Suburban Delinquents: A story of '90s punk rock and reformation


Courtesy Photo | Patrick Record

Suburban Delinquents, now veterans of the Detroit-punk scene, formed over 20 years ago.

After a hiatus of more than 10 years, the four Livonia punk-rockers reformed their old band to play shows again for fun.

They took a lengthy break beginning in 1998. Their time apart gave them time to mature as musicians. Despite taking different life paths during that time, they reunited in 2015.

“We’re older and a little more mature,” said Howie Campbell, the band’s bass player. “We’re probably better at our instruments – not that we were bad then. After years of playing, you’re obviously going to get better.”

The Suburban Delinquents are comprised of Campbell on bass and vocals, Brian Galindo on drums, Steven Toth on guitar and vocals and John Counts on lead vocals and guitar. Counts said the band has released three full-length albums to date and released one EP in February 2018 -- their first release in 20 years.

The band members said they are influenced by many bands and genres, such as Black Flag, Jawbreaker, Descendents and mid-'90s emo.

Campbell discovered punk music through skateboarding and tape trading, which he said was a part of growing up as a punk rocker in the Detroit suburb of Livonia. This skate-punk culture brought the four band members together, though the four attended high school in Livonia in the early ‘90s.

“We all kind of ran in the same skate-punk crews and ended up meeting each other that way,” Counts said.

Before the four were the Suburban Delinquents, Counts and Campbell started their music careers in a band called Pee Wee Manson. The band wasn’t around for too long, Counts said, and played only a handful of shows and wrote goofball lyrics. 

Before Pee Wee Manson disbanded, Counts and Campbell started writing songs for a side project, bringing in Galindo and Toth. However, the sound they originally wanted to go for didn't turn out the way they expected.

“When we first started, we wanted to sound more like Fugazi – something a bit different,” Counts said. “But we weren’t that good at playing our instruments yet. We were listening to stuff like Screeching Weasel at the time and we were like 'Hey, this is way easier to play.'”

The four began to practice recording onto tape and jamming in Galindo’s parents' basement and house parties. The group had effectively formed Suburban Delinquents.

“We would go to parties, hang out and get really drunk,” Counts said. “We started jamming with Bryan and eventually we eventually brought Steve on. We were the original Suburban Delinquents crew.”

These types of shows were the foundation of the band’s early years and the Detroit-punk scene as a whole. The band said the scene was lively at the time. Counts said there were shows every weekend and Campbell said local venues were always packed.

Toth said many coffee shops hosted shows and some house venues would run shows full-time. House venues commonly allowed people sleep at their location. He said it was a tight-knit community and going to shows was almost like a lifestyle to them.

“It wasn’t just a night out, it was our lives,” Counts said.

Eventually, the band moved onto bigger Detroit venues like the Magic Stick, The Shelter and St. Andrew’s Hall. This came with opening for notable bands like AFI, The Suicide Machines, Jimmy Eat World, Good Riddance and Avail. They also played at Warped Tour ’97 in Clarkston, MI.

“Anytime a big punk band was coming through, nine times out of ten we would be (opening),” Campbell said.

This run did not last forever. The group said there is no defined reason why they split in the late '90s. The break was never official and members said it wasn't a nasty ordeal -- they just went different directions and faded apart.

Once the band broke up, demands for them to get back together began. Campbell said he received a constant flow of requests for new recordings and shows.

While the band was effectively in hiatus, they still played a few shows every now and again, getting together for benefit shows. Some included shows in memory of friends and Detroit-punk figures who passed away. 

However, one of these shows in 2015 became a small spark for the band's reformation. While they knew these shows were important, many band members didn’t only want to play shows for only somber occasions; they wanted to play for themselves. Counts said they decided to have shows again for fun afterwards.

“We did a show that was for fun and wasn’t for some dark reason,” Toth said. “We spent enough time together that we literally couldn’t get the smiles off our fucking faces. Our faces hurt by the time we were done hanging out.”

The band started to perform regularly again soon after. They continued to play shows and began writing the music that lead to their first release in about 20 years: "Dead & Gone."

The band said recording went extremely well and they recorded more songs than planned. This momentum will most likely lead to a new album down the line, Counts said. Campbell said there are about eight or nine songs already written for the album and it’s just a matter of putting some finishing touches on them.

The band said a full tour is not in their future, but a show in Mount Pleasant isn't out of the question.