By Larry Livermore:
One of the greatest (and, some say, worst) legacies of the punk movement was the notion that anyone can be in a band. Even me, as it turned out. When I formed the Lookouts, I quickly became the laughingstock (I should amend that to “an even greater laughingstock”) of the remote mountain community where I was living at the time. Already well into my 30s, I was playing music (to use the term very loosely) with a 14 year old bassist who had never played bass before and a 12 year old drummer who had never laid hands on a drum set. The abuse wasn’t limited to the verbal variety, either; there was the matter of the legendary black eye I received when a local lunkhead tried to physically restrain us from playing at a town dance, a black eye which I wore semi-proudly (the other guys in the band used makeup to draw their own in solidarity) at our first record release party at Gilman Street the next night. The Lookouts, even several years down the road, were never noted primarily for their technical skill, but we did manage to get a good bit better. We never got a chance to tour, but we were privileged to play at some truly awesome shows, by far the most memorable being the last Operation Ivy show. Maybe even more important, we had the honor of being part of the Gilman Street phenomenon from pretty much the ground up. We first played at Gilman only a couple weeks after it opened, and our next to last show, opening for Bad Religion in June of 1990, was there as well. When we finally split up the next month, it wasn’t so much that we were tired of the band or each other. In fact we all felt as though we had finally hit our stride, and were capable of playing together as a pretty darn good band. But we were living in three widely separate places and it was next to impossible to get together for shows or even practice, so we reluctantly called it quits. Later that year, Tre was asked to join Green Day and started making a new kind of history. Since those days I’ve learned a lot more about music and played with a lot of other musicians, but your first band, like your first love, is always special beyond anything words can tell. No doubt we embarrassed ourselves many times while we were struggling to master our instruments and figure out what it meant to be in a band, but we were too dumb and too sincere to know it. We just kept on bashing away and howling at the moon, and by the time we were finished, well, we’d fashioned some of the best days of our lives.
By Larry Livermore:
I’d been trying to start a punk rock band for at least two or three years, but The Lookouts finally got off the ground in February 1985 when I asked the 12 year old kid down the road if he wanted to try playing the drums. We were living on the back side of Iron Peak, high atop Spy Rock Road, some 18 miles northeast of the bustling metropolis (pop. 1,000) of Laytonville, California. Our nearest neighbors in any direction were about a mile away, there was no electricity except generators or solar power, no telephones (we used CB radios to communicate), and anybody up there who was interested in music at all was mostly into hippie rock, reggae, or country and western, so punk rock drummers (or punk rock anything) were not exactly in abundance. Though the 12 year old had never touched a drum in his life before that day, he proved to have a real knack for the instrument, so I renamed him Tre Cool and told him he was in the band. Our 14 year old bass player Kain Kong was dubious about letting such a young kid in the band (people wouldn’t take us seriously, he said, as if they did anyway), but after a few practices Tre convinced him he could do the job. Later that year we recorded our first demo tape, and between then and 1990, we also recorded two albums, two 7″ EPs, and a few other compilation tracks. We never officially broke up, but by 1990 we were living in three different places and only got together to play or record once in a long while. On July 10, 1990, we went into The Art Of Ears studio in San Francisco and recorded nine songs, six of which would ultimately be released, and then went over to Oakland to play what would be, though we didn’t know it at the time, our last show. I was never that great at lead guitar (or rhythm guitar, for that matter, if we’re going to be honest), so I asked a friend named Billie Joe to play on the recordings. Later that year, Billie Joe’s own band was short a drummer, and they asked Tre if he wanted to try out for the job. He turned out to be pretty good at it, the band went on to be pretty successful, and ever since then Tre’s been kind of too busy to get together for Lookouts practice. The same is true of Kain, who for quite a few years now has been a national park ranger in Northern California. People sometimes ask me if the Lookouts will ever play again, and I tell them that if all three of us are ever in the same place at the same time, with instruments, and we can remember how to play any of our songs, it’s possible. But I wouldn’t hold your breath.
The Lookouts were: Larry Livermore, guitar and vocals, Kain Kong, bass and vocals, and Tre Cool, drums and vocals. All three of us played a role in the songwriting.