After a Three-Decade Hiatus, South Bay-Born Band The 415s Returns to the Stage and Proves Some Things Do Get Better With Age
- Written & photographed byKat Monk
For decades, South Bay locals—or one specific local, who shall remain nameless—would shout out to Dave McMillan, “Hey, when are The 415s having a reunion show?” Dave’s wife would look at him and say, “Who is that guy?” A fan, for sure, but could he be on to something?
Formed in 1982, the 415s named themselves after California Penal Code section 415 PC, which prohibits “disturbing the peace.” It was the perfect name for a band known to play toga parties with their original hit song “Beer Run,” a summer anthem for those who wish to remember.
The three original members—Dave McMillan (guitar and vocals), Marc Theodore (bass guitar) and Matt Warshaw (drums)—met while attending Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach and turned their love of music, beer and surf into a local act.
“The 415s, along with The Jetsons and The Press, were some of the first bands I ever saw play live locally in people’s living rooms and backyard parties and at The Neptunian Club,” shares Jim Lindberg, lead singer of Pennywise. “They are what made me want to be in a band. All of them were just really fun surf punk, new wave bands, and they ripped and wrote songs about the beach life we were living at the time.”
Influenced by their favorite music, the band describes their sound as putting The Ventures, Eddie Cochran and the Ramones in a blender, pouring some beer over it and then hitting the liquefy button. The 415s once enjoyed a standing gig every July 3 to a sold-out crowd at Toe’s Tavern in South Redondo Beach near Dive N’ Surf, where Catalina Avenue curves into Hermosa Beach.
Heller Gregory, a fan of The 415s, believes she helped them get their first paying gig after Toe’s Tavern closed. Grunions had been recently taken over by a new owner and renamed Surf City, although many still called it Grunions. Heller recommended to the new owner that The 415s continue their annual July 3 tradition to pull in a local crowd.
“I wasn’t even planning on attending, but the owner kept calling me and saying there was a huge line outside and I needed to get there immediately,” she adds. “It was so crowded. The police claimed it was over capacity, and everyone moved to Baxters next to CoCo’s [presently The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Manhattan Village].”
It must have been kismet. She met a guy named Phil Gregory on the bus, and although they might not have hit it off on the ride over, they soon bonded while dancing to The 415s. They have been married ever since.
The band describes their sound as putting The Ventures, Eddie Cochran and the Ramones in a blender, pouring some beer over it and then hitting the liquefy button.
Adult life intervened, and the band disbanded in 1992. Dave sold all his gear and threw himself into his professional career. “The only time you have enough time to be in a band is when you are 18,” he says.
Marc owned Theologian Records, an international record label, and played in bands including Fishsticks, Bookmobile and Gnarwall. Matt Warshaw became a professional surfer and writer for Surfer magazine. He is well known for his book The Encyclopedia of Surfing and has since moved to Seattle, making a reunion next to impossible.
Three decades later, Dave started to phase out of his professional work life with plans to retire. Matt’s brother Chris Warshaw proved instrumental in getting the band back together. Soon they recruited Matt Muir on drums, and Chris plays guitar.
According to fan Jay Russell, “They still have a Matt Warshaw because they have a Matt and a Warshaw in the band.” Matt Muir brings his musical expertise from another homegrown band, Slackstring, as well as AWOL and cover band Socially Distorted featuring Jim Lindberg on vocals.
“We don’t play with real vintage gear because we can’t afford it,” shares Dave. “Had I kept my gear, it would have been vintage by now.”
Starting fresh, he bought a guitar locally at Dietz Brothers Music, reworked his chops, and the basics came back naturally. “I was able to become a better player than the first go-round thanks to studying techniques on YouTube and an app called Chordify,” he says.
Soon the band was ready to rehearse for their first gig in more than 30 years at the Hermosa Saloon last Labor Day weekend. A testament to their enduring popularity, the community was abuzz in anticipation prior to their gig.
“I was blown away by the turnout,” says Dave. It was a very hot night, and the energy in the room was electric. Seeing so many old friends come out—some of whom I hadn’t seen in years—and to have them remember and sing along to some of our original tunes was a highlight of my summer.”
Instagram buzzed with longtime fans reminiscing about the first time they saw The 415s. Much to the band’s shock, rumblings started that a potential invite to play the South Bay’s BeachLife Festival might happen. Not only did they get invited to play, they also received a great time slot: Saturday at 4 p.m. The honor was way more than a band that took a 30-year hiatus ever could have imagined.
As Jim Lindberg, the brand director of BeachLife, says, “The song ‘Beer Run’ could have been taken out of a daily conversation hanging out on The Strand and heading up to Mi-T-Mart, Boccato’s or the Beach store to grab a twelver. They are the quintessential South Bay surf band.”
“Sitting on the beach; Sun’s beating down; Dust starts kicking up in the back of your throat; Look to the guy next to you and say, I buy, you fly; He says, no way; Somebody pulls out a dolla; Somebody else pulls out a couple more; Pretty soon there’s enough; Someone’s gotta make one; Let’s go! Beer Run.”
When asked what it is about the band that fans love so much, the members’ collective response comes down to the fun energy they generate. It isn’t about being the most technical band or trying to sing spot on. It is about making the songs their own and creating a verve that makes fans stay in the moment and dance.
The band’s next gig will be headlining MBee Fest (Manhattan Beach End Epilepsy), a local fundraiser to be hosted at Saint Rocke on Thursday, August 17.