Arts & Entertainment

A Boyle Heights punk rocker takes on the freeways of LA

Eddie Solis of hardcore punk power duo It’s Casual performing at the Viper Room in Los Angeles.
Eddie Solis of hardcore punk power duo It’s Casual performing at the Viper Room in Los Angeles.
Steven Cuevas/KPCC

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A punk rocker from Boyle Heights has gotten the attention of local leaders for taking on two issues that just about every Angeleno can relate to — crowded freeways and public transportation.

Here’s a few things you need to know about Eddie Solis: He lives in L.A., loves the band KISS and does not own a car.

“Being someone who’s from L.A. and having a few cars in my past," the burly musician explains, "I saw the city much differently through the eyes of a bus rider."

Just steps from the front door of his home in Boyle Heights, Solis catches a bus that connects him with the Metro Red Line that whisks him to his day job at the avant-garde metal record label Southern Lord in Hollywood.

“It just opened me up to little neighborhoods, galleries, clubs, bars, just seeing what’s out there in little pockets of the city,” says Solis. “If you’re taking a bus you’ll see in a very thorough fashion what’s on every block. You see a lot.”

Those journeys onboard city buses and Metro trains informs a lot of the material on “The New Los Angeles Part I: Through The Eyes Of A Bus Rider,” the latest album by Solis’ band It’s Casual. Actually, the record was originally released a few years ago but in limited quantities, and sold primarily at the band’s live shows.

“It’s a nod to the die-hard public transportation people,” says Solis.

In the musician’s vision of a “new” Los Angeles, people abandon their cars, climb aboard public transit and re-discover their communities. One song extols the virtues of the L.A. Metropolitan Transit Agency’s EZ Pass, and the urban underbelly it introduces to the rider.

“A lot of people will buy the MTA pass, but an EZ Pass is good for all of Southern California, not just MTA," Solis explains. "That’s an homage to the people who beat the system and steer away from spending money on gas and oil profits and all that."

“Fifteen dollars is all it takes for me to get to work!” roars Solis as he chops out thick guitar riffs. “Fifteen dollars is all it takes to witness racial tensions...!"

The song continues: "For me to witness racial tension/for me to witness illegal aliens..."

"I’m talking about what I see,” says Solis of the track. “It’s not to paint a negative picture. It’s just my perspective of what is seen.”

Another It’s Casual song called “The Red Line” spawned a viral internet video, partly filmed on a moving L.A. Metro train as Solis barks the lyrics while trying to keep his balance. It celebrates the Red Line, and mocks the congested freeways that coil around Los Angeles.

“The thread that comes out of the record that ties everyone together is, be alive!" Solis laughs. "Don’t be a victim of having a car!"

An MTA spokesman said he couldn’t comment on It’s Casual’s furious pro-Metro message. But the video was a hit at the offices of Move L.A. — the public transportation advocacy group headed by former Santa Monica mayor Denny Zane.

“Eddie did a good job, thank you Eddie,” says Zane. “I mean it is one of the most important ways that messages penetrate into the culture. Eddie is all frantic when talking about highways and so mellow when grooving on his skateboard, the bus and the Red Line."

“There’s a metaphor for transformation, from, 'Oh my God, I gotta get out of the traffic' to, 'Hey, this is cool I can mellow out!'"

Or, you can crank up the sludge-punk tune “Too Many People” as you claw your way across LA by car, bus or skateboard.

“Los Annngeleees!,” screams Solis. “There’s too many people! / I…want them to go awaaaay!...”

Too many people could also be the motto of It’s Casual. Over the years, the band whittled itself down to a power duo of Solis on guitar, bass and vocals — and a rotating cast of drummers.

By now you may think Solis can’t get along with other people, or his native L.A. Not true, Solis says.

“I love it,” says Solis, who was born and raised in Whittier. “I’ve traveled throughout the U.S. many times, and I could never look forward enough to coming back. The weather, the different cultures, the landscape. I have a very, very close attachment to the East Side. I love everything about Los Angeles!”

Solis will bring the love and the volume during an upcoming “Red Line” tour later this summer. It’s Casual will play a different venue within walking distance of Red Line metro stops from Union Station to North Hollywood.