Out of Focus on the Old Cheers Days: "That Was our Life Back Then"
Out of Focus came together like many high school punk bands do -- the product of idle ambition and idealistic teenage gumption. Formed in late 1994, and operating until 1997, the group's earliest roots can be traced back to a short-lived Killian High outfit called Forehead, a hodgepodge of future South Florida punk scene stalwarts which served as an early incarnation of what would become Caught Inside. The group split up when Sean Fernandez and Andy Malchiodi came to a mutual agreement resulting in Fernandez leaving with Forehead guitarist John Moore to start Out of Focus.
"We were actually best friends growing up and realized shortly that we couldn't be in a band together because we both kind of wanted to be frontmen," says Fernandez. "So he [Malchiodi] started getting guys together for Caught Inside, and me and John started getting people together for Out of Focus, vowing to each other that we would always help one another out and get each other shows. So we played a lot of shows together."
Comprised of vocalist Fernandez, guitarist/singer Moore, guitarist Bill Tuttle, bassist Trey Hammond and drummer Mike Nacinmeinto, the band derived its early sound from such groups as No Use for a Name, NOFX, Lagwagon, Millencolin, Strung Out, and Operation Ivy, whose "Knowledge" it often covered to close out sets. Out of Focus began practicing at Hammond's house located in Westchester, but after a year, the guys' schedules became bunched up with work commitments and the band moved over to Space Cadet Records for convenience, convening a minimum of four times a week, practicing and recording a five-song EP on cassette that they sold out of their trunk.
Moore turned out to be a natural promoter. A year younger than the rest of the band as a result of starting school early, he had an eager enthusiasm that left an impression on anyone he met, and he was always looking for like-minded people to include in their music.
"John was the mouth of the band," says Fernandez. "He's a very outgoing person and pretty much has always been able to talk to anybody. I've known John since I was seven-years-old; we went to church together and grew up together and he's always been that bratty kid that, you know, wouldn't shut up. As he got older, it really helped him and the band out a lot, him meeting people and getting the word out there, passing flyers out, just things like that."
Fernandez's earliest recollection of witnessing John's unique acumen for enterprise was during a show at a NOFX show at The Edge in Fort Lauderdale during Out of Focus' early days. Moore managed to get himself an audience with Fat Mike, introducing himself as "John from Out of Focus," and giving Mike a handful of stickers and flyers. Soon after, it seemed that everyone in the local scene at the time -- whether or not they had even heard Out of Focus play -- had heard of the band, to some degree, as a result of Moore's persistent promotional efforts.
"We played with a few bands -- I'm not going to mention names -- but, you know, they were better than us at the time and they were selective with their flyering -- who they wanted at their shows and who they thought were privileged enough to be at their shows," says Moore. "I thought everybody was allowed at my shows, that it would be a privilege to have them at my shows and not the other way around. 'Hey, I'm John from Out of Focus, here's a flyer, come to our show'; we wanted to be that neighborhood friendly connection, and maybe we weren't the tightest band in the world at the time, but we were young kids, we had a good time with it, and that's basically what we were looking to do. We just pretty much relied on hitting the pavement, and that's what took us from here to West Palm, you know?"