By definition, Russ Rankin is a professional. The 45-year-old punk rocker has been playing in bands since the 1980s, a status that makes him a veteran of sorts. But if you were to ask Rankin, he would simply say that after nearly three decades of making music, he still isn’t close to figuring it all out.
“Hopefully I never feel like there’s nothing more I can learn,” he said, detailing how the solo route is introducing him to new things all the time. “I always want to stay teachable and humble enough to be able to consider another idea or another approach.”
Rankin is perhaps most known from his time as the frontman of Santa Cruz hardcore punk band Good Riddance, but recently embarked on a journey as a solo artist.
“Good Riddance wasn’t playing after 2007 and I didn’t stop writing songs,” he explained. “I kept writings songs and I had no outlet for them at the time. And then Tony [Sly]…he said, ‘you should just play them, by yourself.’ And it was the first time I’d ever thought of that.”
So in spite of his doubts, Rankin recorded a demo tape and played a few shows on tour in Canada with No Use For A Name. Eventually, he sent his demo to Vincent at Paper and Plastick, and in August of 2012, released his debut, Farewell Catalonia.
Since its release, Rankin has made it his goal to play as often as possible, in order to not only get more comfortable on stage alone, but also to simply spread awareness of his music. And thus far, the response on tour has been positive and encouraging, with a number of people in the audience knowing the music beforehand.
“It’s like a new frontier for me and it’s a lot of fun. I like doing it. I like interaction with the audience, I like the kinda slower vibe to the show,” he said. “I couldn’t be more stoked with what the response has been.”
Lyrically, Rankin hasn’t strayed much from his well-worn path, continuing to write songs about politics and romance. He shared that his band members in Good Riddance and Only Crime have always let him use the music as a platform for saying what he wants to say, but now he has even more freedom.
“It’s just wide open. It’s everything that I want to sing about. It’s kind of the cool thing about doing a solo project, ’cause there [are] no other channels you have to go through,” he said. “I think that being in a band is cool because it teaches me cooperation, and meeting people halfway, and being a team player, but this is great.”
Of course, the downside for Rankin is being faced with a whole new set of worries, including changing strings, ordering merchandise, and dealing more hands-on with logistics – things he never had to think about before.
But he takes it all in stride, and considers it part of the learning process.
Rankin was recently in Berlin on the last night of a European tour with Scorpios. Now that he’s back in the states, his focus will be on writing new songs that will eventually comprise a second full-length.
“I can’t wait actually, to kind of take what I’ve learned, and apply it and make an even better record,” he said. “Getting better, experimenting more, stretching out the comfort zone a little bit, but still not trying to get too crazy. Just delivering, like, totally solid melodies and good lyrics, that’s kinda what I wanna do.”