was set aside.
But the final death knell wouldn’t arrive until 2015 when Hamilton made the decision to quit playing, leaving both Bodyfather and whatever was left of Burners in a lurch. Finding a drummer that could keep up with Bodyfather’s nervy eruptions and tightly-coiled attack would be difficult enough. But according to Hobbs, finding one that would also be willing to take on Burners’ all-systems-go thrash punk was too heavy a task. “When Alan quit Bodyfather in I guess September 2015, we just declared Burners dead.”
But the funny thing about dead bands, especially ones with a modicum of local success as Burners enjoyed, is that they have a way of springing momentarily to life. When Hobbs and Streeper agreed to bring the band back for one last performance, they saw it as an opportunity to give the group a definitive end cap. Furthermore, they regarded it as a chance to create the kind of sound and lineup they had always wanted but never had the time to assemble. So with their old friend Nick Fit of Athens’ KarbomB set to fill in on drums, they reached out to another longtime crony — Steve Johnson of Seagulls — to play second guitar. “We always wanted to add another guitar player when we were a full-time band, but never really started actively looking,” Hobbs confesses. “So when Nick reached out about playing drums for a last Burners set, we decided to bring in Steve to add on and make it the full lineup we always kind of wanted it to be.”
Viewed in this light, it’s possible to regard “Escape to Mars” as the work of Burners in its ideal form. Prior to the group’s dissolution, the song had become a mainstay in their set, reflecting a darker, more metal-oriented sound than the rapid-fire hardcore found on the band’s final release, 2014’s Adult EP. Opening with a corrosive thrash riff, the track unravels into a savage hardcore rager that manages to maintain a sizable melodic streak while embracing the group’s self-described “as fast as you can go” ideology. For Hobbs, it’s an ideal parting shot — a blistering memento that provides a clean exit while partially alleviating one of his biggest Burners regrets.
“We actually had a full length written and ready to record when we stopped doing the band,” he reveals. “We had something like eleven songs ready, and some of them were some of the coolest, most interesting punk songs I’ve ever been a part of, so I’ll always be pretty bummed that those never got to see the light of day outside of some shitty cellphone demos. But, all in all, I’d call the band a success. We made a lot of great friends and played more cool shows than we ever should have.”