Punk band Decent Criminal ready to rip with Agent Orange

Drummer Hunter Martinez discusses the meaning behind the band's name, his deep punk roots and the raw energy of the group's performances.
Band members of Decent Criminal are stoked to be on tour with punk legends Agent Orange. (Eden Kittiver)

by | Aug 5, 2022 | Music Interviews

The California band Decent Criminal combines elements of ’90s alternative, punk, surf and power pop to deliver a uniquely raw and playful style.

In 2014, brothers Hunter and Tristan Martinez took what was already an active touring act and rebuilt it from the ground up, giving the band a new sound and set of players. Over the past few years, Decent Criminal has been drawing a significant buzz with consistent releases and a sincere hunger to tour and play live.

In advance of their show at The Mangy Moose on Monday, Aug. 8, opening up for the legendary So-Cal punk band Agent Orange, drummer Hunter Martinez joined us for a chat by phone in the KHOL studios.

The following interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. This conversation was recorded on Wednesday, Aug. 3.

JACK CATLIN/KHOL: Where did the name Decent Criminal come from? And I read in your bio that you kind of rebuilt the band from the ground up back in 2014. Can you walk us through that?

HUNTER MARTINEZ: Starting with the band name, I wrote it on my desk in algebra class when I was like 16, and something about it stuck. I was reading the book “Monster” about somebody being in prison, and so I just wrote “criminal” on my desk. And at the time, my oldest cousin was sentenced to life in prison. So, I was thinking about that. And then I wrote “decent” on top of it, thinking it’s some kind of an oxymoron, you know what I mean? Like, somebody’s being framed or something. Anyways, so that’s kind of where that came from.

Starting the band, my brother and I played in a couple of hardcore punk bands that disbanded, and then I just started playing drums again with this band called “No Brainer” in Santa Rosa, California. He was just writing a bunch of new songs that weren’t really in the hardcore vein anymore and were more melodic and more pop-driven. So, we kind of just worked on that and jammed out in the studio. After he had written a bunch of songs we had together and we were demoing them, he said, like, ‘Yeah, let’s start this over. You should be playing drums all the time. And we should do this.’ That was the start of it. Most of the songs we demoed out together ended up being the first record, our self-titled record, and we got our friends together and started the band. We didn’t know what to call it. I said we should just keep the name “Decent Criminal” and keep that going. 

KHOL: You’re currently on tour with punk rock legends Agent Orange, or you’re about to be on tour, I should say. They’re one of the first bands to combine the melodic California surf guitar sound with the frantic energy of punk. What are you guys expecting the experience to be like and what do you hope to learn from them during this tour?

MARTINEZ: I expect it to be great. You know, these guys have done it forever. There’s a reason why they’re still around and doing it. I’m sure the crowds are going to be great. I expect it just to run pretty smoothly. They’ve been a machine for 30 years plus. I’m kind of excited to, I’m sure somewhere along the line, ask for advice, you know, kind of see how they run the machine so we’re well-oiled like them and can keep our stuff rolling as much as possible and as long as possible. You know, I grew up listening to those guys every day. In my senior year, I had a really good friend of mine who would pick me up for school every day. And we would listen to Agent Orange every single day. So, like, it’s a funny thing. And I hit him up to be like, ‘Hey, man, we’re playing in the Bay Area with Agent Orange, you got to come to one of the shows.’ So, yeah, those guys were a huge influence on me musically. I mean, [they were] one of the big bands that I wanted to aspire to be like when we started playing.

KHOL: It’s rare to have punk bands come through not only this town but Wyoming in general and everyone’s really excited for Monday night. How does it feel for you guys to be coming through the Tetons, and what can we expect from a Decent Criminal performance on Monday night at the Moose?

MARTINEZ: You can expect a lot of energy. We’re a pretty energetic bunch. And what you hear on the record may sound polished, may sound a little different than what we bring live. We’re a little more raw but a lot of energy. We’re going to get it rolling. I’m excited to come there for the first time and show our stuff to the crowd there. I’m stoked for it!

Listen above for KHOL’s full conversation with Hunter Martinez from Decent Criminal.

This coverage is funded in part with an Arts For All grant provided by the Town of Jackson and Teton County.

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About Jack Catlin

Jack is KHOL's music director. He says all music is in some way connected no matter the style and his mission is to provide listeners with a unique and memorable experience each time they tune in to KHOL or see him DJ live.

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