The Reptile Dysfunction includes, from left, Joel Dupree, Forrest Norby, Jacob Osborne and Tim Arrowtop
The members of The Reptile Dysfunction agree there was a time when the booze-haze punk rock scene of West Coast basements and dive bars was in the cards—they planned to tour the circuit, maybe even relocate. But that was before wives, before families, before dogs. As it happened, Missoula’s punk/hardcore staple has rarely left the shadow of Mount Sentinel, content in the work-by-day, rock-by-weekend lifestyle.
“Instead of going out in a big fucking blaze of glory, beating each other up…we kicked around in the short term,” says vocalist Jacob Osborne.
Come February, the “short term” kickings of The Reptile Dysfunction will hit an eight-year anniversary. And the way conversation buzzes over a recent band breakfast at the Holiday Inn Parkside, there’s a change in focus brewing. Friday night’s show at the Badlander marks the official release of a four-band vinyl split, Welcome to Montana. The double album features premier punk bands from Billings, Kalispell and Missoula, with The Reptile Dysfunction front-and-center on side A.
It’s a personal mark of achievement for Osborne, guitarist Forrest Norby, bassist Tim Arrowtop and drummer Joel Dupree. The group reveres Billings-based Noise Noise Noise, also on Welcome to Montana, as the state’s top punk band. Osborne says a joint release was almost a year in the making.
“We’d been wanting to do a split with Noise for a long time,” Osborne says. “We started working on [the tracks] in June, but we got talking about it long before then.”
The Reptile Dysfunction’s 2006 release, Get VD, suffered from what Osborne and Norby call a “tried to record 20 tracks in two days” feel. But working on the four Welcome to Montana tracks at Club Shmed Studios sparked everyone’s interest in recording quality material, something they plan to do more of. Norby and Dupree agree, “It’s just nice to be on vinyl.”
“Anybody can burn a CDR,” Norby says.
Direction has never been an issue for The Reptile Dysfunction because the band is content with a good time in the here-and-now. Osborne and Norby, both high school transplants to Missoula, founded the group in 2001 during the twilight years of their teen-hood. They graduated from shows at the Boys and Girls Club to Jay’s Upstairs. The latter venue defined the band as music scene regulars, and offered them countless ounces of free booze.
“We were there pretty much every night,” Osborne says. “When Jay’s closed, there was a big famine of rock ’n’ roll in Missoula. There was no place to play.”
Today, The Reptile Dysfunction plays for moshers at the Badlander or the Palace, with the occasional last-minute show request from The Other Side. But they’ve been around long enough to use the phrase “how things were” without sounding pretentious. Osborne and Norby estimate the number of ex-Reptile Dysfunctionites at 16. Arrowtop joined the group after a move from the Browning area a few months before The Reptile Dysfunction temporarily broke up on Feb. 13, 2004. The hiatus lasted until April 2005.
“We got back together as a Christmas gift for Forrest’s wife,” Osborne jokes.
They reminisce about the days of Jay’s Upstairs and a string of former drummers like veterans spinning war stories. During one show, Osborne cut his hand open on a pint glass. Norby took him to the emergency room for 30 stitches, and the pair missed most of the show. In true punk fashion, “a bunch of people just picked up our instruments and played,” Osborne says. He refers to it as the “beginning of the end” for the first wave of The Reptile Dysfunction.
Since Dupree stepped on board, things have been a bit different. The band played with Rancid at the Wilma Theatre earlier this year. They landed a spot on Welcome to Montana. And on Friday, they plan to debut one of Dupree’s new songs, “Bloody Knuckles, Bloody Teeth.”
“Drummers were definitely the hardest for us to hold on to,” Osborne says. “This lineup has been really good. We’re writing a lot more, honing our sound more.”
“I think the dedication has to be in direct balance with what we’re doing and how much fun we’re having,” Arrowtop says. “That’s how we do it.”
The Reptile Dysfunction has no plans to alter their low-stress, weekend-warrior approach to punk. Arrowtop says he’s mainly in it to hang out with friends, play music and get drunk. The others agree.
“That’s pretty much what being a musician is all about,” Arrowtop says. “Legitimizing your alcoholism.”
But the possibility of a trip to Billings comes up a few times. Osborne expresses a desire to release as many more albums as possible, maybe line up a few out-of-state shows. Norby seconds the motion.
“I hear we have a fan in East Helena now,” Norby says.
That’s good enough for them.
The Reptile Dysfunction plays their record-release show for Welcome to Montana Friday, Dec. 19, at the Badlander with Valsalva Maneuver, Armed & Hammered and The Hardagains. $7.