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S tanding outside Tucson’s Rialto Theatre, Ryan Kosel takes off his shirt and flexes his biceps. His bandmates erupt with laughter at his lack of muscle.

“He’s a lifeless gelatinous mold,” says drummer Mike Thompson.

Singer and guitarist Brian Gianelli jokes that “It’s just not happening.”

Although Kosel’s skinny white physique is cause for laughter for Bueno, the punk rockers decided it was fit to adorn the cover of their next album.

The Prescott-based Bueno was at the Rialto Feb. 17, preparing to open for punk giants NOFX. The night before, Bueno had opened for NOFX at Phoenix’s Celebrity Theatre, playing to a sell-out crowd of 3,500.

The show was wild, Gianelli says. “Chairs were ripped off and holes kicked in the walls,” he says. “You’re not going to see a better show than that.”

Bueno took the stage at the Rialto Theatre before another sell-out crowd of 1,200, ready to break stereotypes and spread their socially conscious message.

As Kosel says, the band is questioning “What to do with punk rock?”

Guitarist Mike Rhodes says the band’s goal is to progress to the point where the music will “reach a level where it won’t be punk rock. We have to try to overcome ourselves and always to the next level – who knows where we’ll go?”

Formed three years ago, Bueno comprises 20-year-olds Gianelli, Kosel and Rhodes, and 22-year-old Thompson. The band released one album, Finding Humor in the Tragedy, on the Volcom Entertainment label. Their second, and EP titled Nothing New For Trash Like You will be released early this summer. Jim Lindberg of Pennywise is producing the new album, which wil have four new songs and two live recordings.

Last fall, Bueno played frequently at clubs in Northern Arizona, and about twice a month in California. Gianelli says the band makes just enough to cover the expenses, but Rhodes dismisses this story. “Jack shit,” he says. “Ryan’s parents make enough to keep us going.”

With seven Southwest dates on last summer’s Vans Warped Tour, Bueno got the chance to reach a whle new audience, and the band is slated to play all six weeks and 32 dates of this year’s tour. With two sets a day, Bueno looks forward to cultivating a whole new audience.

“We want to be able to put something forth that captures people,” Gianelli says. “This is the next evolution of music. The music is almost all anti-political in message. Lyrically it’s based on humanitarian ideals and concepts. It’s a compassionate attack on American consumerism and ideology, U.S. foreign policy and the ‘might makes right’ mentality,” he says.

Other band members agree. “I always wanted to be in a band with an important platform to present ideals, and I don’t want to waste it on apathy,” Kosel says.

Gianelli, the band’s lyricist, says the band questions much of what has become commonplace in American society.

“We reject profit versus people. Any ideology that justifies atrocities is itself an atrocity. Our beliefs are a life-affirming ideal. All living beings should have the right to life,” he says.

Gianelli adds that the band members developed their unusual social consciousness at an early age. “I have always had a passion for questioning life and for thinking. Those things can depress a person, and as a youth I battled with that. I was never really satisfied with the answers I got. Every child has the inclination of question. What they learn depends on how much they are socialized to accept particular answers to those questions.”

Band members are involved in groups such as the international human rights organization Food Not Bombs, and have played benefit shows for groups such as Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. The band has played a concert to raise art-school tuition for a friend.

The right-to-life belief also holds a place in their daily lives. Gianelli is a vegan and the other band members are vegetarians. The band’s name developed from that creed. It is a memorial for a horse named Bueno whom the members bet on at Prescott Downs. Bueno won and was shot afterwards.

“Hopefully we’ll have the same fate – win the last race,” Gianelli says.

“Time is now, we’re blowing up now. Our objective is to get as many people as possible to hear this message. The motivation is a loving one,” he adds. “I want to shake people out of their comfort zones, and get them to re-examine the ideological systems that underlie our culture. The music is a vessel for that message as well as an avenue to express my emotion and passion.”

Bueno is planning to record what Kosel calls a “borderline concept album.” It will comprise one musical score, titles “Symptoms and Remedies.” The album will trace the development of the ideology of the conqueror, Gianelli says. It begins with the 17th Century European thought, and will examine the creation of class systems after the agricultural revolution in Europe.

The album will also examine the evolution of the “God thought in man,” the idea that humans are “the final pinnacle of evolution.”

“Once we believe that, we can justify any atrocity to any degree. It’s a mechanism geared to justify, and it swells into the sickness we have today,” Gianelli says.

The album will be “an attack on patriotism, business propaganda, consumerism. Faith strips people of accountability. Pride does that too,” Gianelli says. “We expose a lot of that shit. It does no good to become stagnant and turn a blind eye. Remedy is change – a life-altering conviction.”

Such change entails finding more benevolent and compassionate manners of politics, industrialization and foreign endeavors. Gianelli says the message of the album is that people must realize that the means are far more important than the ends.

“We’re all totally stoked on it,” Gianelli says. “It’s one score of music that will develop as the story develops. It’s going to be music so intense that you’ll feel it.”

Gianelli’s confidence in the music is echoed by his bandmates’ confidence in his songwriting. “Brian is the best fucking lyricist that’s been out in a long fucking time,” Thompson says.

“Ryan does the punctuation,” Rhodes jokes.

“We’re all hams,” Thompson says. “We’re all best friends – tight as shit,” at which point a mock fight breaks out. It’s all part of what Gianelli calls “absurd artistry.”

Thompson says kinship is the reason the band member’s work so well together. “We’re just really happy where we’re at. We hang out every day, regardless of practice. The music’s foundation has to deal with bonding personally,” he says. “The four of use are our own personality. The four of us are our own religion.”

Originally submitted as journalist class assignment on Feb. 17, 2000.

(Note: Long before I started freelance music writing, I would occasionally dabble in the same type of stuff. I’ll periodically dig some of the good stuff out of the past and re-post them here.)

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Eric Swedlund is a writer, photographer and editor living in Tucson, Arizona. His music writing has appeared regularly in the Tucson Weekly, Phoenix New Times, East Bay Express, The Rumpus and Souciant Magazine.

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