#365 Justin Maurer of LA Drugz

In 2010, Justin Maurer’s band CLOROX GIRLS fell apart and he found himself living in his uncle’s attic and working as a dental supply salesman in Long Beach, California. He was inspired after seeing James Carman’s band IMAGES play a killer set at notorious longshoreman dive Harold’s Place in San Pedro.  Harold’s bartenders were known to deal trucker speed from behind the bar as well as brandish a sawed off shotgun if any of their patrons got out of line. Being the diviest of Pacific Avenue’s drag of working class dive bars, they allowed locals to throw their own punk shows.  Justin made the pilgrimage across the Vincent Thomas Bridge to check out one of these shows and was blown away by IMAGES, a local band who took equal inspiration from late 70s LA punk as well as poppier UK punk like THE BUZZCOCKS.  The vocal harmonies were great and a particular lefty drummer who played his snare and floortom with his arms crossed – one James Carman – was singing lead vocals and backing vocals and harmonies in a way that caught Justin pleasantly off guard.  A few weeks later Justin bought a round of $1 beers for the IMAGES boys at Fern’s, one of Long Beach’s diviest on East 4th Street, but before taking their first sip they were chucked out by the doorman because every single member of IMAGES was all under 21.  Justin soon produced a music video for the boys (“Frustration”, directed by Vim Crony), and also asked James if he would be up for joining a new band.  

Back in Long Beach, Justin and another new friend Cezar Mora, who had played in local bands THE SWITCHUPS and THE BAD MACHINE, were working on a project called LOS LONG BEACH BOYS, a Beach Boys cover band that sung in Spanish.  They hoped to rake in the big bucks at swap meets and lowrider car shows.  Translating and harmonizing an entire Beach Boys set in Spanish proved to be quite the challenge, and Justin and Cezar decided to write originals instead.  

James invited his childhood friend Johnny Reyes to audition on bass at LA DRUGZ’ first band practice at his parents’ house in Carson.  The guys liked his yellow BUZZCOCKS t-shirt, his sense of humor and his mod hairstyle, so he was in.  They celebrated with homemade pancit and lumpia from James’ mom. At practice, James mentioned that the best music was like a drug and the name LA DRUGS was pitched.  They looked it up and it seemed there was already a band called LA DRUGS from Boston. And they sucked. The boys decided to differentiate themselves by spelling it with a Z as an homage to THE PLUGZ. 

LA DRUGZ began to gig around the South Bay, Orange County and Los Angeles playing spots like The Redwood, The Continental Room, Harold’s, The Observatory, Alex’s Bar and Vince Lombardi High School (VLHS). They recorded the OUTSIDE PLACE EP with Kid Kevin of CALIMUCHO  in San Pedro and approached Tim and Mark Janchar at HOVERCRAFT RECORDS in Portland, Oregon about releasing it.  The brothers dug it and said yes!  A westcoast tour was promptly arranged around the release of the record and would take the boys north to Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.  In Seattle, Kurt Bloch of THE FASTBACKS joined them onstage for a raucous cover of “You’re Gonna Miss Me” by 13th Floor Elevators. 

The following year of 2015 took the boys out on the road with London’s FAT WHITE FAMILY where they kicked off at storied L.A. Venue The Troubadour,  and toured all the way out to  Austin, Texas.  After ripping it up at the final show of their tour at The Chapel in San Francisco, both bands’ vans were broken into at the Travel Lodge Motel on Market Street and Valencia where over $20K of gear was stolen along with both bands’ suitcases of clothing.  FAT WHITE FAMILY flew back to the UK all wearing LA DRUGZ t-shirts which was the only clean item of clothing each member now owned. 

The ALL BURNED DOWN EP was the followup and all things were quiet on the western front UNTIL NOW.  

James Carman formed THE REFLECTORS, who are still touring and releasing records, and both Carman and Justin Maurer played in both MANIAC and JENNY.  The deluxe limited edition 10 year anniversary reissue of LA DRUGZ’ debut EP “Outside Place”,  long out of print, is now available in a limited edition run of 386 pressed with a few copies on colored vinyl.  Grab your piece of history now, or forever hold your peace. After all, the best music feels like a drug.


Label Website: https://www.hovercraftrecords.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ladrugz

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/L.A.DRUGZ

Distributor Website: https://store.greennoiserecords.com
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/37Lq1mXkmo0p9vT8wPTEXN?si=o66GLKnETw6DMOMdqRhcBA

Watch the Video for “Outside Place”

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