They still can’t believe it happened. Sure, it had the echoes of a common tale, but it wasn’t one. A
passion for punk rock and a whole lot of luck propelled four Mexican-American kids from SoCal
backyards to international tours, sharing stages with acts like The Ataris, The Vandals, Face to Face, NOFX, Social Distortion, Thursday and Thrice.
It’s been more than a decade since Audio Karate has played together. They are no longer kids. They have full-time jobs and two members have kids of their own, but when Wiretap Records approached them with an opportunity to release their debut record, Space Camp, on vinyl for the first time, they couldn’t say no.
Now they’re now reuniting and gearing up to support their idols, Descendents, on select dates of their 2018 tour.
Audio Karate is Arturo Barrios (vocals/guitar), Jason Camacho (guitar), Justo Gonzales (bass) and Gabriel Camacho (drums). They formed in the mid-90s under the name “The Goonz” and changed their name upon signing to Kung Fu Records in 2001. Kung Fu founder and Vandals bassist Joe Escalante took the band under his wing after hearing a tape demo that Art handed Kris Roe (The Ataris) at a show.
In May 2002, they released Space Camp (produced by Trever Keith of Face to Face)—a sunny poppunk record bursting with adolescent sentiment and bright riffs. The band toured heavily, and the album’s single, “Nintendo ’89,” made its way onto MTV and Fuse. In 2004, they played a leg of the Vans Warped Tour and released their follow-up record, Lady Melody (produced by Bill Stevenson of Descendents/All). Lady Melody was a striking, dark departure from Space Camp—packing growling vocals, layered melodies and catchy hooks into songs like “Jesus is Alive and Well (And Living Mexico),” “Hey Maria” and “Gypsyqueen.” The record straddled pop-punk convention and technical oddity, with unique key changes and riffs that seemed to sound “wrong” while sounding gloriously right. Even Stevenson wondered how they did it, marveling at times during their recording sessions: “Technically, this shouldn’t work.”
Following headline tours for Lady Melody, the band went on hiatus in 2006, influencing a decade of pop-punk in their wake and garnering fans from some of the biggest bands in the genre.