Ill Repute's reputation has just gotten a boost.
The Oxnard-based punk band, which has played on and off for three decades, earned a devoted following with hard-driving tunes like "Clean Cut American Kid." But to find literature about the band, a listener might have to do some digging; Ill Repute's Wikipedia page contains just four paragraphs, while its AllMusic section features no biography or reviews (well, except for an unexplained three-star rating for one disc).
Perhaps the band has a ways to go before it rivals a group like the Beatles, who seem to inspire a new definitive biography every two years, on the Barnes & Noble shelves. But thanks to the efforts of a Huntington Beach couple, Ill Repute now has a book to tell its story — plus a DVD for good measure.
"It's just nice to pass it along to my kids or whatever," said bassist Jim Callahan. "You know, something there for posterity."
The book and DVD, both titled "Clean Cut American Kids: The Story of Ill Repute," are the first Punk Rock Chronicles project by Stan and Jennifer Mueller, who recently launched a fundraising campaign on Good Clean Fund to pay for production costs. In the meantime, the package is for sale for $23.50 on the Muellers' official website, http://www.punkrockchronicles.com.
The Muellers, who also run the ghostwriting company Universal Writer, hope to make Punk Rock Chronicles an annual project, and they're busy scouting bands for future installments. For their debut, they chose one of Stan's favorite groups, whose vinyl releases helped fill his record collection back in the day.
"What I liked about punk — or still like about it — is it's almost, in a sense, like regular people," he said. "They're not, you know, rock stars. They're bands that I look up to. They hang out. There's no egos in that sense that I would really see.
"And it's like kids. You know, kids putting on their own shows and kids recording their own albums, doing it on their own the way they want it."
Ill Repute's story, sure enough, began when the members were kids. The original lineup — Callahan, singer John Phaneuf, guitarist Tony Cortez and drummer Carl Valdez — grew up in humble economic circumstances in Oxnard and bonded over a shared allegiance to the burgeoning punk scene. Eventually, that scene would have a title of its own: Nardcore, a melding of "hardcore" with the city's name.
The Ill Repute project was a similarly do-it-yourself enterprise. Jennifer handled the writing of the book, with her mom, Karen Hatton, serving as editor, while Stan collaborated with writer-directors Jeff Feuerhaken and Matt Switzer on the documentary.
Both parts of the project are compact — the book totals 90 pages, the DVD about one hour — and cover roughly the same ground, tracking the band's ascent from childhood to the club scene to recording, then decline and reemergence. Along the way are stories of hijinks (the other band members tossing out the drummer's Bad Company tapes and tricking him into thinking they were swiped by a robber) and darker periods (a hostile crowd reaction when the band tried to expand its style beyond punk).
The film has already had one screening at Nardfest, a punk festival held last August in Ventura. Callahan, who lives in Camarillo, hopes the Punk Rock Chronicles project will help bring the band's work to a new audience. If it doesn't, though, there isn't too much pressure: All four members have regular jobs, and Ill Repute still plays a show about once a month.
"Clean Cut American Kids," which tracks the exploits of a band far below the mainstream radar, amounts to a portrait of the rock lifestyle with the rough edges intact: recording in small studios, dealing with rivalries, traveling cross-country without the benefit of a private jet. Callahan, who works as an electrician, was happy to share the story of his ups and downs for the Muellers, although he expressed gratitude for their editing discretion.
"There's a couple of moments I told them that I'm glad they didn't put on there, kind of," he said. "You know, a few incidents on my part that I revealed."
Any chance he'll say what they were?
"Yeah, if you don't put it in the paper."