Sitting outside of Three Links, a club in the Deep Ellum area of Dallas, in 100-degree weather, Eric Daniels sweats profusely as he prepares for a show later that evening. As the leader of Sloth Fist, Daniels looks like a guy who sells sportswear at the mall, but his words and overall demeanor are straight-up punk rock. Daniels doesn’t take anything too seriously, even the origins of his own band.
“Marc [guitarist Max Maxey] is at least 100. I’m in my late 30s,” Daniels quips. “We’ve been a band for about four years. Me and the drummer, Ralph [Rafael Genovez], were in a band called Responsible Johnny. We found Marc on the internet. Five different guys have played guitar. We’re kind of like Spinal Tap but with guitarists.”
And even with a name like Sloth Fist, Daniels doesn’t worry about people thinking he fronts a joke band. His explanation about the band’s name is both plain-spoken and provocative.
“I’d gone to Costa Rica and saw some sloths there,” Daniels explains. “I was enamored with them — I liked the imagery. I sat down and put every word I could before and after ‘sloth’ until I found something that wasn’t taken. It doesn’t roll off the tongue, but if you put it in Google, we’re what you find.”
Talking to Daniels is like speaking with a salesman you know is trying to rip you off. He wanders on and off topic in a beguiling mix of joy and blunder. But what he lacks in clarity, he gains in enthusiasm, for his band and for the punk rock scene in Dallas.
“I think Marc actually works in insurance,” Daniels says. “All of us have been playing music since we were knee-high to a grasshopper. Marc was super prolific on the West Coast. He was in a band called Justice League. They played with the Descendants when those guys were new. That was the ‘before times,’ as we call it.”
Sloth Fist has just released a new seven-song EP entitled Bomb’s Away. As with their album from 2021, the magnificent Mothman is Real, the new EP is a roaring, metallic train wreck of an effort. Surprisingly melodic, the songs are pushed along violently by the two guitars of Matt Thomas and Cody Shavers and the wallop of drummer Genovez.
“That’s what I like — gig guitars, big wall of sound with ridiculous lyrics,” Daniels says. “All of that makes for a fun show.”
Songs such as “Cut Through It,” “We’re Fucked” and “Face/Off” are classic examples of American hardcore punk. Bracingly loud, the songs show the influence of such acts as the Ramones, Black Flag and Motorhead.
“There’s a lot of Motorhead influence,” Daniels allows. “It’s just stanky, big instrumentation, which is what the Ramones were known for. Everything is up to 10. I like aggressive music —Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, even old Metallica. All the people in my band come from different backgrounds. We just throw everything in the pot, and see what tastes good.”
But what isn’t so tasty, according to Daniels, is the lack of places to perform. For a scene that features so many punk and metal bands, the lack of venues can be frustrating.
“You don’t have a lot of big-name bands from Dallas,” Daniels admits. “I’ve been playing in the area for over a decade, and I’d say Dallas has a really good scene when it comes to bands. We have an embarrassment of riches, but not when it comes to places for these bands to play. Three Links is where you come to see a punk show in Dallas. Otherwise, you have to go to Arlington or Denton.”
Daniels loves the solidarity of the Dallas punk scene. He’s seen bands and venues come and go, but he claims there’s something that makes the Dallas punk scene special. “There really is a camaraderie, and that’s what makes it cool,” he explains. “There’s not a lot of competition or shit-talking. Everyone wants to bring everyone else up.”
And playing live is where Sloth Fist truly thrives. Daniels prowls the stage like a professor on a bender while the band gleefully straddles the line between hardcore punk and thrash metal. But being a bit older than most bands, Daniels admits they need the break between songs. “Well, I’m a little fat, so you have to give me a few seconds,” he says. “I have to catch my breath, especially in this weather.”
The only problem with seeing the band live is that, in the music’s fury, some of Daniels best lyrics are sacrificed to the racket. “I have some more poignantly social lyrics, but I explicitly don’t do government stuff,” Daniels says. “It’s not fun to me. I’d rather write about [the 1996 film] Faceoff with John Travolta and Nicholas Cage. That’s a good subject for a song.”
Indeed, the new EP contains a song called “Faceoff,” and it’s one of the best cuts. “I like to do that song because it’s goofy, and I get to channel my inner Nick Cage,” Daniels says. “I beat my throat to shit.”
Daniels loves being in a punk band, even if that means not making any money. Few punk bands ever make it big. For every Green Day, you have thousands of bands just playing music for its own sake.
“I love the music and I love the ethos,” Daniels says. “I love screaming my guts out in front of five people.”
Cover photo courtesy Sloth Fist.