A lot of musicians will testify that they had it tough before they got their break in music, but no one in the scene has a story quite like Adrian Estrella, vocalist of California pop-punks Assuming We Survive. It wasn’t simple boredom or heartbreak that led to him wanting to pack up. Had Estrella not made it out when he did, his life could well have been over before he’d reached adulthood.
“When I was 15, I moved to the Dominican Republic with my father,” Estrella begins. “He was dealing with a lot of issues, and he’d drink heavily to try and cope. I became the scapegoat and the punching bag for all of his issues.
“He’d punch me heavily, and he’d torture me until I couldn’t walk. He’d put his gun in my mouth and threaten to shoot me dead. He’d pass out from drinking after beating me, then he’d wake up and be like, ‘Who did this to you?’ And I’d reply, ‘You did, dad. Who do you think did it?’ He didn’t want to accept what he was doing to me.”
The final straw for Estrella came when his father arrived home one night and began choking him. Having suffered unimaginable pain for so long, the teenager found the strength—both mental and physical—to fight back.
“I knew I needed to swing at him or I was going to die—the fight or flight instinct kicked in. I managed to get on top of him, and then I ran out of the door; I was expecting him to shoot me.”
“I remember it so vividly because the song ‘Rollin’ by Limp Bizkit was playing at the time,” Estrella recalls. “I knew I needed to swing at him or I was going to die—the fight or flight instinct kicked in. I managed to get on top of him, and then I ran out of the door; I was expecting him to shoot me.
“After that, I was homeless for a few months, and then I managed to get 56 bucks and bought a plane ticket to Puerto Rico, and when I got there I told the authorities that I was a U.S. citizen and that I’d like to join the Army.”
In many ways, military service was good for Estrella. It turned him from a young boy into a man who understood the responsibilities that go with being an adult. He was proud to serve, but it came at a cost.
“The military was amazing for me, but it also brought up a lot of issues,” Estrella outlines. “I’d never dealt with what happened in my childhood, and when you’re in the Army, you end up losing friends in combat and to stupid mistakes—a lot of soldiers are very reckless.
“When I left, I felt this huge weight leave my shoulders. I went to California to pursue music, which I knew was the thing I was born to do. Not long after, I started Assuming We Survive.”
“When I left, I felt this huge weight leave my shoulders. I went to California to pursue music, which I knew was the thing I was born to do.”
From the bleakest of beginnings, Estrella and his bandmates have gone on to play shows with the likes of Mötley Crüe and the Used, while the four-piece were also mainstays on this summer’s last ever cross-country Warped Tour.
Their new EP Chapters finds the band channeling all those experiences into six tracks of life-affirming, carpe diem punk rock that outlines an important message: You are not alone.
“I’ve been trapped in my own head, and this record is about understanding that, no matter how hard it gets, there are people out there who care about you,” Estrella says. “Warped is a great reference for that, because it had such a community and family feel, and you should know that people in your life will be there for you in that way, too. We want our shows to provide that support—we try to talk to our fans and give them the best advice we can. We’re not perfect, but we’re there for you. We’re in this together.”