Operation Ivy is one of the few bands who has thus far resisted reuniting. The Bay Area quartet, made up of singer Jesse Michaels, guitarist Tim Armstrong, bassist Matt Freeman, and drummer Dave Mello, existed for only a brief two-year period between 1987 and 1989, and released only one studio album. But what an album it was: 1989’s Energy successfully bridged two-tone ska and punk rock into what would become the template for modern pop punk, making it one of the most influential albums of its time.
After Op Ivy’s demise, Armstrong and Freeman formed Rancid, Michaels explored other interests such as painting, and Mello bought a ranch. In the three decades since then, the closest we’ve gotten to a reunion was a surprise appearance by Michaels at a Rancid show in 2006, during which he joined Armstrong and Freeman to perform “Unity” and “Sound System.”
The band’s members have consistently said a full-fledged reunion was unlikely, but fans haven’t stopped clamoring for it. Most notably, in 2020 Against Me! leader Laura Jane Grace launched an online petition calling for Op Ivy to reunite at Riot Fest — where the band has a standing offer to play. “After the past couple years (*gestures broadly at everything) we all deserve this,” Grace wrote in her petition, which has since amassed over 10,000 signatures.
During a recent appearance on The Hard Times Podcast, Michaels was asked why Op Ivy hasn’t reunited. “Well, for a long time we weren’t really talking — it wasn’t because there was bad blood. We had issues when we broke up, but we’re all grown up now. We were just sort of in different worlds,” Michaels explained. “For a long time, we just weren’t talking that much. Now, we do. I see Tim pretty frequently. We get along, he is a friend.”
“Because it involves different people and different factors, I can’t talk too much about that,” Michaels continued before proceeding to open the door ever so slightly: “I will say, I don’t object to the idea. I don’t know if it could happen for various practical reasons, but I wouldn’t rule it out.”
“We have gotten offers, other people have tried to make it happen… who knows,” Michaels continued. “I just can’t talk about it more than that. It involves other people who have other careers, it involves legal matters…. I do truly appreciate the interest.”
Mello expressed similar interest during his own recent appearance on The Peer Pleasure Podcast: “For me, I’m totally for it. I’d be into it,” Mello said. However, “it’s something the other members don’t need,” Mello added. “They have so many other things going on in their lives. It’s not something they’d want to do.”
It seems then that the ball is squarely in Armstrong and Freeman’s court. While neither has gone on record about the possibility in recent years, the two Rancid members were lukewarm about the idea when asked by the LA Times in 2009. “I love what we did back then, but what we do now is move forward,” Armstrong said at the time. “To go back 20 years wouldn’t feel right. I’m super proud of what we did then, a big part of me is in that band. But it’s always about the future for me.”
“We’re all still friends, we still talk to Dave [Mello] and Jesse [Michaels],” added Freeman. “But we were 21 in that band. I’m 43 now.”