.Steve Cabellero’s Urethane Rocks The Ritz

The tale of the formation of Urethane, new punk band from San Jose’s Steve Caballero

Growing up in east San Jose in the 1970s, Steve Caballero didn’t hear much rock music. 

“It was mainly like R&B, soul and disco back then,” says the guitarist and professional skateboarder.

It wasn’t until he started spending his days at skateparks on the west side of town that he began to encounter rock. Then new wave. Then, in 1980, punk rock. By then, he’d already been tapped by Powell-Peralta to join the new skate team they’d been forming: Bones Brigade.

Throughout the ’80s (and again later), Caballero played guitar in San Jose’s formative skate punk band The Faction, then, in the ’90s, in pop-punk group Soda, who were once Carson Daly’s “Pick of the Day” when he was a San Jose DJ. This week, Caballero returns to the city where he began both his careers to play the Ritz in his new punk band Urethane.

A relatively recent project, Urethane released their debut Chasing Horizons last year. The album takes inspiration from now classic ’90s skate and pop-punk, bursting with vocal harmonies and power chords and sounding a lot like a lost band from the heyday of Punk-o-Rama and Fat Wreck Chords compilations (appropriately, the album was released by Cyber Tracks, the record label run by NOFX’s El Hefe).

“The guys in the band grew up on ’80s and ’90s punk rock, mostly ’90s, so pretty much everything we’ve been playing is a reference to that,” Caballero says. “And our singer can sing, so I felt like we could do a lot of really cool melodic stuff with that.”

Prior to Urethane, Caballero had been playing with a different band throughout the pandemic. However, after almost a year together they still couldn’t settle on a singer. That’s when Caballero attempted a desperate maneuver.

“I reached out on Instagram to see if there was anybody interested.”

He got an interesting response from a musician named Tim Fennelly, a punk guitarist in the area looking to sing more. But when Caballero brought Tim’s demo to the band, the rest of them couldn’t come to an agreement.

“They weren’t feeling the vibe,” Caballero says. “I was a little like, wow, ok, maybe this isn’t the right gig for me. I felt like we had stumbled upon a great singer and they were willing to pass him up. I wasn’t.”

Freed to start a new project, he remembered the band name he had set aside for himself a few years earlier: Urethane.

“Urethane is what skateboard wheels are made out of,” he explains. “We’ve been riding urethane since 1974.”

On a condensed timeline, the band quickly began writing, practicing and preparing to record. Initially, Caballero started out on bass, but shortly before the recording, he switched to lead guitar, adding a fourth musician to the band and thickening up the sound. The change happened so suddenly, most of his guitar parts ended up being written in the studio while the band was recording.

“I would just sit on the back of the couch with an acoustic guitar,” he says. “So when they were doing their part, I would just try to come up with something that went with the song. We just didn’t have much time. We were not even a band for a year when we had gotten into the studio.”

The process forced him to be spontaneous, creating hooks and melodies on the fly. Luckily, by then, he’d already spent a lifetime thinking on his feet. Named “Skater of the Century” by Thrasher Magazine in 1999, he’s credited with creating at least five skate tricks, including the frontside boardslide and a move now bearing his name: the caballerial.

“That’s pretty much what attracted me to the sport of skateboarding, the fact that you could learn tricks and be creative in a way,” he says.

Now, more than 40 years after joining the iconic skate crew Bones Brigade, Caballero is looking forward to bringing that creativity back to the city where it all began.

“I’m excited to see old friends. Since I moved away in 2014, I haven’t been back very often. I’ve been sending out texts to a lot of friends that live in San Jose to let them know we’re playing. Hopefully it’s like a family reunion, to come home and see a lot of my friends and share this new project with them.”

Urethane

Sat, 8pm, $18

The Ritz, San Jose

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