Sal Medrano fought anxiety and depression as a quiet kid who stayed home and played drums during his middle and high school years. Then, at age 16, he began going to punk shows. “That was the first time in my life where I felt ‘This is where I belong,’ ” says Medrano, who recalls one Kicked in the Head bill with the Goonies at a Knights of Columbus hall. “All the songs were everything I was feeling. And I was like ‘Holy shit, this is what I want to do forever!’ ” He attended so many Kicked in the Head shows that he signed on to sell the band’s merchandise on tour.
Eventually, he started his own punk band, Dead Ellington, and sold merch for the Dropkick Murphys, pestering the group for a chance to open a St. Patrick’s Day show. When the invite came in 2013, Dead Ellington had broken up, but that didn’t stop Medrano from reshuffling former members to launch Rebuilder for that gig.
Medrano’s fellow Framingham native Craig Stanton moved from drums to guitar and now shares singer/songwriter duties, while Brandon Phillips set aside his own guitar to drive the drum kit alongside the bass-pumping Daniel Carswell. And in a further effort to build melody and emotion beyond Dead Ellington’s skate-punk aggression, Rebuilder added a keyboardist, a spot now held by Patrick Hanlin.
In September, Rebuilder releases Sounds from the Massachusetts Turnpike, an EP even more bracing than the band’s 2015 debut album, Rock & Roll in America. Stanton may have forged the group’s best anthem yet in “Mile or an Inch” (with its cathartic line “Swinging for the fences!”). And with “Anchoring,” a song about a failed relationship, Medrano again examines anxiety. But he’s come full circle. “I’ve had people come up to me to say ‘I feel that exact same way’ from a song,” Medrano says. “If I can do that for someone else, that’s such a big thing.”