Origin: Long Beach, California
Genre: Punk rock, Gothic rock
Years active: 1978–present
Anthony “Tiny” Biuso
Dance with Me (1981)
Beneath the Shadows (1982)
Change Today? (1984)
Hit and Run (1987)
Strange Love (1990)
Divided We Stand (2003)
Who’s Screwin’ Who? (2005)
Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Free Downloads (2009)
T.S.O.L. (True Sounds of Liberty) is a punk rock band formed in 1978 in Long Beach, California. Although most commonly associated with hardcore punk, T.S.O.L.’s music varies on each release. They have also released music in the styles of deathrock, art punk, horror punk, and other varieties of punk music.
Formed in 1978 in Long Beach, California, T.S.O.L. originated as a hardcore punk band, developing from earlier bands Johnny Koathanger and the Abortions, and SS Cult. Later on Vicious Circle would form and T.S.O.L. would take a brief hiatus.
Featuring the lineup of vocalist Jack Grisham (who has been credited as Jack Greggors, Alex Morgan, Jack Ladoga, Jim Woo and James DeLauge), guitarist Ron Emory, bassist Mike Roche, and drummer Todd Barnes, the band’s first release was a harshly political eponymous EP featuring tracks such as “Superficial Love,” “World War III” and “Abolish Government.”
After their debut 5 song T.S.O.L. EP in 1979 and 1980 they released Dance with Me. They later signed to independent label Alternative Tentacles, for which they released the Weathered Statues EP and the Beneath the Shadows album which featured, for the first time, keyboard player Greg Kuehn.
Amid personal turmoil, Grisham, Barnes, and Kuehn all left the band in 1983, with Joe Wood and Mitch Dean joining on vocals and drums respectively. This new line-up released three albums on Enigma Records, touring globally to support each album, and united a world audience with Change Today? in 1984, which continued the post-punk direction and finished this era with Revenge in 1986 and Hit and Run in 1987. All three albums featured a more polished production keeping punk and hardcore tunes.
Hard Rock experimentation
The band became friends with Guns N’ Roses and T.S.O.L. t-shirts can be seen in the GNR video for “Sweet Child o’ Mine”, most notably on drummer Steven Adler. They followed up with an album in a similar style, titled Hit and Run.
Emory left the band in 1988 during recording of demos for Strange Love, leaving Roche as the sole remaining original member; Emory has a writing credit on the track “Blow by Blow”. T.S.O.L. were joined briefly by guitarist Scotty Phillips, who quit before the band started recording the follow-up to Hit and Run. They eventually hired former Dino’s Revenge guitar player and actor Marshall Rohner. They released a blues-metal album titled Strange Love in 1990. Mike Roche quit shortly before the album release, leaving no original member in the band. A compilation album entitled Hell and Back Together 1984–1990 was issued in 1992 with an emphasis on their metal era. Murphy Karges, later of Sugar Ray, briefly replaced Roche on bass, and was subsequently replaced by Josh Also.
This late-eighties lineup was popular enough to invite bookings in Brazil and Argentina, where the Grisham-led band held no legal rights to prevent Wood from gigging as T.S.O.L. Since 1996, Wood and Dean were joined by guitarists Mike Martt and Drac Conley and bassist Dave Mello, with Dean subsequently replaced by Steve “Sully” O’Sullivan. Additionally, Wood has pursued musical work in Joe Wood and the Lonely Ones and Cisco Poison.
Original T.S.O.L. reform
Meanwhile, the original members started playing shows featuring the band’s early material under the name T.S.O.L., often playing the same cities, the same nights as the other T.S.O.L.. Since Joe Wood and Mitch Dean now owned the rights to the name T.S.O.L., they threatened to sue the original members, who released a live album of their early material under the name “Grisham, Roche, Emory and Barnes” but stopped playing together soon after because of drug problems. They also did some gigs during this time as “LOST,” T.S.O.L. backwards.
In 1996, most of the original members settled down and realized that they still had a passion for their music and that fans wanted them to reunite. In 1999, they fought with Wood for rights to the name and won before joining the Vans Warped Tour, playing for the first time in years under the name T.S.O.L.
Todd Barnes died of a brain aneurysm on December 6, 1999, at the age of 34. The remaining members recruited drummer Jay O’Brien and released the “Anticop” single and the albums Disappear and Divided We Stand on Nitro Records, the latter of which featured Greg Kuehn back on keyboards. The band’s current drummer, Anthony “Tiny” Biuso, joined the band on drums in December of 2003 and remains the longest standing drummer in the band’s 30-plus year history. He first recorded with the band on 2005’s Who’s Screwing Who?, a revamping and re-recording of 18 of T.S.O.L.’s greatest hits. The original T.S.O.L. went on to record two more full length albums. In September 2007, Cider City Records released the posthumous live album Live From Long Beach, recorded in November 2006 on the weekend of the band’s two “farewell” performances.
Their departure was short-lived, however, as they returned to perform a couple of local shows in late 2007. They also headlined the “Fuck the Whales, Save a Chckn” benefit in Feb. 2008, held to help with cancer treatment bills for guitarist Craig “Chckn” Jewett of D.I.
They are an independent band under the Nitro Records banner, which was started by Offspring vocalist Dexter Holland, for whom T.S.O.L. is cited as an influence.
In December 2008, the band, in cooperation with Hurley International, entered the studio to record Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Free Downloads which was, as the title suggests, made available as a free download through Hurley’s website on January 8, 2009.
In 2013 the band traveled to Brazil, Argentina, Sweden, Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Austria, Spain, Italy, and Switzerland; as well as a sold out tour of the US with Flag.
In 1981, director Paul Young made Urban Struggle: The Battle of The Cuckoo’s Nest, a film which features live performances by T.S.O.L., as well as several other Orange County punk and hardcore bands. Dave Markey’s 1982 film The Slog Movie also features live T.S.O.L. performances. Their music is also featured in the 1984 movie Suburbia, the 1985 version of popular horror movie Return of the Living Dead, Summer Sessions (Skateboarding Video) in 1985 and Dangerously Close in 1986. They were also mentioned in the documentary Punk’s Not Dead. The 1986 Billabong’s legendary ‘Surf into Summer 86’ featured T.S.O.L. and Agent Orange on a soundtrack.