Origin: Montecito, California
Genre: Punk rock, Skate punk, Nardcore
Year active: 1982–1990, 1992–1996, 2002–2006
Richard ‘Bomer’ Manzullo
Alan ‘Alpo’ Duncan
Barry ‘D’live’ Ward
Nardcore, Compilation LP (Mystic Records, 1984; “US Steel”, “Lies”, “No Respect”)
It’s a Beautiful Feeling, 7″ EP (Mystic Records, 1984)
Covers, Compilation LP (Mystic Records, 1984; “Chinese Rocks”)
Mystic Super Seven Sampler No. 1, Compilation LP (Mystic Records, 1984)
Return to Slimey Valley LP, Compilation LP (Mystic Records, 1985; “Evil In You”)
Keep Laughing LP (Mystic Records, 1985)
Rock ‘n Roll Nightmare LP (Alchemy Records, 1987; re-released on CD by Epitaph Records)
Double Live in Berlin LP (Destiny Records, 1989; recorded live in Germany on 1988 tour)
Revenge is a Beautiful Feeling LP (Destiny, 1989)
Reactivate LP (Epitaph Records, 1993)
Riches to Rags LP (Epitaph Records, 1994)
Revenge is a Beautiful Feeling, CD (1999)
Keep Laughing (w/ It’s a Beautiful Feeling), Mystic Re-release, CD (2002)
Rich Kids on LSD (R.K.L.) was a Californian hardcore punk band formed in 1982 in Montecito, California, a suburb of Santa Barbara. They were associated with the “Nardcore” scene that evolved out of nearby Oxnard. Their music expanded over the years from West Coast hardcore to a mix of hardcore with rock and metal elements. This style, along with touring, made them very popular on the European scene, especially among skaters in the eighties and nineties. Guitarist Chris Rest was the band’s only consistent member however vocalist Jason Sears, after leaving the group at a point and rejoining shortly after, had been with the band for the majority of their career before his death.
Their music can be heard on their webpage, which features “RKL Radio” with nearly all of their songs streamed including a complete discography.
The initial members of RKL got together at an early age. Chris Rest and Bomer Manzullo (sometimes credited as ‘Bomber’) were playing together and had asked Joey Cape to join as a second guitarist. Cape told them he would only join if Jason Sears could be the singer. Rest knew Sears from elementary school and youth soccer. Cape never ended up being in the band. RKL began playing shows around the area with a myriad of changes at second guitar and bass positions. In the end, Allen ‘Alpo’ Duncan joined as second guitarist and Vincent Peppars joined as bassist. Rest has said, “Bomer soon started writing the majority of the music.”
Band name and logo origin
The group’s name came about as a mere fluke from some light hearted criticism. According to vocalist Jason Sears in a 2002 interview with Thrasher magazine: “it happened that some guy said, ‘ha, those kids will never be anything, they’re just a bunch of rich kids on LSD, man.’ The first party we played we didn’t have a name for the band, so we put that one on the flier and it just stuck.” The beanie boy logo was born one night while Bomer and Jason were being tattooed. Bomer was attempting to draw a dragon pattern. On seeing the drawing, Jason commented, “Yeah dude, it’s Cecil! Where’s Beanie?” Dan Sites was sitting alongside drawing a flyer for a show supporting Suicidal Tendencies in Oxnard and drew a beanie guy jumping from a building. Beanie boy was born.
The Mystic Years
Though not actually from the Oxnard area, RKL was still considered part of the Nardcore punk movement from Oxnard, California due to their close proximity to Oxnard and hardcore style. RKL recorded It’s a Beautiful Feeling EP on Mystic Records, released in 1984. It is a 7 song release that included concert mainstays “Why”, “Tell Me The Truth”, and “Beautiful Feeling”. Outside the studio while waiting for the rest of his bandmates to arrive, Bomer had a skateboarding accident that looked to be a broken wrist. Doug Moody, owner and operator of Mystic Records, duct taped his wrist then taped the drumstick to his hand so he could complete the session. All the artwork for the EP was done by Dan Sites marking the first official appearance of the popular “beanie boy” character, which would remain an icon for RKL for their entire career. RKL would play around California, and particularly enjoyed the scene in San Francisco, driving 6 hours to play shows and drive back. Eventually they decided to move there, minus Alpo. He did not wish to leave Santa Barbara. His position would remain empty for some time. After about five months Vince Peppars wanted to move back to Santa Barbara. Sears said:”…so we hooked up with Barry to cover for him. Then Vince came back and Barry went to guitar”. This marked the entrance of Barry ‘D’live’ Ward to the fold. During this time RKL contributed various songs to a number of Mystic compilations. In 1985 the band soon recorded and released their first full length LP, Keep Laughing on Mystic Records with Dan Sites once again providing artwork. This release included classic RKL tracks “Think Positive”(often played live as “Drink Positive”), “Ded Teds”, and “Pothead”. Ward, however, was not part of this recording. Ward said: “[RKL] moved back to Santa Barbara and I stayed in San Francisco until they came back after Keep Laughing was recorded.” Following the release RKL toured and polished their live act. Things were not good between the band and Mystic Records. The deal the band signed was that they would be a paid a percentage of sales in merchandise. There is contention whether Mystic came through on that agreement. Doug Moody has stated Mystic fulfilled their end of the agreement while Ward has stated not only did they not receive much of anything in merchandise, the band had to eventually resort to bootlegging their own tapes and screening their own shirts to sell at shows. Ward was quoted as saying, “We were fucking broke, starving, dumpster diving for food, barely making gas money, and we kept going because that’s what we did. Doug Moody can say he financed the tours and paid us in merch but that’s completely untrue.” Rest has also stated the band never received any money from Mystic.
Rock N Roll Nightmare
Due to the increasingly acrimonious situation between the band and Mystic Records and a luckless 1986 tour (dubbed the Disastour by the band), RKL was looking for a new home and found one with the independent Alchemy Records. They were also gearing up to take their sound to the next level. Bomer was the driving force and creative head of the band. Rest said: “He played so fast and tight that we were all forced to do the same. He was a perfectionist and expected the same from us.” Vince Peppars would depart around this time. According to Bomer, he didn’t like the direction of the new material and preferred the earlier rawer sound. Their next album, Rock ‘n Roll Nightmare (also known as Lifestyles of the Rich Kids on LSD – A Rock N Roll Nightmare) stayed true to the fast tempo and hardcore sound the band was known for, but introduced elements of progressive rock and thrash metal to their sound as well as a technical musicianship that was very uncommon for the punk genre at the time. About their sound, Bomer said: “People say that we have a metal influence, but really, all our licks are pretty much rhythm and blues based, but it’s super fast! So instead of saying it’s metal, I’d say it’s just super fast rock and roll.” They still did not have a bass player for the sessions. Previously, Ricky Bowersock had succeeded Peppars, but the band had soured on him and the spot was vacated. Bowersock appeared as ‘Rikkity Borrow A Sock’ under a “Special No Thanks” part of the liner notes of the next album, along with Doug Moody. Subsequently, Bomer ended up playing both drums and bass on the recording. Mark Deutrom, producer of the album, says “Bomer tracking all the drum parts in a row without a scratch track is one of the more impressive things I’ve seen in a studio.” Regarding the album Fat Mike of NOFX and owner/founder of Fat Wreck Chords, is quoted as saying this in 2007:
“ [After Keep Laughing, RKL] was the band that we wanted to be, but couldn’t pull it off. A year goes by. Rock ‘n Roll Nightmare comes out. Now we’re totally fucked. Suddenly, the best hardcore band of our time just got one hundred times better. This record is a landmark. No band has ever written anything like it…we listened to it at least twice a day, everyday… Twenty years later, I pull out Rock ‘n Roll Nightmare and put it on. I realize that after all these years of touring and recording my band still can’t pull off any of this. I can’t play these bass riffs, Melvin can’t touch the guitar, and Smelly—who is a great drummer—can’t even come close to what Bomer can do. ”
Andrew Kiraly, writing for the Las Vegas Mercury, comedically gave this album the award “Best Album of 1987 I Found While Digging in My Desk Which I’m Surprised Hasn’t Been ‘Rediscovered’ By Critics and Hailed Anew As a Masterpiece, or Maybe I’m Just Feeling Stupid and Nostalgic”.
New Bass Player, European releases
After auditioning at least a dozen potential bass players, they finally found Joe Raposo through an advertisement. Joe Raposo became the bass player for RKL in time for touring support of RocK ‘n Roll Nightmare. In 1988, RKL toured Europe in support of the new album where it was particularly well received. A live album was recorded in West Berlin at Quartier Latin (now Wintergarten Varieté) on July 9, 1988. It was entitled Greatest Hits Double Live and released on Destiny Records. It was the first RKL album on CD in addition to the common vinyl and cassette formats. The artwork of the album is a collection of blotter acid paper of varying size, image, and age contributed by Mark McCloud, famous for his extensive collection which he calls the Institute of Illegal Images. Due to Raposo’s status as a minor (he was only seventeen), his parents had to give permission for him to leave the country. Ward was named temporary guardian for the European tour. You can view the signed guardianship papers included amongst the Greatest Hits Double Live artwork.
RKL also sold their Mystic-era material to Destiny without Mystic Records’ permission. Destiny proceeded to release a compilation album of Mystic recordings and called it Revenge is a Beautiful Feeling in reference to their perceived mistreatment by Mystic Records. The cover also featured a caricature of Doug Moody with his neck being twisted up by the same monster character that graced the cover of RKL’s previous release, It’s a Beautiful Feeling.
Through it all, RKL mainly played in Europe and California. There was no official US tour to back the RocK ‘n Roll Nightmare album. Victor Hayden was in charge of the business side of Alchemy records. About Alchemy’s promotion of RocK ‘n Roll Nightmare, Sears said: “[Advertisements in] Maximumrocknroll and Flipside was about as far as it got. And we didn’t have our own ad, it was sort of a Mystic deal where you had every band on the label listed as new albums… And in our payment they took out some for promotion, saying that [Victor Hayden] sent posters to all the stores, and put ads in all kinds of magazines. There was those two ads, and no one’s ever seen a poster.”
In 1989 RKL called it quits for the first time. Commenting about this break-up, Fat Mike said, “the wheels started falling off the RKL train. The drug abuse and constant partying was taking its toll.” Regarding the break, Ward had this to say: “Ultimately, it was the frustration with deals like [the Mystic records situation] and Alchemy later that broke up the band the first time. Had our business sense been there in the beginning and things gone right, I think Bomer wouldn’t have wanted to bag it. He broke up the band … ’cause he thought punk rock was going nowhere”. Raposo said: “If I could change one thing, I would have never let RKL break up the first time in 1989. I would have fought that to the death and would have never let it happen.” Rest agreed, stating: “We broke up at the worst time we could have.”
The Epitaph Years
Bomer formed a new band called Slang after the dissolution of RKL. Slang eventually included his old RKL bandmates with the notable exception of Jason Sears. Their sound was much different than the previous incarnation, dropping the fast hardcore style for a distinct rock/funk fusion. Slang had Bomer on lead vocals while new-comer Dave Raun played drums, Joe Raposo played bass, with Chris Rest and Joel Monte Mahan on guitars. Slang was signed to Epitaph Records in 1992 and an album was recorded soon after. Just prior to its release in 1993, it was decided by Bomer and Epitaph owner/operator Brett Gurewitz it would be released as an RKL album under the title Reactivate to capitalize on the RKL name and built-in fanbase. Dan Sites again provided artwork. Before the album’s release Slang, now RKL, headed on tour to Europe. The fans in Europe were not aware of the drastic sound change as the album had not yet been released. Many were disillusioned. Bomer wanted to quit early in the tour due to fan reaction. During the tour long-time friend and band roadie Will Knutilla died of a drug overdose in Zurich. Following this tragedy, Bomer quit in Italy. Jason Sears was flown in to Barcelona to re-join RKL and to attempt to complete the tour playing their pre-Reactivate songs. Regarding this period, Ward said, “That Reactivate record hurt RKL more than anything, more than Mystic Records.” Epitaph also re-released RKL’s previous full length album RocK ‘n Roll Nightmare in 1993.
Riches to Rags & break-up
RKL pressed on without original member Bomer. They recorded a new album at the Music Annex in 1994 with completely new material. The resultant album Riches to Rags would be released in early 1995 and dedicated to Will Knutilla. The name was a sarcastic self-deprecating spoof on their previous ‘Lifestyles’ persona. For perhaps the first time in their history, RKL finally had a large amount of support from an experienced and highly successful independent label, Epitaph Records. The band had a track appear on Epitaph’s first of a long running compilation series called Punk-O-Rama. RKL’s first music video was created featuring the song “Betrayed” directed by Isaac Camner. Around this time they were also featured on the national tabloid news television show Hard Copy in a piece about LSD. RKL toured the world supporting Riches to Rags, including most parts of Europe and Japan. However, tensions within the band caused RKL to once again go their separate ways. Ward put together the entire “Still Flailing After All These Beers RKL” video which released on VHS through Epitaph Records. The video contained rare live footage and home videos from RKL’s time on the road, an exclusive Take Me Home music video directed by Ward, and a cover of Devo’s “Timing X”.
In 1999 RKL reformed briefly to play a single show at a mutual friends funeral but nothing further came of it. In 2000, RKL were invited by the Santa Barbara, California to play at the opening of the Skaters Point Skateboard Park. Original members Jason Sears and Chris Rest reunited, along with three mutual friends (including Derrick Plourde on drums) to fill out the remaining positions. They played to approximately 2,000 people. Sears said, “…after the first note the place went haywire, me and Chris looked at each other and were all ‘YES’, and ever since that day we knew we had to get this back together.” Along with Plourde on drums, they eventually added Chris Flippin on guitar and a returning Bomer Manzullo on bass. This line-up played sporadic shows around the West Coast for the next few years, including the San Francisco Warped Tour in 2002. Around 2002 Bomer left again and a Joe Raposo returned on bass. The same year Boz Rivera replaced Derrick Plourde. RKL was starting to write and record new songs during this time. They were eventually included as bonus tracks on the re-issued Greatest Hits – Live In West Berlin 1988 released in 2011 on Destiny Records. RKL has been on hiatus since the death of Jason Sears.
Derrick, Bomer, Jason die
On March 30, 2005, Derrick Plourde, former drummer of RKL, who also played in Lagwagon, Bad Astronaut, Jaws, and The Ataris, committed suicide. Lagwagon paid tribute to Derrick with their 2005 release of the album Resolve.
On December 12, 2005, the original drummer Richard Anthony Manzullo (aka “Bomer”) died due to heart failure at his home in Summerland, California. The cause of death was the result of a long time battle with drug addictions.
On January 31, 2006, Jason Sears died due to complications while undergoing a detox treatment involving ibogaine in Tijuana, Mexico. The cause of death was the result of a pulmonary embolism caused by thrombosis.
In 1996 Bomer Manzullo and Chris Rest formed a band called The Other with former Mad Caddies drummer Boz Rivera. Bomer performed vocals and played bass. This group produced one self-titled album in 1997 on Honest Don’s Records, a subsidiary label set up by Fat Wreck Chords to release material by bands that didn’t fit within the roster at Fat. Boz Rivera would later go on to join a reunited RKL.
Barry ‘D’live’ Ward released a solo album in 1990 on RRRecords titled Homely All American Songs & Stories For Mutant Space Dweebs From Planet Hell. He performed briefly in Gwar as Balsac the Jaws of Death, filling in for Mike Derks during Gwar’s 1991 European tour. He was the guitarist for the death metal parody band Embryo Killers, releasing one self-titled album in 1993. He also played guitar for Me First and the Gimme Gimmes on their 1996 tour. Ward is the lead vocalist and guitarist for San Francisco Bay Area’s Crosstops, who have released three full-length albums. Both Ward and Chris Rest played guitar on the album Lickety Split by the band Hotbox. Along with being a musician, he has also directed music videos for bands, including NOFX, Terrorgruppe, and Don Cikuta and works with Grumblefish Movies. Ward put together the entire Still Flailing After All These Beers RKL video.
Dave Raun went on the replace future RKL member Derrick Plourde as the drummer in Lagwagon. He is also the drummer for Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and had stints as drummer in Good Riddance in 1999, Pulley in 2002, and Hot Water Music in 2009. He recorded drums for Japanese band Mr. Orange on their album Radiostaticactivity released in 2000. He also has a side project contributing lead vocals and drums in a band called District of Columbias which released an EP on Japanese label Inyaface Records in 2009 entitled We Barely Just Got Here. Chris Rest was also part of this project.
Chris Rest, Joe Raposo, and Boz Rivera are members of the San Francisco based group King City.
Chris Rest contributed his guitar on Mad Caddies 2001 release Rock the Plank, as well as The Real McKenzies 2008 release Off the Leash. He has also been a member Lagwagon since 1997 having replaced Ken Stringfellow. Additionally, he joined No Use For A Name in 2009 replacing Dave Nassie and remained a member until their final show following the death of lead singer Tony Sly in 2012.
Joe Raposo played bass guitar on two album releases by The Real McKenzies; their 2005 album 10,000 Shots, and their 2008 album Off the Leash. He has also played with The Dwarves. In an interview with fasterlouder.com.au Joey Cape, lead singer of Lagwagon, stated that Joe Raposo is Lagwagon’s new bassist. In a June 2011 interview with ExploreMusic however, Joey Cape said that things didn’t work out with Raposo, and the band is testing a new bassist. After first announcing Patrick Solem as the new bass player in August 2011, Lagwagon decided that Raposo will remain a member after all in October 2011. As of 2012, Raposo also works for Zynga as the quality assurance lead for their casual social city-building simulation game CityVille.
Vocalist Jason Sears contributed lyrics and vocals for a song called “Until Next Time” on Snot’s album entitled Strait Up in tribute to their late lead singer Lynn Strait. It was released on November 7, 2000. The album also features appearances by the lead vocalists of a number of major rock groups. Lynn Strait was a long-time friend of the band and his name can be viewed in the liner notes “Special Thanks” section of RKL’s 1987 album Rock N Roll Nightmare. Jason Sears recorded an album with the San Diego based band Mercury Legion originally released with the title Jason Sears and Mercury Legion: It Happened on a Friday Night – The Original Soundtrack Album on Dolphin Records. It was then repackaged and re-released as a self-titled effort; simply Jason Sears & Mercury Legion on Malt Soda Recordings.
RKL was profoundly influential on the punk rock scene. Regarding RKL’s impact on punk music, Fat Mike had this to say: “Without RKL, there wouldn’t be a NOFX. Well, there might be a totally shitty NOFX… RKL was the band that we would always be in the shadow of. When they broke up, we kinda took their spot.” Many people credit Bomer Manzullo as the first person to play the standard, or modern, punk beat. RKL has been credited with creating the prototype that brought success to punk rock bands that followed in the early 1990s, including The Offspring and NOFX.
In a New York Times: “TimesTalks” television interview discussing musicianship in punk rock, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong mentioned RKL’s Bomer Manzullo as an example of the high level of talent in punk rock, calling Bomer an “insane drummer”.
RKL, known for their live shows, once had a Goleta, California crowd in such a fervor that a club owner deployed tear gas in an attempt to stop the large mosh pit.
The three deceased members were directly referenced by NOFX in “Doornails”, a song from their 2006 album Wolves in Wolves’ Clothing.
A Rich Kids on LSD tribute album was released on Malt Soda Recordings entitled For Those About To Trip which contains 23 covers of classic RKL tracks by various artists.
Actor Josh Brolin claimed in a New York Times interview to have been a member of RKL.
The band is referenced by Janez Detd. in “My Life My Way”, a song from their 2008 album For Better For Worse.
The band is referenced by The High Speed Scene in “For the Kids”, a song from their 2005 album The High Speed Scene.
RKL’s song “Tell Me the Truth” is referenced by Snot in “Mr. Brett”, a song from their 1997 album Get Some.
The beanie boy character appears on the cover of Annihilation Time’s 2005 album Annihilation Time II.
Italian band Overdrive Bonzai dedicated a song called “Jason Sears” to the late vocalist.
There were rumors of an “RKLAOKE” show sometime in the Summer of 2006 as a benefit concert to raise money for Sears’ children Anthony, Sierra, and Cisco. The show would have featured the remaining members of the band playing all the past favorites with different members of the audience.