Jason Cruz of the punk band Strung Out is nothing if not driven.
When he formed the original lineup of Strung Out with guitarist Rob Ramos in 1989 in Simi Valley, Calif., Cruz was all in. This wasn't going to be some casual hobby.
"I made a decision I'm either going to get a straight job or I'm going to give this everything I've got and I'm going to expect that from everybody around me," Cruz said in a recent phone interview.
That's the way Cruz, Ramos and the other members of Strung Out have operated ever since, as the band has navigated its way through early lineup changes, releasing eight studio albums (beginning with 1994's "Another Day in Paradise") and becoming one of the more respected—if commercially under-appreciated punk bands of the era.
"We've just been trudging away working. We never stop," Cruz said.
So even if Cruz and his current bandmates—Ramos, guitarist Jake Kiley, bassist Chris Aiken and drummer Jordan Burns—may not seem to have been overly prolific—the band's latest album,"Transmission.Alpha.Delta," arrived six years after its previous release—don't think Cruz has been taking it easy.
After touring behind the 2009 Strung Out album, "Agents of the Underground," Cruz stepped outside of the group to do two albums with his side band, Jason Cruz and Howl (2012's "Loungecore" and 2014's "Good Man's Ruin").
Ramos, meanwhile, started a side band as well, called the Implants, releasing a debut album in 2013.
"I started another band," Cruz said. "I needed to do it to appreciate what Strung Out was and to accept what Strung Out was, to accept what I was capable of. tSometimes you need the perspective. You need to step away from something to understand how you feel about it. In that sense, the time off was important to re-evaluate if I had anything to say."
If "Transmission.Alpha.Delta," is any indication, Cruz and his bandmates had plenty to say. Cruz, the group's primary lyricist, found himself drawn to the overall theme of people in today's wired world being inundated with information and the implications of this data overload.
The music on "Transmission.Alpha.Delta" is as compelling as the lyrics. Songs like "Modern Drugs," "Black Maps," and "The Animal and the Machine," to name just a few, hit hard with bracing guitar riffs and adrenalized tempos sweetened by stirring vocal melodies. Many of the songs also come with considerable musical detail and depth, as the band finds room for brief, fleet-fingered solos and fills, and ways to layer individual licks and lines around the riffs, adding extra melodic dimensions to songs like "Rebellion of the Snakes" and "Tesla."
If Cruz and Ramos remain central figures in Strung Out, "Transmission.Alpha.Delta" was a true band effort.
That's a main reason why the album did not come together quickly or easily. In fact, Cruz said a year of writing and a year of recording went into the project.
"There are four writers in the band, and all four writers were operating on all eight cylinders at all times," Cruz said. "So it wasn't a matter of ideas not working. It was too many ideas.
"Sometimes having multiple, too many options is not a good thing," he said. "So it's about honing in on what's strongest and weeding out the weak parts and fighting for your parts...That's just what took so long, just wanting this to be perfect."
Strung Out has been touring behind "Transmission.Alpha.Delta" for the past year-plus, and Cruz said it's been nice to have new material to play. In the years between albums, the group's releases have been collections, and Cruz isn't much for living in the past.
"We released a best-of record ("Top Contenders: The Best of Strung Out"), the box set ("Volume One") and everything's kind of been retrospective," he said. "I'm fired up for this new record, which I hope forges our relevance as far as a band. Like I said, I don't give a shit about the '90s. I don't give a shit about what happened in the '90s. I care about now and where we stand now and what we have to say now."
Thursday, Sept. 29, doors at 8 pm
Midtown Ballroom/Domino Room
51 NW Greenwood Ave., Bend.