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Bad Religion, the ‘McCartney and Lennon of punk,’ to make Spokane debut

When the pandemic brought everything to a halt in March 2020, Bad Religion vocalist Greg Graffin wasn’t surprised that his band would take a live performance hiatus.

In 2015, Graffin wrote “Population Wars: A New Perspective on Competition and Coexistence.” Graffin was ahead of his time detailing what pathogens can do to a society.

“I was five years early on the pandemic,” Graffin, 57, said while calling from La Quinta, California. “I wrote about the fate of different populations and how they would have to deal with pathogenic organisms. I covered it in an observational manner to try to inform.”

It wasn’t such a stretch since Graffin’s lyrics have enlightened fans for more than 40 years. Graffin has belted out his philosophy while Bad Religion backs him with visceral punk rock with occasional bits of hard rock and occasionally psychedelia. The common denominator has always been strong melodies and rich harmonies.

“I’ve tried to give people information they can use,” Graffin said. “That’s part of what I do and have enjoyed since this band began.”

After being weaned on such prog-rock bands as Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Graffin embraced punk rock and formed Bad Religion when he was 15.

“I thought it was cool to be political and start a band when I was 15, but I didn’t know what the ramifications of being political meant then,” Graffin said. “I decided that I didn’t want to be a political band, but I wanted to deliver information in order to have an impact on people. I don’t care what your political parties are.”

Bad Religion emerged from the underground during the early 1990s and signed a deal with Atlantic Records. Its initial major label release, “Stranger Than Fiction,” included a number of singalong hits such as the title track, “Infected” and “21st Century Digital Boy.”

Graffin, along with guitarist Brett Gurewitz and bassist Jay Bentley, formed Bad Religion in 1980 while attending high school in Los Angeles.

“It’s been incredible doing this all of these years,” Graffin said. “Brett and I became bonafide songwriters. We didn’t set out to be the McCartney and Lennon of punk, but that’s what happened.”

But what Bad Religion, who headlines Wednesday night at Knitting Factory, values more than its music is friendship.

“That’s the legacy of this band more than anything else,” Graffin said. “Few people can say that they have lifelong friendships like we have. It’s a special thing. We’ve done this for fun, not business.”

However, Gurewitz has been the CEO of Epitaph Records, Bad Religion’s home. Epitaph became the blueprint of how to run a successful independent label.

“It’s funny how that turned out,” Graffin said. “But it’s worked out for Brett with Epitaph and for myself (as a college lecturer and author). All of that has helped the band.”

Graffin and Gurewitz are working on new material, but don’t expect anything more recent than tracks from 2019’s “Age of Unreason.”

“We have plenty of songs to play,” Graffin said. “We’re working on new stuff, but we’re fine with playing songs fans are familiar with – we’ve covered a lot of ground over the years.”

More ground will be covered when the band, which also includes guitarists Brian Baker and Mike Dimkich and drummer Jamie Miller, plays the Knitting Factory since it will be Bad Religion’s Spokane debut.

“We haven’t played everywhere, but it seems like we have,” Graffin said.

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