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Shining a light on the joys and heartaches that lie at the intersection of the LGBTQIA community and the world of alternative music… PHOTOS: ASPYN GARFIELD
of identity. An outlet. As my peers began to explore relationships and sex in high school, the guitar was my substitute for lovemaking. I spent so many weekends alone in my room, the quiet strum of an unplugged electric guitar keeping me company.
FEATURING KELLEN BAKER OF GRANDDAD
t’s generally considered acceptable to party, to sing and dance surrounded by friends and strangers—who are really just “pre-friends” anyway. It’s also deemed normal to have down days, to stay home binge eating or binge watching—or both—all by yourself. Granddad break down the boundary between these polar states, inspiring their audience to master the art of ugly-crying while fist-pumping, to literalize the idea of a “pity party,” and to remember that even when you’re alone, you’re never really alone. On the band’s most recent EP, no one gets it right, their joyfully sad emo stylings echo both the bustling, queer-friendly energy of their current home of Minneapolis and the cold, quiet isolation of the town that birthed them, Fairbanks, Alaska. Vocalist and guitarist Kellen Baker’s lyrics are at once cuttingly earnest and warmly reassuring, reminding listeners that we are all singular multiplicities— and that’s exactly how it should be. Starting March 8, Granddad will take to the road for a two-week run through the Midwest, including a two-day stop in Austin for SXSW.
When I was a kid and feeling really overwhelmed, I would bike to the top of Gold Hill, where I knew I wouldn’t find anybody else. The edge of the wilderness was a few blocks from my house, and I
could wander off after the trail ended at the top of the hill and sit on the edge of the hillside, taking in the whole town: six avenues, a dozen or so churches, and just as many bars. This was my whole world, and I didn’t really have a good grasp on what lay outside it. My stifled emotions yearned to break free from a young age. I suppose I am still yearning to break free, gathering a sense of self piece by piece throughout the world as I make my way to all the places I am so lucky to go. When you grow up gay, you know you’re different really early. When you grow up isolated, with no role models to show what this difference will mean for you, it becomes something to hide. So, you grow up in a cocoon of false identity that you can only begin to unspin upon coming out—and mine was suffocatingly tight. I got a guitar at age 15 and started to write my own music shortly after. I found this was an effective way to process my intense emotions: yearning, hatred, self-harm. I could accept these feelings through layers and layers of metaphor. I could sing about love as long as I didn’t use any pronouns. I could get lost in sound for hours at a time and have a break from my own self-rejection. I could scream my fury at the world. It was an important crutch in dealing with my undiagnosed depression. I could hear my emotions reflected in dissonance, my fingers painting the words I couldn’t speak. Music became a source
I didn’t expect music to do much more for me than that. How could I when the only musicians I saw were the Top 40 stars on TV? My insular community didn’t have a place in it for musicians or artists. And, as I grew, there was an added pressure to represent my family in the community. In Alaska Native communities, family is supremely important. The traditional introduction is to announce your name, your mother and father, and both sets of grandparents. This tells the listener where you are from and where your family is from. I often feel like I carry the weight of my family history with me and will never feel truly independent from them. As an adult, this is a wonderful gift. As a teenager, it was terribly suffocating. How could I ever come out? How could I live with disappointing my family?
What would people think of me—think of us? Ten years ago, I would never have imagined the life I live now. I am out and proud. I make music every day of my life. I live in a big city, and I travel all over the country. If I had ever followed through with the suicidal thoughts I had as a kid, I would never have known anything beyond the small town I grew up in. Being closeted was one of the biggest roadblocks I had in my life—I’m sure many of you can relate. My story isn’t unique, but I feel compelled to tell it. I believe it’s so important for queer people to be out, to be visible, to be making things happen for themselves, and to prove that our lives are beautiful and worth living. I know that was something I needed to see as a kid. And no matter how small my impact is, if I can give an isolated queer kid a glimmer of hope, it counts as success. People need to see us, to know that we live in every pocket of the world. We are born from the same earth. We are queer, and we are everywhere.
SCENE NOT HEARD SHIFTS THE FOCUS FROM THE INDIVIDUALS WHO CREATE THE BEST ALBUMS TO TAKE AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE BEHIND-THE-SCENES JOBS THAT KEEP THE INDUSTRY RUNNING. GO BEYOND THE MUSIC AND MEET THE PEOPLE WHO KEEP YOUR FAVORITE BANDS IN THE PUBLIC EYE…
gistics of driving and hotels for every show, coordinate schedules with management [and] label and artist for press, take care of maintenance for the vehicle we travel in, assist with stage and production setup, and do the tour accounting. I’m sure there are a bunch of other tasks I’m forgetting, but my main jobs are making sure we’re on time and that everyone is doing OK.” “Things go wrong and you, [as a tour manager], are responsible for fixing them. Sometimes, the issue is someone breaks into your van; sometimes, the issue is someone on the crew is having a bad day. No matter the severity, you have to make it OK, which could be filing a police report and making a window out of cardboard or gifting everyone a small duck so they know they have someone flying in their corner. The most gratifying thing is having a happy crew; when everyone is happy, you’re doing your job properly.”
PHOTO: ROB COUSINEAU
vanthi Govender is the tour manager for singer-songwriter Julien Baker. Touring is commonly cited by bands as their main source of income and often requires taking extensive and rigorous paths to play each city. While the band or artist is performing, there are plenty of things happening backstage that allow for them to even be there in the first place. This is where Govender thrives and shines. She first ventured into touring and music in Detroit when she began han-
Govender also states that being in charge and staying organized is a quintessential part of the job. With so many responsibilities, the tour manager’s ability to micromanage helps keep artists on the road, playing shows, and further continuing the live music cycle of the industry. More often than not, artists are gathered in tight spaces—such as vans, green rooms, and hotel rooms—and
staying sane is definitely part of the battle. Govender explains that experience does matter while on the road and offers some helpful hints to avoid losing one’s mind every day—including what to do in different cities. “Generally, we look for the closest coffee shops, record stores, smoothie places, health food stores, and vintage spots. You can find a lot of solace in a quality coffee shop or respite in a store that sells novelty socks. There’s generally a Google Maps screenshot of the location of the nearest Whole Foods sent in the group chat.” “We play a lot of van games, make very specific collaborative Spotify playlists, do a lot of skits, and stop at as many scenic overlooks as possible. Looking at a river for 10 minutes, climbing on rocks along the coast, or making a pit stop at a national park can do wonders for morale.” Individuals like Govender and other tour managers are extremely important and beloved. Their wealth of experience and ability to keep tight schedules ensure that the artists you love most will arrive in your city on time, wellfed—however that may be—and prepared to steal the spotlight onstage.
dling the merchandise for friends’ bands and, soon after, playing for the project Petal. Through this experience, Govender realized that being a tour manager sounded like the ideal job for her. So, what exactly is the job description of a tour manager, including the day-to-day struggles? “Before a tour starts, I advance the shows, so I am in contact with the venues and promoters, working out schedules and needs on both ends. I figure out the lo-
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PHOTO: ALAN SWAN
such as Dio, Messiah, [Robert] Plant, Janis Joplin,” vocalist Laura Donnelly says. “I enjoy watching and listening to vocalists who can really express themselves, and I guess I try to adopt that in my own style.” Lyrically, Donnelly has described her themes as relating to “the beautiful and unfamiliar,” but both she and her lyrical and vocal stylings give one the sense that while Donnelly has an obsession with the strange, she greets it on familiar and friendly terms. “I tend to write about the darker side of humanity or the strange and occult,” she explains. “I find human behavior really interesting, and I’m a massive fan of occult horror and anything out of the ordinary.”
I LIKE THAT OLD TIME ROCK ‘N’ DOOM- KING WITCH
INTERVIEW WITH JAMIE GILCHRIST AND LAURA DONNELLY BY ADDISON HERRON-WHEELER
Following up their 2015 debut EP, Shoulders of Giants, Under the Mountain is King Witch’s first real plunge into the depths of the metal world. “I’m looking forward to getting to as wide an audience as possible,” Gilchrist says. “I’d really like to tour as widely as possible and play places we’ve never been before. I hope the album goes down well. I think it’s an intense listen and am really proud of the sound we managed to get. I think the songs are strong.”
The world can be a dark, dark, place, and while the funeral doom bands who immortalize this darkness with their bleak lyrics and slow riffs can be cathartic, sometimes you just need rock ‘n’ roll. This is an attitude that Edinburgh, Scotland’s King Witch embrace wholeheartedly on their debut full-length, Under the Mountain, out Feb. 9 via Listenable Records.
“I was always into old-school heavy rock more than specifically doom, although bands like The Obsessed, Trouble, and Candlemass have definitely shaped the way I write music,” guitarist Jamie Gilchrist explains. “When we started King Witch, this just felt like the natural kind of music to write, and it ended up with a dark and heavy vibe.”
King Witch charge straight ahead with furious, doom-tinged heavy rock reminiscent of the classics. Yet, their take on the genre is fresh and potent, with literary lyrics inspired by “Moby Dick” and vocals more reminiscent of Janis Joplin or Canned Heat than the thrash vocalists of yesteryear. “I have always been a huge fan of ballsy, powerful vocalists
If your friend casually drops the fact that all they’ve been listening to lately is atmospheric Lithuanian noisecore-inspired art metal, don’t be so quick to roll your eyes. Erdve’s dedication to the obscure, the depressive, and the noisy makes for some great music—and a highly anticipated first record.
the solution was to try to make all the effort ourselves,” Darulis says. “Probably the most interesting thing about the recording is that we first experimented and finished the sound mix before we even wrote any music. We recorded some hints first of how we imagined our music to be like, very first raw conceptual ideas that were mixed into the sound you can hear now. So, the sound came first and served as a breeding ground to explore musical possibilities and immediately foresee if we can deliver the feeling that we pursue.”
HEAVY ATMOSPHERE, RAW EXPRESSION-ERDVE
“I would say that our sound is based mostly on experimenting with heavy elements within extreme metal, hardcore, noise, and all kinds of other music in order to procure an emotion-inducing, suppressive sensation,” vocalist and guitarist Vaidotas Darulis explains. “We are trying our best to portray our own perception of how we understand immensely heavy music and what it means for us, like a visual artist or a photographer is turning his certain vision into a two-dimensional medium.” Erdve are certainly not all talk. Vaitojimas was completely self-produced, self-recorded, and picked up by Season Of Mist for release on Feb. 9—no small feat for a DIY first offering. “It was important for us to communicate our audible vision in the most accurate way, and
PHOTO: ROKUS MILLIUS
Erdve are embracing experimentation, but never at the expense of honesty or musical integrity. And, of course, everything they make centers heaviness. “In general, heavy and atmospheric are things, among others, that I personally expect from any modern art form in order to provoke an emotional reaction from myself,” Darulis adds. “Naturally, I expect such things from our band and music that we play as well. Creating something that evokes that emotion within ourselves is something that allows us to remain honest in what we do.”
INTERVIEW WITH VAIDOTAS DARULIS BY ADDISON HERRON-WHEELER
When it came time to write the follow-up to her 2015 opus, The Miraculous, Swedish singersongwriter Anna Von Hausswolff “wanted to create a mishmash between stillness and chaos, where there could be some kind of natural blend of introverted and extroverted expressions,” she says. “I see The Miraculous as a more introverted album. I had more focus on nature and fantasy, and I was less focused on the body, flesh and bone. For Dead Magic, I wanted to reach an earthy, grounded, and more direct expression. I feel that this album is more connected to my body than previous albums. It feels more physical.” Von Hausswolff ’s new album, Dead Magic—which drops March 2 on City Slang—is five songs of dark alchemy that stretch beyond such genre tags as goth and prog. It’s evocative and
moving, taking the listener to some very dark places, but also allowing some light to shine through. It is a reflection of her soul. Dead Magic is a sonically dark album that reflects Von Hausswolff ’s inner struggles, connecting them to the broader theme of magic existing in the modern world. “I consider myself to be a rather spiritual person, and I believe things are magical—I believe life is magical,” she says. “But when I wrote this album, I felt that the hopelessness had struck me. That the gift of looking at things with an imaginative mind had disappeared. So, I wrote music to channel these dark emotions and ideas that I carried, to create hope. […] I see this album as a celebration of music. Music is my ultimate savior.” No surprise, Von Hausswolff is a
STEPPING OUT OF THE SHADOWS- ANNA BURCH
PHOTO: ELENE USDIN
I N T E R V I E W BY F. A M A N D A T U G A D E It took years for Anna Burch to find her rhythm. For most of her music career, she often described herself as a “backup singer.” She hid behind the walls of the Detroit music scene, gaining exposure to different styles and sounds, but none of them felt completely her own. In those spaces,
she felt like an “accessory” and started to become uncomfortable. She longed to create something of her own but fell into a trap of secondguessing herself. Burch began to lose sight of her identity as an artist and a musician and knew she needed a change.
Solitary, singular, stark, contrast. If Deathwhite were a free-association word game instead of an underground metal band, these are the terms that would be jotted down. So, it’s fitting that following the success of their 2015 Solitary Martyr EP, they have crafted an even bleaker, more finely-tuned sound with their debut full-length, For a Black Tomorrow, out Feb. 23 via Season Of Mist.
steady sound with this record, relying on full-sounding vocal lines and dark melodies to craft the tracks. They credit this to the fact that they are growing and progressing with their current lineup. “We didn’t come into our own until the Solitary Martyr EP, which was this particular lineup’s first recording,” they explain. “Because of the new parties involved, the songs started to sound fuller, more elaborate, and covered a lot of ground without going overboard. Now, we’re much more adept at identifying what we do well and where we’d like to go, and the songs are under more of a microscope than ever, as they should be. Virtually all of the same components from Solitary Martyr are present on For a Black Tomorrow, but with better production values and a wider array of songs.”
“We are, perhaps, more self-aware when writing songs compared to when we started,” the band, who remain anonymous, state. “At first, we were still finding our way as a band, essentially trying to figure out how to write songs that were less the sum of our influences and more on a singular path. Of course, you learn rather quickly that you’re always the sum of your influences, so it’s best to go with the flow, so to speak.” Deathwhite have truly honed a strong,
For a Black Tomorrow is dark in the truest sense, with bleak and depressive lyrics layered over the most minor of pro-
DARK MAGIC REBIRTH- ANNA VON HAUSSWOLFF PHOTO: LADY LUSEN
INTERVIEW BY THOMAS PIZZOLA firm believer in the power of unseen creative forces. “Just because you can’t perceive creative forces around you doesn’t mean they’re not there—same goes with magic,” she says. “How can I possibly exclude the possibility that there’s magic around me, all the time, circulating and vibrating, only because I cannot
see it? […] This is Dead Magic: the contradiction of using your own creative—but sometimes dark— imagination as a tool to deconstruct it and degrade it. Maybe it’s necessary for the moment. It might be an instinctual self-mechanism for renewal and rebirth.”
That change came in the form of quitting music entirely and moving to a new city. “I think it was difficult,” Burch says of her move to Chicago. “It was sort of all I knew. I loved performing, but I think the deeper thing nagging me was probably not having any creative stake in the project. I think, like, I really did need to take a step back from performing and being involved in any musical project to kind of—I guess, just like live a little bit. And I did that.”
itself as a “series of romantic mishaps,” Burch says she also likes “the idea of applying it to the work as a whole.” She notes that this felt like the first step into a new beginning. “In a way, I kind of saw it as quitting—quitting the curse of not being creatively productive,” she explains. “I always kind of felt like I wanted to write, I wanted to create, but I never really felt that I had it in me or something.” As a whole, Burch says Quit the Curse is her step toward the spotlight, a direct reflection of her work that stands alongside her name and her brand.
The end result of that “reset,” she says, is her debut album, Quit the Curse. Released Feb. 2 via Polyvinyl Records, the nine-track album shows the evolution of Burch as she learns to embrace her newfound confidence. Her dreamy, airy voice lends itself to her songs, which are personal stories of growth, wonder, and love.
Even more than that, it is a statement. “I think Quit the Curse applies to just being able to quit all the self-doubt and just, yeah, take charge,” Burch says.
Quit the Curse does not only reveal
THE POWER OF NEGATIVE THINKING- DEATHWHITE PHOTO: DEAN M BEATTIE
INTERVIEW BY ADDISON HERRON-WHEELER gressions. Though Deathwhite embrace this aesthetic, they feel that making negative music actually allows them to focus on the positive. “It helps keep things in perspective—that no matter how good or great things are, something could go wrong at any moment,” they say. “How-
ever, we are quite aware of how fortunate we are in general, so it’s important to remember that when there are dark clouds, so to speak. The human psyche is a complex thing. Either you come to grips with it, or it will consume you.”
Going into a new creative project, it’s basically impossible to predict its trajectory and eventual outcome. What you expect out of anything you do in life is rarely what you get. This notion can be applied to the short history of Brighton, U.K., band Harker. In 2014, Harker began as vocalist and guitarist Mark Boniface’s solo acoustic project, but shortly after its inception, Harker became a full-fledged band who wanted to go beyond their acoustic roots. “The transition itself was quite sudden,” Boniface describes. “We had experimented with me switching out to electric before, but it didn’t really work out with older songs. I think this factored with not really being too certain in what we wanted at that stage in the band.” With the addition of bassist Phoebe Saunders, guitarist Tony Ware, and drummer Matt Claxton, Harker have taken on a whole new identity. There is something
about this lineup that clicked for the band, and Boniface says it remapped their direction. “We decided, ‘Right, we’re making two electrics work, no fuss,’” he recalls. “Somehow, from that, it just started to work.” With three EPs behind them, Harker are ready to unleash their debut full-length, No Discordance, on Feb. 9 via Wiretap Records. For them, this is a much-anticipated release, with the album’s creation being one of the band’s most trying times. “There was points where I thought the record would never get finished, as [when] creating something, you’re always walking a tightrope of the finished product not being up to scratch,” Boniface explains. “A couple of times, due to either how a song was recorded or just digging at each other, I almost thought we were going to break up.” Ultimately, Harker persevered and were able to craft a work that Boniface says
GETTING STOKED, STAYING STOKED- REUNIONS PHOTO: PAUL SILVER
ROCKING DOWN TO ELECTRIC AVENUE- HARKER
PHOTO: AL OVERDRIVE
INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST/GUITARIST MARK BONIFACE BY ANNETTE HANSEN satisfies the desires they had going into it. “It’s a record of pure aggression, desperation, and lament,” he says. According to Boniface, this next step for Harker is both nerve-racking and exciting. “When pursuing music, it’s very easy to misstep,” he explains. “You put a lot of
just talked about music we liked and how much we had in common.” From there, Serdy’s friend, bassist David Langer, and San Diego-based drummer Shane Hendry were quick to join the fold. It was clear early on that this project would function differently than any of their past efforts. For Saylor, it was a relief to find bandmates who seemed to have similar aspirations. “It can be pretty difficult to find three other people who all want to spend as much time on things as you do,” he says.
I N T E R V I E W W I T H E R I C S AY L O R B Y A N N E T T E H A N S E N
time and money into something that you want people to appreciate and attach to. I really hope that the record resonates with fans who already listen to us and new music lovers as well.”
songs,” Saylor explains, “whereas, the first [EP] we did was so much a product of, like—you know, we just met each other, we’re really excited to be playing together and ended up in the studio really quick. For this, we spent a lot of time working on it and just kind of refining the songs over and over.” For Reunions, Aching Waits is just one more step in their ever-evolving process, one that Saylor says they hope to grow moving forward. “It’s all been really cool, to find people I really like playing music with and put things together that we’re really, really proud of,” he says. “So, I kind of want to keep working on the process—because it seems to be working for us—and do as many things as we’re all able to do.”
Playing music had always been a big part of vocalist and guitarist Eric Saylor’s life, but after moving to the Bay Area, he wasn’t sure if he would ever get the chance to play in a band again. It didn’t take long for Saylor to decide that music was something he still needed to
pursue, and he wound up forming the pop punk outfit Reunions. “The first person I met was our guitarist Nate [Serdy], and we just had a really similar background and had done a lot of the same stuff,” he explains. “The first time we met up to get together and play, [we]
After the initial excitement of joining forces, Reunions quickly put out a selftitled EP in 2016, but it was that level of tedious dedication that resulted in the band’s second EP, Aching Waits, released on Jan. 12 via La Escalera Records and Def Cow Records. “We spent a lot of time working on the
With the glut of single-member black metal projects nowadays, why does the world need Spite? Founder and sole entity Salpsan elaborates, “[Spite] was created not to fit into some ‘niche’ of black metal, but rather in spite of the lack of commitment, passion, and understanding of black metal I saw in musicians around me.”
timoshiach written back then, including the entirety of what would become ‘Vision of the Merkabah.’”
STANDING TALL THROUGH TIME ETERNAL- SPITE
Marinating in the festering sewage of Brooklyn since 2010, Spite spewed his first acrid bile with the Desecration Rites single three years later, followed by the Trapped in the Pentagram EP in 2015, and culminating in the newly-released full-length debut, Antimoshiach, released Feb. 2 via Invictus Productions. But has Spite today remained true to the original blueprint? “Spite originated with a totally different musical intention at its inception,” Salpsan reveals, “but when I wrote and recorded Desecration Rites with the help of Horns & Hooves’ Malebolge in a very impromptu fashion, I knew that was the direction I had to head towards. I had some riffs that would end up on An-
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It is this ebon-gauzed, hypnotic-yet-feral call to service of the Netherlord upon which Salpsan elaborates—pulling back the black curtain, but only for a glance. “[That song] is merely a retelling of the Old Testament tale of Ezekiel’s inaugural vision, where God comes down unto him in the form of a chariot—or Merkabah—and commands him to become a prophet and carry out His will. In my version, it is Satan who presents himself to our character.” Of this call to arms, does this particular self-proclaimed “devil’s minyan” foresee Spite ever taking on likeminded apostles in the mission? “I am always open to collaboration,” Salpsan shares, “and continue to meet many talented and dedicated musicians in the shadowy corners of the world, hiding from the sickening shine of the mainstream that is slowly creeping into what we know as the underground. Many peers
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have expressed interest in participating in this hellish undertaking, and I am considering the ways in which that could be feasible.” For the time being, however, we are left with the proud declaration, “Know this: as the tides rise and fall, and fleeting
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trends dilute the sanctity of black metal as we once knew it, be certain that Spite will still stand tall—monolithic, immovable—through time eternal. Spit on the priest, shit on the feast—the resurrection will not come!”
Signed to Sub Pop Records as of October 2017, the Los Angeles three-piece Moaning are currently preparing for the release of their eponymous first album, scheduled for March 2. Composed of vocalist and guitarist Sean Solomon, bass and synth player Pascal Stevenson, and drummer Andrew MacKelvie—all previously of psych-punk band Moses Campbell—the group’s work grew out of L.A.’s DIY punk underground in venues like pehrspace and The Smell. Since reforming as Moaning in 2015, the band’s work has strayed into radically different territory, eschewing the folk-oriented sounds of their former outfit for a harder, more refined style and incorporating a greater electronic component. “It seemed like a natural move,” explains Stevenson, whose heavily synthesized basslines lend a distinctive presence to
tracks such as “The Same” and “Artificial.” “I think it’s interesting to have the bass as a second melodic element as a counterpoint to what the guitar is doing. It opens up opportunities for a lot of more melodic content.” The effect is a distinct contrast between the layered intensity of their music and the oblique songwriting of Solomon, which has become an enduring aspect of their music as Moaning. Despite making a stylistic break from their earlier work, Moaning have nonetheless retained the spirit of experimentation and collaboration that defines the DIY scene and characterized their earlier material. This includes a focus on visual art as a core component of their work. Solomon elaborates, “I think, to me, Moaning is an art project as well as a band. Even the name was conceptualized in the way that you would any thesis, show, or project.”
SHREDDING RAINBOW- LETTERS FROM THE COLONY
THE VISUAL COMPONENT OF SOUND- MOANING
PHOTO: MICHAEL SCHMELLING
INTERVIEW WITH PASCAL STEVENSON AND SEAN SOLOMON BY LUCY BRADY “One of my favorite parts about bands is their artwork that goes along with it,” Solomon explains, “whether it’s Raymond Pettibon who did the Black Flag art or, like, Sonic Youth collaborating with artists, that was always really important to me.” For Moaning, this has included coproducing all of their videos—most re-
cently, an experimental animated piece with director Ambar Navarro for their forthcoming video, “Tired.” The band also have a long-running collaboration with artist Aaron Elvis Jupin, whose work features prominently in all of their releases.
going to do anything ‘traditional,’” vocalist Alexander “Backe” Backlund explains. “Metal album covers are generally very dark, so we thought we’d do the opposite of that. Metal videos are generally very macho, so we thought we’d try something different. Ultimately, it’s just about doing whatever we want to do, and we like all things vibrant and surreal.”
“Lyrically, there is a general theme, but it isn’t a concept album,” Backe explains. “In a way, it can all be tied to the deer on the cover. When [guitarist] Sebastian [Svalland] first played me the instrumental version of the song ‘Vignette,’ I had this image in my head of a bright orange sun rising above dark blue rooftops—it could have been 100 years ago or yesterday. It made me think about the progress of humanity, all that we have achieved and how easily it could all be lost. If we perish, another being will rise to take our place. Nothing is forever.”
Some bands simply “color within the lines,” never breaking new sonic ground. But what if a band chose to rethink the spectrum, using bright crayons instead of dull pen and pencil? That’s only part of the appeal of Vignette, the brilliant debut record from Swedish prog metal group Letters
From The Colony. Their magnificent, colorful first impression—due out Feb. 16 via Nuclear Blast—is a hell of a start, as it showcases a band reimagining the sonic color palette of modern technical metal. “We decided early on that we weren’t
That example of thinking outside the box translates to the band’s whole package. The result is a masterpiece of modern rhythmic metal, one that recalls the behemoths of the style—Gojira, Meshuggah, Between The Buried And Me—while brimming with thought-provoking ideas and haunting melodies. Vignette is a record that will immediately grab listeners with grade-A riffing and lodge itself deep in their craniums. It sticks with you like bright pink gum to the sole of a Converse sneaker.
Even us grizzled 30-somethings sometimes need to take advice from Disney movies, and Dory’s famous motto from “Finding Nemo” rings very true, no matter what life throws at us: “Just keep swimming!” That simple mantra hints at why Canadian punk group We Were Sharks’ Victory Records debut is a buoyant delight. Lost Touch, out Feb. 23, channels all of life’s high and low tides into a mighty pop punk vessel of joyous energy. Destined to be one of the best breakout acts of 2018, We Were Sharks’ fun, fast, and furiously hooky songs will surely be swimming in your head for a long time.
does the bad. We all have to move forward. It’s inevitable. It’s something we all have to accept.”
ON EVER-CHANGING TIDES- WE WERE SHARKS
INTERVIEW WITH ALEXANDER "BACKE" BACKLUND BY NICHOLAS SENIOR
Like any ocean-themed release, Lost Touch features a nice depth that enhances the experience, and guitarist Jason Mooney chooses to embrace the ocean-half-full mindset. “In life, everyone is going to deal with good and bad things,” he states. “The good doesn’t always stay good, but neither
Lost Touch sounds like the best parts of the past two decades of pop punk thrown into a whirlpool and mixed wonderfully. Hardcore riffs and rhythms mesh perfectly with melodies more contagious than Legionnaires’ Disease. The album art even augments the theme of perseverance. “[It] depicts dying household commonalities that reflect the notion that we all eventually lose touch with parts of our life,” Mooney explains. “It’s up to us to accept, continue to evolve, and then, find new comfort in the changes that life brings.” Even We Were Sharks’ unique name shows that these Canucks walk the walk and just keep swimming along, no matter what weird things the sea throws at them. “The origin of the band name is always a fun story
With a stunning debut to unleash, Letters From The Colony won’t last forever either, but Vignette is certainly the start of a bright and promising career.
INTERVIEW WITH GUITARIST JASON MOONEY BY NICHOLAS SENIOR to tell,” Mooney says. “So, we were originally named Sharks. There was a show one night, and someone from some record label came up to the band and said something like, ‘There’s a band named Sharks from the U.K. The label I work for just signed them.
They’re gonna be huge, and we don’t want trouble, so you should change your name.’ So then, we just became We Were Sharks.”
DZ DEATHRAYS DZ Deathrays occupy a huge sonic space. The Australian duo—vocalist and guitarist Shane Parsons and drummer Simon Ridley—love loud rock, but there’s a bracing complexity lurking within the face-numbing volume. Parsons churns out chord clusters of shrieking punk, tidal waves of surf guitar, metallic bombast, intergalactic guitar textures, sparkling acoustic interludes, and a hint of funk to complement Ridley’s muscular rhythmic patterns. They delight in veering off in unexpected directions to keep their listeners on their toes.
“We were high school music nerds,” Ridley says. “When Shane and I met at high school parties, our friends were all trying to start bands, so when we moved to Brisbane for University, we started one. I was playing guitar and writing with my housemate, who was a drummer. When Shane came onboard, we started a three-piece shitty Sonic Youth-style grunge band. After our drummer moved to France, I became the drummer, and we decided it was easiest to keep it a twopiece.”
The duo started playing house parties, but quickly moved on to clubs and festivals. Their first two albums, 2012’s Bloodstreams and 2014’s Black Rat, won ARIA Awards—basically, Australian Grammys—for Best Hard Rock or Heavy Metal Album. They have toured internationally and recently finished their third album, Bloody Lovely, released Feb. 2 via I OH YOU. “We were aiming for more of a live sort of sound with the record,” Ridley says. “We used multiple drum kit configurations on Black Rat. For this record, once we found the drum sound we liked, we used it for the whole record, like you would hear at a gig. Also, this is the first record where the bass parts were actually played on a bass, instead of a pitch-shifted guitar running through a bass rig.” When they’re not on the road, Ridley and Parsons reside in separate cities—Parsons in Sydney, Ridley in Brisbane—so songs are put together via email. “We both have small home studios and send each other riffs [and] beats or, some-
MIRACLE “It’s a dream band,” English multi-instrumentalist Daniel O’Sullivan laughs. “I mean, you have to be able to play in your favorite band, right?”
Sullivan is one half of the post-psych, electronic synth-rock duo Miracle. The group also features Steve Moore of Pittsburgh’s Zombi—who has composed soundtracks for such horror films as “The Guest,” “Mayhem,” and “The Mind’s Eye”—and includes Zombi drummer Anthony “A.E.” Paterra on their recordings. “With Tony, it’s basically me playing with Zombi,” O’Sullivan cracks. The band’s second full-length, The Strife of Love in a Dream, is out via Relapse Records on Feb. 16. Miracle are pretty much exactly what the name implies: a miracle, a band whose extensions and environments take on a transference of inner-connection. The hard synths and ‘80s electro grooves will have you sinking deep into the temperature of Philip K. Dick’s conjuring: red hot, abstract, and pop, boiling you down for the journey. “I suppose Steve had a ‘Blade Runner’-inspired childhood,” O’Sullivan says. “It
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INTERVIEW WITH DRUMMER SIMON RIDLEY BY J. POET times, basic song structures that we trade back and forth,” Ridley explains. “Once we build up four or five ideas, we try to get together in a rehearsal studio, or maybe hire a house out in the middle of nowhere, and jam on them and see how they work live. Then, we go back and rerecord them. That’s how we come up with the final demo.” The songs are polished in the studio with Burke Reid producing and Parsons layering up the dense guitar textures. Live, their longtime friend Lachlan Ewbank
helps DZ Deathrays recreate the sounds they generate in the studio. “We’ve had Lachy playing guitar with us for about three years,” Ridley says. “In order to play the songs properly, with all the extra guitar lines, we would either need backing tracks or another member. Backing tracks were never an option for us. The point of this band is to keep it kinda loose and fast. It would feel like we’re cheating the audience with backing tracks. Also, it's a lot more fun being able to take more friends on the road.”
PHOTO: ALEXANDER BROWN
really is a specific dream, isn’t it? We both grew up in a similar moment in time, but with an ocean between us, so there’s a different perspective on that similar moment.” What Miracle do so mightily is give a literary touch to their compositions, source them through a vast breadth of knowledge, and forge two separate minds that want a similar distinction. It’s a deep state that is psychological and unnerving: always challenging, but in way that makes you feel very connected, an inner light of sorts. “Many of my interests are part of this record,” O’Sullivan explains. “Metaphysics, quantum physics, the different perspectives of the notion and center of reality. It’s a fusion of aesthetic sensibilities.” Through the avant-garde wastelands and angular darkness, a shiny and familiar pop sensibility gleams through Miracle’s sound. It’s both odd and perfect, a juxtaposition like the ocean that physically divides the duo. “We take it slowly,” O’Sullivan says. “There’s really no other way to do it. There’s never any stress, really. It’s just about time. The
INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL O'SULLIVAN BY CHRISTOPHER J. HARRINGTON whole process flows quite effortlessly.” The Strife of Love in a Dream bops and sparkles in layers of brightness and gloom. There’s an undeniable individuality that shines brightly throughout. Both O’Sullivan and Moore have worked with a great many musicians, including Titan, Lovelock, Ulver, Sunn O))), and Guapo, and the duo approach this record with an attitude of boldness. There’s an intimate aggression and aura to each cavern and swoon. “Playing in punk and hardcore bands was really important to me early on,” O’Sullivan explains. “I think hardcore was an amazing way to connect with people
through music. You could really have a personal relationship with the scene and the individuals involved. It teaches one how to be more self-sufficient, how to really make it happen on your own.” The new record paints like an artist in love: blind and living in perpetual connection with one’s work. It’s an album that echoes like a dream, the many modes a pleasant and wondrous ride. “For me, I get full immersion just swimming in the whole thing,” O’Sullivan says. “This was very enjoyable to make. The emotions I experienced were truly special.”
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INSECT ARK There may be no vocals in New York City and Portland-based duo Insect Ark’s music, but there is certainly lyrical content. The psychedelic noise and doom band’s music is heavy with emotion: nascent sentiment drips from its angles like hot wax from a candle. The group’s newest release, the dark and topographical Marrow Hymns— due out Feb. 23 via Profound Lore—is akin to a dream you hurriedly search for while inside another dream: a message with no answer. “You know when you have a dream that’s just super bizarre?” bassist and founder Dana Schechter asks. “You can’t explain it, you can’t draw it—words barely describe? That’s the same place the music comes from. It’s tapping into a place where all the mental, emotional, and physical experiences combine. The dream or message is left as an abstraction, open for interpretation.” Marrow Hymns burrows into the listener’s mind like a complex web of nothingness. The tone and the relationships contained within it stretch one’s ability to perceive sonic reso-
nance. There is another layer behind the music, a form that wraps the compositions like a blanket in the desert of space. The intimacy is intense: an area destined to contain the outside of your inner-world. “Space is a necessity,” drummer Ashley Spungin notes. “Space can be visualized by meditation, closing one’s eyes and envisioning a place where the chaos is not present. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could provide a soundtrack for that experience?” “I’m a huge fan of empty space and regularly throw away my belongings in an attempt to encourage mental clarity,” Schechter adds. “I have a theory that our stuff all has memories attached to it, and if you get rid of it, you’re not consumed by those ghosts. I suppose this mantra finds its way into the music.” Schechter—who has been a part of bands like Zeal & Ardor, Gnaw, and Bee And Flower—started Insect Ark as a solo project in 2011. Spungin—who has played with Taurus and Negative Queen, among others—joined for tour support after the release of Portal /
INTERVIEW WITH DANA SCHECHTER AND ASHLEY SPUNGIN BY CHRISTOPHER J. HARRINGTON Well in 2015. The duo is something of a giant mindscape: a brain that can embed and code lengthy tunnels of light and grey. Individually, they’re powerful artists; together, their strengths collapse into an impressive canvas of organic industrialization, an architecture that dreams itself up as a whirling Silver City of spoons and oceans. It is an absolute extension of ultimate expression: a trait that produces existence. “Music has always been my way to communicate things I can’t find words for,” Schechter explains. “It’s a way to escape the world—and other people—
RAGING NATHANS It isn’t uncommon for a spirit of disenchantment and discontent to inhabit punk music, and Cheap Fame—the latest from Dayton, Ohio’s The Raging Nathans, released Feb. 2 via Rad Girlfriend Records—is possessed by this specter of restlessness.
The record is pissed off, colored by personal loss, and angry—sentiments that aren’t exactly unique in Trump’s America. Despite Cheap Fame’s vitriolic nature, the band’s dedication to their craftsmanship and unwillingness to roll over in the face of adversity shine through the frustration inhabiting their songs. “[We] can’t get on any shows in any other nearby cities, because why would a promoter put on a Dayton band when there’s bands from that city?” vocalist and guitarist Josh Goldman laments. “No rad punk bands come through Dayton unless we bring them, and then, it’s almost never on a weekend, because everyone thinks Dayton is some town you should play on a Monday or Tuesday. There aren’t enough musicians to go around. There’s no fucking scene. Sorry, I’m over it. I have
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all its chaos, fear, and judgment. With music, I’ve given myself permission to exist in a very personal place and make something on my own terms. It’s been crucial in helping me find my voice in a world choked with so many other voices [that] it’s easy to drown. I carved out a tiny space for myself with music, and even if nobody heard it ever again, I’d continue.” Luckily, we can all hear it, evaporating and blowing through our minds like the whispers of a great unknown—beyond the desert, the coasts, lying like a phantom atop the pyramid of eternity.
PHOTO: PAUL SILVER
a lot of love for Dayton, but fuck this place.” Despite feeling landlocked in their hometown, the band channel their collective will and continue to push against the odds. If nothing else, their internal camaraderie bolsters an unyielding spirit. “The writing process [for Cheap Fame] was actually pretty easygoing,” Goldman admits. “I think that all of us are always writing songs and have ideas floating around our heads. We definitely have songs ready for another record. It won’t take us three years to do another LP.” The Nathans recorded Cheap Fame with Matt Yonker at Drastic Sounds in Nashville over the course of four days, then released the album via Goldman and his wife Brandi Smith’s Rad Girlfriend imprint. Additionally, the band “reached out to Winston Smith—who had done the art for Green Day’s Insomniac record, as well as the Dead Kennedys and a multitude of other rad stuff— and he agreed to let us use some of his art for the record,” Goldman shares. “It’s totally and absolutely intentional—and that’s why I decided to name it
INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST/GUITARIST JOSH GOLDMAN BY TIM ANDERL Cheap Fame. I really think that a band should be liked based on the merit of their work, not who they hire to do the art or record the record or who they get to release it.” “This is why the title is slightly ironic and sarcastic,” he continues, “because as much as I like to preach about integrity and this punk rock code of ethics, I’m just as full of shit as anyone else—but at least I can admit it.” While The Nathans aren’t shy about voicing their dissatisfaction with their lack of opportunities to play locally, it isn’t keeping them from pushing be-
yond their Midwestern boundaries to reach an audience. “We have a West Coast tour planned for February and March,” Goldman relays. “We are also going to the U.K. in April to support Wonk Unit for 10 days. I’d like to cover the entire U.S. and Europe this year. Plasterer is releasing the record in the U.K. and Europe, and Creep Records is doing the CD. We have fucking tapes, dude. We made some cool-ass glow-inthe-dark records. Have you ever owned one? I haven’t. So, we were like, ‘Fuck it, let’s do that!’”
PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN With their latest album—the super-eclectic, mesmerizing Disintegrate Me, out Feb. 23 on Fullertone Recordings—in tow, Professor And The Madman seem to have their lineup and focus totally cemented. “We’ve really stepped it up on this third one,” co-frontman Alfie Agnew says enthusiastically. He and his fellow frontman Sean Elliott “have done some classic albums with D.I. and the Adolescents,” but he thinks “the Professor And The Madman stuff is the best stuff we’ve come up with.”
For those unfamiliar, the “brain trust” of the band, Agnew and Elliott, played together in Southern California in the ‘80s and ‘90s before Agnew left music to pursue his education, becoming a mathematics professor at Cal State Fullerton. He hooked up with Elliott again when the latter needed someone to fill in on bass at a show. That sparked something, and Agnew recalls thinking, “‘I’d love to do a project where I can be unlimited again, sort of like in the early punk days.’” He says the two wanted to “do something where we can just not give a damn about what
PHOTO: JOHN GILHOOEY
anyone thinks, and Professor And The Madman was born.” The band’s name comes from the novel “The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary” by Simon Winchester, but it’s also a nod to Agnew’s profession and the fact that Elliott is a bit of a “hellraiser,” to use Agnew’s term. It fits their “reputations a little bit,” he says, and it fits the band’s stylings as well. “Both of us are intrigued by the doppelgänger, binary opposite idea,” Agnew explains. Their material utilizes that dichotomy often and quite well, as they add musical and lyrical ideas that may seem contrary to each other. “A lot of our music is a little bipolar as well,” Agnew adds. “Just like life. Life is bittersweet.” Now, onto that other intriguing part of the band: the rest of the lineup. Drummer Rat Scabies of The Damned fame came into the fold early on and played on the first album, 2016’s Elixir 1: Good Evening, Sir! Agnew says The Damned’s The Black Album was a huge influence and relates that he and El-
INTERVIEW WITH CO-FRONTMAN ALFIE AGNEW BY JANELLE JONES liott mused, “If we could just pick our ideal rhythm section, it would be the Black Album rhythm section.” They completed this quest with the addition of bassist Paul Gray. They sent him “Nightmare,” and Gray sent something back the next week. “We heard it,” Agnew remembers, “and said, ‘Holy cow, we have the Black Album rhythm section.’ We were so stoked.” Since Agnew and Elliott are in Southern California, while Scabies is in London and Gray resides in Cardiff, Wales, these are strictly the studio
GOOD TIGER Many bands choose to repeat the same cookie-cutter formula release after release, while others strive to step outside the box of convention. With each new year comes a band or two who take things in a refreshing musical direction, whether it’s through genrebending or other technical means. “Is it ‘important’ to fit in?” Good Tiger vocalist Elliot Coleman asks. “No. The moment you start worrying about where you fit in is the moment you start writing music for other people and not yourself. I would say nobody entered this band expecting to do anything like they had done in a previous project or band.”
PHOTO: ALAN SNODGRASS
Coleman expresses that it’s these individuals, pulling from their own experiences and influences, from which Good Tiger gather inspiration. “We have a whole bunch of different influences from Prince to Deftones and everything in between,” he shares. “Inspiration is drawn from many things: could be a book or a videogame or a walk in the park. As long as you have an active imagination, you can get creative with your influences.”
London’s Good Tiger are what one might call a “supergroup,” consisting of members from acts such as Tesseract, The Faceless, and The Safety Fire. The band’s sophomore release, We Will All Be Gone—out via Blacklight Media and Metal Blade Records on Feb. 9—is a blend of wonder and emotion.
From the moment the album begins, listeners will immediately notice the band’s radiance in sound and style. The opening track, “The Devil Thinks I’m Sinking,” presents an upbeat drum flow and warm guitar rhythm, while later tracks like “Just Shy” play around with tempo to present an airy aura that rides alongside hectic instrumentation. This is just a small taste of what Good Tiger have to offer, as every song on the record provides a unique approach to enchanting the listener with its own emotion.
Each member of Good Tiger introduces a dynamic element to the songwriting, presenting swirls of elegant music.
Coleman states that the band also wanted to craft a record with a stronger lyrical edge. “While a lot of these lyrics
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players, but Agnew and Elliott have compiled a worthy lineup to play U.S. shows: Agnew’s older brother and SoCal punk forefather Frank Agnew, Mark Tolbert, and Nick Scalzo. “We wanna make sure the live act lives up to the recordings, so we got the best musicians around that we can lay our hands on—that we can get along with,” Agnew laughs. “We’ve really started to work on it to where people will be blown away when they see us live.”
INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST ELLIOT COLEMAN BY MICHAEL PEMENTEL might seem personal, most of the lyrics were inspired by a few books I read on the tour we did before we went into the studio,” he says. “Tom Robbins, Kurt Vonnegut, and J.M. Coetzee are authors that inspired me to take a more direct lyrical approach this time around, rather than the atmospheric approach on the first record.” The themes within We Will All Be Gone include everything from friendship to the power of mindfulness to living as a writer and more.
Good Tiger’s new record is a great way to kick off the new year, presenting a dose of positive vibes. Of the goals Coleman has for this new record, he shares, “[I] certainly hope that our music is enjoyable to any and all listeners, whether that means getting your head bobbing back and forth or just something that gives you a good feeling throughout the day.”
KYLE CRAFT Kyle Craft grew up in Vidalia, a small Louisiana town just across the river from Mississippi. He sings and speaks with a hint of the South in his voice, a drawl that gives his songs an authentic, rootsy flavor. “Rock originally came from the South, and so do I,” he says from his Portland home, just back from spending the holidays with his family. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to dodge the twang in my stuff. The house I grew up in was on Highway 61. It’s a very bluesy place. History runs in the river. I can’t deny my blood or my classic East Louisiana redneck accent.” The songs on his second album, Full Circle Nightmare—released on Sub Pop Records Feb. 2—display a winning combination of country, soul, bluegrass, early British R&B, and fire-snorting rock ‘n’ roll, driven by distorted, almost metallic guitar and gospel-drenched piano and organ. “I write with a ghost on my shoulder,” the singer-songwriter shares, “and I write for me and the
PHOTO: SARAH CASS
ghost—who may be Dylan in 1966, or Patti Smith screaming about horses in 1975.” “What I write is autobiographical,” Craft continues. “I don’t like writing fiction. The songs are about things that really happened—to a friend or me, but it’s seen through my lens, with a vivid vagueness that I like. They may not mean the same to you as they do to me, but I know what picture is being painted with every word, every note. I really hunker down to get the picture right. I like bleak lyrics that sound happy. The lyrics reflect my thoughts and concerns, the upbeat music reflects my attitude toward the subject. I’d say they have a bleak optimism.” The songs often portray people pursuing relationships they know aren’t going to work out, but still, they dive in. “When I was younger, I thought every romance or friendship would work out in the end, but I had a lot of things implode, all at once,” Craft recalls. “It was a nightmare, but also a rebirth.
INTERVIEW BY J. POET It was the end of a circle, the opening of another door. The songs on my first album, [Dolls of Highland, released via Sub Pop in 2016], were vaguely confessional with a lot of surreal elements. If you listened to it, you’d think, ‘Oh, he’s bummed about something, but what is it?’ On Full Circle [Nightmare], you’ll think, ‘Oh, so that’s what he’s bummed about.’” Craft and his band cut the album’s basic tracks live in the studio, with The Decemberists’ Chris Funk producing.
SPECIAL EXPLOSION The Seattle indie rockers in Special Explosion met while they were teenagers at the School of Rock camp, and, in December of 2017, they released their first full-length LP, To Infinity, on Topshelf Records. The band consists of Andy Costello on lead vocals; his sister Lizzy Costello on bass and vocals; Sebastien Deramat on guitar; and Jacob Whinihan on drums.
While the band have previously recorded an EP for Topshelf Records, The Art of Mothering in 2014, To Infinity is the most honest and experimental material they have released. It took about four years to make, but those four years were well worth it. “I just think, with this one, we kind of approached the record as completely different than [our] live show,” Deramat says. “It’s just like, ‘Let’s make what we can.’ We also just had access to, like, way more studio time.” The band recorded the album in stops and starts over such a long time span due to their busy schedules. “This process was more thoughtful and, like—I
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“Chris is funny and easy to work with,” Craft says. “I had demos that were pretty mapped out when I approached him. It’s the first time I recorded in a real studio. It was exciting to track a song and then go into the next room and hear what we did. We worked fast and knocked out a few songs every day. There was bleed all over the album, which I liked. I wanted it to sound like a live band.”
PHOTO: TOMMY CALDERON
don’t know, there was an emotional growth that was happening for us as individuals,” Lizzy Costello says.
Special Explosion really paint a picture with every lyric and note in this thought-out, dreamlike album. The experimental instrumentation is vivid throughout every track, and Andy Costello—who started writing songs when he was 15-years-old—demonstrates vulnerably in his heartfelt vocals, while Lizzy adds a softer vocal touch. Despite working on To Infinity for years, the band didn’t know what the title of the album was going to be until July 2017. “We didn’t know it was ever going to be heard by anyone,” Costello admits. “So, To Infinity kind of felt like, ‘Let’s just put it out into the world and see what happens.’” The band recorded the album in several different studios on the West Coast, including Ice Cream Party in Portland, Oregon, which is owned and operated by Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock; former
I N T E R V I E W W I T H L I Z Z Y C O S T E L L O A N D S E B A S T I E N D E R A M AT B Y N ATA LYA D A O U D Death Cab For Cutie member Chris Walla’s Hall Of Justice Recording Studios in Seattle; and Panoramic House in Stinson Beach, California, who have held sessions for My Morning Jacket, Band Of Horses, and many others. “I mean, [we] love those bands,” Deramat says, “but I think those bands’ influences came through because we were, like, literally just doing it where they were recording and using all of their equipment.” Special Explosion will be on tour with Girlpool and The Hotelier starting Feb. 20 at The Echoplex in L.A. and ending
at The Vera Project in Seattle on Feb. 24. Their chemistry onstage just adds to the positive atmosphere of high-fives and smiles. “We’ve been playing together for a really long time,” Costello says. “You know, it’s just kind of fun. It’s like you’re going to watch four best friends just kind of jamming with each other.” The band are also planning to go on a U.S. tour sometime before the summer. “I mean, we’re just ready to do it, I think,” Costello concludes.
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RIVALS The music industry isn’t always the most inviting place, but things have been looking up for Kalie Wolfe, who fronts the emotional and unique Los Angeles rock band RIVALS. She’s thrilled to have the opportunity to release her band’s first full-length album, Damned Soul, via Smartpunk Records on Feb. 2.
Wolfe admits she did not get into music until later in her life—at least compared to those who have been playing music since they were children—having come from a family that she describes as mostly composed of desk jockeys. She met future RIVALS’ guitarist Micket Woodle after doing music photography for a few years. Woodle invited Wolfe, who had been honing her talents as a singer, to work with him on some music, and RIVALS were born. The work Wolfe, Woodle, bassist Sebastian Chamberlain, and the others behind the band have put in since then has paid off with their debut. “I’m pretty excited,” Wolfe comments. “It took us about, probably two to almost
two-and-a-half years to complete everything, so it’s been a long time coming. We’re all really excited to get everything pushed out for everyone to finally hear, so it’s going to be cool.” During the writing and recording process, some of the tracks on Damned Soul underwent more changes than others. “Originally, Micket and I wrote about, probably 40 different demos of just different songs,” Wolfe says. “Then, we went in with [producer] John Espy, and he kind of restructured and helped us, like, build them farther. Then, John ended up leaving for tour, and we pretty much finished the writing and the restructuring with [producer] Aaron Edwards for the rest of the songs. So, from start to finish, some of the songs are totally different.” “Over It” is one track on the new record that has barely changed since its inception right after the release of RIVALS’ debut EP, Haunted / Hunted, in 2015, but the process wasn’t so straightforward for other songs. “Moonlit,” for instance, has a lot behind its few minutes of music.
INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST KALIE WOLFE BY CALEB R. NEWTON “Aaron and I sat down and, like, really dug deep into me, into my emotions and what was going on at the time,” Wolfe says. “It was really awesome for especially Aaron just to push me past my normal writing style. He pushed me to be better than what I was already doing, and I’m really thankful for Aaron a lot—especially for that song, because it means a lot to me.” The video for “Moonlit” was one of two that RIVALS filmed in just one day on an off-day during their 2017 tour with Story Untold.
LUCY DACUS Performing arts is built into Lucy Dacus’ DNA. The singersongwriter grew up with a parent who was involved in musical theater, which introduced her to music at a young age. She explains this while acknowledging that show tunes sound nothing like the genre she plays. “That’s much different than the type of music that I make, but that element of performing and singing has always been part of my life,” she says.
Dacus made the decision to become a full-time musician while she was a Film Studies major at Virginia Commonwealth University. “I realized that if I was going to go into the film industry, I’d probably have a job working on a film that I maybe didn’t care about or didn’t believe in,” she says. Music felt more empowering than film and gave Dacus the freedom to have complete control over her art. “With music, every bit of it is exactly what I mean to say,” she continues. “I can write a song in half
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On the subject of touring, Wolfe totally has a bucket list of other bands she’d love to tour with in the future, including The Used, The Neighbourhood, Bring Me The Horizon, and Thirty Seconds To Mars—and who knows, with a dynamic rock album like Damned Soul, Wolfe might very well get that opportunity.
PHOTO: DUSTIN CONDREN
an hour, and from start to finish, the creative process is entirely mine.” As Dacus prepares to release her sophomore album, Historian, on March 2 via Matador Records, she notes that the songs on the album were written as far back as several years ago, but they still fit together thematically. “Despite there being a big disparity of when I wrote these songs, I think they all share a certain weightiness that the last album didn’t have,” she says of her 2016 debut, No Burden. “These songs are heavier to me—they’re heavier thematically. I think they mean more to me, which is terrifying and exhilarating.” Indeed, some of the tracks on Historian cover bigger and more controversial issues than those on No Burden. One example is the song “Yours and Mine,” which was initially written about the 2015 Baltimore Uprising after the death of Freddie Gray. But as Dacus points out, the song can also be interpreted more
I N T E R V I E W B Y J O H N S I LVA generally, applicable to any type of public revolt. “It’s a song about protesting,” she says, “and it’s about acknowledging the fear that comes along with taking a stand and not letting the fear keep you from living in a way that you believe in.” Although her songs often deal with hard-hitting subject matter, Dacus still finds joy in her work. Her favorite experience to date came from a show she played in her hometown of Richmond in 2017. “My little brother Charlie, who just graduated high
school, opened the show on drums,” Dacus says. “He played the first three songs with us. [It was] his first experience playing to [an] audience that big—an audience that included our parents, people who have known us since infancy, and friends from all stages of our lives. It felt like one of those moments that my whole life had been leading up to. I just laughed and laughed onstage. I was so happy.”
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TENGGER CAVALRY Even the most creative artists can’t help but be influenced by their upbringing and surroundings. Take the latest outstanding record from innovative folk metal act Tengger Cavalry. Cian Bi is their first release with Napalm Records, set to drop on Feb. 23, and finds the group expanding on their established Mongolian folk metal sound in ways that reflect both person and place. Nature G, the group’s founder, who serves as the main songwriter, guitarist, throat singer, and morin khuur, or horsehead fiddle, player—he wears many hats—has never wanted for uniqueness. He grew up in rural China and now lives in New York City after attending NYU. His time in America and, more specifically, the Big Apple has allowed him to refocus and retool Tengger Cavalry into something that marries East and West in increasingly impressive ways. It’s a testament to Nature’s talent that the experimental Cian Bi is the group’s best and most cohesive work yet.
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Nature explains why he wanted to shift Tengger Cavalry’s sound. “I think I was a bit tired of the stereotypical Asian nomadic folk sound I was creating in the past few years with traditional patterns and stuff,” he admits. “So, on this one, I added some new inspiration. Melody-wise, more Western and even blues influence. I added some Slipknot-sounding riffs or Korn kind of sound to it.” Notably, this is the first Tengger Cavalry record to feature English lyrics, and Nature’s reasoning displays his appreciation for multicultural harmony and finding the best vessel for his band’s message. “I was actually starting to use English for a year already, even singing in English onstage,” he notes. “Our fans are global, so it is cool to sing what they understand—even though, in throat singing, they might still not understand it,” he laughs. On why living in NYC has influenced him so much, Nature explains, “There is a lot of cultural and racial debate here; it is part of daily life to think about multicultural backgrounds and how
I N T E R V I E W W I T H M U LT I - I N ST R U M E N TA L I ST N AT U R E G BY N I C H O L AS S E N I O R people from different places get along with each other. It influences the way I see things, and my lyrics too.” Regarding Cian Bi’s message, Nature reflects on how the band’s marriage of East and West can inspire people. “I think Tengger Cavalry’s lyrics are always more inspired or positive-directed,” he says. “In this album, it comes from a place for the encouragement of personal strength, individual freedom, and personal will, even forgiveness and self -growth. It is important to look beyond race and cultural difference and
go deeper to see our common humanity: the way we think, the way we hate, the way we love. We are all the same, no matter where you are from.” That mindset lends a rather spiritual feel to the music, making Cian Bi a wonderful experience, both musically and lyrically. With their clarity of message and sound, 2018 feels like it will be quite a year for Tengger Cavalry.
PHOTO: ANDERS BERGSTEDT
elieve it or not, each individual has a unique EKG— an electrocardiogram, the electrical readout of one’s heartbeat—to the degree that tech companies are actively looking into using everyone’s distinct EKG as a biometric marker. This very basic sign of the continuation of life is yours and yours alone. Thus, the EKG on the cover of Agrimonia’s latest record, Awaken—released Jan. 26 via Southern Lord—is an apt metaphor for everything that makes their fourth record so special and vivacious. It cements the Gothenburg band’s sonic metamorphosis into a beautiful beast, a doom-soaked blackened prog metal band who ooze a wistful melody that’s uniquely Swedish. Vocalist and keyboardist Christina Blom acknowledges that the use of lightning bolts in the EKG readout on the album’s cover was quite conscious. “I wanted to use imagery that would show that we need to wake up and start reflecting and
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act on the way we treat each other, ourselves, and the environment,” she explains, “and to realize that what we do, both big and small choices, will make a footprint. We have to realize that we cannot go on forever treating this world as trash if we want to leave something behind. Also, things can change so fast in our lives, we have to live now and take care of each other and make sure we make the best of our lives. As long as we have each other—friends, family, and so on—our hearts will beat strong together.” There’s a hardcore ethos that elevates Awaken into a triumphant and life-affirming listen. Agrimonia’s desire to tackle injustice head-on and vent the frustrations of a callous world are masterfully balanced with a sense of hopeful purpose. “I’ve always had that thought about our music: no matter how dark it gets, there is still this feeling of empowerment and beauty in it,” guitarist, keyboardist, and backing vocalist Pontus Redig
concurs. “There’s never hopelessness. When writing, it’s very much about the present, getting lost in that moment, getting lost in those notes, riffs, and emotions. I, of course, have a deep personal connection to this music, and looking back on all of our releases, it’s easy for me to connect a song or riff to a certain time, place, or state of mind where it was created. But at the time of creation, there are no other thoughts than that of the music and how it resonates with the body and soul.” “For me, it is important to write about things going on in the world and around us in daily life,” Blom adds. “Injustice is a topic I always come back to, but I don’t want to make it too obvious what the lyrics mean; I also like the reader [or] listener to have their own interpretation. My main goal is to tell a story in a poetic way that flows with the music but still has a meaning. If I can show at least one person out there that there is hope, that there is someone who will
listen to you and that you are not alone, I would be really content.” All of these intentions come together to make Awaken into something truly special. The haunting melodies and spectacular compositions are not contrasted with tales of darkness and destruction for the sole purpose of dragging the listener down and forcing them to confront the harsh realities of life. Rather, Awaken serves as a beacon of inspiration, a source of beauty and light in the darkness. The record rides the waves of life and asks the listener to hold on—for if we are together, we are stronger.
Earthless have a surprise for you. Whereas the band’s three previous albums featured anywhere from two to four completely instrumental space rock jams, the California trio’s fourth and latest album, Black Heaven— due out March 16 via Nuclear Blast—is nothing like that. “The biggest difference is that it has vocals on about 70 percent of the record,” drummer Mario Rubalcaba says. “We’ve played together as a band off and on for quite a long time now, and we’ve never really tried this approach.” When Rubalcaba, guitarist Isaiah Mitchell, and bassist Mike Eginton started Earthless as a psychedelic instrumental band in 2001, they knew that Mitchell could sing. “We kind of knew that we’ve had this secret weapon with Isaiah being a really good singer,” Rubalcaba laughs. “So, why not try to do something different that feels good? And, as long as it feels natural to the band, we wanted to go for it.”
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Of Black Heaven’s six tracks, only two are instrumental, and one of those instrumentals is less than two minutes long. “Another significant difference in this album was the writing process,” Rubalcaba explains. “Isaiah moved away shortly after [2013’s] From the Ages came out, so we don’t always get to practice like we used to, and we really wanted to try something different. We’ve shown that we can do the long, improvised jam-out things. There are so many different sides to our band and so much inspiration, and we really wanted to see what potential was there with writing some different songs.” This lyrical approach is a new way for Earthless to compose music, but the instrumental part remains a solid fundamental. “I think musically and lyrically, with words—it’s a great combination, but that’s not the only way you can communicate with people,” Rubalcaba admits. “We’ve been lucky that a lot of people really hold the records that we’ve done in high regard, and there aren’t a lot of
words with that. This new approach is just another side of Earthless. We’re not a band that wants to just keep doing the same thing over and over again. I really think the fans are going to like it—and for those that don’t, that’s OK too.” The lyrics on Black Heaven are shaded with a lot of darkness. The words “emptiness” and “ends” are present in almost every song. “This a consequence of living in this society,” Rubalcaba offers, “and the album definitely ties into that kind of stuff going on. People want things more instantly, and they have attention spans the size of a pea. Social media is good for a lot of stuff, but it desensitizes people. We’re not really trying to push a negative thing, but at the same time, it’s pretty realistic as to what can be seen in the world. We don’t have a message trying to say that everything is dark and horrible, but definitely, that does exist, and we’re not denying it.” With the new album and an upcoming North American tour
in March and European tour in April, 2018 is a year full of expectations for Earthless. “I think that this year can be a turning point for many aspects,” Rubalcaba says. “Politically speaking, hopefully 2018 will inspire people to be a little bit more charged to do something creative and really speak their voice, whatever that may be, like doing art or by making music or by just trying to exercise that creative freedom that one has somewhere. Musically, as well, I hope that it inspires people to be charged emotionally and try not to just follow what trends are happening and try to release that self-expression, your own creativity.” “And for Earthless,” Rubalcaba continues, “I think it’s going to be a pretty busy year. The record’s going to be coming out, and we’re really going on tour as much as possible, more than we ever have. We’re going to be able to bring happiness to people who come to the shows and more peace, love, and good stuff—that’s my wish for this year.”
PHOTO: ROCKING RICHARDSON
acramento’s Will Haven are a band worthy of a massive Viking funeral if they ever permanently call it quits: their influential and classic blend of noise rock, post-hardcore, ambient, and prog is immediately recognizable and uniquely captivating. They’re your favorite band’s favorite band. When they got the band back together for their latest—and perhaps last—release, Muerte, due out via Minus Head Records on March 23, Will Haven thought this was going to be the end of the road, the culmination of a long and storied career. Three members of the group had been jamming together for two years—as friends are wont to do—when vocalist Grady Avenell said he wanted to do one last record. That kicked things into gear. “We’d just jam, because we love playing music,” guitarist Jeff Irwin explains. “We had a bunch of different, crazy material that was a little different from Will Haven. Then, when Grady said he was interested in doing another record, I said we should try to use some of this quirky stuff that we jammed with and try to incorporate it into a Will Haven record.”
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“When we started this record, Grady had said that he didn’t want to do any more records after this,” Irwin continues, “so I said we should call it Muerte, like the death of Will Haven—our gravestone, you know? That was the theme going into it. He pulled from that. He’s a very personal lyricist; everything he writes about is within him, so I didn’t want to talk to him about it. I just picked out meaning from it on my own. A lot of it seems to talk about life, not so much about death, just about the world we live in now where everything is kind of fake. Everyone is living a fake lifestyle, and nothing’s real or lasting. We’re just walking zombies. It’s about trying to find yourself within and not trying to worry about the outside world.” “For me, emotionally,” he elaborates, “the music had the feeling of a sense of loss and despair and sadness. That’s where my inspiration came from: that feeling of hopelessness and losing somebody you care about who’s now gone forever.” But is the end ever really the end? “Muerte is basically just a play on Will Haven breaking up after this record, but now that the record is done, we’re all excited, so I don’t know if this is going to be our last one,” Irwin
laughs, “but going into it, that was the plan. We didn’t think the record would be this good, so that helped us change our minds. We’ll see what happens. We’re not putting it to bed yet, but that was the thought process.” Given all this talk of the end, it’s fitting that Irwin sees Muerte as the record he’s always wanted to write for Will Haven. “We grew up in a hardcore era, but I’m more of a fan of stuff like Quicksand and Deftones, so I’ve always wanted to somehow incorporate all of those worlds together,” he explains. “I always strived for it but felt like I was off the mark a little bit. With this one, I think I was able to capture it. Everything just kind of fit really well. This is the one record that I was completely happy with when I walked away from it.” Inevitably, when gravestones and tributes are involved, so are old friends. Irwin brought in his old roommate, Deftones guitarist Stephen Carpenter, to co-write the atmospheric crusher, “El Sol.” “It’s funny, because I’ve known Stephen forever,” he says. “Even though our bands toured together and hung out, Stephen and I never really wrote a song together. So, I figured this is the perfect time to do it, because we don’t
know how long Will Haven is going to be around. So, I called him up, and within a week, I had a full-on song that he had written for me. I chopped it up and did my stuff over it. It turned out really awesome, which I figured it would. Stephen always writes the best riffs. It was time to do it, and we’ve been friends forever, so it was perfect.” It’s all quite perfect, a fitting—possible—end to a legendary career. Muerte doesn’t sound like a stirring final release: it’s vital, purposeful, and vigorous like the best debuts. But if this truly is the end—and who really knows?—Muerte will forever serve as a stunning and visceral reminder of an influential band whose tunes are just as alive and kicking as they were when Will Haven formed over 20 years ago. Will Haven are dead. Long live Will Haven.
PHOTO: STEVE GULLICK
hying away from some of the heavier sides of their sound, English rock band Marmozets homed in on bringing out more emotions with fine-tuned melodies on their sophomore LP, Knowing What You Know Now, released Jan. 26 via Roadrunner Records. The two sets of siblings that make up the band sound more tightknit than ever, highlighting the strengths of every member and winding them together to create a beaming second fulllength.
ing—I wouldn’t say poppy, but it’s easy to listen to. I like the melodies to be simple, [but] not necessarily for the lyrics to be simple, because they always come from my heart and my head.”
Opening the album is the high-octane spirit of “Play” and “Habits.” The guitars weave melodic and colossal riffs with vocalist Becca Macintyre’s strong delivery. Much of Knowing What You Know Now highlights Macintyre’s incredible flow, wrangling often chaotic progressions in line with her ambitious style.
The first four songs on the record find Marmozets bouncing off the walls with their steady and strong rhythmic prowess. Then, “Insomnia” slows the record down a bit, like sonic twilight, creating incredible ambiance with a watery sound. Macintyre expresses her love for the song, saying, “We walked in one day, and [lead guitarist] Jack [Bottomley] was playing the riff, and it made me happy. A lot of our songs are special, but it was one of those songs that—you
“The way I write melodies, I like to stay true to myself with what I know,” she explains. “That is writ-
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“Habits” is exactly that, finding a place for her voice to fit that is infectious and accents the progression with simple vocal lines. “Lost In Translation” is rich with bass-heavy walls of distortion and a clever syncopation to keep listeners on their toes.
just had to be there. I am happy it made the album.” Another track that creates a change in texture and pace is “Me & You,” a deeply personal track for Macintyre. The song was written about her and her siblings’—two of whom are also in the band, rhythm guitarist Sam Macintyre and drummer Josh Macintyre— recently passed Nana. It’s an intimate spot in the record, and the vocalist’s second take of the track forced her to isolate herself due to the emotional power of the song. “I think letting the emotion of death be and feeling positive about it, it’s hard,” she says. “I am positive every time I sing that song.” Plenty of Marmozets’ songs are fueled by passion. The album’s closing track, “Run With the Rhythm,” is one big ascending vibration of vigor. After starting off with a simple melodic base, the guitars are in full swing by the end, elegantly swaying in a trance. Macintyre’s voice adds more and more to ev-
ery pass of the base melody before coming to an exciting end. “We knew it was powerful,” she comments, having detailed that the song came to Sam Macintyre after he spent time in Scotland. “It was just him and an electric guitar. It was real quiet, and he let it out, almost like the same energy that you can hear in that track, especially in the last chorus. We all had goosebumps.” Knowing What You Know Now is that kind of record. It gives you goosebumps.
ising from the musical hotbed of Denton, Texas, Mind Spiders are a three-piece outfit who stray a bit from the power-pop pack of Marked Men “side projects.” Their new record, Furies—released on Dirtnap Records Jan. 26—is more futuristic than any other work they’ve put out, yet it harks back to ancient mythology at its core. Furies takes its name from the Greek Eumenides, three goddesses who represent social order and justice, as well as dish it out. Guitarist and vocalist Mark Ryan relays, “Over the past year, I developed an interest in Greek tragedies. They’re such great stories that resonate on many levels.” For Mind Spiders’ new record, Ryan gave the Furies an updated and modern feel within the songs, which fits in perfectly with the band’s electronic soundscapes. “Something about the Furies just felt right,” he explains. “As I understand it, the ‘Oresteian Trilogy’—‘Eumenides’ is the third part—represents society moving from tribal blood-feud type justice
to a more civilized rule of law, the new gods replacing the old chaotic gods. That sparked my imagination, because obviously, it can go the other direction.” In the timeframe of writing the new record, Ryan became heavily inspired by this mythology and attended a version of “Electra,” the Greek tragedy written by Sophocles. “[They’re] so strange and ominous: the masks, the chorus, and so on,” he shares. “I enjoy the performance aspect. It’s closer to how they should be experienced.” Many artists are inspired by a muse—especially the Greeks, who had nine different ones depending on what medium a person was working in. They also believed in daemons, geniuses who bridged the gap between men and gods. Ryan explains, “As I was writing, when I was the least inhibited was when I came up with the best ideas.” As well as establishing a fresh new approach to a concept album with Furies, Ryan took Mind Spiders in a completely different di-
rection from their self-titled first record, and even their previous album, 2016’s Prosthesis. It’s so divorced from where they started that drummer Mike Throneberry swapped out his kit for a drum machine, though the beats are still distinctly his own. On Furies, there are far more synthesizers and vocal effects than on anything the band have produced before. It is far removed from the power-pop sound that the band’s members are known for in projects like High Tension Wires and Radioactivity. “All the songs were built off demos,” Ryan elaborates. “It’s sometimes hard to reproduce the feeling you get from an original demo, so I just used the demos as the backbone.” It also helps that Ryan has been playing synth in a group called George Quartz, who he says are “an experimental performance art band.” For Mind Spiders, there has always been a sci-fi element and a bit of paranoia in their work, yet Furies seems way more reminiscent of darkwave, goth, and industrial. It doesn’t hurt that they also
cover the ‘80s Swiss band Grauzone’s “Eisbär,” which they translate into English as “Ice Bear” on the record. Ryan relates that synth is “just more interesting to me now. I’ve been playing guitar in bands for a long time. Part of what inspires me is using gadgets to make weird sounds.” As far as live performances go, the band have a few planned in early 2018. They played a benefit for the radio station KUZU in Denton on Jan. 27 and have gigs in Dallas at Three Links Deep Ellum on Feb. 10, in Fort Worth at Main And South Side on Feb. 23, and they will be part of the Dirtnap Records showcase at South By Southwest on March 17. Ryan adds, “We should be playing New York soon as well. Touring will be early summer.” Keep an eye out for dates near you and make sure to pick up the new record, Furies.
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PHOTO: JOE CALIXTO
ianos Become The Teeth begin their fourth full-length record, Wait for Love—out Feb. 16 via Epitaph Records— with a thundering urgency. While the Baltimore quintet continue to expand their buoyant ambiance, there’s an immediate punch to album opener “Fake Lighting” that seemed distant on 2014’s sound-defining Keep You, most notably in the abrasiveness of David Haik’s drumming. The screamo of their first two LPs—2009’s Old Pride and 2011’s The Lack Long After—is still long gone, and Wait for Love is the most absolute rendition of their sound. It features inspired, personal lyrics and captivating music that broaden the horizon of the band’s emotional presence.
on previous releases, but Wait for Love is somewhat lighter and more impassioned, as heard in the fuzzy, upbeat “Charisma,” a story of falling in love.
“Overall, the main theme is the ways we give and receive love through our lives with different people and how that affects relationships,” vocalist Kyle Durfey explains. This overarching dive into the subject of love expands the group’s sound favorably. The death of Durfey’s father to multiple sclerosis still occasionally haunts the singer’s lyrics as it has
In the ethereal closer, Durfey is introspective about being a family man again, staring at his son and remarking on his resemblance to the vocalist’s late father, before the song’s climactic rush finds Durfey putting the worry away. There was always a tremor in his voice that defined the emotional pulls of previous songs, but here—and across the entire record—Durfey is confi-
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Within the same frame, Wait for Love digs into the detrimental aspects of love, finding Durfey in personal reflection throughout the record’s run time. Established with the brash yet soaring “Fake Lighting” and affirmed in the closer, “Blue,” is a lesson in letting go. “There are specific things going on in my head, but overall, it is about having something that you focus on so much, or that you are not proud of, and learning how to accept it and move on from it, not let it tear you up so much,” Durfey unveils.
dent in his delivery, standing firm against the swarming atmosphere and forging an understanding of his emotions. Not only did Durfey’s stance and approach become firmer, the rhythmic sections of Wait for Love also boast powerful progressions, evident on the thick, groove-centered “Bloody Sweet.” The chorus is marked with a growling bass, chugging through a melody with Durfey and the guitars orchestrating a delicate, glittery presence above the foundation. The theme of guilt within a loving relationship is discussed on the song. Durfey explains, “I was on tour, and my wife was going through some heavy physical stuff, and it got pretty serious while I was gone. I felt [I should go] home to help her tackle some things.” Durfey flew home to be with his wife, and Pianos Become The Teeth canceled a couple of dates before he flew back out to finish the tour. “I felt unhappy, because I felt like a horrible person,” Durfey continues. “So, it’s about feeling guilty for not being there when I should have
been there, but there was nothing I could really do about it.” While much of Wait for Love explodes in shimmering dynamics, the middle of the record features “Bay of Dreams,” a song drenched in atmospheric pulses and radiating warmth. The track has an entirely new sound, auspicious and inspired for a band who have continuously explored every facet of their songwriting abilities. The song’s hypnotic and slow trudge is led by Durfey’s regret over becoming a family man while being away at the same time. There has always been lot to uncover with Pianos Become The Teeth, but their fourth LP shines bright with smarter progressions, utilizing the loud parts of their sound in clever ways without needing to scream. Songs like “Forever Sound” and “Love On Repeat” create tangible tension with powerful crescendos, allowing for every member of the band to perfectly accent each part. Wait for Love is the telltale triumph of a band finding their sound a decade into their existence.
n 2015, Tribulation experienced a true breakout moment with their third full-length album, The Children of the Night. So, when it came time to record its follow-up, Down Below—released Jan. 26 on Century Media Records—the Swedish band dug deep.
of descending into the metaphorical pits of Hell on a journey of discovery and exploration. On “Nightbound,” bassist and vocalist Johannes Andersson croaks menacingly, “On the borders / On the brink of lies / I set off / Firm in resolve / Down the valley of twilight to search / For something lost.”
So deep, they got subterranean on that shit. Hultén says that the theme of the underworld came from his reading In fact, “Subterranea” is the title of a work by Carl Jung, in which the of one of Down Below’s nine tracks. late Swiss psychologist and psyAnother is called “Cries From the choanalyst discusses modern, abUnderworld.” stract art as an embodiment of the human subconscious. For Jung, What’s more, at different points the darker, hidden side of the huduring the songwriting process for man psyche was synonymous with the album, a number of the songs chthonic deities and the spirits were given the title “Down Below,” of the underworld and the earth. but the band couldn’t settle on which song it fit best—until they That perfectly matched up with realized it fit them all. “Eventually, what Tribulation were trying to we decided that would be the title convey in the songs they were of all the songs and be the title of writing for Down Below. “We went the album,” guitarist Jonathan into it with a clear idea of the sort Hultén says. “It fits very well into of atmosphere we wanted to crethe theme of the songs, so it felt ate,” Hultén says. “It wasn’t really natural.” about, like, a certain type of riff or
melodies or whatever. It was more about a holistic way of thinking, sort of where the atmosphere is coming first. What you experience when you listen to the album is more important than if a riff is outstanding. In that sense, it’s not even about only the music, it’s more about the whole experience of the band, about the whole experience of the album. It’s not only music, it’s a whole manifestation of our thoughts and feelings.” The gestalt Tribulation aimed for with the album is immediately evident when one beholds the painting Hultén made for Down Below’s cover: a striking image of a gargoyle-like creature set against a blood red sky. The creature is perched on a rooftop and appears to be gazing at a dark, vaguely gothic cityscape below. While Tribulation may have continued to evolve their art on Down Below, that’s not to say they’ve reinvented themselves as drastically as they did between 2013’s
The Formulas of Death and The Children of the Night. According to Hultén, while he and his bandmates focused on finding their voice for their first three albums—beginning with 2009’s The Horror—Down Below finds them burrowing ever further into the incredible sound that they perfected with The Children of the Night, a strange alchemy of death metal, prog, psych rock, and goth. “On the first three albums, it was more about finding new ways to write songs,” the guitarist explains. “This time, it’s more about writing songs, the actual songwriting, so it’s more taking what we have and taking it a bit further, rather than creating a new way of writing. So, in that sense, we’re not taking stylistically such a big leap as we have done previously. It’s more about exploring the platform that we’ve already created.” “So,” he concludes, “we could say that instead of digging a new hole, it’s digging deeper.”
Indeed, even the songs that aren’t explicitly connected to the theme by their title evoke a sense
PHOTO: ALAN SNODGRASS
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PHOTO: CHAD SENGSTOCK
fter being together for 12 years, Christian metal band Sleeping Giant have closed the book with their final album, I Am, released Jan. 26 on Facedown Records. In 2013, the California and Utah-based band were at a crossroads, and several of them decided to call it quits. “I couldn’t really put a finger on it, but it just felt like I’m not finished,” lead vocalist Tommy Green says. “It was such a lame thing for me, because now, all of a sudden, I’m not doing this with my close friends anymore.” Some help from a mentor really opened Green’s mind about what he needed to do—not just for Sleeping Giant, but also for himself. “I talked to a mentor of mine, and he said, ‘Tommy, a lot of people never get a vision for the end. Everyone has a vision for the beginning, but not for the end,’” Green recalls. “So, in kind of [thinking] that through and talking about that with him, I thought, ‘Are we actually done?’”
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The band pressed on and recorded Finished People in 2014, and now, I Am serves as an illustration of growing up and growing in faith. “As much as it’s me and the dudes and the sound and the band, you know, it’s the people,” Green says. “We were playing for God—who is, of course, the I Am—but it’s every bit the community of people as well.” The idea for the title of the album came from the fans. “So, when we started Sleeping Giant, I would say, ‘You are Sleeping Giant,’ to the people who would support us, and ‘We all made this thing together,’” Green says. The love for their fans is vital to who Sleeping Giant really are. “I always loved the hardcore scene, because the kids are more important than the bands are,” Green adds. The album’s title is also very sentimental for Green, because when he was 18 years old and not yet a Christian, he got a tattoo of the phrase “I Am” on the inside of his lip. He admits, “It’s
so weird that now, after such a long time as a Christian dude, and this band’s main focus being God and then what it is that we feel like we’re supposed to represent—from that standpoint, it’s so wild to come full circle and go, like, ‘Wow.’ [It’s] kind of our crowning little thing [that] our final project is actually, like, harking back to. Now, I have ‘I Am’ on my lips all the time.” The 11-track album is filled with songs such as the lead single, “No Love,” featuring Garrett Russell of Silent Planet; “Second Chance Kids,” featuring Mattie Montgomery of For Today; and many more. The band recorded I Am in New Jersey, something that was different for them. “Hopefully, it just sounds like our band,” Green says. “I think that’s what our goal was: ‘How do we put this out in a way that sort of ties together everything we’ve done?’ So, I feel like, sonically, it sounds really good.” To properly end their story, Sleeping Giant will play their
final show in the first city they ever played, Pomona, California, at The Glass House on Feb. 17. “I want to leave a parting shot at the culture that says, ‘Hey, at the end of this 12-year journey, this is what’s still important,’ and in a goofy way with our songs or whatever,” Green says. Their farewell show will feature all of Sleeping Giant’s band members—original and new— and North Carolina-based hardcore band Advent. “I hope they feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in a real way,” Green says. “I hope that it feels reminiscent and joyful and sad all the same.” The band also plan to play songs from every record. “They’ll probably hear me talk and cry a little bit,” Green says. “It will be good. I feel like it’ll be a Sleeping Giant show, whatever that is—us being weirdos.”
PHOTO: KELSEY AYRES
ver the past few years, Tiny Moving Parts have become an impossible-to-ignorable force in the alternative music community. With lightning-fast guitar licks, wicked blast beats, and an honest approach to lyric writing, the Minnesota-based family band resonate with fans across the United States and abroad. They’ve come a long way from their junior high days, when their main goal was to make a name for themselves in their hometown of Benson. “When we first started at age 12 or 13, all we wanted to do was play shows around the area, for our school friends and things like that,” lead vocalist and guitarist Dylan Mattheisen says. “When it came to our senior year of high school, heading to college and the year after, we wanted to just play house shows.” But as the trio reached new high points in their career, they became more and more ambitious. “Once we accomplished that, we just kept setting new goals,” Mattheisen says. Tiny Moving Parts’ music has connected with many people, in part because of their message that
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promotes staying positive, even in darkest of times. Their new album, Swell—released Jan. 26 via Triple Crown Records—embodies this quite well and is a timely release following what many would consider a rough year. “We want to be more optimistic in life in general,” Mattheisen says, “and [with] a lot of the lyrical content in our albums—mainly Swell—it just comes naturally to write about it. You’re in a shitty situation, and you just try your best to power through it and come out ahead and find happiness in any sort of way.” True to form, Swell is an album loaded with stories about characters—not necessarily people—on their quest to find joy. The band found creative ways to explore this theme, such as Mattheisen’s fascination with writing songs from the perspective of animals. He explains how this approach is used on the record’s second track, “Smooth It Out,” which is “about a stray cat that finds another stray cat in the city. One’s scared, and the other is really embracing being free, and it’s just trying to help the other one find their joy in life in general. I feel like that’s a metaphor for things in
life too, where you can just feel lost for a while, [then] someone can say the right thing or give you the right piece of advice and affect you in a way, for a positive outcome.” This theme also shows up in the music video for “Caution,” the fourth track on Swell. The video— directed by John Komar—casts the trio as 60-something custodians pretending that their cleaning supplies are instruments. “They’re us in, like, 30 to 40 years,” Mattheisen laughs. “[They’re] using their imagination, wishing they were still young, playing rock ‘n’ roll, and just having a good time with their friends. That is a three-minute song, and it just shows that they’re having fun for those three minutes, and that can go a long way.” Tiny Moving Parts practice what they preach, as they still seek out and find that joy in their work every day. The band genuinely enjoy doing what they do, and they have no plans to slow down anytime soon. “We’re still just having a blast,” Mattheisen says. “These days are just as much fun, if not more fun, than the previous years of us starting. If we didn’t have fun, or if it was
considered more work than having a good time, we wouldn’t be doing it.” The band’s love for their fans is undoubtedly one of the reasons they have so much fun touring the country and playing music. Tiny Moving Parts have an incredibly loyal fan base who take the message of joy and optimism very personally. It is not uncommon for the band to hear about the many ways they’ve impacted others with their music. “You start hearing personal stories about peoples’ lives, about how we’ve affected it for positive reasons,” Mattheisen recounts. “Every tour, we always hear something new. It never gets old. That’s what continually makes us more excited.”
rian Fallon has long been a prolific songwriter. Perhaps best known as the frontman for The Gaslight Anthem and his side project, The Horrible Crowes, few punks-turned-singer-songwriters have been more consequential over the past decade. So, when The Gaslight Anthem went on hiatus in 2015, it was no surprise that he continued on his own, releasing his first solo record, Painkillers, in early 2016. Now, less than two years later, Fallon is back with Sleepwalkers—out Feb. 9 via Island Records—an album that seamlessly fuses punk with ‘60s soul and British rock. Even though Fallon’s name is on the cover, he isn’t here to hog the limelight. While this is his second album as a solo artist, it’s his first release with backing band The Howling Weather, rounded out by guitarist Ian Perkins of The Horrible Crowes, bassist Nick Salisbury, and drummer Dave Hidalgo. This isn’t a revolving door of supporting musicians either. Fallon draws similarities to Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds and Joe Strummer And The Mescaleros. It’s his banner under which the side project is consolidated, sure, but they’re also a cohesive unit. “I got some advice from a good friend of mine, and she said, ‘You probably should stop having all these different band names, because you’re never going to be able to play any shows,” Fallon explains. Given his proclivity for splitting his recorded output between several different acts—also including Molly And The Zombies—that’s likely sound guidance. But that space between being in a traditional band and being a solo artist offers the best of both worlds: the chemistry that comes with consistent collaboration, without dividing his growing catalog.
Something Sleepwalkers does continue is Fallon’s penchant for penning songs that bring deep musical traditions together with modern punk energy and ethos. This time around, he drew influence from the “heavy R&B” sound that emerged in the U.K. in the 1960s and ‘70s. The product of British kids attempting to emulate American rhythm and blues—and getting it wrong due to copying poor-quality lo-fi bootleg copies ordered from early mail-order distros—the term is a nod to a bygone era that brought disparate styles together to create something new. To accurately recapture that vibe, Fallon called producer Ted Hutt—who also worked on The Gaslight Anthem’s The ‘59 Sound and American Slang, as well as The Horrible Crowes’ Elsie—and booked time at Parlor Recording Studio in New Orleans. There were a few other cities that were considered, but The Big Easy won out thanks to its mystique and deep soul roots. It was the perfect location to rekindle their rapport; not only does Hutt share an appreciation for the source material that influenced Sleepwalkers, the chemistry he shares with Fallon is invaluable. “Instantly, it was like snapping back to 10 years ago,” Fallon shares, “because Ted knows me so well that [we] just fall back into a relationship, especially when that relationship works well.”
Conjuring”—a movie he summarizes as “ridiculous”—which led to some personal research that revealed he had heard the same sounds on records by bands like The Animals and artists like Elvis Costello. It doesn’t sit comfortably in a mix, and he even describes it as “a creepy little instrument,” but contrasted against conventionally beautiful, gospel-driven melodies, it provides something extra beyond the predictable Hammond B3 tone. Like much of Fallon’s previous work, Sleepwalkers makes everyday living feel like a big-screen production. Case in point, the opening lines of the lead single, “Forget Me Not”— “I’d like to take you to a movie / In a world without a death wish”—is a direct reference
to America’s fraught political climate and a desire to return to what many perceive to be a simpler time. While he stresses that this is not a concept record, if there’s a common thread between its tracks, it’s an exploration of the hopes and fears people hold inside but never share—existing in a “sleepwalking” state between dreams and real life. “You can’t argue with your subconscious,” Fallon says. “When you’re writing anything, you have to just let out whatever’s on your mind.”
PHOTO: KELSEY AYRES
During the recording process, Fallon also became enamored with the VOX Continental, a vintage organ characterized by its uniquely unsettling sound. He first recognized it during a particularly unnerving scene in “The
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PHOTO: ZOE DILLMAN
It’s a brand new year—which, for some, means a shift in direction. Maybe it’s a goal or a change in perspective, but when the new year rolls around, many find themselves itching to grow and take on new challenges. “I think we were at a very make-or-break point a few years ago, and it was very close to ‘break,’” Twitching Tongues vocalist Colin Young shares when speaking about the Los Angeles band’s past. “We felt like we failed, and I went [Jack] Kerouac on everyone’s ass and got a nine-to-five job. I soon realized I was being an idiot and literally only thought about music 25 hours a day. Putting the majority of my mental effort into something else was impractical and impossible. This record is a direct response to all of us feeling that at some point.” Young is referring to the metal-influenced hardcore band’s upcoming record, Gaining Purpose Through Passionate Hatred, set for release via Metal Blade
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Records on March 9. Further detailing the album’s theme of failure, he explains, “I don’t particularly care for any single politician, but the one we currently have in office made me feel like I had to use our platform in some way in that regard for the first time. The record is about emotion: jealousy, love, sorrow, and most importantly—passionate hatred.” Twitching Tongues are unlike many of the other bands in the hardcore scene, ever expanding their style until it blurs into multiple genres. Young continues to push his creative talents, reaching toward various sounds and stories he then highlights within his work. “I listened to our discography when we were putting together this record, and the  demo and [2012 debut LP], Sleep Therapy, are legitimately a different band musically,” he says. “Even at the time, our intention was to go harder and be less bluesy, but those releases still turned out the way they did.”
“They were huge for us and pivotal to us becoming the band that we are,” he continues, “but I don’t think we started to figure out who we actually are until [2013’s] In Love There Is No Law. Disharmony [from 2015] was a direct result of us loving mosh parts and wanting more. I realize now that that’s not the only reason people listen to us; cutting out the ballads meant cutting out half of who we are. I think we’ve figured it out now, but don’t ever plan to stop evolving.” Young takes an analytical approach to his songwriting, thriving off experimentation. He says the key to writing for Twitching Tongues is “figuring out what we want to get across musically with each song and finding a balance between heavy and memorable in a way that keeps every single song different from the last. We switch up the overall atmosphere on every album, and most of the time, it’s subconscious, but we wanted to make sure that [Gaining Purpose Through Passion-
ate Hatred] was catchier, more memorable, and easier to digest than the previous one.” Hardcore is a genre that continues to evolve, with Twitching Tongues being one of the most prominent bands pushing the boundaries of just what the music can do. Throughout lineup changes and major jumps in playing with the band’s style, Young has crafted a truly unique band in today’s heavy music landscape. While many artists strive to make resolutions within their work, Young and the band live for it. So, what does all this change represent for him? “Twitching Tongues has been my life for nearly a decade,” Young says. “It is who I am. It is an entity that will never die until we do. I understand we’ll always be misunderstood, but we will always be completely and unapologetically us.”
PHOTO: JEN CRAY
ith their DIY basement origins stitched across their hearts and minds, Screaming Females are forever punk: in their movements, attitudes, and continual propulsion. Still, one could easily mistake the band’s newest record for that of some big, archetypal rock band. In All At Once—due out Feb. 23 via Don Giovanni Records—this humble New Jersey trio have delivered something infinitely large.
steel highways in the darkest night. The record’s architecture is emboldened by the band’s underground past. The songs have a sort of pop quality to them but maintain a definitive hard edge: an impossibly impressive feat. Over a decade into their career, the group’s purpose remains unchanged. “As a band, we don’t want to make the same record over and over,” drummer Jarrett Dougherty says. “We’re looking for an artistic journey each time.”
“We want to write great songs,” vocalist and guitarist Marissa Paternoster notes. “I think that’s where the focus is. We wanted to create a really whole sounding album this time around. One with similar strands running through all the songs; something very subtle, but very effective.”
Those who have seen Screaming Females live know the power they bring to a stage. Like a force rising epically from the molten core of the Earth, the band are direct, ripping, and something of a throwback, making sparks fly like the rock bands of old. All At Once lives in that universe. “I think the music we were raised on was really all about being able to bring it,” Dougherty laughs. “Our roots are the live performance. The ability, the skill, and the bravado to compete—that’s where we’re coming
All At Once is certainly effective. It’s dazzlingly sharp, with riffs like icebergs—the ones that are still left, anyway—and vocal hooks like dreams strewn across
from. That’s our perspective. It’s like the battle of the bands: who’ll play better, who’ll top you.” “Glass House,” the new record’s opening song, was written about the internet. Its rectangle assemblage and slashing quality is reminiscent of the continual clicks one forges while browsing and typing. It’s metaphoric in both instrumentation and poetry. “Whose house is this? A spell I’m under,” Paternoster sings along a defiant post-punk bass sequenced with Zeppelin-esque shrapnel riffs. “Who’s wrapped in bed and sweetly sleeping,” she continues, then: “You’ll always control me / You’ll always control / You’ll always control me / You will always have control.” It’s a scary and poignant song, but Screaming Females never sacrifice any of their grace. “Our band is very political,” Dougherty notes, “but I think it has to do with where we go and what we make. ‘Glass House’ is about the way the internet has changed the way we view ourselves. It’s a reflection that reflects right back at us.” Dougherty champions the importance of being politically and socially active while still remaining healthy and mindful, even in this uncharted and brutal time. It’s a crucial distinction. “Music can be a lot of different things,” he says. “In the current climate, I think it’s really important to be conscious of a more equal future and to stand up and do something about it. But I think if it’s so overwhelming and takes over your life, the oppressive forces win. I think Screaming Females have always been politicized but remain ultimately independent. We’ve always strove to maintain control, and that’s something I think is really important to this band and is the essence, really, of what we do.”
PHOTO: KAITLYN LAUREL MCGANN
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Like the Minutemen before them, Screaming Females are DIY in the truest sense. They may play their instruments like Jimi Hendrix backed by The Who—“If you’ve seen us live, you know we love to jam,” Paternoster laughs—but
they remain so grounded and purposeful that the crux of the group is forever rooted in a self-governing and perpetually enlightened reasoning. If they happened to hit the pop charts, it wouldn’t alter their path at all. After self-producing all of their early records, the group made the decision to work with an outside producer for 2015’s Rose Mountain. “We thought, ‘What haven’t we done yet?’ Work with a producer, that’s what,” Dougherty recalls. “It could be potentially good or bad, but we had to make the leap. We really like developing long-term relationships. And with a producer and an engineer, we felt like we wanted to bring people into the mix and really wanted to know what they thought.” All At Once, like Rose Mountain, was produced by Matt Bayles and continues the band’s ascent toward rock absolution. The record flows like the waterfalls of Iguazu, streaming and misting with a combination of wit and guile. Never does it work better than in the epic “Chamber for Sleep (Part One)” and “Chamber for Sleep (Part Two), a duo of songs destined to engrave beauty into the minds of all punks. “Splitting that song up just sort of happened, really,” Paternoster says. “There were too many parts for one song, I think. It was getting too complicated, and it was sort of natural to split the song into two separate parts.” The sequence is just one example of what Screaming Females are capable of. Very few contemporary records deserve constant playback; All At Once does. It’s an album like the old ones—the ones you spent months spinning on your cheap turntable, finding new shiny gems hidden around every corner, falling in love with a real sound and a real band. “I’m really proud of what we’ve done,” Dougherty concludes. “I think we’re a band that can look back at our career and legitimately claim we’ve done things our way.”
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f Mice & Men’s triumphant and emphatic new record, Defy—released Jan. 19 via Rise Records—features cover artwork that evokes “The Great Gatsby”-era Art Deco style, an emblem of seemingly vapid decadence. One gets the sense that there’s meaning behind it, but only after looking deeper, going beyond the surface-level bullshit. After all that’s happened in the past couple years—most notably, bassist Aaron Pauley stepping up as vocalist after Austin Carlile’s departure and the passing of their close friend, Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington— the Orange County band had to retool and refocus their approach. Maybe that’s why Defy takes all that has made Of Mice & Men scene legends and amplifies it. It’s a gratifying and uplifting release from a band who have specialized in sincerity since their inception.
“Part of being honestly hopeful is acknowledging the bullshit and the trials and tribulations,” Pauley shares. “It’s really easy to end up with very sugary, glossy hope, where it’s like, ‘We’re gonna get through this!’ At the same time, as a listener, that can sometimes rub you the wrong way, especially if you’re going through a lot. Sometimes, it’s better to hear somebody going through something at the same time. Somebody said that about Chester and Linkin Park: in their lyrics, they never really sought to grab you and pull you out of the hole you were in, they would just crawl in there and sit with you for a little bit. That’s the emotional tone we took with the record.” After all the tumult, what inspired Of Mice & Men to write such aggressive yet jubilant tunes? “Elementally, as far as the music goes, that was hugely influenced by the summer we had,” Pauley says. “Initially, we were supposed to play Warped Tour, but with the announcement of Austin leaving, our offer for Warped Tour was
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taken away, so it was like, ‘What do we do now?’ Our booking agent contacted [several] Euro metal festivals, and they were happy to take us on.” “We had a very triumphant-feeling summer,” he continues. “We got to play every day and really see in our audience what was moving people, what was connecting with them emotionally and physically. For us, the record’s sound is very much connected to our live show. After we got off of tour in July, we were in the studio by August. We were just all-in. We had that very visceral, tangible connection to our live sound.”
ly musically and sonically, with regard to how we layer different instruments. Like, there’s a sitar in a bunch of songs. We have a bunch of really awesome programming with an analog synth. There’s a lot to it, just so you can dig as deep as you want.” “At the same time,” he notes, “not everybody listens to music that way. There are lots of people who like to put something on in their car and have it feel good.”
“Lyrically,” Pauley adds, “this isn’t my story, it’s our story. I’m just the mouthpiece for the band. I was writing what the band was going through collectively.”
“What I realized once we got the masters is that every song deals with different ways of working through change,” Pauley expounds. “Our entire lives over the past couple years have been about that: the major life changes. You can either let change define you, or you can define yourself through whatever you do about it.”
Was he nervous about taking over this role? “I wouldn’t say ner-
When searching for that brand of honest hope, Pauley once again
vous,” Pauley clarifies. “When we made the decision to keep moving on, the thing we told each other is: we’re going to see if we can do this, first and foremost. Secondly, we need to guarantee that when we continue Of Mice & Men, that it literally holds up to what we used to do. We were an award-winning live band, so keeping that up was super important to us. We were never going to continue the band unless we were confident that we could be as good, if not better, than we were in the past.”
looked to his fallen musical hero. “The most meaningful song for me is ‘If We Were Ghosts,’” he shares. “That’s the closest thing to a tribute to our dear friend Chester Bennington that we could hope to write.”
That narrow focus ultimately resulted in Of Mice & Men’s most exuberant release yet, but there’s a depth to Defy’s fun. “Nothing that we try to do is vapid, especially because we’re getting old,” Pauley elaborates. “For us, it’s really about leaving something that fans can chew on. If a record’s going to come out every couple years, the last thing you want is for someone to hear it once and go, ‘That was cool,’ but really have nothing that makes them want to dive back into it. For us, we wanted to try to layer things—especial-
“It’s so senseless and so fucking brutal,” he says of losing Bennington. “I struggle to find words when I describe how impactful that is in such the worst way, but I remember all the stuff he would say to us, the words of encouragement: his encouragement of my taking on this role as the lead vocalist in Of Mice & Men and his being a constant source of encouragement both directly through our friendship and indirectly through the legacy of music that he made.” Despite the defiant title of their newest album, Of Mice & Men have proven to be masters of accepting change and finding hope in even the bleakest of circumstances.
PHOTO: ARNE CARDINALS
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PHOTOS: GREG JACOBS
t’s almost cliché at this point to say that particularly bad presidents make for particularly good music, but you’d be hardpressed not to give the current U.S. administration at least some credit for the brilliant songs that made it onto Superchunk’s latest effort, What a Time To Be Alive. “It would be strange to be in a band, at least our band, and make a record that completely ignored the surrounding circumstances that we live in and that our kids are going to grow up in,” Superchunk vocalist, guitarist, and founder Mac McCaughan said back when the album was first announced. What a Time To Be Alive—like every record the band have put out since the mid ‘90s—was released by their own label, Merge Records, on Feb. 16. It is their first album in almost five years.
on to rally around causes many previously thought were finally moving in the right direction— everything from women’s health care and the environment to LGBTQ rights. “I guess I never felt like those things were safe— they have always been under attack—but you’re right that it felt like maybe things were at least moving in the right direction before everything blew up,” McCaughan says. “I don’t feel a sense of duty, I just feel like a person living in this country now, and as an artist, it would be weird to ignore it. It’s funny when people on social media are like, ‘Hey, I don’t need to know about my favorite band’s politics!’ and I’m thinking, ‘I bet we’re not actually your favorite band if this bothers you!’ People who expect bands they like to not also be people in the world— it’s strange.”
What a Time To be Alive holds the distinction for having the most guest cameos of any record in Superchunk’s canon. The band were joined in the studio and out by folks like David Bazan of Pedro The Lion fame; Sabrina Ellis of A Giant Dog and Sweet Spirit; Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee; Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields; and singer-songwriter Skylar Gudasz. “I think all that came about as I was writing the songs,” McCaughan says. “For instance, the band A Giant Dog and their ability to make punk music that’s classic and modern and with such good songs, that’s a really inspiring band. So, ‘Break the Glass’ just felt like it needed Sabrina on it. I wanted to involve as many friends as possible while having it still all make sense and feel natural—to have a community feel. I loved
the idea of Katie Crutchfield and Stephin Merritt both being on the same song!” “We recorded in a real studio, and Skylar came out there to sing her parts,” he continues, “but one thing about technology—though, generally, I think the internet has ruined everything, it’s awesome that I can send an MP3 to David Bazan, and he can send it back a few days later with his vocal tracks for us to mix in. It’s amazing having that option for collaboration.” The day before the album was released, Feb. 15, the band kicked off their U.S. tour in Baltimore. They have dates planned across the country, up through April 28, before heading to Spain and Europe in May and June.
One of the songs on the new record that is at least partially inspired by our new reality is the instantly endearing “Reagan Youth.” “Hardcore was one of the things that really changed my life in the early ‘80s,” McCaughan says. “I think Reagan Youth managed to come up with one of the iconic band names of the era, and I really like them. I was also thinking about how young people who were indoctrinated by Reagan, the president, and the conservatism of the era that hardcore was generally fighting against, those people grew up and are pushing the toxic conservatism epitomized by Trumpism today. So, which Reagan Youth was more effective? [I was] just thinking of the different paths you can take and always wondering how some people manage to grow up with such a twisted worldview.” However, Superchunk do more than just use Trump and his administration’s destructive policies as muses for their music. In June of 2017, they put out the “I Got Cut” b/w “Up Against the Wall” 7” to help raise money for Planned Parenthood, which is constantly under attack by conservatives all across the country. Since last year, it seems more and more bands are being called
o say that 2017 was a tough year would be an extreme understatement. Like a nightmare domino effect after the election of Trump, the U.S. feels like it is unraveling quicker than ever with a resurgence of hate groups, media cover-ups, rampant mass shootings, freedoms being cut and revised, and many more horrors. “Uh, have you looked out your window, gone online, or turned on a TV lately?” Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen asks when talking about what compelled him to put together his latest record, AmeriKKKant, due out via Nuclear Blast on March 9. He goes further into why this record is a unique body of work that reflects our current political climate. “What stands out is the society we currently live in and all the noise that comes with it,” he says. “There is currently a dynamic that is very reminiscent of the 1960s to me—a social wave or renaissance, if you will. I’m just along for the ride with my recording devices in tow.” Ministry remain one of the biggest and most influential names in heavy music. Held primarily responsible for the pioneering of industrial met-
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al, Ministry have also been a political force, aggressively calling out the hate and corruption that seethes from political leaders and society. The main driving force behind all of this is Jourgensen himself: he is Ministry’s vocalist, guitarist, and programmer, all while working on production and numerous other aspects of the band.
the limelight. Rather than take subtle jabs or use clever metaphors, Jourgensen goes for the jugular, clawing and thrashing at fascism and bigotry.
year,” he says. “As the [Robert] Mueller noose tightens, I think a deal will be struck of some sort to where the Angry Cheeto agrees to resign—citing health reasons—in exchange With AmeriKKKant, Jour- to be able to keep some sort gensen’s desire to present his of semblance of his ‘house of views on what’s happening cards’ corrupt empire intact. around him—and the horrors It’s a win-win for everybody, as that are happening to oth- he never really wanted the job, ers—is solely his own imper- the feckless Republican parative. “I believe honesty is as ty prefers ‘pray the gay away’ “Each album I’ve done I con- important as being informed [Mike] Pence, and 70 percent sider only to be a snapshot of in the delivery of your con- of the populace throws a party what is transpiring around tent,” he says. “As far as other the likes of which this country me,” he shares, “not only in a artists, voicing or not voicing has never seen. Also, it probasocietal way, but also what is their opinions is entirely up to bly allows him to avoid wearimportant on a personal level, them. I would suggest not doing ing a jumpsuit that matches like deaths, drug addictions, it if you’re not comfortable, his hair color for the rest of his divorces, love, etc. The inten- and vice versa.” life. Obviously, that is my hope sity and pace or aggression of as well.” the instrumental aspect is also Ultimately, he says he will aldictated to me by the same set ways create what he wants, One thing is for sure, neither of parameters. As far as being and it is up to the listener to Jourgensen nor Ministry have proud of something, I will only make their own connections. any intention of slowing down. say that I consider myself sim- “I think everyone should for- While we continue to face ilar to a cameraman reflect- mulate their own opinions,” these struggles, Jourgensen ing back what my lens sees— he asserts. “Some like the mu- will continue to share what sometimes, there’s not a whole sic and not the lyrical content; he sees happening all around lot to be proud of,” he laughs. others, the reverse. Either him and use music as a vehiway, I am allowed to voice my cle to inspire positive growth. While Jourgensen is proud of own opinions on things, and “We have and will continue the technical elements that you are allowed to not listen if to work with voting organizaare part of the band’s 14th you so choose.” tions at our live shows to make studio album, it’s the politisure people get registered,” he cal themes and messages that So, given the hellish anxi- assures. “We signed up a fuckprimarily drive this new work. ety that has characterized load of folks on our 2008 tour From beginning to end, the re- the States in 2017, what does and plan to be even more accord focuses on the atrocious Jourgensen hope will happen tive on that front in 2018.” actions of Trump, the GOP, in 2018? “I think the Orange and the numerous hate groups Shit Gibbons’ past actions will who find themselves back in finally come to reckoning this
PHOTO: ALAN SNODGRASS
The self-appointed King of Partying, Andrew W.K., is back. Never challenged for his throne, the musician has been advocating for more parties, more fun, and more positivity for nearly two decades. “All my various activities are really just one all-encompassing, single, focused effort: to try to generate an undeniable and intense life force feeling,” W.K. explains. He is discussing his overall focus when writing the brand new sanguine record, You’re Not Alone, due out March 2 via RED and Sony. Spring, a time usually associated with love in the air, is about to meet a strong wind of eclectic and worthwhile party jams. It’s destiny, and it’s unstoppable. In 2016, W.K. completed The Power Of Partying, a nation-
wide motivational speaking tour that focused on bringing a positive view to the intensities of life, shining with optimism and revealing the truth of the inner spirit. “I think we all notice how intense life is as soon as we’re born, at least on a very primal level,” W.K. says. This thought is reflected on the spoken word track, “The Feeling of Being Alive,” on which the Party King explains that it’s completely OK to feel like something is wrong—that feeling is just being human, existing and being alive. “There’s an endless procession of challenges and tests and triumphs and failures, struggles and breakthroughs, and the goal is to realize that all of it counts as a sort of transcendent positive expression of something ultimately beautiful,” W.K. clarifies about the ferocity of life.
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“That’s what partying is.”
quite surprised by how cohesive the final album actually The Power Of Partying tour was,” he reflects. “I hadn’t anwas the warmup for You’re Not ticipated that my somewhat Alone, kicking right into its disparate collection of songs lead single, “Music Is Worth would tie together so well and Living For.” The song is the seem to relate to one another definition of Andrew W.K., full so specifically.” of infectiously catchy hooks, larger than life riffs, and a Of writing the music, W.K. powerful, earth-shattering notes, “I suppose you could message. The singer opens say it’s therapeutic or even up about the song, sharing, self-help for me. If work“There has been no other as- ing on this didn’t uplift me, pect in my life as consistent I’d never be able to generate and as unboundedly uplifting the energy to carry on with as music. Whenever I’ve been it—or maybe I couldn’t carlost in confusion and dark ry on, period.” Much of his thoughts, the one thing I could writing process is focused absolutely never deny was mu- on finding the motivation sic. It’s something that always and will to cheer up, creating shines clear and bright and “pure physical and emotioncuts through to the heart of al waves of intense sensation what life really is.” that go beyond smiling,” he says. “Like that tears-in-yourThis song, like many others eyes, lump-in-your-throat, on the record, are W.K.’s dai- butterflies-in-your-stomach, ly breathing, motivation, and chills-up-your-spine kind of collective thought. You’re Not feeling.”
I asked my manager what this song was, and he explained that it was the new single by some supergroup I had never heard of. I was blown away and totally devastated by how good it was, especially in contrast to how bad I felt about my own music. I asked my manager why I couldn’t make a song like that. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t come up with music like that? He shrugged and said it just wasn’t meant to be like that for me. I’ve had dreams about songs before, but never one this vivid, where even the lyrics were there. The entire song existed in my dream.”
Alone tackles life’s challenges with surging electric guitars, a chorus of constructive positivity, and pumped-up rhythmic structures. While many remember W.K.’s 2001 debut, I Get Wet, as his peak, You’re Not Alone is his magnum opus. It’s a record that is theatrical with a purpose, feeling like a party rock opera that ties together uplifting themes. “I’ve never really worked with a predetermined thematic starting point or a specific concept or story-style framework when making music, other than the themes of intensity and partying,” W.K. comments.
journey across the globe to bring forth the message of purposeful partying.
That feeling is captured in “Total Freedom,” a song that strikes a chord in the essence of humanity, mollifying the race of life with an introspective tune. W.K. is confident in the track, which builds to a climactic crescendo with high-soaring vocals. The song came to him in an anxious, vivid nightmare that wound up being a good omen. In the dream, “the new album had already been released, and it was a terrible failure,” he recounts. “I was having a meeting with my manager to discuss the fallout of the situation and what we could do to salvage the remnants of my tattered Some of the songs took years career.” to make, some a couple of months, but W.K. followed his “As we were solemnly reviewdeeper instincts to make a re- ing our options, a song came on cord that channels the essence the radio,” he continues. “I was of partying. “In the end, I was instantly struck by the music.
You’re Not Alone is a gripping sound wave, the orchestral vision of a powerful pantheon of Party Gods channeled through the vessel of a messenger. After Sony Music brings the album to the people on March 2, W.K. will embark on a new
In light of all the positivity and a new grandiose and explosive record, W.K. is humble and ready. “There are obviously plenty of people out there who have gotten very little from my work,” he says, “so, for anyone who has gotten something—especially something lasting—I’m tremendously thankful.”
PHOTO: MIKE KVACKAY
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t’s important to acknowledge the weight of the past on the present, especially when we want to move forward. This is especially true for the D.C.-based hardcore-infused death-doom band ILSA, whose upcoming Relapse Records debut, Corpse Fortress, is out on March 2. Reflecting on people, places, cultural progress, and, as ever, a love of devilishly fun horror helps elevate the absolutely crushing music on display and usher in an exciting new chapter for the band. Vocalist Orion explains how the Corpse Fortress’ title is pertinent and how it relates to some of the record’s greater themes. “We started in the basement of the Corpse Fortress,” he shares, “practicing there—some of us living there—amidst the closest thing to total chaos of bands, parties, fights. It just seemed right. Our message has always been the same: surrender hope, harden your spirits, and hold on to more than petty cynicism. Until things change, it’s toughen up or move over. [This record touches on] the tension between looking back but trying to move forward, which seems to get greater and greater.”
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To take their own next step, ILSA brought in an old friend, Hooded Menace guitarist Lasse Pyykkö, to assist with “Long Lost Friend,” their ode to John George Hohman’s famous book on folk remedies, “Pow-Wows or Long Lost Friend.” “Past is prologue, knowing thyself means careful reflection and revision,” Orion says. “Lasse is our ‘long lost friend’! We did our first split and tour with Hooded Menace, and we are all admirers of his work. The lyrics are taken from a Satanic prayer made from the letters of the Sator Square, for which there is an alternate Christian prayer. No one really knows the Square’s true meaning, but it’s appeared in religious and magical systems for centuries. Hohman and Pow-Wow magic certainly had a creative view of Christianity: dualistic, syncretic, and paradoxical, Protestantism imbued with pagan ritualism, absurd and brilliant.” That absurd brilliance relates to ILSA’s evergreen love of covering very old folk songs, making what is ancient feel enlivened and fresh in their crust-, blood-, and sludge-imbued hands. On Corpse Fortress, the band
chose to cover “Polly Vaughn.” “We gotta have a ballad!” Orion laughs. “The alternate title, ‘In the Room of a Swan,’ was actually what originally attracted me, with its surreal sound. ‘Polly Vaughn’ harks back to ‘Barby Allen’ from our first demo but has a strong supernatural angle. Accidentally killing a loved one is a horrible fate to imagine, and one that’s echoed through time, thematically.” ILSA—alongside their gloriously venomous noise and love of the horrific and ancient—are an outspokenly progressive group, practicing their message of toughening up and hardening their spirits. The album’s most politically obvious yarns are “Prosector” and the harrowing “Old Maid,” which feature scathing critiques of the far-right and obscene religious fundamentalism. “We see the storm building,” Orion intones. “It’s getting to the point where, even in metal, you have to deal with right-wing interlopers. People act like we’re the ones bringing politics into music, but we’re defending the faith! Lemmy was an anarchist! Rob Halford is queer! Metal is the most vibrant international contemporary genre in the world.”
“I think people have to figure it out for themselves how to make positive change, or what that means,” he continues, “but I think part of the problem is people looking for someone or something else to do it. There’s also the chance we may be at a point in the world where we’ve created problems that have no solutions, which worries me more and more these days.” And just what influenced Corpse Fortress’ stirring black and white artwork? “Iron Maiden and Quiet Riot!” Orion exclaims. “The cover is multipart and die-cast to slide open and reveal the coffin’s contents. We try to come up with the most ambitious packaging and design gimmicks we can. The digital image doesn’t do it justice. We love vinyl. Holding a physical record in your hands, having lyrics, liner notes, pictures—it’s all part of the experience. We don’t want to be just another band on the playlist. We wanted to make something that compels you to sit down and spend time and pull apart.”
PHOTO: ARNE CARDINALS
avigating the sonic terrain of the hardcore genre is a near-impossible task. Between the endless, twisting roots of subgenres, ideologies, and scenes, hardcore always seems to reinvigorate itself to bring new life to the genre. No strangers to the scene, Harm’s Way have watched trends come and go within modern hardcore—but they haven’t watched quietly. On Feb. 9, the band teamed up with the renowned Metal Blade Records to share their fifth studio album, Posthuman. For the past decade, Harm’s Way have pushed the definition of hardcore, blending fury and fear to shatter the mold. “The diversity in sound and message is something that I really value about hardcore, but everything seems to recycle itself to a degree,” drummer Chris Mills says, “and I feel that’s why it’s led me to appreciate bands and individuals who continue to push the boundaries that punk and hardcore traditionally prescribes itself.” Harm’s Way began in the spring of 2006 as a side project. The band experimented with sounds that crossed the line into powerviolence and metal, laying the foundation for their signature
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brand of hardcore. Their 2011 sophomore album, Isolation, introduced a significant shift in the band’s sonic identity. The record pulsated with a primal aggression, stirring vicious instrumentation and experimental effects with vocalist James Pligge’s shredded howls. Since, Harm’s Way have continued to explore different ways to express emotion at its rawest, most pure form. “We’ve never really fought the songwriting process and [have] allowed these elements to continue to evolve organically,” Mills says. Whether it be harsh feedback, eerily orchestrated ambient tones, or bone-shattering breakdowns, Harm’s Way have fought relentlessly to be heard—nothing more, nothing less. Lyrically, Harm’s Way tackle a wide spectrum of topics. The band use music as an outlet for the emotional weight they carry, channeling that negativity and anger into energy. “This band works as a release for a whole range of emotions for each and every one of us as individuals,” Mills says. “Our music often comes from a place of pain and suffering, and the aggressive nature of our sound and lyrical
themes fully communicates that.” From personal struggles to social issues, the band are intentional about what they say and what they do. Harm’s Way’s latest effort, Posthuman, showcases the group’s growth and development over the years. They have found an even balance between devastating riffs and echoing, atmospheric effects, making every hit gleam with a menacing metallic edge. The record’s lead single, “Human Carrying Capacity,” charges forward with the ferocity the band have become known for. Lyrically, the song scrutinizes the relationship between technology and society, questioning whether the effects are positive or negative. “It’s sort of a bleak look on what could potentially lay ahead for our population,” Mills explains. Throughout Posthuman, Harm’s Way reflect on what society has become and where it’s going, creating dialogues focused on politics and philosophy. “Across the record, there are themes of transcendence, adaptation, and progression,” Mills says. “There is also a general questioning of human nature and the human condition that can be found lyrically.” The band have crafted
a record thematically rooted in deeper philosophical questions, but they deliver it in the form of pure fury. While Harm’s Way have experimented greatly with the definition of hardcore, they are conscious of the genre’s roots and core values. “I feel it’s important that it remains a place for creating discourse around our choices and our roles as human beings on this planet,” Mills says. Indeed, punk and hardcore have always existed as a vehicle for emotions and opinions. They give individuals a voice and an outlet for their feelings. As hardcore’s history and influence continue to expand over time, the values at its core will endure, guiding the voices and actions of bands to come. For Harm’s Way, the scene remains a community for exchanging ideas and growing as an individual. “Hardcore is many things to me,” Mills reflects. “It’s a place for individual self-expression and growth, but it’s also a place for community.” With Posthuman, Harm’s Way redefine themselves as artists, individuals, and a band.
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n 2006, Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba came to a fork in the road. At the time, his choice seemed clear: just keep riding the wave of massive success that four albums in six years had brought him. He had become an indie darling, an underdog voice for those tired of being misrepresented by soulless pop music. The band’s fourth studio album, Dusk and Summer, had just dropped, yielding some of Carrabba’s biggest singles to date in “Don’t Wait” and “Stolen.” Two more records would follow in the next three years, 2007’s The Shade of Poison Trees and what many would come to believe were the final songs under the Dashboard Confessional moniker, 2009’s Alter the Ending.
Carrabba doesn’t look back with any bitterness, however. He was a young artist, still learning the industry while navigating his meteoric rise. He was educating himself on the craft of songwriting, brazenly wearing his heart on his sleeve in every song he wrote and breaking the rules before he knew what the rules were. “There are two things you can do,” he explains. “You can manipulate the song and the listener— which is something I don’t care for—or you understand that ‘My instincts are telling me to go here. I know it’s not right, but it’s the right kind of wrong.’” When Vagrant Records partnered with the Jimmy Iovine cofounded giant, Interscope Records, to release Dusk and Summer in 2006, the education shifted. “They wanted me to write ‘Vindicated’ over and over again,” Carrabba recalls. “I know I can pick up an acoustic guitar, go down to my basement right now, record a record, and it’d probably be the biggest record I’ve put out in a long time, because there is a contingent of people who want that guy—but it’s not where I’m at.” His confidence is well deserved. Crooked Shadows is a near perfect record, one that even the most particular of Dashboard Confessional fans will enjoy. When speaking with Carrabba, it becomes clear that he is his own harshest critic, still waxing poetic on decisions he made on albums that have long since been cemented as classics. He’s able to balance a boldness of experimentation without alienating what he’s already built and has come to be known for.
“Instantly, and always since, I’ve wondered, ‘What if I went the other way?’” Carrabba questions. “Can you go back and recreate that? Not exactly, but that’s the objective of this [new] record: where did that road lead? I believe I did find that place.” The road that Carrabba found almost nine years later led to Crooked Shadows, a self-proclaimed callback record, out Feb. 9 via Fueled By Ramen. Though we may never again experience the lightning in a bottle rawness of Dashboard Confessional’s first record, 2000’s The Swiss Army Romance, it should be noted that the 42-year-old songwriter conjured his seventh record in a creative “flood of epic proportions,” then essentially scrapped the results when “We Fight” was born. The single went from Crooked Shadows’ final exclamation point to its chapter one. “Generally speaking, everything up until that point was just a warmup,” he says.
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“At some point, other people’s concerns about my commercial success made me feel a responsibility to be successful commercially,” he admits. “Even though my own internal barometer might say I’m a little headstrong in that I like the songs the way I like them, I don’t want to compromise that. When I was making Dusk and Summer, I wasn’t compromising it, I was just learning something new. A little later on, I felt compromised.” Nine years and three albums with other projects later, with his seventh Dashboard Confessional record now in the hands of lifelong fans, things have come full circle for Carrabba. He’s managed to reset time and explore a road he wasn’t sure still existed. Crooked Shadows is a significant mark in Dashboard Confessional history, somehow redemptive without having sinned to begin with and eternally hopeful for future paths.
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onversing with Reggie And The Full Effect mastermind James Dewees is a masterclass in emo, punk, and hardcore history. He peppers his banter with lighthearted quiz questions—“Answer this question for me: If you had to rate a Minneapolis hardcore band, which of them is more influential, Disembodied or Harvest?”—talks up the efforts of his comrades and friends, and quickly homes in on commonalities that spark a feeling of kinship with his speaking partner. If Dewees weren’t a full-time musician with credits including Coalesce, The Get Up Kids, My Chemical Romance, New Found Glory, Death Spells, and his own undertaking, Reggie And The Full Effect, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine him as a salesperson, dominating any given industry with record-breaking commissions. “I am, amazingly, a full-time musician,” he acknowledges. “It’s been 22 years that I’m doing this. It is weird taking everything we learned to do the wrong way and, then, meeting the younger bands and passing that knowledge down. I always
tell them to save their money,” he jokes. Simply put, Dewees is a Midwestern everyman whose personality lends itself to joviality despite his many accolades. “I was born and raised in Kansas City, and then, I moved to Long Island in 2005 and moved to Buffalo last April. It only takes me about six hours to get to Manhattan instead of 18 from Kansas City. And the guys who do my backup band are in a band called Pentimento, and they’re a Buffalo band. With the new record being done, it just made sense for me to be close. I took Pentimento out on a tour and really loved the band. I asked them if they’d be The Full Effect, and they’ve been the band ever since.” With his 42nd birthday looming, Dewees is set to release his seventh studio album, 41, on Feb. 23 via Pure Noise Records. The album is his first in four years, the follow-up to 2013’s No Country for Old Musicians. While the record retains some of the same goofy spirit fans have come to love and associate with his revered punk rock project, it seems Dewees is ready to own up to
his maturity and experience. “I had the ideas for the record done but went through some stuff with my mom dying,” he reveals. “Then, my mother-inlaw from my ex-wife was going through her chemo treatments and died a month later. It is going to happen to us all, whether it is old age or cancer. Watching that was completely nuts. I look at 41 as my stages of grief: ‘New Years Day’ is about my mom, and ‘And Next With Feeling’ is about watching my mother-in-law die in front of me. That is weird for Reggie. I had all these songs, and then, I didn’t want to write a sad record, but I couldn’t help the words that were coming out. You can’t move forward until you tackle what you are working on.”
don’t have to give a crap anymore,” he says. “I’m not going after Top 40 radio. I’m just allowed to go on tour, and people who like it like it. For me, it is just fun. It’s amazing to me that at 41 years old, I’m preparing for a tour of the United States for six weeks doing my side project band that I started as a joke in 1997.”
Dewees seems comfortable both with the new record and his place in the lexicon of a much-maligned genre: emo, including “the emo revival.” “I think it is kind of rad for veteran musicians who helped to create this scene to go out after years and years,” he says. “Some of those dudes cut their teeth the hardest way possible. We were all that scene. Whether you went to a festival to play or to watch bands, that was all Though, as Dewees tells it, our scene, and it was very spethere are advantages to aging. cial to be a part of.” “The best part for me is that I
PHOTO: KELSEY AYRES
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enses Fail are set to release their seventh full-length album, If There Is Light, It Will Find You, as part of their statement that 2018 is “the year of Senses Fail.” The album drops Feb. 16 via Pure Noise Records as a delayed Valentine’s Day gift to fans, filled with upbeat poppy melodies and deep lyrics revolving around death and the meaning of everything. Vocalist Buddy Nielsen is proud to say that this is some of the best work from the band, even over a decade after the release of their seminal record, 2006 sophomore release Still Searching. “I wanted to make a record that was undeniably good,” Nielsen asserts. “All the songs stand on their own and represent something meaningful. I wanted to write a classic Bleed American album,” he says, referencing Jimmy Eat World’s iconic 2001 release. “I don’t think I’ve been this focused on doing something so well for many Senses Fail records.” Nielsen says performing such personal, in-depth lyrics is an outlet and release from everything in his life. If There Is Light, It Will Find You features songs based on his wife’s miscarriage and, later, her near-death experience while in labor with their daughter Penelope. “The older you get, the more shit is going to happen. In your 30s, you start to have a different view on mortality,” Nielsen admits. “I think it’s important to talk about those things. A lot of people think these things, but they don’t necessarily think that anyone else is thinking them.”
PHOTO: ALAN SNODGRASS
He says this has become part of his job, taking on the role of mediating an environment in which people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts with others who are thinking the same things. “I
get excited when I can connect with people through music, and something I’m always looking for is connection through music,” he adds. “I have the ability to leave this type of legacy, and that’s what the record is about. At the end of the day, what do I have to show for everything I’ve done?” The record also contains Nielsen’s thoughts on keeping some distance from the people and things he cares about most, such as his family and music, as he believes having that distance creates less fear about losing these valuable aspects of his life. Senses Fail will begin their full North American tour a week after the release of If There Is Light, It Will Find You, starting on Feb. 27 in Santa Ana, California, and ending on March 31 in Las Vegas. Joining the band on tour is their new drummer, Steve Carey of The Color Morale. Carey is a huge fan of Senses Fail and the band’s original drummer Dan Trapp. The two have been working tirelessly to prep for the upcoming tour and Carey’s career with the band. Nielsen says the band are fully prepared to tour and that he is excited to travel again. “Going onstage and being seen by a room full of people is very therapeutic for me, especially for airing my grievances and, also, through having a forum to talk,” he says. “I’m getting the connection I need, which I don’t get on that level when I am at home. For me, it’s an important part of who I am and what I need, and I’m so stoked to do that and still play shows in front of people so far in our career.”
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For me, it started with Jesse Lacey. I’d been paying attention to the powerful men falling one by one as more and more sexual allegations came out. But Lacey was the first one to hit home for me. I grew up on Brand New. Hell, I still listened to them every once in a while—perhaps not as frequently as I did in my younger years, but with the same kind of fervor I felt as a 15-year-old. When Emily Driskill and Nicole Elizabeth Garey shared about the years of sexual harassment they experienced at the hands of Lacey, I felt what so many people reading their stories did. Disgusted. Angry. Not shocked. In the days after, I read too many comments online all saying essentially the same thing:
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“What Jesse did was awful, but I love his music, and he means so much to me. How can I just stop listening to Brand New?” People kept trying to separate the man from what he did. I had no time for that. Did Brand New have an impact on my burgeoning music years? Absolutely. But I refuse to give Lacey a pass because, a long time ago, he wrote songs that meant a lot to me. I wanted no part of him or his music. I thought that was it. But then, I read Sophie Benjamin’s Medium piece, “How mid-2000s emo groomed underage girls and poisoned teen boys.” You’ve probably read it as well—since it was published in November 2017, it has been read by more than 75,000 people and viewed more than 197,000 times, according to Benjamin’s website. It’s not hard to see why.
“Around the same time Brand New’s Jesse Lacey was singing songs about wishing his ex-girlfriend would die in a plane crash because she had the audacity to do a semester of college abroad, he was coercing underage girls into sending him nudes,” Benjamin writes. Benjamin also cites Jessica Hopper’s 2003 essay, “Emo: Where the Girls Aren’t.” Fifteen years ago, Hopper wrote about “the genre/plague that we know as emo songs that don’t consider the world beyond boy bodies, their broken hearts or their vans.” It should go without saying, but emo is by no means the only genre dominated by men singing about women in what can, at best, be called problematic— and, at worst, misogynistic and
hateful—ways. (See: “Under My Thumb: Songs That Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them” by Rhian Jones and Eli Davies.) In her book of essays, “Bad Feminist,” Roxane Gay points out the sexually violent undertones of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Kanye West’s Yeezus. But Gay also confronts the fact that she likes this music—and what that fact says about her. “We are constantly faced by this uncomfortable balance between brilliance and bad behavior,” she writes. Hopper discusses this same conundrum. When you start to dissect one song, one band, or one genre, it results in a domino effect that makes you realize everyone is guilty. “Who do you excuse and why?” Hopper writes. “Do you check your politics at the door and just dance or just
rock or just let side A spin out? Can you ignore the marginalization of women’s lives on the records that line your record shelves in hopes that feigned ignorance will bridge the gulf, because it’s either that or purge your collection of everything but free jazz, micro house 12”s, and the Mr. Lady Records catalog?” Benjamin and Hopper’s articles shocked me, more than the allegations against Lacey ever did. This scene that I grew up in and am still a part of, I was suddenly seeing it in a harsh, new light. Sure, there had been instances when a certain band or song made me sit up and say, “Whoa, that is not OK.” But to sit back and take a look, a real look, at the entire scene—from the lyrics to the artists to the people running it—was something I had never bothered to do. Hopper saw it way back in 2003. Why did it take me until the age of 29 to see it? It’s easy to brush it off as the ignorance of a silly, self-involved teenager, and sure, maybe that’s part of it. But I can’t claim that this music meant the world to me while also claiming that I was too young and dumb to “get” it. I saw what I wanted to, what I was supposed to. I think many of us did. If the past several months have taught us anything, it’s that we all need to talk about these issues—sexism, assault, harassment—and what we can do to address them. We need to take action to increase representation, not just of women but of femme and non-binary people, the LGBTQ community as a whole, and people of color. We at New Noise don’t cover just one genre, and the idea of tackling these issues across a wide spectrum of music seems daunting, if not downright impossible. But what emo, punk, metal, and a hundred other subgenres have in common is that they grew out of each other. Their fans overlap. And their fans live and die by this music. All fans are passionate, but it has always felt different in these
scenes. Even “scene” is such an easy word to throw around, but I’ve yet to hear another one that encompasses this motley crew of music fans so well. So, I spoke with four people from different backgrounds about their involvement in this music and the community that surrounds it. Each has a unique perspective when it comes to issues of representation in mu-
her friend and fellow photographer Erica Lauren Perez that showcases the work of women and non-binary music photographers. The Instagram caption reads: “this is why we do what we do. and yes, i cried. her name is francis and she had an embroidered camera on her shirt.” Coles still remembers Francis, recalls how she diligently snapped pictures of the photos
show. At the time, Perez was recovering from a dislocated knee and was “trying to figure out how to be productive.” The two friends came up with the idea for “To the Front” that night. For Coles, it felt like a sign. “Before [Perez] even finished her sentence, I kept saying, ‘Yes, yes, yes, yes. Let’s do it,’” she recalls. “I knew the universe was answering every anxious thought I had about music and where I fit in it and where I see myself as a Black woman in this very predominantly white male scene.” They held their first show in January 2017 in their hometown of Los Angeles. They kept it small, including their work and pieces from fellow photographers Carly Hoskins and Danielle Parsons. They didn’t plan to do another show, but the amount of support they received convinced them to commit. Last June, they took “To the Front” to New York, followed six months later by Toronto. Each show included more artists and larger crowds. Toronto was the first show under the “To the Front” moniker, a shortened version of the original “Girls to the Front”—a nod to Bikini Kill—intended to make the show’s title more inclusive. Each show is free to attend, and the photographers donate the money they earn from merch sales to charity.
she liked—and had her mom photograph any that were too high for her. “At the end of the day, if I don’t reach some girl who doesn’t see some other girl out there, I don’t think I did my job right,” Coles says, “I don’t think I used my platform the way I was meant to. Because that’s why I definitely do it. When I was 16, I didn’t see women like me in the pit.”
Although Coles and Perez created “To the Front” fairly recently, the motivation behind it has been simmering for years. Both women are 28 and became interested in music as teenagers. Perez found her footing in the punk scene through bands like The Virus, A Global Threat, The Distillers, and The Unseen. She started photographing bands at local venues and received her first photo pass from The Unseen for Warped Tour.
“To the Front” started when Perez attended an art exhibit in Los Angeles focused on the work of women of color. Coles’ photographs were featured in the
Coles was raised on a steady diet of MTV and cites bands like Simple Plan, Taking Back Sunday, and Sugarcult as early favorites. She still remembers the
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sic and the industry. We talked about their beginnings in music, how they got where they are, and the work they’re doing to create a more inclusive scene.
***** There is a photo on Courtney Coles’ Instagram account of a young girl named Francis. She is sitting backward on a couch, elbows propped up, iPhone in hand. She is taking a picture of a picture. The photograph that has captured Francis’ attention is from “To the Front,” a traveling exhibit started by Coles and
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first show she photographed. Taking Back Sunday played an album release show at Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard for 2004’s Where You Want To Be. Coles shot “with my little point-and-shoot and disposable camera[s],” she recalls.
in the music industry—or life in general,” Licktenhour says. “We do a lot of benefit releases. We try to raise a lot of money for organizations that do very political, sometimes radical, work. Even our bands—we really do a good job of picking bands that are queer [and] people of color. I don’t think there are any bands that are active on the label that are all white cis dudes. Even with the fest that we do, Get Better Fest, we really try to make it inclusive in a way that feels good and not like we’re alienating people who should be included.”
Both Coles and Perez have strong memories of the music scenes they grew up in and the diversity—or lack thereof—inherent in them. “I’m Mexican, and I grew up in an area that was primarily white, but the shows that I was going to, a lot of Mexican punks were there. I felt like there was more diversity within that community,” Perez says. “There were a lot of female punks who were going to these shows, but when I would go to different types of concerts and it was more, like, the pop punk world, I definitely felt that it was mostly white and it was mostly guys.” “It’s L.A., so it’s a pretty diverse town, but I was very hyperaware that, besides me and my sister, there were probably, like, less than 10 other Black people at these shows,” Coles says. “It was weird, because people treat you differently, but you don’t know why they’re treating you differently. When I started getting more into photographing shows, I was hyperaware that the pit was mainly dudes. It became this thing of me trying to weirdly assert myself in this scene, like ‘I belong here.’ No one in the pit ever questioned my authority, but I always felt like I needed to be ready for it just in case.” That desire to showcase their work—and the work of their friends who are also underrepresented in their fields—is what led Perez and Coles to create “To the Front.” They also see the exhibit as a way to encourage and support younger generations of artists. “I want people who are getting into photography and are younger than me to feel like there’s representation there,” Perez says. “When I was younger, I didn’t see that.”
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“I see all my friends who are killing it right now,” Perez continues. “They’re working professionally. They’re going on tour. This is their job. This is not a hobby. And they’re not getting the same recognition as some of the most mediocre work I see getting praise online. It’s very noticeable. If you don’t have a space for yourself, you have to create it.” “To the Front” will be in Nashville June 1. Visit tothefrontdiy. com for more information.
***** When Alex Licktenhour started Get Better Records in 2010, they didn’t intend to create a label focused on supporting queer artists. They just wanted an accessible way to release their music and that of their friends. Only after Licktenhour started to unravel their own gender identity did the label evolve into what it is today. “The label has helped me grow in a lot of ways as a person from being exposed to different politics, different peo-
ple,” Licktenhour says. “I feel like my goals and politics have changed since starting the label. Whereas, when I first started it, I wasn’t thinking about gender. I wasn’t thinking about things like that at all, even in my own life. You know, it was always kind of there, but kind of suppressed. [Get Better] was always a political label, but it wasn’t political in the same way it is now, just ’cause I’ve changed so much as a person.” In the past eight years, Get Better Records has put out more than 60 releases from bands such as Cayetana, Thin Lips, and Young Mountain. The label also hosts Get Better Fest, an annual music festival in Philadelphia, where the label is based. The goal of Get Better Fest is to raise money and awareness for local and national organizations, and 2018 will mark its fifth year. It’s scheduled for May 4 through May 6, and proceeds will go to Black And Pink, Morris Home, and Project SAFE. “We strive to support the people who are not typically supported
Today, Get Better Records is run by Licktenhour, Jenna Pup from The HIRS Collective, and Ally Einbinder from Potty Mouth, who is also Licktenhour’s partner. Like Coles and Perez, Einbinder and Licktenhour can trace their musical beginnings back to their teenage years. Einbinder grew up in Albany, New York, and started going to punk shows when she was 14. She was drawn to punk because “it seemed like anyone could just start a band and put out a record and tour the country.” Everyone, that is, but her. “I had a lot of guy friends, and I never even considered the fact that I could also do the same thing— learn an instrument, start a band—until I was about 20 or 21 years old,” she says. “The punk scene where I grew up in Albany was just very, very much male-dominated—not just dominated by men in numbers, but just the whole vibe of it was very macho and masculine and a boys’ club. There wasn’t actually a lot of solidarity among women in the scene. Because there were so few of us, it felt more like a competition of who can be accepted into the boys’ club.” Einbinder picked up the bass in college when a friend gave her a tape of songs he’d written and told her to learn them if she was serious about playing bass. Once she became more comfortable with her instrument, she decided to start her own band to have more creative control. A couple
years later, in 2011, she formed Potty Mouth.
Licktenhour admits that they had a different experience with music growing up. “I started playing drums when I was 11 or 12—just, like, at school and stuff. Music’s always been interesting to me,” they say. “I got into DIY starting when I was, like, 14 years old. One of my friends had an older brother who was in the DIY scene booking shows. I had a very different experience than Ally, first, starting off, because I grew up like a boy, I guess, and I had those privileges of, like, ‘Boys can play music.’”
Courtney Coles, Erica Lauren Perez, Alex Licktenhour, and Ally Einbender are doing necessary work. It’s not easy, lucrative work, and it’s often thankless, but each of them acknowledges its importance and how much it means to them. We should all be doing necessary work.
It’s tempting to collapse into a heap of “Everything is terrible, and people are awful!” I get it. A lot of shit is terrible. This article was inspired by terrible shit. We even talked about all the terrible shit, from Jesse Lacey—“What do you do when the band that fixes things is the band that causes pain?” Coles wonders—to sexual assault allegations in the news—“It shows that this is a pattern in culture, and no, you’re not crazy. You’re
not alone,” Einbender says—to people who tokenize women for their own gain—“I’ve been hired for stuff before, and I find out later they needed a girl to do it,” Perez shares. But perhaps it’s more productive and heartening to focus on the positive work people are doing to help remedy the terrible shit. In the end, that is much more powerful.
Get Better is a small but mighty label with a mission to support and advocate for those who are often overlooked. Unfortunately, the label is still an outlier in the industry. While Licktenhour says change is happening in terms of diversity and inclusivity, they also wonder how long it will last and question the intention behind it. “I think we’re making progress a little bit in the fact that people are being spotlighted more and being given the [credit] and attention they deserve,” they say. “[But], in the media, are things changing because people actually want there to be change? Or are they changing because they don’t want to be the next thing that’s called out for something?” “I feel like it is becoming more inclusive in a lot of ways,” Licktenhour continues. “This is a hard question for me. I don’t feel excluded necessarily, but I think a lot of people do. I think that’s slowly changing as people’s politics are changing. Obviously, it’s still a huge thing that it’s dominated by white men, but I feel like that’s even slowly shifting, and there’s more not-whitedudes playing music. That feels really good. Even though these are small, slow changes, they’re really positive changes that can be really inclusive.” To learn more about Get Better Records, visit getbetterrecordsnh.limitedrun.com.
ARTWORK BY JENN WOODALL
The threat against queer and trans folks in the U.S. right now is real and it’s scary. With a president in office who isn’t interested in protecting the rights and freedom of marginalized people, and a vice president who has actively spoken out against the LGBTQ community, it’s no wonder that the same people who were talking about moving forward and making progress a year ago are now worried about their fundamental rights. The Supreme Court case involving Masterpiece Cakeshop presents a frightening situation for queer people. The defendant is a bakery whose owner refused to make a custom wedding cake for a samesex couple. If the baker wins the case, it will set a precedent for legal discrimination. It could even
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open the door for reversing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. So, what can underground music communities do about this? There’s no easy answer, but it’s clear that solidarity and standing with the oppressed is necessary. Small businesses across the U.S. have started the Open To All campaign in response to the exclusionary practices demonstrated by Masterpiece. We posit that the music scene in general should do the same thing—and many of its members already have been.
OUR DUTY AS AN ALTERNATIVE Many feel that the alternative music community, which doesn’t necessarily follow the rules of the mainstream, has been doing
the work of creating “open to all” spaces for longer than the rest of the world. “Underground culture and community, by definition, has to create its own spaces outside of the formal or legal systems that could not give less of a fuck about it,” says Avi Ehrlich, founder of the comics publishing house, art crew, and record label Silver Sprocket. “If polite society is just now finally talking about the concept of respecting gay people’s needs for wedding cakes, just think about how backwards everyone still is about institutionalized racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and the rest. These are not new forms of discrimination; the cake case just shows how vital our community-built, deliberate spaces
are for us to try existing better.”
KEEPING MUSIC QUEER Still, many see room for improvement. One way to make scenes safer for queer folks is to create spaces that completely center the voices of LGBTQ people. Scott Myers, who just started a queer punk night in Denver, did so because he craves a place where queerness and counterculture can come together. “In my experience, Denver has a great and overall very queer-friendly punk scene, but most venues and shows remain spaces where queer people can feel isolated because we are the ‘minority,’” he explains. “Meanwhile, Denver also has a large and
thriving gay scene, but those of us who are into punk and other forms of counterculture don’t really connect with the music and aesthetics of those spaces. I want a queer punk night to bridge this gap, a space for those of us who have spent much of our lives feeling like we have to choose between two scenes that offer varying levels of comfort for different people, but which definitely leave us feeling that something is missing.” By curating this type of environment, those who love underground music but often feel like second-class participants can finally take center stage.
only serves to make the white and otherwise privileged members of these scenes feel welcome. As Rachika Samarth, drummer for the radical queer band MALLRAT, points out, it’s important to focus on being holistically inclusive when encouraging queerness to flourish in the underground. “I think, especially in rapidly gentrifying cities, it’s important to redefine or dismiss ‘inclusion’ as the fundamental value venues seek to center,” she explains. “For instance, in Brooklyn, ‘diversifying’
indie rock bills at DIY venues as the primary means of redressing racial violence can often feel like a meaningless neoliberal gesture by largely NYC-transplants—because it often only means expanding the racial diversity of gentrifiers playing and frequenting these spaces rather than actually redistributing these resources and allocating these spaces back to the local low-income Black residents these scenes stole those spaces and resources from.”
There’s no one right way to promote queer and trans inclusivity, but it seems that the best thing to do is be conscious and deliberate and really listen to those who have been marginalized in the underground. Whether that means instituting an LGBTQ record night, radicalizing the underground as an alternative to systemic inequality, or promoting a more intersectional understanding of what these spaces can look like, it is important to center the voices of queer and trans people in our alternative music scenes.
CURATING SAFER SPACES AND STAYING VOCAL Of course, not all venues and events are going to be queer-centric, and for those who play in bands or follow certain genres, it’s not realistic to expect every place to have a queer majority or be overwhelmingly radical. Although she hails from Texas and plays many shows in the South, Doomstress Alexis of the metal outfit Doomstress has had overwhelmingly good experiences as a trans woman in these spaces. “I’ve been playing metal and touring various parts of the U.S. over the past three years and have been treated great by venues, bands, staff, fans, and attendees alike,” she relates. “I’ve played the Deep South, all over my home state of Texas at places [from] The Deadhorse in San Angelo, The Lost Well or Barracuda in Austin, and Walter’s or Rudyard’s in Houston to Birmingham, Alabama, at The Nick Rocks or White Water Tavern in Little Rock, Arkansas.” Despite the negative stigmas sometimes associated with certain regions and scenes, it makes a huge difference when the people involved treat everyone with respect. As long as awareness is spread and advocated for, even spaces that are not predominantly queer can be safe.
KEEPING IT INTERSECTIONAL While it is extremely important to embrace queerness and make space for LGBTQ folks in underground music spaces, it often
ARTWORK BY JENN WOODALL
Female-fronted: a term used to lump together disparate bands based on the presence of a female vocalist or frontperson. Male-fronted: a term rarely—if ever—used, because male musicians are seen as the default. The use of the term “female-fronted” has become just as controversial in music as other more overtly sexist outlooks and behaviors, such as believing women don’t have a place onstage with the guys or the isolation of those who are not white straight cisgender men. The majority of female musicians constantly deal with sexism in the scene, including being tokenized, excluded, and seen as not good enough to play alongside their male counterparts. Now, many musicians are starting to say: “female-fronted is not a genre!”
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Recently, Looming vocalist Jessica Knight posted an Instagram photo of the phrase slapped on a cluster of bumper stickers and accepted all requests from friends and fans wanting one for themselves. Knight hopes the phrase will be used as a tool to think more critically about how we categorize bands with female vocalists and frontpeople. “To me, I think that women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community should be encouraged to play music for sure. I admit that a lot of the music I listen to is fronted by non-male members, and I think that’s great,” Knight says. “I don’t want it to be misconstrued, but I don’t agree with tokenizing that idea and grouping all female-fronted bands into the same [category]. It makes us feel like we can’t play with the boys.”
Knight created the stickers as a reminder for those who tend to use the term as a catchall qualifier for any band with a female vocalist. However, she received backlash for making the stickers, with many people arguing that she should empower girls to play music. “I agree,” she clarifies. “I want to empower everyone to play music. I just want to be respected in the same way everyone else is respected, and I want to be compared to bands that are male-fronted in the same genre my band is.” Like Knight, Backswing vocalist Marissa Ward-Hamilton also stands behind this statement. She says she is constantly asked what it is like being a female vocalist instead of being asked about her band as a whole. “Everyone wants to ask us the same questions and
describe us as female-fronted, because they think it’s the cool new thing, but it’s like, ‘No, don’t do that,’” Ward-Hamilton says. “I shoot people down, and I’m like, ‘Don’t ask me these questions, and don’t describe my band like that.’” Despite the issues these ladies have faced, they are enduring the blowback and doing everything in their power to help eliminate the term “female-fronted,” both on a large and small scale. Ward-Hamilton declares, “Honestly, it’s gotten to the point now where if someone puts us on a show—and maybe doesn’t know what we are about—and put ‘female-fronted from Detroit,’ I will go out of my way to message the promoter that I would prefer to have them use something else, because female-fronted is not a genre. It’s not, and it never will be.”
The major issue with using the term “female-fronted” derives from the idea that not many vocalists—and even fewer non-vocalist musicians—are women, so their status as female seems noteworthy enough to warrant being broadcast above all other descriptors. Inclusivity on all spectrums can help defer the illusion that female vocalists and frontpeople need to be isolated in their own category. “Every time Looming goes on tour, we ask that they be inclusive when choosing the local bands who play with us,” Knight says. “They can do that however they see fit, whether it’s with bands that include women or non-binary people or people of color, whatever they want to do, but that’s what we are asking our promoter to do for our shows.” Similar to what Ward-Hamilton and Knight have experienced, Brianna Collins of Tigers Jaw says she too deals with persistent sexism due to being the only woman in her band. “I think it’s a little different in regard to Tigers Jaw, because I would say Ben [Walsh] is the frontperson in our band,” Collins states, “but it does get pointed out that we are a band with a woman in it.” Collins empathizes with vocalists and frontpeople who are singled out and othered for being women. “There needs to be attention [paid] to the fact that just being a woman in a band shouldn’t be a completely different experience than a guy in a band,” she says. “My biggest hope from this is that girls or women who want to be in bands aren’t discouraged by the previous picture of what being a girl in a band has been painted,” Collins adds. “I think it can be a really unique experience being a girl in a band. I know, personally, for me, being the only girl in this band, I definitely have different experiences than the males in my band.
If you want to do it, then do it, and don’t tell anyone you can’t just because you’re a girl.” While change isn’t going to happen suddenly, these musicians are just
a few of the many who are stepping up to take a stand on ending the sexism and isolation many people are confronted with in the scene. “Realistically, it’s going to take a lot of work, but if we start seeing
everyone as equal, then everyone should be treated as a human being and not what we define them as,” Ward-Hamilton says. “We are all people, and we deserve to be treated with respect.”
NEW NOISE BOOK NOOK PRESENTS... ioned noir centered on dames, shady backroom deals, and fast getaways. The catch is that this story is set in the reality TV, Instagram convergence point of 21st century Hollywood, where business deals, sexploits, and criminal behavior all revolve around page views. “It’s a very real world,” Havok says of the dizzying Hollywood aura he explores in the novel. “It’s a world of youth culture and celebrity culture that I am confronted with, and I think many people are confronted with, whether or not they are aware of that confrontation. It’s very pervasive, particularly throughout Western culture, especially with social media.”
INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR DAVEY HAVOK BY JAMES ALVAREZ
avey Havok is a busy guy. Like, ridiculously busy. When he’s not jumping between bands including AFI, Dreamcar, XTRMST, and Blaqk Audio, performing stints on Broadway, or ironing out his own clothing line, this vegan straight edge punk rock icon—and literal PETA poster boy—is cranking out novels. Havok first stepped into the literary world with 2013’s “Pop Kids,” in which he crafted a debaucherous look at nihilistic millennials. His latest book, “Love Fast Los Angeles,” drops Feb. 6 via Black Candy Publishing. It exists in the same sordid universe as “Pop Kids,” but focuses on the glitzy and depraved appeal of The City of Angels. “Love Fast Los Angeles” is a gripping and twisted ode to life in the fast lane in Southern California. It’s a tale of love and loss, romance and revenge, sex,
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drugs, and social media. Havok’s story follows a boisterous young party photographer named Alvin. He’s a rock ‘n’ roll warrior armed with a Canon, hellbent on ending the career of Hollywood’s premier douchebag, winning the heart of L.A.’s hottest socialite, and driving his mustang faster than lighting whenever possible. “Alvin exists in the first novel; he was inspired by a couple of friends of mine,” Havok explains. “When I realized he would be the focus of the second novel and that he became a party photographer, he just kind of bloomed into a different identity—based on people who I know, people who I’ve seen, and people who I’ve played with.” Alvin wants to climb the A-list, not for fame and fortune, but to use his stature to right past wrongs and nab Sky Monroe: his dream babe and professed future wife. At its core, “Love Fast Los Angeles” feels like an old-fash-
Havok’s book not only captures the media-hyped cultural zeitgeist, but also the actual landscape of Southern California. “I’ve always loved Los Angeles,” he says fondly. “When I was a preteen, walking Melrose and seeing all the death rockers and punk rockers in real life for the
first time was really impactful for me.” Havok’s love of the Southland shines throughout “Love Fast Los Angeles.” He sprinkles in references to landmarks, freeways, radio stations, and other genuine SoCal-isms that help keep the fantastical elements of Alvin’s misadventures grounded in reality. His romp through Disneyland, his journey to Malibu, and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ seemingly omnipresent grasp on his radio all make Alvin feel like a real-life L.A. dude—reality show paparazzi shenanigans aside. Havok prefers to write between tours, because “I’m so exhausted on the road, my brain doesn’t really function as well in that respect,” he laments, but he juggles music and writing like his character Score juggles smartphones—deftly. For now, the writing bug is strong with this one, and Havok has plans for a third novel down the road. If it’s anything like “Love Fast Los Angeles,” his next work is destined to be “gnar.”
INTERVIEW WITH C0-AUTHOR MIGUEL CHEN BY NICK HARRAH
rowing up the son of Mexican and Chinese immigrants in Wyoming, Miguel Chen found friends and a sense of community through punk rock. He traveled the world playing bass for Teenage Bottlerocket and lived out his punk rock dreams. But he never found peace. Now, having opened two locations of Blossom Yoga Studio—one in Laramie, one in Cheyenne—and married his wife, fellow yoga instructor Lily Comeau Chen, he has finally found it. With his forthcoming book, “I Wanna Be Well: How a Punk Found Peace and You Can Too”—out Feb. 20 via Wisdom Publications—Chen and coauthor Rod Meade Sperry hope to help punk rockers find it too—D.I.Y. style. Having learned the hard way that no matter where you go, there you are, Chen says he hopes his lessons learned can help others change their lives for the better. “A lot of us maybe have some pain that comes from just not feeling like we fit in or not feeling like we’re what we’re supposed to be. So, that maybe drives a lot of self-abuse, or a lot of substance abuse, in punk rock,” he admits. “You start playin’ in bands, and life just becomes this big party, and it’s really fun, but at some point, it becomes more destructive—the partying—than it is fun. So, the pain just kind of deepens over time.”
For Chen, losing his mother and sister as a teenager was a pain too great to escape, despite the years gone by. “When that stuff happened, I turned to, like, ‘Punk rock: this is my outlet, this is my savior. This is the only thing I can do where life just doesn’t fucking suck,’” he explains. “So, I dove really deep into that. As time went on, Bottlerocket had lots of success, and I was getting to live out my dreams. It was really fucking cool. But there was also this underlying thing where there’s all this pain and all this shit I’m not dealing with. So, I’m just kind of running.” When Chen stopped running, he became very, very still. “So, that’s kind of where meditation and yoga started to make their way into my life,” he recalls. “I was a little bit like, ‘I’m living my dream, so why does everything still hurt?’” Some friends turned Chen onto some exercises that had worked for them. “I started to find these moments of real peace where I wasn’t running or hiding from anything. I was legitimately connected and at peace, even if just for a moment.” Chen hopes these practices can help people enrich their lives. “I really believe in synchronicity and things kind of falling into place,” he says of his book deal with Wisdom Publications. “I was like, ‘Yeah, this is a great opportunity to try to help people.’ I use the experiences I’ve had, and hopefully, for someone else, it’s useful, and they can suffer a little bit less.”
INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR TONY RETTMAN BY HUTCH
ony Rettman answers the phone during a rigorous day of doing laundry in his home in Long Island, not far from his home state of New Jersey. He is taking a break after extensive book signings and speaking engagements, not to mention teaching a class on hardcore at NYU. He has also just written his third book, offering old and new punks an oral history of one of the most compelling subcultures within hardcore: straight edge. After tackling the Detroit scene with 2010’s “Why Be Something That You’re Not: Detroit Hardcore 1979–1985” and the New York scene with 2014’s “NYHC: New York Hardcore 1980–1990,” Rettman now expands beyond a certain era or locale. He delves into the many factions of the simultaneously unifying and divisive movement in “Straight Edge: A Clear-Headed Hardcore Punk History,” released in November 2017 via Bazillion Points. Rettman has been busy for years. “When I finished ‘NYHC,’ I jumped right into ‘Straight Edge.’ I am not doing that this time,” he notes. But by his third book, Rettman had the formula down. “It’s not something I can articulate,” he says. “I think the only formula I have is to be robotic. As soon as the interview is done, I go downstairs and transcribe it by myself. I go through it like, ‘Oh, this guy talked about Youth Of Today. I am going to put it in a folder with everyone who talks about Youth Of Today. Oh, this guy talks about Uniform Choice. Now, that’s a folder.’ I build it from the ground up and see what the story is.”
The process of turning collected quotes and statements into a narrative is the essence of Rettman’s books. Now, he has finally written about the scene dearest to his youth. “‘Straight Edge,’ out of the three, was the thing that I was closest to, personally,” he confirms. “In the late ‘80s, I was really into all the bands that were part of that, like Youth Of Today, Gorilla Biscuits, and Uniform Choice.” Having amassed stories from most of straight edge’s 40-year history and its myriad contributors around the globe, Rettman was focused—but this was different than looking at a single scene from one era. Straight edge is a philosophy. “Yeah, there is a philosophy there,” he says, “but out of that philosophy a scene was built, like a bubble within a bubble. That’s what I was trying to document, more so than the philosophy. Obviously, you can’t escape it. We are going to trace the history of this philosophy into a movement throughout hardcore punk, but make sure the music is always in the front seat. All the books about straight edge are about looking at it in a sociological or philosophical way.” Rettman expands on what was engaging to him about straight edge and its music, noting that it envelops many varied subsets, even those who do not adhere to its basest guidelines. “There are people who stay straight edge all their lives; there are some who don’t,” he notes. “I am one of them that didn’t. I can still appreciate the music. There are a lot of people who can. They cannot be straight edge, but the music is still there. The music is a touchstone to go back and remember those times.”
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In 2018, it’s hardly necessary to dedicate an entire column to the fact that women exist in the realm of heavy metal, and it can be obnoxious and trite to give a round of applause every time a woman joins a band.
haven’t already. Jess hanDOOMSTRESS dles vocals for the weird ALEXIS and wonderful-ness that is DOOMSTRESS this band, and each of their songs is heavy, trippy, and something of a sonic journey. They last released a record in December 2017, when they put out The However, it’s no secret that Horse and Other Weird doom has been a witchy en- Tales through Svart Redeavor since Jinx Dawson cords. of Coven invented the genre JILLIAN TAYLOR in 1969, and it’s even more RUBY THE noteworthy that today, a lot HATCHET of the women carrying on that trend are queer, trans, people of color, and generIf you want to be transportal badasses who don’t fit a ed through time and space cookie cutter formula. by some epic doom rock, then Doomstress Alexis is So, without further ado, your girl. She heads up this here are just a few of the Texas-based outfit, who doom queens who should just dropped their second be on your radar if you enrecord, Supernatural Kvlt joy the slow and the heavy. Sounds - The Second Rite, via NoSlip Records. AlexJESS is handles bass and vocal JESS AND THE duties, and as an out trans ANCIENT ONES woman, she is also an acRuby The Hatchet, based tive queer advocate, recentin New Jersey, continue to ly helming a photo essay make waves with their Tee highlighting the absurdity Pee Records release from of banning trans folks from August 2017, Planetary using the bathrooms that Space Child. Jillian Taylor match their genders. Keep sings in this epic space rock an eye on her and Doomgroup, and her vocals and stress this year for tour aplyrics are weird and won- pearances and, hopefully, derful, perfect for fans of more music. Those who like their doom space classics like HawkKRISTINA super psychedelic and wind. They are still hot off ESFANDIARI experimental should cer- the release of their last alKING WOMAN tainly check out Jess And bum, and fans can’t wait to If there’s one band who emThe Ancient Ones, if they hear what 2018 has in store. body what we really need
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in 2018, it’s King Woman. The name says it all: Kristina Esfandiari is king, and her heavy, breathy voice combined with the earthy, droning, shoegaze-inspired styling of their latest Relapse Records offering, Image of Suffering, is all a doom fan needs. She also has a solo project, Miserable, which deals with more personal issues like depression and is equally haunting and beautiful.
PHOTO: MATTHEW KADI
To check out our full list of witchy women who are killing it in the new year, go to NewNoiseMagazine.com!
EPs PISSED REGARDLESS: FEED THE BIRDS: CREATOR-DESTRUCTOR RECORDS
San Diego-based thrash purveyors, Pissed Regardless, are releasing their dark, negative take on hardcore-based crossover on Feb. 16. Feed the Birds is thick and powerful. The condemning ferocity of the vocals matches the brutal music. Incensed vocals and frenzied drum patterns switch on dimes to bring pulsating respites and breakdowns, bordering on grind at times. Heavy riffs accompany slick chops and relentless double bass drums bellowing disdain for a rotten world. Pissed Regardless call to influences from ‘90s Earache and ‘80s New York hardcore to current bands like SSS, Ramming Speed, and This Is Hell. Again, heavy.
SPLITS WINDHAND / SATAN’S SATYRS: SPLIT 12”: RELAPSE RECORDS
Richmond, Virginia, presents two of their macabre darlings. Windhand resurface after their glorious 2015 LP, Grief’s Infernal Flower. Vocalist and bassist Clayton Burgess’ brainchild, Satan’s Satyrs, have not released anything since 2015 either, leaving off with the full-length, Don’t Deliver Us. This 12” balances Satan’s Satyrs’ raw riffs and gusto with Windhand’s musicality and challenging of paradigms. If you’re lulled by Windhand, Satan’s Satyrs’ side is a jolting slap. The five tracks demand a 12” format. The vinyl is available Feb. 16.
IRON REAGAN / GATECREEPER: SPLIT LP: RELAPSE RECORDS
Stomping into 2018, on March 2, Relapse Records gives the world two raging bands on one slab of wax. Iron Reagan’s scalding crossover and Gatecreeper’s punishing death metal have impressed fans globally. Relapse cemented their split’s classic status by having the two bands attend the same studio, the lauded GodCity, with Kurt Ballou producing. Relapse posted a track from each band on YouTube: Iron Reagan’s two-minute “Paper Shredder,” one of their five tracks from side A, and Gatecreeper’s “War Has Begun,” one of their three, which pummels eardrums for four minutes. Unique shirts with both bands’ logo and the artwork are available in black or white.
REISSUES HOLY TERROR: TOTAL TERROR BOX SET AND REISSUES: DISSONANCE PRODUCTIONS / BACK ON BLACK Holy Terror were a Los Angeles band who savagely represented thrash. Their first two albums are legendary. Terror and Submission from 1987 and Mind Wars from 1988 are heralded in the canon of U.S. thrash, though mostly by passionate fans who dare to dig beyond the common names. But that hunt just became easier. Dissonance Productions presents Total Terror, available Feb. 9. Holy Terror’s entire catalog is here on five discs: Terror and Submission; Mind Wars; 2007’s El Revengo; their new live album, Live Terror; and a rare DVD featuring multiple live shows and videos. For those who crave vinyl, reissues of all four records are available via Back On Black.
ALESTORM: CAPTAIN MORGAN’S REVENGE 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION: NAPALM RECORDS
In 2008, Alestorm secured a large fan base with their mixture of storytelling and catchy metal. Sharp guitars, clean production, and rowdy lyrics ensured waves of attention. On Jan. 26, their 2008 debut, Captain Morgan’s Revenge, was resurrected by Napalm Records, who tout “a fresh remix and remastering by original producer Lasse Lammert at his LSDStudio, plus rejuvenated artwork.” The Live at Summer Breeze bonus disc is included as well. Alestorm combine meaty riffs and raging rhythms with folktale aesthetics and symphonic metal grandiosity. Their tales are alluring when paired with punctuated production and mesmerizing guitar leads. Revisit the beginnings of Alestorm!
COMPILATIONS VARIOUS: AMERICA’S HARDCORE VOLUME 4: TRIPLE B RECORDS Continuing their beloved America’s Hardcore series, Triple B delivered Volume 4 on Jan. 26. This installment boasts upstarts Brother from New Bedford, Massachusetts, playing Negative Approach-style hardcore, and Krimewatch’s old-school, abrasive, punky hardcore. Line Of Sight are D.C. straight edge revival with mosh-friendly two-step rhythms, while GLORY play infectious Boston Youth Crew Hardcore, and Pure Disgust offer up some punishing D.C. thrash. Also featured is the metallic frenzy of Primal Rite, big wigs like NYHC supergroup World Be Free and Baltimore titans Trapped Under Ice, and many more. The bands all pitched in to help design the 20-page, 12-inch by 12-inch insert booklet.
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GENGHIS / C_C: SPLIT EP: SMALL BUT HARD RECORDINGS This split cassette from the London and Berlin-based label Small But Hard Recordings is like the detachment of an ozone layer from the four quadrants of your alien doppelgänger. Genghis—a new project by Goh Nakada—is like dub techno from Hell. It is equally earthy and robotic, charmed by its contemporary horror-minded mode. Where there’s a clear path to follow with Genghis, C_C presents a more invisible one, accentuated by noise and dark glitch. The beats are musky and circular, and there are deep caverns to lose oneself in whilst maneuvering to the fading angle of electronic approachability. You will get lost.
DSKNT: PHSPHR ENTROPY: SENTIENT RUIN LABORATORIES Switzerland’s DSKNT play abstract black metal, focusing more on texture and grain than confusion. The final product is a deepening portal of trance, sucking you into the ether and grinding you with accents and whirlwinds. There’s a perpetual motion to the music that is defiant and bleak, yet never intends to completely banish you from existence— no, there is a message through the madness. What it says, whom it speaks to: those are the possibilities that PhSPHR Entropy throws your way. There is no hesitation with this band, and consequently, you’re treated to a confident and refined propulsion. This is a dark tape to be played with candlelight, “Magic: The Gathering,” and bitter wine.
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ALIEN TRILOGY: SNAKE TRADER: ALREADY DEAD TAPES AND RECORDS Brooklyn’s Alien Trilogy are a welcome throwback to the sort of post-punk and psychedelic madness I grew up on. The band aren’t afraid to take their compositions and slime them over, make abstract jokes, then bring everything to a halt. There’s a wondrous combination of cutup culture, sci-fi, and straight punk rock here, with groove and abstraction forging a sort of brave cacophony. Hüsker Dü, Butthole Surfers, Sonic Youth, Captain Beefheart, Arto Lindsay, Can—all shed a shimmering light on Alien Trilogy. Snake Trader is a bend in the fabric of time, a story and a movement that alter your step and flatten your mind. The band are best taken with a grain of salt, but it’s hard not to indulge in the album’s progression and extension.
CHARLES BARABÉ / RATKILLER: AVANT-GARDE AVORTON ROMANTIQUE / TRANSRATIONAL SUITE: CRASH SYMBOLS Conceived as an homage to the atonalist Anton Webern, the new split from Canadian composer Charles Barabé and Estonian musician Ratkiller—a.k.a. Mihkel Kleis—is an enchanted journey to the water lands of infinity. Barabé constructs hymns with classical influence and contemporary deconstructionism, finding the sweet spot between form and abstraction. Ratkiller is more club-oriented, though not in the traditional sense. His music is lofty and angular with pinches of sensation and surrealist expositions on pseudo-standards—see “An Attempted Dialogue Between Man and Fish.” The full tape lies somewhere between the breeze from the moon and the light in Plato’s cave.
Features: Of Mice & Men, Screaming Females, Andrew W.K., Superchunk, Agrimonia, Brian Fallon, Dashboard Confessional, Earthless, Ilsa, Mind...
Published on Feb 28, 2018
Features: Of Mice & Men, Screaming Females, Andrew W.K., Superchunk, Agrimonia, Brian Fallon, Dashboard Confessional, Earthless, Ilsa, Mind...