According to Dave Parasite, his band the Parasites were one of about three pop-punk bands in all New Jersey in the late ’80s. “There wasn’t even enough to have a four band pop-punk show,” he says.
Things turned around in 1992, when Parasite moved to Berkeley to be part of the bubbling pop-punk scene that would eventually give birth to Green Day. He reformed the band with all new members and jumped right into the East Bay scene like it was his hometown.
“I saw which way the wind was blowing,” Parasite says. “I moved across the country and it was the best decision I ever made for the band.”
Parasite had a label friend in Berkeley that set this new band up for him. He even booked several shows before Parasite arrived in town. Right off the bat, they were playing with NOFX, the Mr. T Experience, Green Day and a bunch of other noteworthy bands. As the scene got bigger, so did the Parasites, but they also would suffer a backlash from the punk community when pop-punk went mainstream—even though they were never mainstream.
“When Green Day hit, we were a band that sounded like them, from the same town, it couldn’t have been better,” Parasite says. “When the punk people went against Green Day, they also went against us. That’s how it was.”
But they didn’t sound exactly like Green Day or the other East Bay pop-punk bands. Yes, they played fast, energetic pop songs, but they broke the Ramones’ three chord mold and added a lot of subtle, complex changes and structural oddities, taking elements from ’70s power-pop groups like Cheap Trick and the Beat.
“I don’t want to be a Ramones-core band,” Parasite says. “It’s like you got to move on from that. I never know what I’m playing and I actually make up weird chords I can’t find on the chord charts.”
If anything, Parasite attempted to model his band after the Descendants, even if it’s not immediately apparent. “I’ve always just been trying to write Descendants’ songs, but I’m not them so I don’t sound like them,” Parasite says.
While most of the other ’90s pop-punk bands have broken up, the Parasites have plodded along, touring and releasing material on a consistent basis. They have a total of 10 albums and 22 singles under their belt. Other than Parasite, who plays guitar and sings lead vocals, the members change frequently. Current members David Delarosa (guitar), Jason Duarte (bass) and John Perrin (drums) have all been in the band between two months and a year-and-a-half.
When the Parasites tour these days, the turnouts are hit and miss. But even at poorly attended shows, Parasite often meets at least one kid that is obsessed with the Parasites and has waited for years to see them play.
“That happens all the time. It shows that I didn’t waste my time that much,” Parasite says.
The Parasites play at Cafe Stritch in San Jose on Thursday September 5 at 11pm. Free admission.