Punk band X is coming to St. Augustine

Compass caught up with them to chat about 40 years of music

It’s been 40 years since punk band X crashed onto the Los Angeles scene with a unique sound rooted in rockabilly and old-time country music. 


Rolling Stone magazine has called the quartet “the most critically lauded American band of the early ’80s” and they quickly became legendary leaders of a punk generation. 

Founded in 1977, the band’s original lineup of John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom and D.J. Bonebrake is still going strong with a jam-packed 2017 tour taking them from Albequerque, New Mexico to Atlanta. 

X will perform at St. Augustine Amphitheatre’s Backyard Stage for the band’s first-ever St. Augustine show at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. 

Compass caught up with Cervenka, the band’s co-vocalist and co-lyricist, to chat about spending 40 years in music, touring and a loyal fan base. Here’s part of that conversation. 

Compass: You’re gearing up for your 40th Anniversary tour. How long have you been planning it?
Exene Cervenka: Well, 40 years, apparently. 

Compass: That’s a good point.
E.C.: We’ve been touring since the mid- to late-‘90s – 1997 or something like that. We play a lot of shows, so, in a way, these are just an extension of last year’s shows. Earlier this year, we played a couple of shows with Dwight Yoakam. We just play and play as much as we can. St. Augustine is a good example of all of these places that we’ve never gotten to play. 

Compass: What do you do to get ready, mentally and physically, for a tour?
E.C.: I’m preparing by doing yoga and eating well and being healthy and getting ready for a hard, grueling month. 

Compass: What’s your lifestyle like on tour?
E.C.: We have two vans. It’s not that bad. We’ve done bus tours in the past, and I, personally, don’t like it. I like the idea that when you’re in a van, you can stop somewhere if you want; you can look out the window. In buses, you’re generally enclosed in this thing and can only go where it goes. Also, it’s too expensive to do that other stuff. We don’t make that kind of money. But, you know, it’s pretty easy. We all get along well. We have our fun, listen to music and read books. 

Compass: Speaking of books, John Doe’s memoir, “Under The Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk,” just earned a Grammy nomination. Did the band collaborate or help out with the book at all?
E.C.: No. That was his project. He asked people to write chapters, and everyone that he asked that said yes is in the book. I think he did an excellent job on that. I think it has a better perspective than some of the other books that came out about the scene. Everyone has their own story, but I think the people that contributed to the book were all really together as far as being present in the moment, smart, literate. They kept records of everything, and were chroniclers of the scene from the beginning. Some of the other books that I’ve read about the scene were just fabrication and just crazy stuff. 

Compass: Over the years, X has had an extremely loyal fan base. What are some ways that you’ve cultivated this loyalty?
E.C.: Well, I think it’s from the earliest days of punk where there is no difference between the audience and the band. People in the audience are the same as us. We’re all working-class people from the get-go. There’s no corporate involvement, and we do everything ourselves. People tell me all the time that this band is like the soundtrack of their life, and I know that’s true for many bands. We’ve been consistently there, and our songs are personal — people can relate to them. 

Compass: What do you think of the current music scene?
E.C.: There are lots of great bands. Lots of young bands and bands that I’ve discovered through friends. There’s a band called Skating Polly, and they’re pretty much my favorite band. They’re always recording and doing fun things. Another band is Folk Uke, which is Amy Nelson and Cathy Guthrie. They are two incredibly beautiful, wonderful women who play guitar and ukulele and play really witty songs. And that’s just two [bands] that I really love. I don’t think the temptation to go corporate really exists anymore. Everyone does it for love now because that’s the only way you can do it. 

X will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre, 1340C State Road A1A South. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 in advance for general admission and $35 the day of the show.