Pokémon and punk rock have more in common than you might think. They both have dedicated, passionate followings, and your parents probably dislike and misunderstand them. In celebration of the Pokémon Sword and Shield releases and new (British!) Pokémon to discover in the Galar region therein, we at Hard Noise spoke to some punk musicians⸺ plus a Twitch streamer, for expertise⸺ about their relationship to the lovable, powerful little Japanese pocket monsters over the years.
Ryan Scott Graham, State Champs
Earliest Memories of Pokémon: As far back as I can remember, Pokémon has been a massive part of my life. Obviously everyone remembers the Pokémon craze of 1996, when packs were $10 a piece and sold out everywhere. I’m not sure what was so appealing about the franchise to me initially, but I loved collecting anything, so it was a good excuse for me to get into something new.
The main difference between me and the kids at school was that most of them never actually played the card game. I think that’s why my Pokémon journey is so deep rooted. I used to hitch a ride with my next door neighbor to Toys R Us and the local mall every weekend just to participate in the tournaments they were hosting. I was obsessed. Years later around 2008/09, my friends and I got back into the competitive card playing scene and started traveling for tournaments. My love for Pokémon never really slowed down. Some of my lifelong best friends either met through the game or share that bond.
Pokémon He and His Bandmates Would Be: Snorlax has always been my favorite Pokémon. I think as a kid I just thought the idea of a lazy Pokémon who only sleeps, eats, and wakes up in a rage was such a funny concept that I latched onto him. I don’t know if that’s who I necessarily identify with, but he’s my favorite. If I were a Pokémon I’d probably be Regigigas. He’s multifaceted and I like to think I am as well. He needs all those separate parts to make him work.
I’m curious to see what Tony says, but here are my band picks: Tyler is Electrode because he could explode at any moment. Evan is Alolan Geodude, because they both share a defining characteristic in their burly eyebrows. Tony is Gardevoir because he’s secretly powerful and mystical. And Derek is Snorlax because the man sleeps more than anyone I know.
Dream Pokémon Team: Luxray, Regigigas, Gyarados, Garchomp, Dusknoir and Infernape. They’re all extremely powerful attackers and there is plenty of type diversity. I think it would be a well-balanced team of intimidating Pokémon.
Battle Strategy: I live for the slow build and disruption. The main deck that I had success with when I played competitively was based around Regigigas. The strategy was to lock your opponents powers, shuffle their hand back into their deck and then discard their resources, all in the same turn if you hit a strike of luck. If you do it correctly, there’s absolutely no coming back. It was kind of an evil deck looking back because you basically don’t allow your opponent to play at all. They just kind of sit there annoyed as you run through their Pokémon.
Life Lessons Learned From Pokémon: As corny as it may be, it has taught me not to judge a book by its cover. Pokémon lovers tend to come from all walks of life and it’s an amazing commonality that may bridge a gap with someone else you might have nothing else in common with.
An “OH SHIT!” Moment in Battle: I guess getting owned? You never expect or hope for that [laughs].
Signature Pokémon Move/Ability: Probably Focus Blast. When I’m really zoned in, you couldn’t possibly imagine what I’m capable of.
Madi Watkins, Year of the Knife
Pokémon She and Her Bandmates Would Be: I’d be an Eevee. Not only because they’re one of my favorites, but because they can adapt and evolve to any type and I feel like I’ve had to continually adapt in my own life to get to where I am now and the goals I have for the future.
B would be Machoke or the leader of the Squirtle Squad with the cool sunglasses. Tyler would be Psyduck, Aaron would be Totodile, and Andy would be Cubone.
Dream Pokémon team: I almost always play with a full Eeveelution team. Eevee was my first favorite Pokémon and having the balance of six different types always pays off in battles. Otherwise, I’ll add in a legendary like Suicine or Mew.
Battle Strategy: A well-balanced team using almost entirely offense moves. Stocking up on potions never hurts.
Life Lessons Learned From Pokémon: Probably the main thing I’ve taken away from Pokémon is to make time to do things that make you happy. Pokémon is a game and series I’ve grown up with, and loved since I was a kid. Being self-employed, I find myself working around the clock, and not taking as much time doing things I enjoy like playing video games. Any time a new Pokémon game comes out though, I always make time for it and feel just as excited as I did when I played for the first time. Enjoy the little things.
An “OH SHIT” Moment In Battle: When you’ve got the opponent’s last Pokémon under 10 HP, but then they use a hyper potion.
Signature Pokémon Move/Ability: Glitzy Glow, the psychic Eevee exclusive move from Let’s Go Eevee, or Telekinesis because I always wished I had that power as a kid.
Tony Diaz, State Champs
Earliest Memories of Pokémon: My earliest memory of Pokémon was watching the anime every morning before school in a block with Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon. That was my shit.
Pokémon He and His Bandmates Would Be: I like to think of myself as Gardevoir. I don’t show up a lot, but I will do anything to protect the ones I love. As for my band, Evan is Alolan Geodude (they look exactly the same). Tyler is Jolteon; fierce but cute. Ryan is Blaziken and Derek is Snorlax.
Dream Pokémon Team: Gardevoir, Gengar, Tyranitar, Moltres, Alakazam, Alolan Ninetales. Pure destruction to the mind and body.
Battle Strategy: Merciless.
Life Lessons Learned From Pokémon: Don’t be a horny bastard like Brock.
An “OH SHIT” Moment In Battle: Taking an attack thinking it’s gonna be a certain type move and then getting yeeted by some fuck shit that’s super effective against my type.
Signature Pokémon Move/Ability: Raid Call, where I summon my guild to steamroll the enemy.
Christine Graham, digitalchristine
Earliest Memories of Pokémon: I remember when I first got Blue Version and my Game Boy Color. Playing Pokemon during that time with my older brother is one of my favorite memories. We loved surfing the coast at Cinnabar Island to get the MissingNo glitch and the infinite items that came with it.
Which Pokémon She Would Be: I would definitely say I’m an Eevee – adaptable, scrappy, and I take plenty of siestas.
Dream Pokemon Team: Bewear, Blastoise, Umbreon, Gardevoir, Alolan Ninetails, and Ampharos. Truly, these are all Pokémon that I’ve grown attached to over my years of playing. I love Pokemon that are cute but pack a surprising punch.
Battle Strategy: For me, it’s all about having a diversely typed move set. I want to make sure I have at least one move that can land a super effective hit for each Pokemon type that can come at my team. I also like to lay the groundwork with moves like Reflect, Aqua Ring, Leech Seed, and Toxic early on.
Life Lessons Learned From Pokémon: Some of the best things take time. Like, egg moves for example.
An “OH SHIT” Moment During Battle: Not many things catch me off guard in Pokemon these days, except for when I took on Ultra Necrozma during my run in Ultra Moon. The boy was one-shotting my entire party, until we got to Bewear. I went in vastly unprepared, as I was hunting rare Pokemon prior and was very low on healing items. In a Hail Mary of sorts, I sent out Bewear and used Thrash, the 2-3 hit special he had. Necrozma hit first with Power Gem and took Bewear down to one health (he endured the hit because of high friendship). When we got to the second round, I had little hope. Necrozma came back with Power Gem again (insanely fast stats) and I said my goodbyes to Punchbear when the unexpected happened. He endured the ENTIRE hit on his one health, came back with the second hit of Thrash, and Necrozma fainted. I was stunned, I am pretty sure I cried a little bit.
Signature Pokémon Move/Ability: If I was the aforementioned Eevee, I believe that my signature move would be Baddy Bad (my personal favorite move from Let’s Go Eevee). It’s a dark type move that also uses reflect to make your team stronger against physical moves. And as much as I would like to hope that my signature ability would be Intimidate, I think it’s more likely that it would be Synchronize
Dan Lambton, Real Friends
Earliest Memories of Pokémon: I was in second grade when Grandma gave me a Gameboy Color and Pokémon Red for Christmas. From then on it would be me playing the game at full volume, prompting numerous requests from one of my cousins (and even more from my parents) to turn the volume down, along with coming to the harsh realization that Charmander isn’t the best starter to pick when the first two gyms are rock and water types.
Pokémon He and His Bandmates Would Be: I would have to say Vulpix because that’s my favorite Pokémon. Vulpix is unassuming; you think they’re just cute and can’t do much, but if you put in the time and work they can be a powerhouse.
Brian would be Machamp because he’s been working out, Kyle would be Alakazam since he’s hella smart, Dave would be Magneton because he’s been putting a lot of work into knowing how all sorts of crazy gear and gadgets work, and Eric would be Jynx because he recently bleached his hair.
Dream Pokémon Team: I like to keep my team relatively well-rounded, with an ideal lineup for generations one and two being Blastoise/Feraligatr for water/ice, Ampharos for electric, Espeon for psychic, Pidgeot for flying, Nidoqueen for ground/poison, and Ninetails for fire type. For the most recent generation (Sun/Moon) I went with Decidueye for grass/ghost, Umbreon for dark, Alolan Ninetails for ice/fairy, Alolan Raichu for electric/psychic, Talonflame for fire/flying, and Garchomp for dragon/ground.
Battle Strategy: If I’m feeling really impatient I’ll try to go all out and use the strongest moves first, because at some point you start to wonder how many goddamn bug catchers you have to beat before they realize that they stand no chance against the all-knowing player character. And then when that doesn’t work because they won’t stop spamming string shot or sleep powder, I just pout and put the game down for like 15 minutes before putting myself through it again.
Life Lessons Learned From Pokémon: As with any other Nintendo game I’ve played, whether it be when I was young or current day, Pokémon has continually taught me about and reinforced trial and error. It’s one of the only turn-based games I truly grasped, because there was so much more to consider with all of the moving parts under the hood. I definitely wanted to try, fail, and figure out every inch of these games.
An “OH SHIT” Moment in Battle: If it’s a celebratory “oh, shit,” then I would say when I land a one-hit KO on the enemy team at any time. An “oh, shit” that would be a cause for alarm is when that one-hit KO happens to me…
Signature Pokémon Move/Ability: Since I’m fixated on Vulpix, I’ll say ember. In the game it’s not too flashy or strong as a move, but if you look at it in the perspective of the anime, or real life for that matter, an ember can be a spark that can really start a crazy fire.
Zach Hatfield, Left Behind
Earliest Memories of Pokémon: I remember getting Pokémon Blue on a family vacation when it came out and I was hooked. Named Gary “Stupid” and everything. I’d love to be able to play the original copy I had but I lost it a long time ago. I also remember when Pokémon Yellow came out and I saw Pikachu following you around, I thought you could do that with any Pokémon if you released them. Made sense to my 9 year old brain. Lost my first Hitmonlee.
Pokémon He and His Bandmates Would Be: Snorlax and I share a lot of the same ideals. Cade, Typhlosion without a doubt. Bryan is Magikarp because he doesn’t play a lot of Pokémon.
Dream Pokémon Team: Usually I try and pick a more rounded-out team, but I end up just picking out Pokémon I think look cool. Snorlax, Gengar, Typhlosion, Swampert, Dragonite, Togekiss.
Battle Strategies: It depends. Sometimes I try and be strategic and swap out based on type, using what’s most effective and makes sense for a battle. Other times, I have one favorite guy that I level up to 100 and just use brute force to get through them all.
Has Pokémon taught you anything that you apply in your life? Money doesn’t mean anything in the endgame.
An “OH SHIT” Moment in Battle: When I’m trying to catch whatever legendary I’ve been really pumped for, and try to get their health down as low as possible without killing them. Then, accidentally killing them and knowing I just killed what some people in the game worship as a god. Hopefully I saved before battle.
Signature Pokémon Move/Ability: Probably Shadow Ball, that’s the coolest looking move in my opinion.