Fletcher Dragge May Love Trouble, but It’s All Good When It Comes to the South Bay
- Written & photographed byKat Monk
If you see Fletcher Dragge walk into The Arthur J, a high-end steak house in Manhattan Beach, try not to give him a critical once-over. Fletcher is a big man at 6’6”—coupled with a big personality, tattoos and a sense of style that does not typically correspond with casual business attire.
He’s a South Bay success story—not only as one of the founding members of one of the most commercially successful punk rock bands in history, but also because he didn’t blow all his money living the rock star lifestyle. Fletcher is a prolific investor, an entrepreneur and a Hermosa Beach homeowner.
“When it comes to guitar playing, I’ve always said he has the fastest right hand in the business. I think some of our best songs are the ones where he’s written the music and I’ve written the lyrics.”
Growing up, Fletcher and his brother, Kristian, were perpetually in trouble, commonly referred to by local police as “the Dragge brothers.” While attending Mira Costa High School back in the 1980s, Fletcher connected with the lyrical content and aggression of punk rock music. As some were deciding which college to attend, Fletcher came up with a plan and a goal: to live his life on his terms.
Before he even knew how to play a musical instrument, he wanted to be in a punk rock band and live a life of nonconformity that would allow him freedom outside the mainstream. Lyrical content would be the key to his plan, and he would refrain from writing songs just about “chicks” or overall romanticism.
Pennywise formed in 1988—originally a local band that played in exchange for a keg at a party. Soon those small parties turned into crowds of 600 to 700 people, and the cops would inevitably intervene. As Pennywise developed a name, they catapulted into a record deal with Theologian Records and then with Epitaph Records.
“When it comes to guitar playing, I’ve always said he has the fastest right hand in the business,” says lead singer Jim Lindberg. “I think some of our best songs are the ones where he’s written the music and I’ve written the lyrics.” This partnership culminated in a formula that resulted in a passionate, honest product—one that ultimately connected with their fans.
More than 30 years later, Pennywise is just as popular. Fletcher attributes the band’s success to not selling out. It was important that the band retain control, especially over lyrical content and putting out their message. The band turned down bigger opportunities with record labels and stadium concerts so they could oversee their platform.
“Fletcher and I have butted heads over the years … it’s because we care about what we’re putting out into the world. And when you do, there are bound to be disagreements. It just comes with the territory,” says Jim.
Fletcher’s innate knowledge of conducting band business mirrors his entrepreneurial endeavors. With an especially high regard for preserving the personality of the Beach Cities where he grew up, Fletcher invests in businesses true to his heart.
His first few investments included a music studio (which he still owns today, called Screaming Leopard Studios), a local Mexican restaurant in Hermosa Beach called Los Muchachos, and a skateboard line for the against-the-grain clothing line Serial Killer. Since then he has also invested in companies such as Third Street Tattoo, Deep Seas Tattoo and The Standing Room.
Almost 25 years ago, Fletcher bought a house in his hometown. He kicks himself for not also buying the two surrounding properties. Two motorcycles flank the front of his yard, one etched with his brother’s name and lifespan.
If you hear the stories that Fletcher held the radio hosts at KROQ hostage, destroyed Rage Against the Machine’s dressing room in search of cocktails, and was tasered and arrested after an incident with the band Alesana, remember that he also has defied the odds and paid it forward—many times over.
Written by Kat Monk