At the Drive In never quite fit in with the punk or rock ‘n’ roll scene, but their angular guitars, driving rhythms and kinetic live shows earned the El Paso band a post-hardcore niche. In 2000 they released their most popular album, Relationship of Command, but the jump into the proverbial big time contributed to the pressures that broke the band up a year later. In 2012, At The Drive In reunited to play a series of shows, including the Lollapalooza and Coachella festivals. After a four-year hiatus, they got back together again for another set of dates and began writing music, resulting in the 2017 album in•ter a•li•a. The band headlines the final night of this year’s Punk Rock Bowling on Monday, May 28. Drummer Tony Hajjar spoke to DTLV.com about reuniting with old friends, playing in new genres and the physical toll of rock n’ roll.
Are you looking forward to playing Punk Rock Bowling?
I am. When we started this band—we didn’t fit on the west coast stuff with Fat Wreck or the Dischord stuff on the east coast … No one would sign us and no one would touch us until Fearless Records took a chance on us long ago. But we had the privilege of playing with all of these bands and a lot of these west coast bands kind of took us in even though we sounded nothing like them and they gave us a lot of love. So it’s kind of exciting to play with the genre and the people who supported us. We haven’t played in Vegas since probably 1999, so we’re really excited to do the show.
When At The Drive In broke up, did you know you’d get back together?
2001 was a very shaky time. We went from years of no one liking our band and, to be honest, we weren’t used to the attention. … And when I finally gave up, I was finally over it. I had a long conversation with [guitarist] Omar [Rodriguez-Lopez] and he says, “You know it’s not over. You know this is our first love.” And he was right. … We knew were were eventually going to do it, but it took a lot of years to realize that.
Drumming is physically demanding and you definitely go all-in. Do you feel it as you’ve gotten older?
I have incredible shoulder pain. I’ve changed the way I set up the right side of my drums. I have tried everything, but I cannot change the way I play. … I once was at an airport lounge with Jon Theodore from Queens of the Stone Age. We talk a lot, but we never realized we had the same shoulder issue. So we’re giving each other all of these things we do and we’ve tried and it’s like, “Man, its come down to this: Two old dudes talking about shoulder pain at the airport.”
You’ve started working on film scores. How did that come about?
I wanted to take a hiatus and I thought it would be a lot easier in the composing world. I don’t know what I was thinking. You realize when you’re telling people, “I’m a drummer, but I can write for other instruments and compose” no one really believes that. … But I ran into a drummer I had known a long time ago. He was doing trailers, had his own company. Fast forward to me tracking drums on all of his trailers. A few months later I was learning how to compose a trailer. … I had a privilege of scoring a major video game called Splinter Cell—that was 14-hour days for six months. Video games have ten times as much music as films. It’s one of the most exhausting things I’ve ever done.
The Gone Is Gone project you do with guys from Queens of the Stone Age and Mastodon, it’s a very different style than At The Drive In. Will you be doing more with them?
It’s the project that all of us need but all of us want. We have such a blast doing it. We’re always looking for little pockets where we can do some work. … It’s a lot of fun. At The Drive In is all about the awkward crooked rhythms and Gone Is Gone is a little more rock n’ roll inspired. I get to be a little bit more simple and kinder to the song. At The Drive-In—I always call it the best positive anxiety ever. That’s what I’m trying to play.
At the Drive-in at Punk Rock Bowling
May 28, Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, punkrockbowling.com