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ROYAL THUNDER WICK

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ON MENTAL HEALTH:

In this special installment of FQP, we seek to shine a light on the joys and heartaches that lie at the intersection of the LGBTQIA community, the world of alternative music, and the complex issue of mental health. Nine artists weigh in on what the broad subject of mental health means to them… PHOTO: HAZEL ANDREWS HOLMES

PHOTO: RYAN BRANN

SHANNON LEDBETTER OF RAMONA -SLOPPY POPPY PUNKY DANCY SAD TIMES FROM SEATTLE-

HOW TO COPE

Lately, I feel fear. A crushing paranoia that my family and friends could be in danger from our own government. Ever since election night, people have been getting bolder with their hate, while I just feel like hiding. So how does one go about their respectable lives while experiencing the ever-present threat of oppression? I don’t know. I can only tell you what works for me. Making art helps me sort through my feelings. Playing with Ramona is the best therapy I can afford. I’ve surrounded myself with folx who care and support equal rights for all people. What helps me the most is pretty simple actually. Openness and talking about my fears with those I care about is essential to my own self-care. Right now, being queer and Black in America feels like I have a target painted on my back. We have to be there for each other if things take a turn for the worst. I strongly believe that underneath the desperation we feel as a community, there is hope. As long as we are willing to fight to hold onto it, We will be okay.

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NEW NOISE

KK OF PLASTIC HEAP

-DARK, CATCHY, FREAKER PUNK ABOUT STRUGGLING TO STAY ALIVE FROM COLUMBUS, OHIO-

For most of my life, I didn’t know how to talk about trauma. I didn’t have the language to express what I had experienced or what I was feeling. I didn’t even know how fucking angry I was for a long, long time. I found the strength to leave my abuser after attending a survivor speak-out at my college in 2011, and, with it, the voice to name my pain and start screaming about it. I haven’t shut up since. As a lyricist, I’ve gained so much power over my trauma by sharing it with other people and finding community in the people who relate to my experience. Though I’ve been just as explicit and noisy in other projects, Plastic Heap songs are about the oppressive nature of living as a queer trans person in a straight cis world, dealing with having a human body through the lens of gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia, healing from abusive relationships with friends, partners, and family members, and trying to fucking survive in a constant battle with your own damaged mind. Self-identifying as “sick” and “crazy” has become a helpful tool in healing over the past year or two to distinguish what work is mine to do and what I do not deserve to be punished for. I’ve taken a lot of shit from myself and others over the years, accepting myself as “too sick” to be a good person, and I’m over blaming myself. Despite my everyday struggles with my mental health, I deserve to feel support and experience happiness.


BUT FIRST…

WHAT IS GET

BETTER ALL ABOUT?!

“Get Better Records is a Queer-run independent label founded by Alex Lichtenauer,” explains Pierce Jordan of the Philly hardcore four-piece, Soul Glo. “A Philadelphia resident, Lichtenauer uses Get Better as a personal effort to reverse the constant underrepresentation of the city’s Queer arts community, with a specific focus on punk, hardcore, and alternative rock music. Get Better’s work is meant to extend to those who need it most. Get Better prioritizes those seeking relief from the turmoil of their lives, those like the families of the victims of the June 2016 shooting of the Pulse Nightclub in Florida, to whom Get Better extended proceeds from a compilation of songs by artists on the label’s roster and from the Philadelphia area. Get Better is also responsible for a local festival by the same name, which holds showcases at Philadelphia’s First Unitarian Church and venue, PhilaMOCA, donating all door sales to the Trans Assistance Project, Youth Emergency Services, and Women Against Abuse.” PHOTO: CAT PARK

PHOTO: JILL MALLON

L MATHIS POET/ARTIST/MUSICIAN -SOFT PRINCE IN PHILLY TRYING THEIR BEST-

ALEX LICHTENAUER OF GET BETTER RECORDS

A few years ago, I developed severe anorexia and anxiety, partially due to an abusive relationship, and had little to no support to help balance my physical and emotional health. For about a year, I was afraid to reach out and learned firsthand that emotional distress can lead to physical/self-harm. I eventually was too sick to help myself, but a previous partner helped me to move to Asheville [North Carolina], where I attended acupuncture and herbal medicine school. My healing process has been a slow one, and every day continues to be a constant struggle. I often try to keep myself busy enough where I don’t have time to think about my own needs and try to not let myself dig deeper into the emotional scars I have. I moved to Philadelphia a little over a year ago, have been working closely with a therapist and eating disorder nutritionist. I am still far from “healed,” but the important thing is that I finally have the emotional support in my life to finally overcome this difficult chapter in my life.

Too often my pain rots into something quiet and unspoken. I don’t know how to touch it, so I let it collapse into silence. When I am having a hard time, I feel like I’m back to square one of healing. I ignore texts, I cancel plans, I melt into self-destruction in the stillness of my room and construct a public mask of contentedness. Last year was terrifying. I spent a great deal of it being swallowed by self-destructive urges, but didn’t communicate this to anyone. I was afraid of vocalizing my mental state, because that meant accepting it as a real, horrible thing I didn’t have control over. I’m thankful for friends who I shared quiet moments with; our intimacy gave me the space to communicate hard feelings once I was finally able to do so. We can’t save each other. We can’t cure each other’s mental illnesses or undo our traumas. But we can help. We can show support when we have the energy—by asking each other what we need or giving reminders that we care. We can forgive each other for our self-preserving periods of absence, while celebrating each other’s successes. We can view our prioritization of our own mental health not as selfish, but as sometimes necessary steps of healing. We can sit quiet with each other’s pain until we are ready to share it.

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KRISTINE & RYE OF HET WARD -A VICIOUS DISDAIN FOR CISSEXISM AND TRANSMISOGYNY TO THE TUNE OF ANGRY HARDCORE PUNK FROM PITTSBURGH-

Kristine: I have severe PTSD. I all too often note how my mental illness and trauma plays a role both in my writing as well as my participation in music. This band has provided me a means of healing, and a lot of what I write about entails both the negative experiences and the trauma that came from them, as well as ways I used those experiences to fuel my writing and healing. I have found real recovery and growth here. Rye: My anxiety often prevents me from making deep connections with people. Playing music and being in bands has helped me battle feelings of debilitating uneasiness and sadness. Het Ward, in particular, helped me find a queer community that I’ve been wanting since I started going to shows.

PHOTO: EM DEMARCO

PHOTO: RICHARD GINN

THE HIRS COLLECTIVE

NICK BERGER OF PAPER BEE -ALL-TRANS LACY POP FROM WESTERN MASS-

I hear music in my head most of the time; sometimes songs that already exist, sometimes fragments, occasionally grand, fully realized orchestral compositions that I could never translate into anything real with my limited knowledge of music theory. They form and simmer and twist around themselves mostly to be forgotten. Sometimes I can grasp a small melodic thread and follow it. Sometimes these threads can lead me from a fog into a place of greater clarity and understanding. I’ve been writing lullabies for my own sadness for as long as I can remember. When I listen to music by other trans, queer, and mentally ill artists, I often feel an undercurrent of connection. Many of us are so isolated—sorting through grief, loss, anger, despair, and the small joys and hopes we find in each other, or the way the light filters through the window. Like the way we filter the whole world, or tiny slivers of it, through our broken bodies and translate it into sound from our many bedrooms. It feels so important for marginalized people to connect with each other through our art. It’s a way to reach out and find each other, to relate and feel seen, even when it feels impossible to get out of bed. Music can be a tool to ground, connect, and stay in motion.

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NEW NOISE

Oh god, oh god. How can I bear through this day? This week? Nullibiquity disconnects me from this body and floats me high above my self, my spirit. Pure fear, undistilled fear of fear itself; it numbs my throat, paralyzes my brain. I’m flash frozen and turtling into myself through a tornado of clear panic. Everything bad that has ever happened ever swirls within me tighter and tighter, till the dark star of brutal pain explodes within my leaden shell of self and a sucking vacuum hole is borne. Into that gaping drain goes everything positive that has ever happened ever. Not just to me, but to the whole universe. I shudder with the weight and lightness of it. “Then, in me, hands light lamps.” It could minutes or years, but eventually, a drain plug is found and stoppers up this energy-suck temporarily. I’m afraid, so fucking afraid, for the day when I become one with the hole, or am sucked down it to the pitch and unknown. Forward to dawn and I am drowned in light.


LUKE ROMANO OF COTTONTAIL

-SENTIMENTAL ANARCHIST POP/MELODIC PUNK FROM PHILADELPHIA-

I’ve found that surrounding myself with obsessive creative types—necessarily of a radical and/or queer variety—keeps me engaged with the world more or less efficiently. This is important, because it’s too easy for me to spend lots of time by myself. I’d personally love for there to be more overlap between radical and artist communities, but I get the tensions between them at the same time. So, I navigate it via songwriting. General anxiety, severe panic, and the social/ external problems that I view as partially complicit in these experiences become central themes in doing so. I promote the usual critique of psychiatry; individualizing mental illness erases the harmful impacts of external forces like capitalism, the state, etc. and how these forces interact with biology and chemistry. I’d like to see psychologists take up complete destruction of the totality of authoritarian culture as part of a global and long-term mental health strategy, because individual happiness isn’t sufficient. In the meantime, meeting our immediate needs must often take precedence over the lofty ideas for the sake of survival or morale. That can look like medication, breaking things, drugs, exercise, therapy, caring for friends, etc. For me, it oscillates among them all. It definitely involves a level of rage, distancing myself from notions of legitimacy or respectability, but also fostering tenderness and compassion. And, most of the time, a punk show is great too.

PHOTO: BOBBY KIRNER

PHOTO: ELI FRANK & DAVID F BELLO

LUKE HENDRIKS TEENAGE HALLOWEEN -EIGHT-PIECE WEIRDO POWER-POP ENSEMBLE FROM ASBURY PARK, N.J.-

To me, the only thing I could do to stay a touring artist is repress all my inner demons that find ways to debilitate my daily life. It very much sounds like an “easier said than done” thing, but for me personally, it was a challenge I needed to take to make being a DIY artist possible. Sustainability was something that haunted me when I started thinking that the songs I wrote couldn’t be performed in front of audiences all over because of myself. Like any outlet of performance, insecurity and worry were things that controlled me for years. Anxiety is something that’s incredibly hard to deal with in a scene of basements and sighs. There are many things that could constantly go wrong: you could get $10 one night for a 10-hour drive, you could find an unsafe situation within a space that takes confrontation to address, you could accidentally spite someone due to miscommunication, etc. Social situations are a very tough, there are platforms given to artists that are very hard to speak on because of one’s influence on younger audiences; these obstacles are incredibly hard to overcome. Deep breaths and processing go a long way, creating perspectives and angels and devils regarding situations is a very important thing to consider. As an anxious person, it has been very positive for me to look at most situations without bias or expectations. Though it has been hard, mental health has helped shape my identity. I’m glad that, as a lyricist, I can find people that understand what I’m saying and show solidarity. It’s really meaningful and therapeutic to have someone come up to you after a show and say, “You are not alone.” That’s what makes all of this worth it, in the end.

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9


fights or argue, my dad would say, ‘You boys are gonna die with your tongue sticking out at each other if you’re waiting for the other person to figure out they’re wrong, because it’s never gonna happen.’ He always taught us to try to see the perspective of people you disagree with and ask questions instead of shutting them out.”

SHOWING PATIENCE AND HUMILITY- TIGERWINE I N T E R V I E W W I T H V O C A L I S T / G U I TA R I S T H AY D E N T R O B E E B Y N I C H O L A S S E N I O R

Colorado-based Tigerwine offer up a fascinating musical hypothesis with their Blood & Ink debut: how rad would it be to mix Thrice’s entire discography with bits of Brand New and Underoath? The result is a soaring, emotionally resonant record. Die with Your Tongue Out—due out April 14—is sure to please those who love distorted riffs and undiluted passion in equal measure.

Vocalist and guitarist Hayden Trobee shares that this sonic stew was no accident. “I’ve always said that Tigerwine is just a love letter to every band we’ve ever been into, and I think we really embraced that,” he says. “When we were first starting to write the record, we resolved that if we liked something— whether it be a riff, beat, lyrics, melody,

Everything about Sunndrug’s debut album is disorienting, but that’s intentional. The group—comprised of members from Spitfire and Norma Jean—eschew the expected on Exit Wounds, out now via Mind Over Matter Records. The record is a joyfully intense and complex ride, cycling through emotions quicker than it does styles. This is an astonishingly assured release, combining electronic music, stoner rock, blues, prog, and soul to dazzling effect.

negativity I was carrying. I think the lyrics to ‘Denial’ paint the picture of where I was at then. The chorus lines are individual thoughts that don’t directly relate to one another, but I think they illustrate the fragmented place my mind and emotions were at the time. Leaving New York City and getting back to Virginia Beach to work with [drummer] Chris Raines provided closure in a different way as well. I had wanted to work with him again ever since he left Norma Jean, and the timing was right for both us to make this record.”

Exit Wounds is the soundtrack to a man coming apart at the seams— namely, vocalist and guitarist James Reeves. “The record was an extremely cathartic process,” he says. “I was going through the end of a 10-year relationship and trying to process how I felt about it all. Writing songs for the album definitely helped me purge a lot of the bitterness and

10 NEW NOISE

Was utilizing electronic soundscapes a way for Reeves to shelter himself from his emotions? “I think you’re hitting the nail on the head,” he confirms. “I think some of the electronic landscapes we created in the music really paralleled the desolate place I was in emotionally at the time. I don’t think we were making

PHOTO: JACKI VITETTA

what have you—we weren’t going to throw it out just because it didn’t ‘sound like us,’ and I think that put us in a position where we just had to force things to work.” So… what’s with that album title? Trobee explains, “When I was a kid and my little brother and I would get in

“When I look around at the world I live in, I see a lot of people doing the same thing,” he continues. “The world seems more divided than ever, and it’s always the same story of one side saying, ‘Get onboard or die,’ and the other saying, ‘If you don’t like it, you can leave.’ Outside of justification of violence or abuse, I can appreciate the sentiment of both, but neither work for me. I just keep hearing my dad’s voice saying, ‘So, are you going to start showing some patience and humility or just sit there feeling superior?’ The record fixates on that theme with the exception of a few songs. I just don’t want to get to the end of my life and realize that I gave up on people. I want to show grace and empathy to people who refuse to give it to me. I think that’s what my dad was driving at.”

UNEASY DESOLATE SOUNDSCAPES- SUNNDRUG

INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST/GUITARIST JAMES REEVES BY NICHOLAS SENIOR that choice intentionally then, but looking back, it makes a lot of sense. We were intentionally creating a musical landscape that felt desolate and uneasy.” Music is only one of many ways Reeves deals with stress. “Most of the time, I would say music is my preferred outlet,” he says. “I like to get

into my studio and start making noise with my Moog or a guitar patch that echoes whatever I might be processing emotionally. I studied art and graphic design in school, so a lot of times, I’ll write or draw in a sketchbook too. I think, in general, I like making things, whether it’s a song, a drawing, or a t-shirt design—it all helps.”


Washington D.C.’s The Split Seconds have a new full-length entitled Center of Attention being released on March 10 via Altercation Records. “For the most part, our sound is influenced by ‘70s punk bands like the Buzzcocks, The Clash, The Damned, Generation X, the Dead Boys, and Stiff Little Fingers,” frontman Drew Champion says. “We like the old-school stuff, because it’s tough, smart, interesting, and raw.  We’re also into classic pop, ‘60s garage rock, Two Tone ska, and rockabilly, and we like to bring that stuff into our songs where we can.”

live set. “We played on Upstart Fest last year with The Queers, who were one of the first bands I got into when I started digging past the mainstream punk bands as a kid,” Champion says. “So, it was really cool to find myself on a bill with them.  We just played our set, and Travis [Myers] from Altercation understood where we’re coming from and liked what he saw, and that was it: we’re now an Altercation band.”

MUSIC AIN’T THE MESSAGE- THE SPLIT SECONDS

INTERVIEW WITH FRONTMAN DREW CHAMPION BY KELLY MCG O W A N

So, how does being from the nation’s capital affect The Split Seconds’ musical message? “Here in D.C. it’s all politics all of the time, and the music scene is no exception,”

Champion says. “I think this hurts the punk scene, because many of the bands put political activism before artistic expression.  They mistake the stage for the floor of the Senate,

and in response to this, we stay away from explicit politics. Instead, we try to convey a broader philosophical message with our music.”

FIGRIN D’AN AND THE METAL NODES- GALACTIC EMPIRE

playing through his drum arrangement of ‘The Imperial March’ in 2013. After that, the idea started to take root that it would be super fun to record full covers of the ‘Star Wars’ arrangements with metal guitars and bass—which eventually led to the fateful question, ‘Wouldn’t it be sick if we dressed up as characters from the movies and made a full music video?’ The ‘Main Theme’ video was so wellreceived by the internet that we had to challenge ourselves to see if we could bring this madness to the live stage.”

“Grant and [bassist] Carson [Slovak, aka Bass Commander] drove themselves absolutely mad listening through all of the original scores and picking out every melody and harmony by ear so that they could transpose the string arrangements onto guitar,” Red Guard says. “The way Grant and Carson arranged our versions are as close to the original arrangement as possible, so the real challenge came in transcribing the strings for guitar and seeing how all of these seemingly random and strange harmonies work together in a cohesive way.”

Altercation first took an interest in The Split Seconds after seeing their

INTERVIEW WITH GUITARIST RED GUARD BY LINCOLN EDDY There are a lot of things to love about “Star Wars”: the amazing sets, the eye-popping variety of alien life, the occasionally cringe-worthy writing— we’re looking at you, “I hate sand.” But one thing everyone can agree on is the music. John Williams’ iconic score is immediately recognizable from the opening blast of sound to the final trill. It

is—to risk utilizing an overused word— epic. And what else is epic if not metal? Enter Galactic Empire.

It’s hard to imagine Generacion Suicida ever had to worry about people liking them—especially considering how energetic, captivating, and immediate their latest release, Sombras, is—but that was the case when the South Los Angeles four-piece started in 2010. “It was one of those moments when there were so many bands coming out of L.A. There was a renaissance of punk going on,” vocalist and guitarist Tony Abarca says.

Since that time, Generacion Suicida have had great success. They’re always touring. They’ve played in Europe, hit South America and Panama, and even went to Japan when Sombras was initially released in the U.S. on Going Underground Records in fall 2016. The record was released in the U.K. through Drunken Sailor Records in December, and the band toured the U.K. and Ireland in January. During their sets, Abarca says they like to play 20-some-odd songs back-to-back with no breaks. “It’s just get onstage and play and go,” he says. “We tend to do that because I think we’re very anxious. We’re just full of restlessness.”

Abarca was in another band at the time and wanted to work on a more melodic side project. “At the time, everyone was playing hardcore, everything was ‘80s Spanish punk,” he recalls. “It was kinda rough. We didn’t think people would dig it, because the scene was so into hardcore. When we first started, I thought people would boo.” Back then, Generacion Suicida played a lot slower than they do now, but “people really took to it,” Abarca explains, almost incredulously. Thus, the side project became the main band.

This synthesis of sci-fi and rock was born in a simple way: a YouTube video. Guitarist Red Guard lays it out: “[Drummer] Grant [McFarland, aka Boba Sett] recorded a video of himself

That restlessness also translates into how they write material. “We get hit with a burst of energy, a burst of ideas, and just put it on a record very quickly,” Abarca explains. “I feel like that’s our style: let’s do everything really fast, just get it out there.” Lyrically, the guitarist says he writes what he knows.

To say that the video was “well-received” is a bit of an understatement. That original clip has close to four million views at the time of writing, their selftitled debut dropped Feb. 3 on Rise Records, and the band are currently finishing a U.K. tour, blasting their way through various clubs with an “odd split” of fans. “We have the metalheads that will always be there, but there’s a growing amount of the ‘Comic-Con crowd’ that dresses up and comes out to have a blast with us,” Red Guard shares. The fans are surely reacting to the passion that goes into a project like this.

So, what can one expect at a Galactic Empire show? Apart from the fantastic music, devoted costuming and set design, and a Force choke or two? A demonstration of “the true power [behind] Galactic Empire”—their tour van, the Death Star. “We have been conducting nightly tests of our fully operational Death Star in the middle of our set,” Red Guard says. “Needless to say, it is as comfortable as it is lethal.”

RESTLESS IN SOUTH L.A.- GENERATION SUICIDA

INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST/GUITARIST TONY ABARCA BY JANELLE JONES “I’ve seen a lot of injustices, some of the craziest things. I have always thought it was normal to see people get shot,” he shares, noting, “Not to bash South Central. The neighborhood is great, but there’s some crazy stuff I’ve seen.”

Generacion Suicida has brought him. He concludes, “If you’d told me when I was a young punk, ‘Someday, you’re gonna have a band and get to travel,’ I’d be like, ‘No way, you’re crazy.’”

In the end, Abarca is grateful for what

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“If our opinions are secondary / Why are we such a threat to you?” vocalist Rachel Rubino howls on Open City’s self-titled debut album. On the release, Rubino focuses on issues affecting women in the modern punk scene—and to an equal extent—the world as a whole. Composed of hardcore punk veterans—Rubino of Bridge And Tunnel; guitarist Dan Yemin of Paint It Black, Kid Dynamite, and Lifetime; bassist Andy Nelson of Paint It Black and Ceremony; and drummer Chris Wilson of Ted Leo And The Pharmacists and Hound—Open City seem particularly focused on the issues facing oppressed peoples today, not dwelling on punk’s past. In fact, the band purposefully distanced themselves from their previous projects. They quietly gigged around Philadelphia for two years without much fanfare; their debut show—at Philly’s famed Golden

Teahouse—was simply advertised as “new band.” Then, with no marketing beforehand, no overwrought Facebook announcements, and no promotional 7”s, the band simply announced and released their debut on Jan. 31. Even though the subject matter is contemporary, Open City’s music is informed by the band members’ pasts. Paint It Black’s pedigree comes in the form of vicious, neo-hardcore riffs. The abstract post-punk of Ceremony is heard on the drifting ambiance of “Black Veils.” The driving retro-drumming of Hound acts as the entire band’s energizer. Meanwhile, Rubino puts contemporary gender definitions under a microscope— and smashes the specimen. In a release issued with the album, Rubino stated, “I feel a strong desire to disconnect gender from talents and actions. I constantly want to find new ways of challenging myself, and through that, to challenge

DESPERATELY SEEKING DRUMMER- HICCUP

SCREAMING UNDER THE RADAR- OPEN CITY

BY JOHN GENTILE the stale ideas others have placed on us. I refuse to do so in silence. I believe in the individual’s right to govern themselves based on what they feel is right and true to their vision of a positive reality.” It must have been tempting for Open City to use the members’ past victories to define or promote the band, but, sureto us through Craigslist,” Bulleit says. “Strangely, he was listed in the Farm & Garden section, but whatever—we’re just glad we found him.” His musical influences paired up nicely with Bulleit and Knudson and the rest is history. “Since then, we’ve cultivated a very affectionate relationship of giving each other shit and calling each other ‘bro’ a lot,” Knudson says.

I N T E R V I E W W I T H H A L L I E B U L L E I T , A L E X K N U D S O N , A N D P I YA L B A S U B Y J O H N B . M O O R E The New York-based distorted pop trio, Hiccup, owe their existence in equal parts to comedian Chris Gethard and Craigslist. Vocalist and bassist Hallie Bulleit and guitarist Alex Knudson met as members of The LLC, the house band

for “The Chris Gethard Show.” When they decided to start a group of their own, they turned where everyone turns if they’re looking for a roommate, a job, an escort, or a drummer. “Piyal, like many wonderful things in my life, came

It’s not easy splitting a band member with another group, but Torontobased Deforesters have found a way to make it work. The four-piece shares their drummer, Zack Mykula, with the band PUP. When Deforester were first starting up, PUP were still going by the moniker Topanga. “They were definitely already his priority at this point, but this was before the heady days of the ‘We’re going to play 250 shows this year’ era,” vocalist and bassist Pod says. “Our band was always supposed be a hobby, and I can honestly say that we’ve accomplished that goal with flying colors.”

relationships—which is pretty vague, I guess, but accurate,” Pod says of the new songs. “I’ve always found the lyrics I write are heavily influenced by my current geographical situation, and I’ve been pretty landlocked in Toronto for the past five years, so that pops up a lot.”

It may be a hobby, but Deforester have already put out two strong EPs, followed by their debut LP, Leonard, via Black Numbers on Feb. 20. The full-length is a great collection of addictive melodic punk rock, complete with gang vocals. “In terms of a general lyrical theme, I guess they’re, for the most part, examinations of human

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The album’s title is a reference to Dr. Leonard McCoy from the original “Star Trek” series. Their first EP was called BONES after his nickname on the show, and the band—and their second self-titled EP—are named after the actor who played him, DeForest Kelley. “We discussed writing a follow-up EP to the album called McCoy that was going to be a kind of alt-country thing, but that will probably never happen,” Pod jokes. Despite the fact that Leonard has just been released, Deforesters show no signs of slowing down. “We’re gonna play some shows to support the record and hopefully get on a festival or two,

Hiccup are just about to turn in their first full-length, Imaginary Enemies, via Father/Daughter Records on March 24. “I think this band—more than other projects I’ve been in—has really been about just trying to write good, interesting songs rather than trying to fit into a genre or a scene,” Basu says. “Hopefully, that comes through on the record.” It comes through clearly across the dozen short, catchy, fuzz-laden pop/ punk anthems. Asked to describe their sound, Bulleit says most have made

ly, that would have tainted their message. 2017—a year quickly going down in infamy—isn’t a time for nostalgia. It’s a time for action. As Rubino says on “Black Veils”: “Now nothing feels the same as I remember / Nothing looks the same as it did before.”

comparisons to old Lookout Records bands, Throwing Muses, and even some of the sludgy early ‘90s alternative rock groups. And, yes, listeners can hear all those influences throughout the record. “I mean, those are pretty radically different things!” she says. “I absolutely love that; I love that people hear different stuff in the record. I think the three of us have a lot of different influences that we throw into the pot, and people’s ears are picking up on the various sounds they personally connect to.” The band will have plenty of opportunities to show off those influences. Hiccup released a music video for “Lady MacBeth & Miss Havisham” in February and played South By Southwest in March. They’re also hoping to find time for a quick tour of the Midwest and East Coast. “We’re just hoping to squeeze in some songwriting in all of that, ‘cause we can’t wait to get another record out!” Bulleit adds.

I’M A DOCTOR, NOT A PUNK!- DEFORESTERS PHOTO: YOSHI COOPER

INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST/BASSIST POD BY JOHN B.MOORE but mostly, we’re gonna work on songs for the next record,” Pod says. “We have seven or eight in a state of near completion, and I’m looking forward

to tightening them up and working on new ones.”


“I was going through a Frank Sinatra phase, and he has this song [about] ‘every time I see the moon, I think of you,’” Posers vocalist Jade Baisa says, “and I thought, what if every time you saw something horrible, that made you think of someone? So, I wrote: ‘I look at dead refugees, and all I see is you.’” The line is from “(Just Another) Protest Song ” off the band’s second EP—the cheekily titled Posers, Too—released in October 2016 via Enthrall Records. It would be harder to find a more apt track to summarize the band. Composed of Baisa, guitarist Rory Cain, bassist Johnny Mick, and drummer Collin Russert, the Philly band have made their mark by embracing and mocking “punk” in equal turns. Hell, just look at their name: the band throw off any pretension that might come with the word “punk,” while, at the same time, mocking those over-

confident enough to declare what is—and what isn’t—“true” punk. “Rory and I grew up in South Jersey and get along because we agree on a lot of things about what punk should be,” Mick says. “And that is, it shouldn’t be any one thing.” The pair formed Posers and—with the addition of Baisa—the band congealed into a sharp unit based in the simple, snappy riffs of ‘77 era punk, but approaching the form from a decidedly intellectual and enthusiastic angle. Comparisons to both Avengers and Generation X are apt. The drummer issue was a bit of a “Spinal Tap” situation until the band stumbled upon an unlikely fit. Russert explains, “I’m actually more of a band guy than a punk guy, but that’s why it works: we all come from different perspectives.” Posers, Too exhibits this stance. “Exist” rejections nihilism—“If you don’t give a

BACK FROM THE FIERY DEPTHS- DISHARMONY

NOT PART OF THE COOL KID CLUB- POSERS

INTERVIEW BY JOHN GENTILE shit about existing / Then you never will”—but “(Just Another) Protest Song ” counters with “I see a mother birthing / I wonder is it worth it / For a world that is just doomed.” Then, on “Mannequin,” the band sing about a guy who wants to bang a mannequin…

“We’ve never really fit in with the cool kids,” Cain says, “and that includes a lot of the punk bands in Philly. For us, it’s not about saying the right thing or adopting a certain set of rules. You can’t call us posers or whatever—we’ve already done that ourselves.”

neling Hellenic black metal, with shades of doom, classic heavy metal, and speed metal, all with a large emphasis on melody and the occult. Goddamn the Sun often feels like a black metal rock opera— like a “Satan Christ Superstar.”

“The theme is a more complex story where Satan falls from Heaven, and he is determined to fight back the Lord of Sun and regain his throne,” King continues. “The legions and the troops are in war, ending with the Final Third Resurrection. It has mystic symbolisms: the Bright Energies, the Dark Energies that both are inside humans, the Soul and the Spirits in the Unseen sphere that are extended far from the consciousness of humans. They are all parts of the same drama: Godliness.”

“Bringing back Disharmony was an inner need of mine,” Vocalist Damien King III states. “I had to ride again the Chariot with which I can express my darker side. I had suppressed my need for quite a long time, but the universal Power set my heart and desire aflame and ordered the chosen, predestined time that everything should be as it is now.”

INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST DAMIEN KING III BY NICHOLAS SENIOR Trying to rekindle an old flame is a lot like playing with fire—naturally: it’s dangerous, but truly exhilarating. Such is the case with the long-awaited fulllength debut from Greek black metal lords, Disharmony. They showcased an

exciting take on the style in the early ‘90s, but were not heard from again for over 20 years. Goddamn the Sun—released March 3 via Iron Bonehead—is a wonderfully cathartic experience. The record finds Disharmony adeptly chan-

Bonny Doon effortlessly conjure up the feeling of sun, salty air, and surf when they launch into “Never Been to California.” The song’s chiming guitars and relaxed groove recall the mellow folk pop sound of the Golden State in the early ‘70s. The rest of the songs on the band’s eponymous debut—out March 10 via Salinas Records—share that same atmospheric approach—except “Lost My Way,” an aggressive ode to alienation that balances a twang-drenched lead guitar with bursts of screeching distortion that hark back to the punk rock roots of the Detroit-based quartet.

California seemed at the epicenter of that. At the time of the band’s conception, half of us had never even been to the state, so we were able to idealize a kind of perfect world, full of year-round sunshine and beaches.”

When asked about the band’s name, drummer Jake Kmiecik explains, “Bonny Doon is a town in Northern California. I think we connected with it due to a sort of false California nostalgia. Growing up in the sporadic climate of Michigan, all I wanted to do when I was younger was skateboard and play music.

The band members are still in their 20s, but they started playing together when they were in high school. “We didn’t come in with the idea to play quietly,” bassist Joshua Brooks says. “In fact, we had all previously played in loud, fast punk bands.” The songs on Bonny Doon evolved at the band’s live shows. “It’s a very layered record,” Brooks says. “We’d been playing the basic song structures for a year or two before the recording, but the arrangements came from hours of experimenting, looking for textures we liked. Almost everything was processed through an Echoplex [tape delay effect] at some point. We allowed accidents to become process and embraced

King explains that he wanted to expand his vision for Disharmony’s first full-length. “There is a heavy metal aura all around Goddamn the Sun,” he says. “I used music to narrate the whole story and depict my vision. So, there are the doom parts, the heavy metal base, the black metal outburst. My aim musically is always to compose the music I love to listen to myself.”

King took great care to make Goddamn the Sun a multi-layered experience, but he recognizes that some fans just want to enjoy the tunes. “Our music is a medium,” he notes. “It passes in front of you and appeals to your conscious and subconscious senses. It’s up to everyone to get deeper into these or just let it pass.”

NEVER BEEN TO CALIFORNIA- BONNY DOON PHOTO: JULIA CALLIS

INTERVIEW JOSHUA BROOKS, BOBBY COLOMBO, AND JAKE KMIECIK BY J. POET the idea that the process itself could be an instrument.” Their open-ended method produced many surprises, including “Crowded,” the moody tone poem that closes the album. “We spent months laboring on [it], but, for whatever reason, none of the mixes were working,” vocalist and

guitarist Bobby Colombo says. “Though it’s instrumental on the record, it actually has a lot of words. I was mixing the record and ready to abandon it. Then, I listened to just one of the guitar mics, with everything else muted, and really liked how it felt.”

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Cleveland’s own Heart Attack Man embody the phrase “less talk, more rock” to a T. Starting off as a solo project for lead vocalist and guitarist Eric Egan, Heart Attack Man have grown into so much more than a band named after a Beastie Boys song—though Egan is a fan of ‘80s Cleveland hardcore. The March 3 release of their debut record, The Manson Family, via You Did This and Triple Crown Records has been a long time coming. After sitting on the record for a couple years, Egan says he’s focusing on “having fun” versus being “super jaded” about the music biz. “I’ve just been letting things happen, [and] everything has fallen into place,” Egan says. “It seems like people like what we’re doing, and it’s gotten better and better since [I first started]. Incrementally, people are picking up on it.” Egan says he listens to everything from

mid-1940s bluegrass to pop country—yep, pop country—and takes more inspiration from the world outside of music. The record is full of grungy melodies and pop punk breaks, and it packs an emotional punch with meta-tracks about life sucking—e.g. “Life Sucks,” which was written about another song with the same name, and “Surrounded by Morons.” The latter is a single about depression, getting doored in the bike lane, the notion that “my problems will go away if I move to New York or L.A.,” and—bees? “These songs were about feeling disillusioned about a lot of things in my life,” Egan says. “I was reaching a point where I was questioning a lot of the aspects of everyday life.” From playing in dingy college living rooms to heading out on tour with Head North and The Obsessives, Heart Attack Man are making 2017 a little less sucky. In the vein of

PORTLAND’S PEEPING SENTINEL- CLITERATI

INTERVIEW WITH MELISSA WHITE AND AMI LAWLESS BY KAYLA GREET

TO LIVE A LIFE LESS SUCKY- HEART ATTACK MAN

INTERVIEW WITH FRONTMAN ERIC EGAN BY BRIDJET MENDYUK Modern Baseball, Microwave, and Sorority Noise, Heart Attack Man are not to be skipped over. “It’s worth waiting for things to go over the best they can. I’m not nervous about anything, it’s very exciting,” Egan says. “Sometimes, I think I don’t know how

things are going to go, but I’m going to focus on having fun. It’s easy to get hung up, but I’ve been in this mindset where I’d rather focus on who was there versus who wasn’t there—just be optimistic about things.”

and Dairy Queens, and White currently plays in Order Of The Gash and Sillkeeper.

Scotty, since he’s like a brother who happens to run a killer label. Like a big-ass family.”

Lawless has been visiting Portland since the ‘80s, and moving was relatively painless, as she and her wife already had friends and family in the city. “We started a YogaPunx chapter pretty quick and have now opened a yoga studio called Burning Spirits,” she says. With Lawless at the lyrical helm, she’s focused on churning out material that elicits strong emotions. “The demo’s lyrical content ranges from slut-shaming to the altright political climate to hating the town you’re from to staying in a shitty situation although you may know things gotta change,” she shares.

Cliterati play fast, in-your-face, shredding punk that is dripping with aggression. Lawless says that their Portland base tends to include more people of color and queer punks than she was used to in the Bay Area. “I feel like it’s important to stay true to one’s self first and foremost,” she explains. “Being a queer punk of color is always what people see first in person—then comes the music.” When it comes to Cliterati, the music is borne of these identities. It is equally important that they are seen and heard. For now, the band are mostly focused on putting together West Coast mini-tours. Besides upcoming dates in California, they’re looking to play some weekend jaunts in Seattle, Vancouver, or Boise. So, if you’re in the Northwest, keep your eyes open for a Cliterati show—or just contact them directly to set something up!

Back in 2014, the Portland-based punk band, Cliterati, started up as an outlet. Guitarist Melissa White says their original singer Amelia Collins “demanded that [drummer] Coleman [Hamilton] and I get together to jam and write fast songs for her to scream to.” Unfortunately, that following summer, “it became

grossly apparent that Amelia’s mental health issues would not allow her to be present for our band,” White explains. Around that time, Ami Lawless moved to Portland from the Bay Area. The members of Cliterati—which also includes bassist Natalie Lucio—have been in bands such as Poison Idea, Cull, Vöetsek,

In short order, the four-piece secured a spot on Tankcrimes for their demo’s December 2016 release. Scotty Karate, the man behind Tankcrimes, and Lawless have played music and toured together for the last 15 years, so his addition of Cliterati feels totally natural. Lawless exclaims, “We’re stoked to work with

Mike Felumlee has worked with his touring rhythm section for almost a decade, but it wasn’t until recently that he realized that they had become fullfledged bandmates. “I’ve been playing with [bassist] Reuben [Baird] and [drummer] Kevin [Baschen] for several years, and over that time, the whole thing started to feel more like a band than a solo thing,” says vocalist and guitarist Felumlee, whose other gig is playing drums for Smoking Popes. “Since we’ve added Amanda [Sena] on keys and vocals, it feels even more like a band. It all just kind of happened naturally. I’m still the primary songwriter in the band, but everyone contributes to the arrangements and adds their own flavor to the songs.”

onto a series of EPs, the first of which, Lakes & Oceans Vol. 1: Michigan, came out Feb. 24 on La Escalera Records. It’s the first of several the band plan to release quarterly throughout the rest of the year. “There’s an overarching theme to the entire project of relationships. We touch on romantic relationships, both good and bad, as well as relationships with friends and even pets,” Felumlee says. “We pretty much cover all of the ups and downs that happen through the course of the life of a young adult growing into an ‘old’ adult.” Some of the oldest songs on the EPs were written as long as eight years ago, and some of the newer ones are less than a year old.

BEING ALONE TOGETHER-THE BIGGER EMPTY

Now known as The Bigger Empty, the band added guitarist Tom Counihan in 2016 and started working with the songs initially earmarked Felumlee’s new solo album. The reworked tracks made it

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The band plan to tour as much as they can between their full-time jobs and other commitments. “The Bigger Empty is definitely a full-fledged band,” Felumlee says. “We already have one EP out on Artistic Integrity Records called vs. The Cloud. It is a

PHOTO: JARET FERRATUSCO

INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST/GUITARIST MIKE FELUMLEE BY JOHN B. MOORE challenge with this band to not be considered a ‘side project,’ since I also play in Smoking Popes. The fact is, though, this is the only band that I write songs for and that I sing in. We’re not at all a side project, and to me, this band is just as much a priority as Smoking Popes are.”

In fact, The Bigger Empty are already writing songs for a full-length. In the meantime, they’ll have an incredibly busy year releasing these EPs and playing shows to support them.


MOBINA GALORE available now PLAYING PUNK ROCK BOWLING Listen on


DEL PAXTON

“If my hero, Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind, listened to our record, he would say it was pretty good,” vocalist and bassist Zack Schoedel of Buffalo, New York’s Del Paxton jokes about their new record, All Day, Every Day, All Night, released March 3 via Topshelf Records. Drummer Greg McClure adds, “No, he would say, ‘You’re welcome.’” The two laugh at the thought, but there’s a lot to be said about the state of emo and indie music in this day and age. There is a conscious decision to bring back the sounds of ‘90s era alternative rock. For Del Paxton, that included recording live in the studio without a click track. The trio— which also includes vocalist and guitarist Dylan England—stepped up to the challenge of making their music feel and sound as honest as

TROUBLED HORSE

Music is at its best when it taps into the essence of—and wrestles with—what it truly means to be human. That can mean different things—different strokes and all—but it often highlights how powerless and small people often feel. Troubled Horse certainly embrace that spirit with their excellent sophomore record, Revolution on Repeat, due out March 31 via Rise Above Records. The band come from the impressively fertile retro hard rock soil of Sweden. Theirs is a heavy and anthemic sound that recalls the bluesy greats of the ‘60s and ‘70s without getting lost at the bottom of a bong. Revolution on Repeat is perfect music for a relaxed Friday afternoon, imbibing and relaxing with friends. Vocalist Martin Heppich states that a shift in the band’s lyrical mood resulted in a more aggressive sound than their 2012 debut. “Step Inside was a more mellow and melancholic record and expressed some kind of sadness over life,” he says. “With Revolution on Repeat, the feel is more frustration, more in your face and more direct. It expresses the frustration over the human race being so stupid and ignorant that we almost deserve to go under. I think that resulted in the music being more aggressive and heavier.” That change was due in part to a more collaborative songwriting spirit. “Troubled Horse has always been a place where I can play, create, and horse around—no pun intended—as I please,”

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possible. McClure states, “I like that if we were playing, and I felt like this verse should be a little faster than the last one, then you just do it. That’s it. That decision is made. It’s on the record.” The organic identity of Del Paxton’s debut helps sell them as more than just a band reviving the sound of the ‘90s. Their charm is inherently brought to the surface, defining exactly how they want to sound. This includes their conscious decision to use nontraditional song structures and seemingly effortless strides, and to mathematically alter their time signatures—even including a Princechanneling bass solo on “Loose Leaf.” Schoedel explains, “We manipulate the songs collectively and arrange the parts.” Del Paxton make sure all three of the members’ influences are attributed to these parts. This allows a song like “Koolwink” to be guitardriven, while bouncing between varying time signatures thanks to

PHOTO: BRENDAN O'CONN0R

INTERVIEW WITH ZACK SCHOEDEL AND GREG MCCLURE BY SEAN GONZALEZ McClure’s confident drumming and maintaining a stable structure with Schoedel’s foundation on the bass. The vocals are woven in-between with a stable reflective mindset, even if the lyrics are about a haunting motel occurrence off the West Virginia panhandle.

All Night appear like a beaming light in the current scene. It sounds like a live rock band, which is something Del Paxton were conscious about when recording. After 14 months of waiting, the record finally saw the light of day, and the band took their sound to South By Southwest.

Dual vocals belting out catchy melodies, bright guitars locked into winding riffs, and a steady emotional pace help make All Day, Every Day,

Someone call Stephan Jenkins.

Heppich says. “I can play by my own rules; I’m not forced to compromise with any band members. That’s really why I started Troubled Horse many years ago, so that I could do what I wanted. On the last record, I wrote all the music by myself. What’s been different on this record is that I’ve let the band come up with ideas and add their own colors to the songwriting, but with me as a dictator on what goes and what stays. I have to say that it was a good decision: turns out other people than me can have really good ideas,” he laughs. Revolution on Repeat revolves around the cyclical nature of humanity’s struggles with freedom and power. “The best albums usually report about the issues of their times,” Heppich argues. “History just repeats itself over and over again. People know that the current system of the world is fucked up. We know that people are greedy. We know that people starve, and we know that politicians are corrupted, but nobody seems to care. If they once did, they let it go when they get a little money and move up the ladder. Troubled Horse is certainly not the first band to write about these issues, and we probably won’t be the last. The ‘60s had the protest movement. The ‘70s had punk rock. The ‘80s had—well, let’s not talk about the ‘80s! I have no urge to write about partying all night long, riding motorcycles, and picking up women at bars. I don’t see anything wrong with it, but it’s not for me.” Heppich many not have the answers, but he’s quite content channeling his frustration into righteously fun tunes. “I

PHOTO: OSKAR OMNE

INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST MARTIN HEPPICH BY NICHOLAS SENIOR would never claim to have any answers to the problems of the world; I leave that to someone who is much more qualified in that field than me,” he concedes. “But I think there will soon be a new revolution. People will start to hope for change again. Although, I think it will just be another revolution in vain, but just maybe there will be actual real change this time around, who knows? And if not, we can always lean back and let Def Leppard’s music be the anthem to the end of the world and sing along to songs about partying all night long, riding motorcycles, and picking up women at bars. What a way to go!”


FORESEEN

Simultaneously isolated and united through thrash and blood, Helsinki crossover savages Foreseen return in 2017 with a warning for the entire planet: we’re all in danger. On Grave Danger—the band’s eight-song sophomore LP due out in late April on 20 Buck Spin and Finland’s Svart Records— vocalist Mirko Nummelin admits as much in songs such as “Fearmonger,” “Downward Spiral,” the title track, and closer, “Suicide Bomber.” Nummelin says the geographical isolation and small population of Finland engenders a mutually reinforced strength through unity for Scandinavian metal fans and bands, a message they now plan to take out into the world. “Finland has

a population of about five million, which is probably about half of New York City,” he notes. “We’re also kind of divided from the rest of Europe by the Baltic Sea in the west, by the Russian border in the east, and the land of a thousand reindeer in the north.” “That means the punk, heavy metal, hardcore, loud underground music scene is also kind of small, and people have to work together to make things work,” he continues. “The underground music scene is not at all as divided as it is in some other countries. Bands from ‘different’ scenes playing together must have an effect on the sound. The good thing about the isolation is that the Finnish bands aren’t under constant bombardment of influence of current touring bands and their latest trends.” Two of the trends confronted on Grave Danger—the follow-up to 2014’s Helsinki Savages—are especially relevant as Western civilization continues its now accelerated nosedive into the ash heap of history: hatred and nationalism. “‘Suicide Bomber’ is definitely not a song about any specific religion or movement,” Nummelin clarifies. “On the new LP, we have a lot of lyrics about extreme thinking raising its head all around the world at the moment. The point is not to try to tell who is more wrong than the other, but actually quite the opposite: the extremes are breeding the same hate, like a horseshoe theory.” “In Finland and elsewhere in Europe, there have been a lot of nationalist ideologies getting popular lately, and they only feed off people’s fear, so what they need are enemies and threats. Things like the Muslim ban have no place in any democracy. They’re just making this world even

LOOSE TOOTH

Larissa Sapko had a short to-do list after moving to Philadelphia. Up high on that list? Start a band. She can certainly check that one off, as Loose Tooth are about to turn in their latest record, Big Day, on April 7. It’s a joint release from Father/Daughter Records and Lame-O Records, and the band’s third effort in almost as many years. Along with Sapko, Loose Tooth are comprised of vocalist and guitarist Kian Sorouri, drummer Christian Bach, and guitarist Kyle Laganella. Big Day follows up their 2015 debut full-length, Easy Easy East; a split with Clique, Ghost Gum, and Mumblr from the same year; and their 2013 debut EP, What It Is. “The songs on the first two releases came together pretty quickly,

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PHOTO: HILJA MUSTONEN

INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST MIRKO NUMMELIN BY NICK HARRAH more black and white and planting a seed of hate for more and more extremism, and so the cycle goes on.” Another cycle that Nummelin and Foreseen—which also includes guitarists Jaakko Hietakangas and Erkka Korpi, bassist Joonas Hakaste, and drummer Marten Gustafsson—are excited to see move forward is the one that bands know all too well: writing, touring, and recording. With a stable lineup of “five friends who are motivated to work on this band together,” Hietakangas and Hakaste “swearing the blood oath with the band,” and Jussi Vuola and Severi Peura from V.R. Studio in Turku, Finland, working behind the scenes on Grave Danger, the singer is pretty stoked heading into 2017. “Obviously, we are writing music that makes us feel like being punched in the face, and we keep writing music as long as we think we can top our previous releases,” he says.

Foreseen have come a long way since doing their first five-day Scandinavian mini-tour in 2011—in a passenger car with no air conditioning and windows that wouldn’t roll down in the middle of summer. Not much has changed with the music, but it’s the little things that make the big differences. Nummelin admits in summation, “At least we tour with a van nowadays.”

Foreseen return to the U.S. for a string of shows with Red Death and others starting April 21 in Boston and ending May 7 in Dallas. “We are really looking forward to playing in the U.S. and espe-

but a lot of them were already written before the full band got to them, which kept things seamless and easier in a way,” Sorouri says. “Big Day, on the other hand, definitely had a longer writing period than any of the other releases, but it was an intentional choice so that we could write together more as a band. So, I think because we spent longer on the songs, we were able to make better choices with the songwriting and pull in more outside influences that we otherwise wouldn’t have.” Loose Tooth’s sound has certainly changed over the course of the three records as well. This is due in part to the exodus of original drummer Jim Dobrowolski—who moved to Costa Rica—and Bach and Laganella joining in his stead. “The sound really opened up when Christian and Kyle joined,” Sorouri says. “Christian has been playing drums almost since he was born. He brought a lot of different ideas to the way the songs could be

cially cities and states we haven’t played before!” Nummelin exclaims. “We feel privileged having had a lot of opportunities to see new places through touring, and we definitely do not take the support for granted.”

PHOTO: CRAIG SCHEIHING

INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST/GUITARIST KIAN SOROURI BY JOHN B. MOORE shaped. Kyle added a whole layer of sound that was badly needed to match the hugeness of Christian’s drumming. He’s also a pedal nerd, so with that new layer of sound came a lot of different textures too.”

The band plan to tour as much as they can once the record comes out—until it’s time to start writing again.


WE RIDE

Following a strong debut with Directions in 2010 and an incendiary sophomore follow-up with On the Edge in 2012, We Ride gloriously rise to a spot on Victory Records for Empowering Life, out April 14. We Ride are from Vigo, a region tucked into an inlet in northeastern Spain. Their vibrant, vicious form of hardcore is meant to lift and motivate fans. Fronted by vocalist Mimi Telmo, the band are taut with anticipation to share their voice with the world. We Ride’s members tally between “23- and 28-years-young,” Telmo begins. “We grew up in mid2000s, listening mainly to punk rock bands, but we also listened to heavier music like Hatebreed, Sick Of It All, and Pantera.” She notes that the remoteness of Vigo hindered their exposure to alternative music. “We’ll always be grateful for video games having those awesome soundtracks!” she says.

NOVA COLLECTIVE Bassist and progressive metal mastermind Dan Briggs never seems to let up when it comes to conjuring new musical projects. He’s been responsible for some of the genre’s biggest albums of the past decade with Between The Buried And Me and explored dense improvisation with the fusion trio, Trioscapes. As if that wasn’t enough, Briggs is back with yet another group! Nova Collective combines some of progressive music’s heaviest hitters, and they just released The Further Side on March 10 via Metal Blade Records. Their debut is a dizzying record that owes just as much to Mahavishnu Orchestra and Dave Weckl as it does Dream Theater and King Crimson. “[Haken guitarist] Rich [Henshall] and I just started going back and forth talking about music in general and stuff we were digging at the time,” Briggs says. “After a little bit, he was like, ‘I’ve got some material that I’ve been thinking may be a solo thing if you want to play on it.’ Without even hearing it, I was like, ‘Let’s just write a record.’ The floodgates were open for creative output.” Nova Collective rounded out their

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Still, Telmo remains positive about their stomping grounds. “It’s small, but cool!” she asserts. “We booked shows between 2010 and 2013 for bands like Hatebreed, Comeback Kid, Terror, No Use For A Name, The Ghost Inside. Clubs were always packed with hundreds of people.” Already released from Empowering Life is “Self-Made,” their first music video. The video relays a narrative of tenacity through its young skater protagonist, intercut with band footage. Telmo reports that they kept it local. “The guy responsible for recording and editing the video is a friend of ours, Sergio Cora,” she explains. “The guys that appear in the video are the skate team, Vazva. We like supporting the artists and athletes of our area.” In May, We Ride begin their European tour, then move on to a summer of European festivals. Telmo’s excitement about tour is palpable, as the band are feeling bound after toiling to release Empowering Life. Telmo reports, “2015 was a year with many changes. There were months where we couldn’t rehearse. We started

PHOTO: RUTH FARIA

INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST MIMI TELMO BY HUTCH recording the album in early 2016. We decided to think big. We agreed to wait until September to try to get a deal with a label. In August, we signed with Victory Records. They decided to remix and remaster the album with Cameron Webb, so it took some more months.” That perseverance illustrates the attitude of We Ride, which pushes through their music. This is pounding hardcore that is energetic and tough. There are heavy breakdowns and spurts of up-tempo hardcore to incite dancefloor madness. Fol-

lowing in the footsteps of bands like Stretch Armstrong, Sick Of It All, Walls Of Jericho, and Comeback Kid, the band are a shelter for fans, both in spirit and for venting. Aggressive songs with titles like “Everybody Matters,” “I’mpossible,” and “Time Is Now” quickly point to their positivity. Telmo explains that the key to empowering one’s life is “learning from your own mistakes. Not giving a fuck what people think. And always keep that P.M.A.!”

lineup with drummer Matt Lynch of Trioscapes and Cynic and the former keyboardist for Haken, Pete Jones. After a series of sessions traded over the internet, the group found an instant chemistry and almost seamlessly managed to combine dense song structures with a consistently open and jazz-inspired vibe. “With Nova Collective, we were so excited to have these pretty densely arranged and composed songs, but to have bursts of definite improvisation within those bits,” Briggs says. “If that was either finding grooves or solos, it was just trying to interject that energy, and a lot of that comes in the studio.” “Rich had sent me the beginning of the songs ‘Air’ and ‘Cascades,’ and I got some different kind of vibes from it,” he continues. “The thing I got from ‘Air’ was kind of like an ethnic fusion vibe that really set something off in me. Nothing seemed out of left field for everyone, and everyone was always down for a challenge or trying something new or turning something on its head from the way it was written.” Make sure that The Further Side finds its way to your ears as soon as possible, as it’s truly the most exciting progressive release of the year. If anything, it’s proof that instrumental music can still manage to be incredibly fun in 2017.

INTERVIEW WITH BASSIST DAN BRIGGS BY KIT BROWN


ECSTATIC VISION In just two years, Ecstatic Vision have gone on the road with incredible bands such as YOB and Enslaved and put out two records: first came Sonic Praise in 2015, and now, Raw Rock Fury, out April 7 via Relapse Records. Ecstatic Vision are unlike the majority of rock folks are used to today, layering on the fuzz, punk rock atmosphere, and danger. Raw Rock Fury brings in hip jams and sliding grooves that entwine with weird and spacey vibrations, creating an all-out psychedelic concoction. It brings together the “out there” and the abrasive grime of the barroom rock club, making for a unique album that stands out among the rest. Vocalist and guitarist Doug Sabolik states that they intentional-

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ly take a path different than what other acts are doing today. Upon the first listen of the new album, it’s clear how different these guys are, and how imbuing their music with more natural grit has paid off. “I like when things get a little hairy, a little blurry,” Sabolik says, discussing the dangerous vibes given off by the music. “I like there to be a little distortion, […] a little fuzz created by the tape machine throughout the whole recording.” He approaches his jams with punk mentality, stating his preference as “something that’s just not too perfect” or “too clean.”

creative lighting, their “shows are like a party,” Sabolik relates. “We put our all into making an entertaining psychedelic rock show.”

Ecstatic Vision recorded Raw Rock Fury live in the studio, and Sabolik says the band are all about giving everything one hundred percent. If fans think their sound is wild on their recordings, they must check them out live. Using everything from their range of instruments to

Psychedelic rock is not a style that gets a lot of attention nowadays, but Sabolik says, “We went to Europe, and we burned through right away. I think people are hungry for this and don’t even know they are hungry for it.” This fusion of classic rock not only has a strong landing

I N T E R V I E W W I T H VO CA L I ST / G U I TA R I ST D O U G SA B O L I K BY M I C H A E L P E M E N T E L upon the eardrums, it is both a dose of nostalgia and a fresh kick that today’s music fans will welcome. With Ecstatic Vision’s killer live performance, attitude, and atmosphere, Raw Rock Fury permeates with aggressive riffs and fuzz that surge over the body and transform the mindscape.


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PHOTOGRAPHY BY CARLOS ALAMANZA

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ill The Precedent just might be the perfect band for Bizarro World America in 2017. The genre-defying Sacramento-based seven-piece—with their hybrid mix of industrial, metal, thrash, and punk and their notoriously surreal live shows—couldn’t be more appropriate for the crazy scary unpredictable times the country finds itself in right now. They sure seem to think so. In anticipation of Donald Trump’s underwhelming inauguration party, the band posted on their Facebook page that they’d play the event since The Donald didn’t have anybody cool lined up. Would Kill The Precedent have been ideal for a party celebrating that in the U.S., satire has become reality and truth really is stranger than fiction? “Abso-fuckin’-lutely!” Jason “Twig The Exfoliator” VonWussow exclaims. “Any chance to poke fun at, or jab with, everything we’ve gone through, you know? Tear it down. Politics, religion, just— stupid shit. That’s kind of what we’re about. Yeah, I think that

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would be one hell of a show: are going over well live. They’re ‘Here’s a band called Kill The really fun to play live; they’re a Precedent!’” lot faster and harder. We’re just stoked to get it out. The EP has Sean “The Ugly American” taken way too long,” he reiterSmith concurs, “It’s just un- ates, both vocalists laughing in believable how things have unison. gotten out of hand. To see how people have just gotten dumb- “But we’re happy with how the er and dumber—it’s a lot easier songs turned out,” Smith adds. to write lyrics than it ever has “Once we actually got our shit been.” together, it came together pretty quickly.” While they didn’t get booked to play the inauguration, Kill Smith and VonWussow, who The Precedent are still looking have been friends since high forward to 2017. The band’s school, and Kill The Precedent, new seven-song EP, Some Ver- who have been together despite sion of the Truth, dropped Feb. a few lineup changes since 24 via Minus Head Records. 2006, formed Some Version of The members—co-vocalists the Truth by fusing a few new Smith and VonWussow; gui- songs with a few that didn’t tarist and electronics wizard make it onto the full-length. Tapeworm; guitarist Jimmy The band went into Pus CavHazard; guitarist and master ern Recording in Sacramento of visuals Catastrofiend; bass- to once again work with proist Jon The Jew; and drummer ducer Joe Johnston and—as Sgt. Pepper—sought to follow on their debut—chose Once up 2013’s  Dialogues with the Human’s Logan Mader to help Dead  by getting back to their with the mastering. But the appunk rock roots. proach—especially with songs like “Watch What You Think” “Well, it’s been a long time in and “Two Way Mirrors”—was the works,” VonWussow says different this time, VonWusof the new EP, “but the songs sow admits. “Instead of doing

it the old way, we just kind of almost did ‘em in the studio,” he explains. “So, you have more of a live feel to it, as opposed to sending emails and files back and forth for, you know, months and just putting it together like that.” As veterans of numerous Sacramento-area bands, Smith says it’s the supportive atmosphere of the town that helps strengthen the bond the band have, especially as they forge ahead into 2017. “It’s a very resilient town, and it’s a great town,” Smith says with pride. “The people who live here do support local music. It’s a little tough at times, but as far as local music and art, this town is amazing. It always has been. I’m happy to call it home.” “Most of us have been really close for a long time,” Smith adds, looking back. “[My bandmates] are my brothers. This outlet, personally, it gives me the opportunity to see them all the time. I can’t imagine not doing it. I can’t imagine being without ‘em. It’s probably been the highlight of my life.”


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riginally created by Chris Barnes as a side project, Six Feet Under have been together—in various guises—since 1993. Listed as one of the top 10 best-selling death metal bands in the U.S., they have also amassed an impressive following across Europe. Barnes has been labeled the grandfather of the genre—a label he admits he is flattered by, but is not entirely comfortable with. The band—and in particular Barnes— have faced some criticism over the years in relation to their ever-evolving lineup, a fact that he acknowledges but is not fazed by. “My main focus has always been to make sure things don’t get boring, and the people I have worked with over the years have kept me excited,” he explains. “People have said that it’s just Chris Barnes and various guests: ‘They’re not a band.’ They can say whatever they want, you know? It’s a band, and it’s a way to search for those songs that need to be written. For me, that’s the important part.” Six Feet Under have released an impressive 12 studio albums, the latest of which, Torment, came out on Feb. 24 via Metal Blade Records. Barnes remains the driving force behind the band, however he gives much of the creative credit for the new album to guitarist Jeff Hughell. He shares, “I have been lucky to have been surrounded by great musicians throughout my career, and I have learned how to trust their judgement. Jeff is an incredible musician, and he made the writing and recording process on this album really effortless. He took control of the music and ran with it. He was fantastic at feeding me really cool, interesting stuff that I could draw on and be inspired by. Jeff kind of put me back in my wheelhouse.” Drummer Marco Pitruzzella has been the man behind Six Feet Under’s beat since joining the band in 2013, however Torment is his first studio recording with them—a fact that obviously didn’t daunt him. According to Barnes, Pitruzzella recorded the drumming on each track in one take. He goes on, “It’s amazing to watch Marco: he’s like a machine, and his tempo is dead on. It’s not that

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unusual for a great drummer to have that natural sense of timing, but what is unusual is Marco’s sense of meter combined with the speed, precision, and ease with which he plays. Everything he’s done was recorded in one take; I had no idea at the time, but that was his plan when he went into the studio. He is, without a doubt, the best drummer I have worked with.” Metal Blade made Torment available to stream online for free, and the fans’ initial reaction has come in the form of a wave of positivity. “The reaction from fans has been great, really positive, and that makes me happy,” Barnes says. “There is no doubt that this is a great album, you know? It’s up there with [Cannibal Corpse’s] The Bleeding, it’s up there with [1999 Six Feet Under release], Maximum Violence, and I am very proud of it. It wasn’t my decision to stream the album online, though. In fact, I found out when Marco sent me a text at the beginning of the week! I guess it’s the label’s interpretation of how we used to do things. You know, when you would go to the record store, put on some headphones, and listen to the latest release. The label’s argument was, ‘It’s gonna be on there anyway.’ I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I can’t argue with them.” Sleeve art has been a major focus on Six Feet Under albums from day one. For Torment, Barnes brought digital artist Septian Devenum onboard. “Septian was a fan of the band who followed me on Instagram,” Barnes explains. “I’ve seen really good digital artists and really good artists who paint and draw, but rarely have I come across an artist who is very good at both. Septian is one of those artists. I was looking through his work, [and] it immediately blew me away. Over a period, we became friends, and it evolved from there. In fact, the album cover was originally a t-shirt design he pitched to me.” Those eager to hear Torment live will need to be patient: the band are still in the process of putting together tour dates and festival appearances for 2017. Forecasts currently estimate U.S. dates around late spring or early summer.


PHOTOGRAPHY BY JEN CRAY

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t’s been a long, strange trip for Atlanta rockers, Royal Thunder, since forming over 10 years ago. There have been lineup changes and personal issues, but most importantly, there has been music—music that merges the grit of decades past with a modern sensibility, making Royal Thunder completely unique in today’s loud rock world. It started with their self-titled EP, originally self-released in 2007 and reissued three years later by the band’s former label, Relapse Records. Then came the full-lengths: 2012’s  CVI, which marked the arrival of a major new talent,  and 2015’s  Crooked Doors, which further solidified their position as leaders instead of followers, tweaking their sound and taking it in new directions. Now, Royal Thunder are preparing to unleash their new album,  WICK,  on the world via Spinefarm Records on April 7.

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“It was difficult and challenging,” vocalist and bassist Mlny Parsonz says of the creative process, “but I imagine almost any artist can say that about the process of creating. I don’t think it’s a focal point—the challenge—but it’s relevant. I guess not being fully prepared lyrically  and  vocally is where the challenge was,  for me personally. As always, press hard and move along with all challenges in life, and there is always a light to look forward to. I wouldn’t want it to come easy. Everything good I have in life and lasting came with a fight. The easy shit is fleeting. I  think the pain  and the pressure is kind of romantic.” Parsonz admits there were times when she doubted herself during the making of WICK. “I am human, and I questioned myself and my ability more than once,” she says. “I know who I am—I don’t give up. I let go when it’s necessary, but never give up. I had to let go—not easily—of a lot of internal

warfare.” In fact, the title track addresses these issues. “‘WICK,’ the song, captures me in one of those moments where I didn’t think I could do it,” Parsonz adds, “but I found a way to channel that and create. I hope to always be able to pull through.”   Her struggles were worth it, because with WICK, Royal Thunder—which also features guitarists Josh Weaver and Will Fiore, along with drummer Evan Diprima—have crafted another shot of  powerful hard rock filled with emotion and grit. They have  boiled their sound down to its essence of killer riffs, solos, and hooks. Parsonz, once again, delivers a tour de force performance with her vocals, wailing to the heavens in the best possible way. Once again, the band have redefined themselves, but according to Parsonz, they also captured one intangible goal that most bands

never even come close to achieving—one that goes beyond the basic nuts and bolts of making a record. “Authenticity,” she says. “Yes, we accomplished that as a band. That is the pulse of Royal Thunder—be real.” The lyrics of the new songs deal with personal struggles, though Parsonz won’t say exactly what they’re about, because she wants the listener to come up with their own interpretations. “I hope each listener takes something from the lyrics,” she says. “Take it and own it. Use it to your benefit and, hopefully, your healing.” It may have been a long, strange trip to get to this point, but Royal Thunder have come out stronger with an excellent new album and a greater sense of purpose. While they obviously have the music to keep them close, they also have something that goes beyond their status as a band. “We love each other more and more each day and each tour,” Parsonz shares. “We are all very close and open and honest with each other. We are family. The bond has steadily grown and always will.”


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onventional wisdom has it that an English band’s first trip across the Atlantic is a make or break situation. Many a British heart has been broken by the intensity of traversing a vast space, only to find the adulation of their countrymen has been replaced with relative obscurity. However, it remains a dream of many people to conquer this unconquerable land and bask in the glory of international stardom. For most English musicians, getting to tour the States is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Frank Carter is not most people. Almost a decade ago, Frank traveled to the U.S. as the frontman of the acclaimed English hardcore band, Gallows. While getting to tour the country that birthed hardcore punk in a much-lauded band would be a dream for many, Carter doesn’t have fond memories of his first trip stateside. “When I was out on tour in America with Gallows, I didn’t enjoy it,” he reveals regretfully. “I was incredibly insecure as a young man, and I didn’t think I was any good or that I deserved to be there, but now, I look back at it and I just think it was such a waste. So many people would have given anything to have the opportunities that I had. Now I feel like I have earned it, because I’ve worked fucking hard to be here. I’m lucky to get a second chance, because life doesn’t give you too many of them.” This unlikely second chance has come in the form of Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, a band who have bolted out of the gate from the word go, going at increasingly large shows with a never-waning intensity, culminating in their first two albums both breaking the top 20 in the album charts. “It’s crazy to think that our first album, [2015’s Blossom], managed to do that, because parts of that album are basically unlistenable,” Carter remarks wryly.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY

BELLA HOWARD

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With the band’s popularity reaching a fever pitch in the U.K. rock community due to their latest album, Modern Ruin— released Jan. 20 via International Death Cult and Kobalt Music Services—The Rattlesnakes have their eyes planted

firmly on taking over America, but this time, Carter is not going to take the situation for granted. “I’m a much more balanced person now,” he says. “Like, it’s hard to find balance when you’re 21 years old and standing on top of a 30-foot stack of speakers and there’s no climbing down. The only way to get down is to jump. I’ve learned to channel my aggression in more positive ways now.” This isn’t to say that a Rattlesnakes show lacks any of the wild intensity of Gallows’. Carter is still a relentless ball of energy onstage, displaying unwavering confidence and treating venues like playgrounds, climbing on everything from bars to members of the audience. He’s just less likely to take a heckler’s criticism personally. “I realized that if there’s someone in the front row, and he’s flipping me off for the entire show, it’s just because he wants my attention,” he notes. “It’s not like he hates me or anything. I’m much more likely just to blow a guy like that a kiss now rather than react violently, because if I call him out, he wins.” This doesn’t mean that Carter is any less outspoken. While onstage, he regularly tackles topics such as the way female audience members are often treated at shows. Which brings us to the spraytanned elephant in the room: will he be calling out a certain Mr. Trump in places that might not want to hear it? “Look,” he begins, “I don’t really want to get into politics, because there are people who know a lot more than me, and there are people that can do it a lot better than me. I just like laughing at clowns.” Is he worried about his safety? “No,” he responds flatly, before quipping, “Maybe I’ll wear a bulletproof vest.” Politics aside, Carter remains positive about playing in the U.S. alongside some of his American rock heroes at festivals such as Florida’s Welcome To Rockville in April. He simply states, “If you want to see some passionate rock music played in tiny rooms and stages, come along.”


PHOTOGRAPHY BY MICHAEL-REX CARBONELL

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new label, a new vocalist, and an album that almost didn’t get recorded sounds like a pretty rough road for any band, but the Las Vegas-based post-hardcore trio, Stolas, were determined to power through any hardships and release a record that would completely redefine them. Stolas made their mark on the music world back in 2013. Then a four-piece, they became the first band to sign to Dance Gavin Dance guitarist Will Swan’s Blue Swan Records and released their debut, Living Creatures. After the success of their 2014 sophomore record, Allomaternal, their lead vocalist Jason Weiche announced his departure in 2015. Suddenly, drummer Carlo Marquez was given the opportunity to move from behind the kit to center stage. He served as both the studio percussionist and frontman for Stolas’ upcoming self-titled record,

out on March 17 through Equal Vision Records. “It’s very bittersweet,” Marquez explains. “It’s really awesome, because I’ve always sang behind the drum set when I’ve played, but I love doing both and I felt very torn. I just didn’t want to be behind the drum set singing the entire time, so I kind of figured— we all figured—that I should just move up and be the frontman.” On top of becoming the new face of Stolas, Marquez became the primary lyricist too. “All the lyrics on this album are from one person. They’re coming from me,” he says. “In the past, the lyrics were coming from all four members of the band, and they were just all jumbled together. A lot of times, it was very hard to grasp certain feelings.” Now at the lyrical helm, Marquez found himself writing with a very internal, pessimistic tone. “A lot of inspiration came from personal issues,” he continues.

“Whether it be anxiety or just frustration. Another one is just corruption. Everything that I was feeling around the time that I wrote this album—drug addiction, all kinds of things.” To top off all the frustration in his personal life, Marquez and his crew abruptly found out they might not get the chance to record their third album at all. “We went up [to Sacramento to record], and when we got there, it pretty much just got cancelled,” Marquez notes. “We ended up being saved by the guy who produced the album, Mike Watts in Long Island. So, we drove out to Long Island from Sacramento, and he was so stoked on the music and the album.” It was at Watts’ insistence that the group signed with Equal Vision after completing recording. “It’s a self-titled album,” Marquez says proudly. “We went through so many different album titles, but from the beginning, I thought

a self-titled album felt right, because we had [gone through] a lot with our member change and everything. We had a lot of feelings of, ‘What are we doing? What’s going on?’ and we were like, ‘Well, now we have this, and this is what we’re going to do. That’s who we are. We’re Stolas. This is us.’ We’re coming out as almost like a new band. We’re presenting our new album as just Stolas, not Stolas and something else.” Marquez seems in awe of his creations, happily discussing his favorite tracks on the record and how much he’s looking forward to touring for it. “[There’s a track] called ‘Pacesetter’ that’s set apart. I feel the lyrical content on it is some of the best I ever wrote. It’s just the hardest-hitting song in my opinion,” he explains. “I’m just really proud of the work I put into this record, and I’ve never felt this way about anything else that I’ve done musically.”

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hen crowdfunding an album, bands are setting themselves up to find out exactly how much or how little their fan bases want more of what they’ve got. Darkest Hour’s ninth album, Godless Prophets & the Migrant Flora—out March 10 via Southern Lord—is certainly a labor built on fan support. Guitarist Mike Schleibaum expresses the apprehension and nerves surrounding the decision to roll those dice. “Honestly, we were all a little hesitant at first,” he admits. “Our manager, Mike Mowery at Outerloop Management, really pushed us to consider this route. Every time we have made an album with a label involved, they have had some sort of say, input, interaction—push [and] pull if you will—on the process and inevitable outcome. I think, in the end, we were looking to be able to control the artistic creation and direction of the album, while still being able to have enough funding to make the album equivalent to our past efforts.”

Of course, arriving at that decision wasn’t the end of the anxiety: then, there’s the waiting. Not to mention the strangely personal association of each donation. “It’s very stressful to do this kind of thing,” Schleibaum comments. “As you see each preorder roll in, you see each name; that means it becomes very real that these are all people who are funding your art project. With great reward comes great possibility—that type of thing, I guess. [We’re] proud that, in the end, our fans—who we really just consider our extended circle of friends—would be the ones to give us this key.” That great reward was funding that exceeded the set goal, which Darkest Hour’s Indiegogo page promised fans would be used to—among other things—“hire a world-class producer.” Making good on that pledge, the band went to Kurt Ballou at GodCity Studio in Salem, Massachusetts. Famously the guitarist for Converge, Ballou is also widely venerated for his work as a producer. “Working with Kurt was really amazing,” Schleibaum says. “He was the perfect guy for the job.

He has created a legacy with his amazing band, Converge, as well as his continued ability to translate bands’ sounds into awesomeness with his studio GodCity.” “He stepped in when we needed a referee, and he stood by when we felt like we needed to be in control,” he continues. “We can’t thank him enough for all his hard work, along with Robert [Cheeseman], his assistant. They put in long hours, and in the end, the love for the album really shows in the way it sounds.” Darkest Hour have always explored their sound, but Godless Prophets & the Migrant Flora’s independence from a label necessitated a different perspective. “I don’t think we were afraid to experiment on this album, and we tried our best to keep things at arm’s reach so the creative process wouldn’t be impacted, but how could it not?” Schleibaum explains. “I mean, the vibe of this record just feels like it’s for the ones who care the most, you know? We felt, I’m sure on some level, that we want to keep this true to the original voice of the band. While, of course, doing something different—as we always do.”

Longtime Darkest Hour fans have likely heard that one of the key differences on Godless Prophets & the Migrant Flora are the contributions from former guitarist Kris Norris. Schleibaum notes, “Adding Kris back into some of the writing just happened so organically that it has felt right all along the way. We have always remained in contact, and as things progressed and this all came together, I would say we were also all in love with the results. Our common ground was to do something true to the band, true to our legacy together as writers, true to the sound that everyone has come to love. At the same time, we also shared a willingness to push things somewhere new and make the sounds collide in a fresh way. I think we really achieved this and, if you’re a fan, you will agree after you hear all the songs on this album.” Darkest Hour kicked off their world tour in their hometown of Washington D.C. on Feb. 17 at the Black Cat, and will continue traversing the globe until May.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALAN SNODGRASS

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY BOBBY BATES

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n times of extreme difficulty, heavy music acts as a means of expressing and discussing challenging issues. While the history of death metal and deathcore is laden with fantasy tropes, many bands today are zeroing in on the struggles facing the world. New Jersey deathcore outfit Fit For An Autopsy are one of those bands, tossing away the need for fantasy elements and going for the throat of realism. The band are preparing for the release of their fourth studio album, The Great Collapse, via eOne Music on March 17. For Fit For An Autopsy, songs about murder and misogynistic fantasies have become tropes and clichés that fall on deaf ears. Instead, guitarist, writer, and producer Will Putney wants fans to understand what is happening around them—and to find the solutions. “You’re in a band, and you write music, and you want people to care about it,” he says. “You want it to be special, and you

have this platform to say something important.” The band have no desire to create music that falls into death metal fantasy tropes, because, as Putney puts it, “Why would we fill [the music] with content that doesn’t matter?” He says that coming up in the hardcore scene taught the band the significance of a strong message. The Great Collapse carries a weight of recent struggles, with tracks such as “Black Mammoth,” which tackles the fight against the Dakota Pipeline, to “Heads Will Hang,” which takes on the refugee crisis. The album approaches these matters in an “abstract” sense, Putney says. Of his goals while working on each new record, Putney says, “I hope that we’ll inspire change in kids and help people see from different perspectives if they really haven’t thought about it much.” That being said, he also understands the importance of delivering these messages within the

scope of realism, adding, “At the end of the day, we are kind of a negative band. […] I think it would be great if I could just tell everyone it’s going to be okay and just have solutions in our songs, but I don’t really do that.” Ultimately, Putney’s endgame for Fit For An Autopsy’s lyrics is to get the conversation going. “My hope is that it gets other people fired up the same way it does me,” he shares. Building off the band’s last release—2015’s Absolute Hope Absolute Hell—The Great Collapse uses a mix of sounds and techniques to bring its messages to the table. Songs such as “Still Empty” capture a slow and hefty atmosphere, steering away from the typical driven deathcore songs. Putney states, “When I sit down to write a song now for my album projects, I definitely want to take it in directions that are different from your standard heavy bands.”

Nevertheless, the record still has plenty of fast, relentless anger that serves well for upping the intensity. “I think it can all serve its own purpose in different ways,” Putney says. “We have plenty of songs that are kind of straightahead and heavy, [but] if it’s all the same thing for 40 minutes, there’s barely an impact by the end of that.” The band have gone beyond the borders of their genre to establish and fully realize their sound on The Great Collapse. Putney sees no reason to be limited by labeling bands with subgenres, but while many bands have taken offense to the “deathcore” label, he sees both positives and negatives to it. “We are always going to be an aggressive band, whatever is going on instrumentally or lyrically,” he states, making it clear that regardless of genre labels, Fit For An Autopsy will continue to be their truest selves.

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n paper, Greg Graffin is a serious man. Often cited as an “elder statesman” of punk, he is a celebrated author, an accomplished academic, and the frontman of Bad Religion—a band notorious for penning lyrics that have left fans grabbing for the nearest dictionary for almost four decades. Graffin’s newest solo effort, Millport—released March 10 via ANTI- Records—may not be as explicitly cerebral or philosophical as his other work, but folky anthems such as “Sawmill” feel like historical moments frozen in amber for future study. “Millport’s philosophical component comes from the fact that it is inspired by music of a distant age, hence there is something permanent about it,” Graffin explains, “but it’s also current, performed by musicians who have relevance in the modern world. In a parallel way, that old mill—who charms all passersby—has relevance in the modern world, but it’s been obsolete as an industrial tool for centuries. Permanence in the face of change is a deeply philosophical topic.” “But,” he redirects, “if you like to dance to the music, who cares about any of this?” Perhaps reports of the man’s seriousness have been grossly exaggerated. Millport continues to build on the foundation of roots music and classic Americana imagery laid by Graffin’s 2006 solo record, Cold as the Clay. Equipped with “more elaborate” production—courtesy of longtime collaborator, Brett Gurewitz—and featuring more original songs than traditional folk covers, Millport moves Graffin’s solo sound further away from the hollers of Appalachia and prairies of the Dust Bowl-era Great Plains and closer to the canyons of Southern California. “It’s re-

ally more of a songwriter’s album and producer’s album than Cold as the Clay,” Graffin says. “If you compare those albums from the 1970s—the ‘Laurel Canyon’ sound, as you say—they all focused heavily on songwriting, and that’s something both Brett Gurewitz and myself have found inspiring all these years in our work together.”

“IF YOU LIKE TO DANCE TO THE MUSIC, WHO CARES ABOUT ANY OF THIS?” That creative partnership traces all the way back to Bad Religion’s earliest recordings. Graffin has compared the experience of joining Gurewitz—as well as old friends, Jonny “Two Bags” Wickersham, Brent Harding, and David Hidalgo, Jr. of Social Distortion—in the studio for Millport as being akin to creating the 1988 Bad Religion classic, Suffer. “It was a musical moment where everyone was focused and of a single mind in creating Suffer,” he recalls. “We had great songs, excellent technical support—Brett’s studio— and a desire to share a tradition that we felt deserved a better day in the sun. Those same elements

were present in the Millport project.” Beyond this specific connection, Graffin asserts that other bridges exist between punk and folk more generally, acknowledging that both genres are promulgated via oral tradition. “Punk has roots; it’s kind of a roots music itself,” he says. “I see two or three generations coming to punk shows. Great songs get handed down from generation to generation, and that’s what grounds the roots of particular genres. Great songs will contribute to the roots in any genre. I was handed [folk] music by the elders in my family. It’s great to play music with roots. It feels like the most important thing we can do as a species.” Perhaps the most powerful intersection between these two genres is their shared authenticity, a quality to which Graffin is deeply and consistently committed. “‘Authenticity’ is something I talk a lot about,” he confirms. “When you get all these vintage acoustic instruments—guitars, piano, mandolin, fiddle—and the virtuosic musicians who collaborated on this album, it just sounds like the authentic roots of American culture to me.  There are many genres that have just as much say in the authentic qualities contributing to our cultural milieu. But to me, it comes from only that which I know: this music that was handed down through the generations by my family.”     Whether writing for Bad Religion or for his solo work, Graffin also remains true to his worldview. When Cold as the Clay was released, many fans of the staunchly atheistic punk band were surprised to hear the vocalist cover “Talk About Sufferin’”—a spiritual popularized by both Doc Watson and Ricky Skaggs—which urges “Talk about sufferin’ here below / And let’s

keep followin’ Jesus.” On Millport, Graffin balances the scales, crafting a godless spiritual of his own called “Time of Need.” “I wanted to write a secular gospel song,” he explains. “I love gospel music. Again, who cares about the philosophy—[or] theology— in the music if it moves you?  In ‘Time of Need,’ I wanted to focus attention on the here and now. It’s a humanistic approach to problems in the world. ‘No religion can help.’ That’s not fatalistic, that’s naturalistic. It’s a focus on a materialistic solution to a materialist problem. No supernatural necessary to help us figure out this time of need.”   Another standout track is “Making Time,” which was released as a single alongside the album’s sole cover, an electric rendition of the Norman Blake tune, “Lincoln’s Funeral Train.” Both warmly luminous and achingly wistful, “Making Time” is the ultimate embodiment of Millport’s timelessness. “I wrote it as a song about the impossible,” Graffin says of the banjo-infused earworm. “Maybe music helps us transcend all worldly things and escape from the moment.  This is an impossibility, because we all actually exist in the here and now. And we can’t really make more time. But a road and a wide horizon help us believe we can escape from the here and now, and that makes the song compelling, in my opinion.”     Graffin debuted these new songs live with a few East Coast dates and one show in Los Angeles in the days preceding Millport’s release. When asked if there’s anything he hopes fans will take away from the album—perhaps think about more critically or feel more deeply—he replies, “I never have such particular criteria for anyone. I just feel grateful that people have flattered me with a desire to hear me sing.”

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ALL PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALAN SNODGRASS

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I

t’s hard to tack on too many superlatives to The Damned’s groundbreaking debut, Damned Damned Damned, which turns 40 years old this year. From the lightning-fast riffs on the opener, “Neat Neat Neat,” up to the brilliant cover of The Stooges’ “I Feel Alright” that caps off the record, in just under 30 minutes, the London-based four-piece fired punk rock’s opening salvo and helped launch the genre. “We were just making the music we wanted to hear, because there was precious little bands on the scene that had any get up and go,” says Captain Sensible, a cofounder of The Damned, their original bassist, and current guitarist. “Glam rock had packed the sequins and buggered off; all we had left was country, disco, and prog. But mainly, I was trying to change my own world, because for me, as a teenager with little education to boast of, I had a life of drudge ahead of me at best—or a vagabond of some sort.” At the time, Sensible was becoming well acquainted with the law, living in a Brighton squat, surrounded by junkies. “Then, punk rock showed up and saved me,” he quips. “Every band needs a chaos factor, and I became The Damned’s random unpredictable nutcase—my dream job.” During rehearsals for Damned Damned Damned and the band’s stage shows, he moved to sleeping on guitarist Brian James’ floor. The duo spent their days traipsing around to clubs, attempting to grab any support gigs. When Stiff Records came along and offered to sign the band, they were so broke that they were won over simply by the prospect of the label picking up a round of drinks at the bar.

“Every band needs a chaos factor, and I became The Damned’s random unpredictable nutcase—my dream job.” When the band officially got to work recording Damned Damned Damned, they hardly thought it would be a record that people would be discussing 40 years later. “We were busy living from day to day, more concerned about keeping out of the clutches of Teddy Boys and the law,” Sensible says. “The sound we were making was radically different from the ‘70s norm, of course, and you wouldn’t have bet on punk still being around 40 years on. It was strictly minority appeal and only really broke through a decade or so later.” That seminal album was recorded in a dingy 8-track studio in the back of a garage. It took only two days to lay it down. The floor, appropriately enough, was strewn with empty cider bottles by the time the band departed. The producer for that record happened to be Nick Lowe—one of the first musicians signed to Stiff—and despite being a brilliant singer-songwriter to this day, he is not the first person one thinks of when talking about punk rock. “We had just over a half-hour’s worth of material—our entire setlist—which, some nights, we would blast out so fast,

the club manager would sometimes be stage-side as we came off, demanding we went back on and complete the hour we were booked to perform,” Sensible says. “So, that meant going through the set all over again. Which is what we did for Nick Lowe, steaming through the repertoire until he was happy he’d captured  the same sound the live audience were hearing. Unlike most producers, he avoided all the gizmos and enhancers used to make things sound radio friendly.” It’s an honest recording, he adds, something the “ProTools generation of bands” would benefit from listening to before they head into the studio. Despite so many punk bands popping up in such a small, concentrated area around the same time, The Damned felt more camaraderie with the other groups than competition. Within the Class of ‘77, each band had their own take on punk: The Stranglers sounded nothing like Buzzcocks, The Damned sounded different from Sex Pistols, and The Clash were doing their own thing as well. “It’s interesting to see bands develop,” Sensible says. “Same with The

Damned: we hated to repeat ourselves, and every album has a different flavor. [1979’s Machine Gun] Etiquette was a mix of punk and psych, then somehow, we found ourselves in at the dawn of goth with The Black Album [in 1980] and then Phantasmagoria [in 1985]. Sure, our recording sessions could resemble a bit of a party, but we took the music-making pretty seriously. I’m very happy with those records.” To celebrate the 40th anniversary of their debut, The Damned are reissuing a deluxe edition of Damned Damned Damned via BMG’s Art of the Album series and undertaking one of their largest tours in decades, including some spring shows in the U.S. “[This is] the biggest tour I can remember,” Sensible says. “[We’re] spreading our own particular version of joy and happiness all around the world. In the ‘chaos years,’ that would’ve involved a lot of drinking and a trail of carnage in our wake. Nowadays, I’m more concerned to find a decent veggie restaurant and some unsweetened soy milk for my tea.” After the tour, fans can expect a new record from the band—their first since 2008’s So, Who’s Paranoid? And if your musical introduction to punk rock never back further than Green Day’s Dookie, consider picking up the 40th anniversary reissue of Damned Damned Damned. And definitely catch them on tour. “In 1977, walking down the road wearing punk garb was risking your life,” Sensible says. “I got into far too many fights that I became quite adept at running. So, to an extent, we fought in the ‘punk wars’ only to find, a few years later when everything has quietened down, that the likes of Green Day turn up and rake in all the cash. Good luck to them I say, but if you want to hear the original sound, go grab a ticket to see the Damned—while we’re still around!”

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M

ost people going through an “Armageddon breakup” will do everything possible to get past that moment in their life and never think about it again. Then again, some are like Wil Wagner—vocalist and rhythm guitarist for Melbourne, Australia’s The Smith Street Band—choosing to turn that pain into the ultimate breakup album and spend the next few years of their life playing those songs to crowds across the globe. The result is More Scared of You Than You Are of Me, a brilliant and emotionally raw album, out April 7 on SideOneDummy. “I wrote this album while I was in a pretty tumultuous relationship that ended really badly,” Wagner confesses. “There is a line in a song by a band called Barr about going through ‘the Armageddon breakup.’ That was embedded in my head while I wrote these songs. I experienced—and am in some ways still experiencing—a kind of once in a lifetime heartache that I hope I never have to go through again.” More Scared of You Than You Are of Me charts the progression

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of a relationship, from those giddy early beginnings to those drawn-out final days when the couple completely hates each other. Wagner admits that one of the best things about being a writer is that the worse his life is going, the more material he has to draw from. “And I had plenty of material for this record!” he exclaims. Despite opening up his life for all to see on this latest record, Wagner never thought about holding back for fear of sharing too much. “I think if I start to think about holding things back and censoring stuff, then I’m not being true to myself,” he says. “I’ve always written from personal experience, and I’ve experienced a lot in the last few years. To write about things is very therapeutic for me. Also, even though it seems a bit contradictory, the more personal my writing gets, the more people seem to relate to it. I think the things that affect me affect everyone, and

if I try to be true to my experiences, chances are other people have been through similar things.” Like on their last album, 2014’s Throw Me in the River, The Smith Street Band turned to their buddy and fellow musician Jeff Rosenstock to produce the record. “He was even more involved with this one than our last album,” Wagner says. “Jeff’s a complete fucking genius. He adds so much to our songs, and I just love being around him. He’s one of my favorite people in the world.” The band then had Jack Shirley engineer the record and John Agnello mix it. “Two incredibly talented people,” Wagner says. “The idea with getting Jack and John was that they’d both made lots of amazing records, but none of their records sound the same. They both know how to bring the best out of whatever band they are working with, rather than trying to fit the

band into their own parameters.” Despite readying to put out a new LP, Wagner admits that the almost surreal political environment we are currently living in has already inspired new songs. “I think the way the media works and the way politics—especially American politics—have so forcefully impacted people’s lives lately, it’s hard not to be at least a little influenced by that when writing,” he says. “To be honest, I’d love to be able to write more politically—as someone like Billy Bragg is able to do—but whenever I try to write a ‘protest song’ or whatever, it always sounds a bit forced. I guess the last few years of my life have been so overwhelming, both positively and negatively, on a personal level that I’ve been able to draw a lot from that.” So, are the Aussie band—who will be spending much of the summer touring the U.S.—turned off by the fact that the country has put Donald Trump in the White House? “To be honest, my opinion of Americans has only gone up,” Wagner says. “Obviously, we all know that Trump is a dangerous psychopath, but to a certain extent, you can’t judge a country by their leader—especially when he lost the popular vote. But the response to his election has been so inspiring. Seeing hundreds of thousands of people turn up to the Women’s Marches, seeing the amount of people who protested the Muslim ban, there are so many inspiring examples of everyday Americans actually standing up for what they believe in.”

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JEN CRAY


PHOTOGRAPHY BY REID HAITHCOCK

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t’s 10 in the morning on a winter day in January, and the frontman of the legendary hardcore outfit Converge has been making t-shirts and painting prints for over three hours. He’s a busy guy. Surrounded by infinite expression at Deathwish Inc.—the punk and hardcore label he formed in 1999 with Tre McCarthy—Bannon is never at a loss for work. The sun doesn’t sleep here. The sky, an infinite reach. “I think art and music are a noble path in life,” Bannon says. “It’s just a matter of finding a balance and taking some risks to allow the thing to become a career. It’s still a struggle—nobody’s life is easy—but if you can do something you love, I think you’re really and truly making it. And it can be anything. I’ve been fortunate it’s been music and art for me. I’ve always wanted to live this life.” The drive to produce and the belief in an artistic path carry Bannon beyond the horizon. They always have. He’s driven by variance and output—a dude with a plan. His current project, the post-rock band Wear Your Wounds, is like an open heart in a vast grey sky. It’s music he’s been working on ever since he put his experimental band, Supermachiner, to bed in 2000. The sound is similar—painterly, introspective, and open—showcasing a side of Bannon that’s more like the ocean and sky than the concrete density he walks upon. Wear Your Wounds’ first full-length, the lush and edgy WYW, is due out April 7 via Deathwish Inc. “There’s a sort of mood that permeates naturally on this record,” Bannon explains. “Any art or album is a painstaking process. It’s always different and always a journey. I’m used to having a deadline—with a hard in, and a hard out. For Wear Your Wounds, there’s never been any limit, never any deadline. This makes creating something really liberating in some ways, but torturous in others.”

Bannon’s newest record is something like a complete story: the narrative of a whole and circular experience. There’s something touching the roof of the artist’s soul with this project—something really close to infancy—pulling and being, establishing a distinct horizon. The visuals are intense. Art and music are one and the same for Bannon, a singular expression with infinite range. “Compared to other bands I’ve been a part of, there’s a real different voicing to Wear Your Wounds,” he notes. “Converge is a democratic setup, where this is a project is just me steering the whole ship. It’s a much more organic process. Nothing is entirely rejected. Converge is a band with a tightly packed approach to music— razor sharp—where every nuance is hyper-focused. We might talk about an eight-second section for, like, eight hours. This project is more like a fine art.” With ample space to explore, Bannon bends a singular ascension in Wear Your Wounds. The music dreams itself up, pouring out in shimmering layers and warm nocturnes. Extensions are crafty and soft, the heaviness a perfect groove. Beneath the endless patterns, there’s a strange youthfulness to the songs—some hidden quality you can’t touch, but feel immeasurably. Some story that Bannon hasn’t told. Some dream within a dream. “I’m a strange case study,” he admits. “I found purpose in my life at a very young age. Some people find parts of their purpose when they’re young, then maybe more parts in college, but I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I was a kid, and I’ve pushed it hard ever since.” Joining Bannon in Wear Your Wounds is a dominant crew. Guitarist Mike McKenzie from The Red Chord and Stomach Earth; drummer Chris Maggio of Sleigh Bells, Trap Them, and Coliseum; the versatile and eclectic Sean Martin, who’s worked with Hatebreed, Cage, Kid Kudi, and Twitching Tongues; and Bannon’s Converge partner Kurt Ballou join together to form a distinct entity.

There’s aggression and deep space within the band, the varying members adding soft and refined patches to the group’s unique dimension. Wear Your Wounds are set to tour Europe in April after WYW drops. “The guys really added a lot of texture and color to the songs, and it was really welcomed,” Bannon notes. “My songs aren’t very hard to play—they’re soulful songs. Some bands are more rigid and less willing to let compositions evolve beyond themselves, but there are no rules with Wear Your Wounds, which is really cool. I’ve been working through the set list to where it’s basically muscle memory now, and the whole band will get together again to practice before the European tour. I’ll probably be playing bass and doing vocals, and Sean will be handling the piano and electronic stuff.” With Wear Your Wounds, Bannon is, in many ways, coming full circle. It was the bass that initially inspired him, presenting him with the clearest and quickest path to production. “The bass was easier to learn [than guitar], had four strings, it was great,” Bannon says. “I figured out the tuning, and it felt really natural. When Converge started, I just wanted to play the bass. I only sang because there was no one else to do it. I would have played anything. I just wanted to be in a band.” Deep creation is the ultimate source of WYW—an intense portrait, intimate and engulfing. Sparkling through the grey mood, the colors of the album threaten to splatter continuously. The record is eternally peaking, never breaking its ceiling, but rather, surfing magically along it. The wave is nice and the pace is natural, taking on the complete shape of its creation. Nothing rushed, everything nicely assured. It’s the depth of the record that is its purity. And it’s timeless, because it isn’t about any fixed time.

music with melody in mind, and my stuff is usually based on crescendos. A lot of the music of Wear Your Wounds I wrote on the piano. It’s the simplest way of getting notes down. I wrote ‘Hard Road to Heaven’ while on tour with Converge in Japan. I think I was awake for a day or two—jet lag or something—and the idea just came to me.” Ultimately, WYW operates as a nearly cinematic experience. The music is deeply visual, intensely clear. It’s a collection of compositions listeners can feel from head to toe. Bannon’s visual sense really blossoms with this project. It’s intimately open and as straightforward as the artist himself. Bannon is a direct guy, and WYW is about as direct an album as one can experience. Even in its waves of ambience, the music is a conversation that’s precise. In a world of extreme opposites and false logic, it’s nice to hear something so unfenced. Oppression and injustice stem from purposely manufactured dichotomy; it’s the hallmark of dictatorships and insanity. Bannon’s art is a dialogue that soars first from the heart, and then, from the mind—a completely refreshing take. “I think, regardless of what’s going on, there’s always going to be disagreements,” Bannon explains. “I think there are two really important things to consider right now: one, you have to have an awareness of the world around you—especially in the digital age. It’s important to understand where people are coming from, from everywhere in the world. And two, empathy is missing in a lot of places in society. It’s becoming less and less a part of our muscle memory. Not being able to relate to people’s core emotions is a real problem.” WYW is about as close to “core emotions” as you can get. It’s a success, a connection, and a vision.

“I’ve been writing these songs for a long time, and it’s been a process,” Bannon admits. “Personally, I write

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R

ules can be seriously fucked—but they can also save your life. It really comes down to the totality of the directive. Donald Trump’s attempt to block certain human beings from entering the U.S. is a rule that is seriously fucked—but taking your insulin shots at exactly the right time to recreate the natural action of the islets of Langerhans—located in your pancreas—is the sort of rule that’ll save your life. Rules are intense. San Francisco metal and hardcore heavyweights, First Blood, are a band of distinction. They run the gauntlet of rules—ideological, spiritual, mindful, and corrupt—on their newest slab of vision, Rules, released Feb. 10 via Pure Noise Records. It’s a giant stomp of thrash, reverberating with profundity and wisdom. “Everybody forgets that we’re all in this together,” vocalist and founder Carl Schwartz explains. “The whole vibe of the new record is about all the rules we take for granted, and how people don’t generally question these rules. But we need to. Always.” The new record is a technical beast that’ll whip you directly into the nexus region, but it’s defined by its stories. Schwartz is a seriously mindful dude with an honest approach: get people listening with insane and righteous riffs, and then, lay the truer and deeper vision on them. The action is pure, a First Blood trademark. “With politics, the lines have always been a little blurry with this band,” Schwartz admits. “The kids go to shows to have fun, to get knocked down and

ascend. And we really started the group to mosh and thrash. In a lot of ways, I’ve sort of trapped the band with the political nature of the lyrics. I don’t want the whole experience to be like a math class,” he laughs. “Kids want a release—they want something better than where they’re coming from—but it’s really important to read the lyrics.” With the world in such an insane state and right wing nationalism springing up in countries the globe over, it’s a deep and disturbing time for many, but it’s important to stay grounded and sane. Protesting against what you believe is wrong is crucial, and believing in equality and never bending to fascism is of utmost importance, but health and positivity are vital as well. It’s easy to get swept up in the madness and suffering, but Rules is ultimately about positivity. “The new record’s not as political as past ones,” Schwartz notes. “The last album, [Silence Is Betrayal], was much bigger politically. I had been reading Noam Chomsky, his critique of wars and views of anarchy. It influenced my life deeply and put me down a dark hole. It was hard not to see the negative in everything. I really wanted this record to be more about positivity. I wanted to shine a light on beauty.”

previous records: leaner, smarter, and more demanding. There’s a deft wisdom that grows thick on this record. “We put our last record out in 2010, and I stared writing Rules about three or four years ago,” Schwartz explains. “It took a long time to get it done. A year ago, we went into Machine Shop in New Jersey, and I basically locked myself in the booth for a month to record the vocals. There are some straight mosh songs and some more progressive numbers. The last song on the record has some really deep lyrics. It’s not emo,” he laughs, “but it’s a seriously emotional song.” Schwartz rages the lyrics “no justice, no peace” over and over in the song “Rules of Justice”—his simple mantra, both immediate and eternal. The guy’s a positive force, a hardcore legend, and someone whose totality is honest and direct. Rules is a behemoth—a direct notion for change and inward introspection. “People are fighting all the time and trying to divide everything up,” he says. “You have to talk to your kids and try to make your life better. Hardcore is a state of mind. You have to believe in yourself.”

Schwartz moved to Sweden eight years ago and started a family. Keeping First Blood afloat has been a challenge, but the new album has finally arrived, and the timing is divine. The band are a forceful tidal wave that has changed people’s lives. Rules is more varied than PHOTOGRAPHY BY AZUMI TOMOSHIGE

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY AGA HAIRESIS

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egendary NYC punk rocker Paul Bearer is like that “Magic: The Gathering” card, Blightsteel Colossus: an 11/11 indestructible golem with trample and infect. The dude’s a force of nature. Whether he’s fronting hardcore behemoths Sheer Terror or just shooting the shit, he’s always intense and completely real. When he talks politics, things quickly take on a life of their own. “It’s like we get what we deserve, really,” Bearer asserts. “Trump’s a clown. He’s not a politician, he’s a huckster, a salesman. I mean, I understand why he got voted in—he basically talks just like me,” he laughs, “but that doesn’t mean you should be running the damn country.” Slowly, an unstoppable storm gathers. Bearer’s thick New York accent echoes like a siren, full of wild, untamed emotion. “I don’t know what the hell is going to happen,” he barks. “You got this guy, [Vice President Mike] Pence, and the religious right who think they know what’s right for America. Talk about fucked. I mean, fucking-A! People should be angry, they should be scared—they should burn cars.

People are just...” But then, things calm down, and Bearer starts talking about his band. Formed in 1984, Sheer Terror released the classic Just Can’t Hate Enough in 1989 on Blackout Records. A crushing and dark realization, the record is one of the most influential hardcore records of all time and one of the very first to forge extreme heavy metal with punk rock. A new form was birthed with this interstellar gem: a gritty, heavily Celtic Frost-influenced, thrashy storm of pure aggression that would influence a whole generation of punks, metalheads, and artists. “Maybe there’s too much metal in punk these days,” Bearer ponders. “I can’t get mad at the kids, though; it’s what they were raised on. I mean, if you grew up with Slayer and Sepultura—and that’s where you got your hardcore from—your sound and approach is going to be a whole different thing. I grew up with punk rock, and that’s where all the energy I bring comes from.” Bearer’s an original, and Sheer Terror have drifted through the years like their leader: controversial,

powerful, and continuously compelling. “You see a lot of groups [onstage], and it just seems like they’re going through the motions,” Bearer explains, “like they’re reading from a script or something—it’s just boom-boom-boom, you know? I got a big mouth, and when I’m onstage, it’s really just what’s in my head. I’m going talk about some stuff whether people like or not,” he laughs. Bearer’s lyrics have always flowed with a deeply purposeful social and philosophical depth. He’s a wildman poet in the vein of Jim Morrison and the Sex Pistols’ John Lydon, but it’s not all charge, charge, charge all the time. He’s an artist with the soul of a journeyer. “Certain types of music should challenge your perspective, confront your demons, and open your mind—but not all,” Bearer notes. “Some music should just be for enjoyment. I got nothing against a beautifully crafted pop song, you know? I’m a huge soul and reggae fan, and when I DJ, that’s the stuff I’m usually spinning.” Sheer Terror came out with The Bulldog Box in 2016. It’s a substan-

tial box set, a big old lug of deep force and long gravity. “The return wasn’t real great on it,” Bearer admits. “I’m not walking around in a new pair of shoes, if you know what I mean, but it’s cool. I get to look at the thing, and I’m a huge vinyl nerd, so it’s nice to have something that’s mine, something I helped create. I’m happy with it.” Bearer says the band are currently working on a new album, and it’s going smoothly. “Three songs are already done,” he notes. “We got Black Anvil’s old guitarist, Gary Bennett, back working with us now, and the songs are heavy as shit. I mean, we’ve never done this thing with two guitarists, so I said, ‘Let’s do this. If it sounds great, let’s just keep going with it.’ We’ll see how everything looks in April. If we got eight or nine songs, we’ll do an EP, if we got more, maybe we’ll do a fulllength.” Sheer Terror continue to keep the hardcore real—a blast of honesty and profundity in times of complete shit.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANGELA OWENS

A

fter a decade-long gap between albums, one of Toronto’s seminal hardcore bands, Career Suicide, have returned with not one release, but two. The band released their new LP, Machine Response, on Feb. 24 through Deranged Records and self-released a four-song EP of the same name. Machine Response is a vicious assault from beginning to end, exemplifying why Career Suicide are still on top of Canada’s hardcore punk scene. “It was a pretty daunting task to come up with a follow-up full-length record to [2006’s] Attempted Suicide, which was our last LP and, by most opinions, the pinnacle of our musical achievement,” vocalist Martin Farkas says. “We wanted to put something out that at least lived up to it and, in the best case scenario, improved on it.” In the 10 years since Attempted Suicide, the band never stopped playing shows, but remained relatively

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quiet due to guitarist and main songwriter Jonah Falco’s commitment to fellow Toronto punk group Fucked Up. When Fucked Up drastically cut back on their musical output due to members having children and working on other musical projects, Falco refocused on Career Suicide. “If it were anybody else, I would say he is a little bit spread thin in terms of music that he can write, but he’s just a music-making machine,” Farkas says. “I don’t think it’s fair to describe Jonah as spread too thin from a creative perspective.” While recording their last album, Career Suicide were between drummers, leaving Falco to write and record the drum parts, but the group ultimately decided to have temporary member Brandon Ferrell fill in. They were happy with the results, but Falco always felt the album could have turned out differently had he recorded drums. On Machine Response, Falco finally got to test his ideas behind the kit. “Now that we finally, after 10 years,

got around to doing another LP, I wanted to indulge him and let this truly be the Jonah Falco Career Suicide LP,” Farkas says. As a long-time participant in Toronto’s hardcore punk community, Farkas says the scene is stronger than ever. “There are more great bands coming out and people behind the scenes that are so passionately involved setting up venues and doing all of the peripheral things that make a scene interesting and possible to function,” Farkas explains. “These things come and go, so I hope that it lasts long, but we’ll see. Right now, I can’t think of another city that has a similarly productive scene as Toronto right now.” While Toronto’s punk scene is a hotspot for positive activity, it has also become the target of negative attention. Following a fire at an Oakland DIY venue in December 2016, users of the notorious internet forum, 4chan, began making anonymous reports to fire inspec-

tors about unpermitted event spaces and residences across North America. One of Toronto’s most beloved DIY venues, Soybomb, fell victim to these reports a month after the Oakland incident, sparking a municipal crackdown on DIY spaces in the city. Farkas stresses the importance of DIY venues, saying they are just as imperative to Toronto’s hardcore community as the bands. “Because you’re in one of these places that otherwise should not exist, that no municipal government would ever allow if they knew it was going on, you almost feel like you’re getting away with something when you’re in there,” Farkas says. “In a place like this, it only exists to serve what is going on in these spaces. Nobody is profiting from it. Not only the people who run these places, but the people attending these shows, they’re all taking a risk by being there. I think that experience fosters something very punk.”


PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALAN SNODGRASS

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n the verge of releasing their third long-playing, immersive record, Pallbearer shifted the scope of their perspective into the darkness that sits above our own reality. Heartless will be unveiled via Profound Lore on March 24, and the record rides gigantic waves of sonic bliss in quite the urgent manner. Pallbearer are from Little Rock, Arkansas, but not all of the members live in the city anymore. Bassist Joseph D. Rowland explains what this means for the doom metal act. “When we would get together to work on music, there was a lot of determination and focus on the goal this time, [more] than in the past,” he says. “We had to make the best of the time we had.” Pallbearer did more than just utilize their time, they effectively wrapped seven songs that span one hour into a neat bow, packed with an unmatched intensity and beauty that has become the foundation of their mantra. The band are focused on the depth and scale of their sound, and “Dancing in Madness” retains the defining qualities that bring to life Pallbearer’s sonic presence. The guitars are intertwined with harmonious riffs, wo-

ven through walls of guitar chords that fill the space of the mix with an effective amount of buoyancy, never drowning out any part or motif. “There are so many interesting progressive elements in that song, and the tempo shifts that take place throughout the song are really exciting to me,” Rowland explains. The vibe of the track changes as well, showcasing vocalist and guitarist Brett Campbell’s unique and melodious singing voice gliding on top of the varying structural components of the music. The grim middle of the track finds Campbell roaring with desperation as the music pulses into a breakdown, immediately resolving into acoustic solace before the song explodes with soaring orchestration. Whether pushing churning, dissonant riffs through sludgy distortion on “Thorns” or winding through

progressive “classicism” on “I Saw the End,” Pallbearer clearly know their strengths and their strides. “A lot of our modus operandi is thinking about making these really lush chord shapes and voicings,” Rowland comments. “Thinking about it from more of a piano or symphonic perspective where you’re adding a lot more voices into the chord shape versus a simple power chord really lends itself more to that bigger sound.” The more pronounced sound strikes the ear like an impacting meteor, creating a permanent mark on the listener and the earth respectively. Throughout the record, every single groove captures the exact definition of Pallbearer’s uniqueness. “Cruel Road” has a clear-cut beauty thanks to the intricate patterns of the rhythmical structuring: expressive and becoming the fighting twilight before

the night. Offering a loose look into Heartless’ lyrical themes and why the record’s tonal shift is focused on dark and bright, Rowland shares, “[It’s about] the darkness in the hearts of man and those in power. The record was being written as things started to get more clear that we were heading into darker times.” Even with these thematically ghastly concepts, there’s still a sliver of hope to be found, and that is where Heartless rides with magnificence. Closing track, “A Plea for Understanding,” is a bit ethereal, with chord voicings that ring with emotion, the compositions embracing a reflective tone. Still a doom metal band, Pallbearer’s final piece on the record has the same complex infrastructure, but they add a rather resolute layer to it, as if they understand that the awful aura surrounding them cannot suffocate their creativity. Their determination trumped their distance for the writing of the record. The void and absence will not be known to this group, because Heartless stands firm with its own sense of atmosphere. Everything seems peaceful—if only for an hour.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY SCOTT MURRY

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ainesville, Florida’s Less Than Jake have been taking on the punk scene since 1992, right around the time many of their fans were just being born. In the decades since, the way many bands tour, create music, and interact with their fans has seen some drastic changes. Regardless, the band have soldiered on, releasing their latest EP, Sound the Alarm, on Pure Noise Records in February. Drummer Vinnie Fiorello recalls the early days of using landlines to reach labels, having a band beeper, and talking with fans in person. “Everything [took] 10 times as long, because you had to get someone on the phone first,” he says. “If you couldn’t get someone on the phone, then you sent a letter. There were no cell phones; we had a band beeper so you could get in touch with us if there was an emergency. I mean, you actually had to talk to fans. It was face to face interaction. On the flip of that, we had our PO box that was open; the primary form of communication with fans was a letter. That human contact was there, it wasn’t through Twitter or Facebook.” The punk-ska band had to survive the surge of content that erupted when social media website MySpace came into existence. Fiorello says, “When MySpace, that sort of deluge of—I kind of call it ‘static,’ just because it’s modern static, this avalanche of information that comes at you whether it’s from the computer or social media. It’s hard to stay above that, but you stay above it just by pushing into it and accepting it and trying it. You have to be involved to be able to cut through the static that’s there.” The drummer feels that, while some of the direct human contact has disappeared thanks to the ease of social media, it’s much easier to be a fan of music today than it was in the early ‘90s, when fans had to find and purchase physical copies of CDs from the bands they loved. “I think that, currently, to be

a fan of music, it’s much more immediate,” he says. “You want to have contact with the band? Post on their social media. If you wanna know about touring, just Google it. It’s pretty wild. All those answers, all that content, and everything that goes along with being in a band, it’s literally at your fingertips to find out. To be able to listen, to be able to download, to be able to order, to be able to contact the band, it’s pretty wild compared to what it was before.”

"There were no cell phones; we had a band beeper so you could get in touch with us if there was an emergency." Of course, those who were there remember the Wild West days of touring, such as in the early years of the legendary Warped Tour. Less Than Jake played their first Warped in 1997, when it was not only exciting, but also a little more haphazard than the well-oiled machine it is today. Fiorello remembers, “Our first Warped Tour, it was exciting. It was unrivaled by anything that we did before that. So, mind you, this was when Warped Tour was a little more unorganized than it is now. Where we played didn’t have a cover on the stage; we just had, like, camouflage netting. It was crazy if you think about it now.”

He continues, “Imagine being in a band, and your booking agent comes to you and says, ‘OK, you’re gonna be on Warped Tour, but the stage is not gonna have a cover on it, and it’s gonna be in the middle of summertime, and you’re gonna have to play your set whether it’s rain or shine, whether it’s 116 degrees or not.’ Like, I don’t think that would fly now. I think that people would take it to their social media and say how unfair they were being treated by Warped, that they had to play in these conditions. Back then, we were just like, ‘Fuck it! This is exciting!’ Now, if someone said to me, ‘Oh, you have to go out there in the sun and play,’ I’d be like, ‘I dunno about that.’ But then, we were like, ‘Fuck man, we get to play in front of all these people?! Who cares!’ We just were stoked to be there, and it was a super exciting time.” While it’s easier to be a fan or creator of music now than ever before, there are a few things Fiorello misses from the pre-internet era. He says he would like to see “less of that white noise, because as good as those tools— Bandcamp and Soundcloud—are for people who are like, ‘Oh, I wrote this song, I wanna put it out there,’ there’s people that just sort of put up content that’s half-baked and weird, and it just continually comes through.” “For all the good things and all the good songs and all the talented artists that have a chance now, people are just out there not giving a shit,” he laments. “I’m not gonna say it’s bad music, because that’s always in the ear of the beholder, but there’s just so much more noise out there. In the pre-internet ‘90s, I liked the fact that there were moments of quiet, that you weren’t being bombarded with information and music and about someone’s tour and about someone’s new record and someone’s life— that’s the thing pre-internet that I love. If it was back now, it would be awesome, but I think that the Information Age is here, and you’re being bombarded with it on a daily basis.”

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“It didn’t take me seven years to write a record,”

frontman Jason Hall declares with a laugh when asked about Western Addiction’s second full-length, the hard-hitting punk tour de force, Tremulous, released via Fat Wreck Chords on March 10. This particular caveat must be included because the band have not been continuously active since their debut LP, Cognicide, was released back in 2005. “For some reason, I just started up again. I had a couple of songs, and I asked my bandmates [drummer] Chad [Williams] and [guitarist] Ken [Yamazaki] if they wanted to play again,” Hall explains of the album’s genesis. He adds, “We’re an odd band; we’ve had a couple of breaks,” though he says he always has ideas, parts of songs, and lyrics lying around. It just so happened that in 2016, the timing was right for it all to come together. This time around, Western Addiction enlisted Lagwagon’s Joey Cape as producer. As a former longtime employee at Fat Wreck and having toured with Lagwagon in the past, Hall says he’s been “friends forever” with Cape. “Joey has always been a champion of our band,’ he says. “He wanted to work with us, and we wanted to work with him.” Hall says Cape helped them with a few things, explaining, “I’m not a good singer. I just scream at people all the time.” He continues, “I hear where the melodies should go, but can’t do it. Joey helped us with that a little bit.” In more general terms, Cape also helped the guys make songs more interesting throughout. In the past, Hall says, they might not have been as open to taking advice from outside sources, but being older and wiser now, they’re more amenable to guidance and criticism.

he explains. “So, we really thought deeply about how the songs should meld together.” He goes on to say that since they’re not a band who go out and tour most of the year, they placed immense focus on the album’s quality. “Why would I do this unless I respect what I’m doing?” he asks. “Not saying our music’s important, but can I stand behind it, and do I think it’s important and powerful? I don’t wanna put out anything I don’t think is something I can respect.” He adds, “This one, I feel—I don’t wanna say it’s good, I don’t know if it’s good, but I am proud of it and I do like it.” Tremulous was finished toward the end of 2016, but Hall notes that if they would’ve rushed to release it by year’s end, it could’ve gotten “lost.” “There’s no rush to get the new Western Addiction record out,” he says selfdeprecatingly. “There was no rush to do it.” That worked fine for the band, as they had time to perfect the music and layout, which Hall considers to be of equal importance. The aesthetic, he explains, was even more vital this time around, and they decided to use artwork by Belgian artist Thierry De Cordier. If you do catch Western Addiction live nowadays, they’ll play both new and old material. “We’re not extremely active,” Hall reasons, “so, if you’re seeing us, maybe you’re seeing everything for the first time.” Because of this, the band can get away with playing a greater amount of older material than more active bands. On a similar note, Hall has hung up his guitar to focus on singing, something he hopes contributes to the excitement of seeing the band live. Western Addiction are officially a five-piece, with previous bassist Tony Teixeira now playing guitar. Hall, again in his self-deprecating manner, dismisses his guitar-playing skills and says they’re better with him strictly in the role of vocalist. “It’s so much more fun,” he says of the new arrangement. “It’s so much more interesting.”

Despite Cape’s assistance, the vocalist says piecing together the resulting record was “painstaking.” “I think of [a record] as a flowing document,”

PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALAN SNODGRASS

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ccording to Sanskrit scripture, Kali Yuga is the last of the world’s four cycles: it is the Iron Age, the age of the demon Kali, the age of vice, when men turn to wickedness and sin. Morality and spirituality are abandoned; disease, anger, violence, sex, and fear rule the day. In the great Sanskrit epic poem, The Mahabharata, the Kali Yuga is described as a period when even the World Soul has turned black.

Of Mist. “The ‘theme’ continues in the tradition of all Nightbringer albums and deals with esoteric concepts taken from various traditions that are central to us as individuals, ranging from Hermeticism to Orphism to witchcraft, to name a few,” vocalist and guitarist Naas Alcameth says. “Another central theme, especially on this album, is that of the eastern concept of Kali Yuga and what that means in our current place in time.”

This is central to the overarching theme of Nightbringer’s new album, Terra Damnata, out April 14 on Season

The Latin Terra Damnata translates to “Damned Earth” or simply “The Damned,” both of which make sense given what’s in store for mankind in the Kali Yuga. But there are other layers of meaning to it, Alcameth says, layers that reveal further aspects of the band’s fifth full-

length—and further aspects of Nightbringer, a black metal band founded as a vehicle for meditating on the mysteries of death and the magical arts, inscrutable as they may be. “The translation [of the concept of Kali Yuga] is evident,” Alcameth explains, “and the meaning within hermetic philosophy has to do with the residuum that is left after the first phase of the spiritual alchemical process, the nigredo.” Well, that explains it—for those steeped in the lore of alchemical tradition. For everyone else, in alchemy, “nigredo” means blackness, putrefaction, or decomposition. Alchemists believed that in order to attain the philosopher’s stone—the fabled substance that could allegedly turn all metals into gold—alchemical ingredients had to be cleansed by cooking them down to a simple black matter. “What this means on the symbolic level can be found in any book on the subject if one cares to seek it out,” Alcameth says. “A more immediate transliteration would have much to do with the current age, or twilight thereof, known

as the Kali Yuga as it is understood in the East.” Now the riddles of Terra Damnata are starting to unmask themselves, no? For those who still have questions regarding what the hell this record is about, perhaps they just need to put it on and contemplate the mysteries of life and death and alchemy while being inundated by furious blasts of second wave black metal so pure you’d swear they came straight from the frozen lands of Scandinavia. Even though Nightbringer hail from Colorado, they are not an “American Black Metal” band. Their arcane, esoteric themes can only be conjured by the blackest of metal arts, those refined by bands like Emperor or Immortal. Think razor-sharp riffs steeped in an atmosphere as dark as the depths of the human soul during the Kali Yuga. Which is dark indeed, because humanity is supposed to get more and more depraved as the age of Kali progresses, and—according to Alcameth in Season Of Mist’s press release for Terra Damnata—the Kali Yuga is almost at its end. Announcing the imminent unleashing of this record upon the Earth, he said, “The eight tracks presented here are eight aspects of a sorcerous path that shines like dreadful starlight in the long night of the close of the Kali Yuga.”

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALAN SNODGRASS

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o say Jim and William Reid didn’t rush into recording a new Jesus And Mary Chain record is an understatement. In fact, it’s been just shy of 20 years since the shoegazing Scots last circled the wagons to create new material. In many ways, fans should feel lucky that Damage and Joy—due out March 24 on Artificial Plastic Records—arrived at all. Putting records like 1985’s Psychocandy and 1987’s Darklands aside, there are darker corners of the Jesus And Mary Chain’s legacy that underlie their pioneering body of work. The Reid brothers have a relationship that, while creatively fruitful, has also proven to be legendarily volatile. Those tensions came to a head during the making of 1998’s Munki, which saw their relationship more or less bottom out. “Well, me and William were not getting along, to say the very least, at that point,” Reid says. “It was quite difficult

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to make that record. It almost destroyed us as people to do it.” Recording Munki proved such a toxic experience that the scars from its making still lingered years later, especially for Jim. There were some understandable psychological hurdles that stalled the new record’s creation, but enough time eventually passed for the band to make good on their promise to record again upon reforming. “I was nervous to get back into the studio,” Reid says. “[William] didn’t seem quite so bothered about all of that stuff, so it was probably me that stopped the thing from happening up to this point. But time kept passing and people kept asking, ‘When’s this new record of yours gonna come about?’ I just thought it’s been so long now, we should either make a record or stop telling people that we’re going to.” Culled together from newly-written songs and others that have

been lingering over the past decade, Damage and Joy is, by any measure, a Jesus And Mary Chain record—even if it’s almost two decades divorced from the band’s initial run. All the musical trademarks are there, from the cool, laconic vocals to the sweetbut-electric guitar pop the band made famous long ago. But, while all the musical pieces fell back into place, a certain amount of self-induced pressure hung over the recording as the band sought to ensure that their long-awaited return was worth the wait. “It’s not an anomaly or an oddity,” Reid says of Damage and Joy. “It’s the next Mary Chain record.” The Jesus And Mary Chain enlisted the services of Killing Joke bassist Martin “Youth” Glover, who played bass and served as producer. He also acted in the unofficial capacity of “peacekeeper” between the two brothers, Reid recalls. “Turns out Youth’s a bit of

a fan as well,” he says. “We recorded a couple of tracks to see how it was gonna go, and it felt pretty good. It was like we’d never been away from the studio. Those things just come straight back to you.” The band recorded off and on for about a year, squeezing sessions in between festival gigs and other commitments. In the end, Reid’s concerns about enduring another brotherly flare-up came and passed, and Damage and Joy came together without issue. The in-studio experience was so positive, in fact, that the band are considering a quick follow-up depending on how Damage and Joy is received. “If the record does well, then we might do another. If not, then we probably won’t,” Reid concludes. “We thought it would be a lot more painful to do this record than it actually turned out to be. Now, we feel much better about the idea of doing it again in the future.”


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fter completing their fourth album, IV: Empires Collapse, in 2013, California thrashers Warbringer were ready to call it quits. Out of five members, guitarist Adam Carroll and vocalist John Kevill were the only ones who planned to continue the band. Small tours and one-off shows followed the album’s release, but with more vacancies than filled positions, Warbringer needed to be rebuilt. Over the course of a few years and numerous lineup changes, Warbringer have come back stronger than ever with their fifth album, Woe to the Vanquished, set for release on March 31 via Napalm Records. “I wanted to continue, and I had an idea and a vision for what the next [album] should be,” Kevill

says. “It just felt so unsatisfying to leave it undone. All of the lineup changes of the last couple of years can be summed up with mine and Adam Carroll’s attempt to reconstruct the band and find the form of it that’s able to progress and able to make the next step the band should make. Luckily, that was aided greatly by the return of [drummer] Carlos Cruz, who was a core member in writing this album.” Woe to the Vanquished is an unrelenting beast of an album jam-packed with classic thrash elements contrasted by a more melodic and progressive approach. Standout tracks like opener “Silhouettes” and “Descending Blade” pummel the listener with blistering fast kick drums and razor-sharp guitar riffs. Warbringer close the album with the gloomy 11-minute and

11-second track, “When the Guns Fell Silent,” aptly named after the moment the first world war ended. The band incorporate clean and acoustic sections into the song while still holding down the violent style of thrash they are known for. “What I want to do, really, is create a brand of thrash metal that’s instantly identifiable as our own and that adds to the genre,” Kevill says. “You’ll notice songs one through five just blow shit up the whole time. We want it as interesting and with [as many] twists and turns and different structures as possible. With the end of the record, we wanted a more somber, kind of soul-crushing note.”

feels has strengthened his lyrical content. While he plans to finish his education in the coming years, the singer is optimistic that Warbringer will be able to carry on for the foreseeable future. “This band is my first venture into music, and I had no idea it would go on this long or that people would like it or any of that. I just had this inner desire to do it just for the sake of doing so,” Kevill says. “There’s been a very good response to the band and music and performances on the whole, so I guess I could count myself really lucky and fortunate that it’s gone this far and that I’m still able to do it after all of the [unfortunate] circumstances.”

During the years when the band were inactive, Kevill began studying history, something he

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nless you’re My Bloody Valentine or The Wrens, 12 years is a long stretch between albums. Following a decade of inactivity, Seattle’s Acceptance—whose latest release was their debut, Phantoms, in 2005—have at long last regrouped, reformed, and released Colliding By Design via Rise Records on Feb. 24, launching the second chapter of their career. “There is definitely a lot [of change] that comes along with age, and 12 years is not exactly a blink of an eye,” guitarist Christian McAlhaney says. “I feel like I’ve grown tremendously as a writer, player, and performer since Acceptance set out to record our first full-length record. Most people don’t look at it this way, but being in a band is being a business owner, and time has taught me to

take more responsibility in all aspects of growing these businesses. I also think that traveling the world changes your worldview, lessening a nationalistic attitude and looking at oneself more as a global citizen.” The band called it quits in the first place due to a series of unfortunate incidents. “I think one could look at the story of Acceptance pre-breakup as a perfect example of what you don’t want to happen as a young band,” McAlhaney admits. “Phantoms leaked nine months before its release date. Against our better judgment, we released a ballad, ‘Different,’ as our first single and made a very expensive yet very forgettable video for it. Our record was recalled—due to the Sony rootkit scandal—and was never properly redistributed.” “There were also internal conflicts that just come with being young and in a band with five different personalities,” he adds. “There wasn’t really any sort of fatal blow, it was a death by a thousand cuts, if you will.”

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RYAN MCKINNON

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After the band split up, the members scattered across the country. McAlhaney continued his music career, joining Anberlin and spending the better part of a decade with them. While everyone believed Acceptance was a thing of the past, when the former bandmates were invited to reunite for the 2015 Skate & Surf Festival in New Jersey, they realized that their story wasn’t yet complete. “The biggest catalyst that brought us back together was the continued and what felt like increasing support and interest in the band in the years after we broke up,” McAlhaney shares. “This struck me as odd at the time, because we had a pretty short-lived career, at least on a national level, and were never a ‘big band’ by any stretch of the imagination.” “We had kind of tested the waters when we wrote ‘Take You Away’ in 2015.  It had been a decade since we’d all written together, so we wanted to see what that would even be like,” he recalls.  “That process went incredibly well, so we began discussing some long-term goals. We had realized that the nostalgia and excitement of an Acceptance reunion would quickly run its course.  We were having a blast playing again, so we decided that if we wanted this to go beyond just playing a handful of reunion shows, we would need to release new music. We began taking all the profits from any shows we were playing and putting them towards self-funding our record.”

“I truly think this is the beginning of a new chapter for the band,” he adds. “I was honestly doubtful that anything like this would ever happen, and I think we’re all a bit surprised at what this has turned into.” Acceptance recorded Colliding By Design in Seattle and Nashville from late 2015 through spring 2016, sending ideas back and forth and flying cross country to meet whenever possible. The band decided that producer Aaron Sprinkle— who had skillfully engineered Phantoms  a decade earlier—should take the helm for the 12 new tracks. “The process itself was a tough one indeed,” McAlhaney confirms. “Proximity and career commitments made it impossible to ‘go into the studio’ in a traditional sense. […] The ultimate goal was to create something that resonated in people like Phantoms had. How that translated into music was interpreted by everyone a little differently. Ultimately, a year and a half later, I believe it was all for the best. Nothing great comes easy.” McAlhaney adds that the record’s themes include “redemption, forgiveness, acceptance, and wholeness. I think life serves everyone a little bit of heaven and hell.  How we navigate these peaks and valleys is what makes us who we are. Everyone in this band has experienced the incredible joys and unimaginable pains of life.  I think music and the arts help communicate the incredibly broad spectrum of human emotion to the beholder and can help one to feel less alone.”


Tobin Sprout’s long music career is formidable. His artistic interests bleed into other mediums, and he is accomplished in those as well, but not many artists or children’s illustrators have also recorded over 20 studio albums. Now, the former Guided By Voices guitarist has released a new solo album, The Universe and Me, via Burger Records on Jan. 20, and is planning a corresponding tour starting in April.

His first solo effort in seven years, The Universe and Me is like a scrapbook of Sprout’s deferred writings through the years. Perhaps this is partly because, like many artists, it seems he can be his own toughest critic. “I’m not sure why, but sometimes when I write something, I might not think that much of it at the time,” Sprout admits. “‘Islands (She Talks In Rainbows)’ [from Guided by Voices’ 2013 album, English Little League], had been in the pile for a while before my drummer said something about it. Sometimes, you need outside ears to hear something in the song. The old files [used to create The Universe and Me] might just be a verse that I can’t get a chorus for, then I hear it later and it all falls into place. So, it’s breathing new life into older material. That’s how a lot of the songs on Universe… came to be.” While Sprout insists that he is only focused on what the coming months will bring, his intentions for another record seem clear. “I’m planning on working more with [my] band on the next album,” he shares, “collaborating on arrangements and experimenting with other ideas we might have. Instead of just learning the song and recording it right away, I want to try having it well-rehearsed before recording.” Sprout adds that he hopes to record in his own studio, as well as those of guitarist Tommy Schichtel and drummer Gary Vermillion, “allowing different mixes and rooms to add to the sound of the album.”

2017 is going to require a lot of attention—luckily it all seems to be coming up Sprout!

In addition to the fresh release of The Universe and Me, Burger Records is also rereleasing Sprout’s first two solo albums, Carnival Boy from 1996 and Moonflower Plastic from 1997. The rereleased albums will be out just before the tour, on which Sprout assures they’ll be playing both new material and favorites from his older work. The tour will be a welcome event for Sprout. While he’s done anything but disappear from music over the last two decades, it’s no secret that he took a step back from touring regularly in order to stay home with his family. He works as an artist and has had galleries host both his solo exhibitions and those created with his wife and fellow artist, Laura Sprout. He has authored and illustrated children’s books—with more in the works—and even casually mentions that he built a family vacation house on Lake Michigan some years ago, all while peppering the workload with writing and producing solo albums. With his children now venturing out on their own, Sprout is excited to revisit the road. “I’m really looking forward to the tour; I haven’t toured solo in quite a while,” he says. “I’m ready to get out again. Both my kids are, for the most part, grown and on their own. My daughter is away at school, and my son is in L.A., so I will be able to see him when we tour the West Coast.” The West Coast dates are still TBA, but Sprout’s East Coast jaunt kicks off on April 20 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and run through the end of May.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY BROOKE OLESNAVAGE

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rance’s blackened death sculptors, Svart Crown, waste no time pummeling listeners into the dark nexus on their newest album, Abreaction, released March 3 on Century Media Records. The record scours the barren wastelands, twisting and forging its palpable destiny. Its depth is felt physically, as well as mentally. “Abreaction” is a psychoanalytical term that Sigmund Freud introduced in 1893. It deals mainly with the purging of an emotional experience by reliving it. For Svart Crown vocalist and guitarist Jean-Baptiste “JB” Le Bail, the process of creating the new record was an intense release: a sort of black mass of density and perspective. “For me personally, the record has been really cathartic, and the title evokes this feeling precisely,” the frontman explains. “It was a big challenge for me to write all the music, especially after the departure of two important members of the band. The tour for our previous record, [2013’s] Profane, was mentally exhausting. We did a lot of shows, playing everywhere, and had some major issues. From the last-minute cancellation of the Belphegor tour in 2014, the Metal Alliance fiasco in 2015, to the cancellation in the middle of the Marduk tour in the Balkans, we felt cursed. Honestly, it was a bit too much, and this album was the perfect way to get rid of all the accumulated frustration.” The new record swims mightily through varying realms, held to-

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gether by its unique and stoic focus. It’s as heavy and bleak as it is fluid and arty. There’s a tribal and ritualistic vibe that permeates its essence, conjuring an almost folklore sensibility. Philosophy, history, and sociology are poured into a witch’s cauldron, infused with quick and rapid technical absolution. Death metal meets black metal on the yellow brick road to avant-garde hell. The album is as much about morality as it is ascension.

music in general is not easy to listen to. There are so many details, so I really need to be focused on my own in order to bring the best ideas to the other guys. I can’t do that in a noisy rehearsal place or even on tour. So, when I think a song is good enough to be heard, I send it to the other guys, and I wait for their comments. […] It’s easier in a way, but we need to get together three or four times before going into the studio, to see if the magic happens.”

“The whole album is about voodoo and African ritualistic culture,” Le Bail notes. “This is the first reading, but behind every lyric and story, there’s a second, much more personal reading. There is this one song on the record for example, ‘The Pact: To the Devil His Due.’ It’s about the Faustian pact, but revisited in a sort of bayou-style way. I was inspired by the story of the blues musician Robert Johnson, who sold his soul to the devil, and also by the movie ‘Angel Heart.’ This song asks the question: ‘Would you be ready to sell your soul to the devil in order to get the success that you have been waiting for all these years?’ Considering everything the band’s been through as musicians, it’s a question that I ask myself.”

On Abreaction, it does. The magic is epic and otherworldly, a hymn to the pushers of contemporary extreme music. The compositions are constructed with a deep sense of totality, and often, what makes the songs so grand is their connectivity and graceful togetherness. This is songwriting at its highest level.

The dexterity, tactile nature, and oneness of Abreaction is a bold and grand achievement, especially considering the band’s current recording process. “The band lives quite far from one another, and it’s a massive organization to rehearse together,” Le Bail confirms. “Abreaction is really complex, and our

“Inspiration comes from everywhere,” Le Bail says. “You cannot imagine sometimes how far I am from metal in terms of references. For Abreaction, I really needed to start afresh. I had been blocked in my playing, and I had the feeling I was repeating myself constantly, so I decided to rediscover all my classics, especially all the stuff I was listening to before discovering metal. I tried to analyze that material, see what kind structure and melody spoke to me. I come from an oldschool hip hop, old rock, and even pop music background. The process really helped bring out some fresh new ideas.”


CORY BRANAN

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COMING APRIL 7, 2017 "..melodies that pitch their tent halfway between the fresh and the familiar, backed by lyrics that are both self-deprecatingly dry and storybook-level rich.” —Rolling Stone "Cory Branan is perhaps the most unheralded man holding a guitar today... there’s no question that the guy can write the absolute hell out of a song.” —Noisey

FEATURING: Laura Jane Grace (of Against Me!), Dave Hause, and Amanda Shires

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY SUSIE CONSTANTINO

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epending on who you ask, heavy metal didn’t really become “a thing” until roughly 1967. Over the past 50 years, the genre has grown, morphed, and evolved in an infinite number of ways, but its main tenets are still alive and well to this day. However, in the last four decades, very few folks have personified these tenets quite like iconic guitarist and vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, a man who is basically a sentient version of the film, “Easy Rider.” Throughout his illustrious and insanely prolific career, Weinrich has been renowned for his time with doom icons Saint Vitus, stoner metal legends Spirit Caravan and The Hidden Hand, and his incredible solo projects, both electric and acoustic. However, the band that started it all for Weinrich were The Obsessed, a group he originally formed in 1976 who split up in 1994. Now, 23 years after their last record, the band are releasing a new LP, Sacred, through Relapse Records on April 7, another high-water mark for a man who already sets the bar impossibly high.

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Though The Obsessed initially reunited back in 2012, it wasn’t until Weinrich’s chance encounter with an old friend that the seeds were sown for a new album. “Two years ago, when I put Spirit Caravan back together for a minute, we had one of the original drummers of Spirit Caravan and The Obsessed, Ed Gulli,” he explains. “One of his friends—and one of my old friends, who used to help the band back in the old days, he used to drive for us—he was sort of like Ed’s roadie. His name is Brian Constantino. I hadn’t seen Brian in some years, but Brian resurfaced when we put Spirit Caravan back together and was again helping Ed, and I had no idea that he played drums.” Although the Spirit Caravan reunion didn’t last very long, the stage was set for a moment straight out of the movie “Rock Star.” “The wheels were kinda coming off the wagon with Ed a little bit, and the writing was on the wall,” Weinrich admits, “but one day, at a rehearsal, Brian sat down behind a kit and started playing, and we had, like, a little jam. That’s when I

knew.” He continues, “Everything fell into place. Me and Brian totally clicked. His main musical love is The Obsessed; he grew up on The Obsessed and saw it all from the old days. I didn’t even realize it, but he went on to learn to play drums and became quite the efficient drummer. So, when we got together, it was totally natural. The chemistry that me and Brian had together was really the impetus to record Sacred.”

The Obsessed had a blast working on their new record, and then, received an additional boost in morale from signing with Relapse. For Weinrich, this was an especially triumphant moment. “Back in the Hidden Hand days, and in the late Spirit Caravan days, all of the people at Relapse were different,” he recalls. “I remember trying to get them to take [Hidden Hand’s] Mother Teacher Destroyer—which is one of my top five records—and they Once they got the remaining passed on that record, but now, pieces of the band together, they everyone at Relapse is a fan. started the writing process for They have treated us so fucking Sacred, then moved on to an en- good.” joyable recording session with another longtime friend, pro- While he did once write about ducer Frank Marchand. “His being born too late for his style nickname is ‘The Punisher,’ to be appreciated, it seems that and he’s got, like, 10 Les Pauls. Weinrich has been reborn just It was a fuckin’ orgy of gear. It in time. “I’m very happy about was like being in heaven, man,” stuff,” he says. “It really seems Weinrich enthuses. “At the end to me that the timing has nevof every working day, he would er been right for my music, but break out his high-def videos, now, it seems like everything and he would play us what he is lining up. I made a couple of called ‘inspiration videos’ like major lifestyle changes to emHumble Pie [Performance] brace this moment, man. It’s reRockin’ the Fillmore, Vanilla ally important, and I’m doin’ it!” Fudge, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Hendrix. It was just a lot of fuckin’ fun.”


PHOTOGRAPHY BY JESSE DEFLORIO

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ouisville, Kentucky’s White Reaper set their goals appropriately high while writing their third full-length, The World’s Best American Band, out April 7 via Polyvinyl Records. Touting an album titled with what may be the boldest statement of the band’s career, White Reaper—led by vocalist and guitarist Tony Esposito—made sure to provide listeners with exactly what the best band might sound like. “It’s like if we had kids,” Esposito begins. “The first two things we put out, [2014’s White Reaper and 2015’s White Reaper Does It Again], were like angsty dropout students who got into a lot of trouble at school, and now, they

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work in restaurant kitchens. As the parents, we just kinda had to smile and love ‘em anyways.” It’s easy to see the band have nothing but pride for their music, “but this new record is, like, valedictorian, about to hit up law school and crush the Bar [Exam] in one try,” Esposito finishes. The sonic palette of The World’s Best American Band features a flurry of melodies dancing around each song. The four-piece find inventive ways to make their songs pop, whether it be a keyboard, guitar, unique rhythmic pattern, or Esposito’s sugary, raspy voice. “Daisies” is one track that roars loud with multiple approaches, slathered in gripping harmonies. It’s a modern take on the vintage sound of the

classic rock ‘n’ roll from the past. “We just wanted to make a record that was unmistakably rock ‘n’ roll. We’re a rock band, we made a rock record,” Esposito states. The record opens with applause on the title-track, as White Reaper confidently declare the glory that is their new record, their sound, and their way. The bass bellows, the guitars are thick with distortion, and the keyboards provide a beautiful symphonic ambiance. The song came to Esposito on a long drive without any radio frequency. “I ended up, like, 50 minutes south of Louisville,” he reflects. “I just heard it in my head. Kinda hummed it all the way home. The next day, I recorded the first minute or so on my phone and sent it to the guys.

That was the first idea I had for the record.” It’s a bit ironic that the song came to Esposito on a drive without any frequencies in the air, because equipped with The World’s Best American Band, it won’t be long before White Reaper take over the airwaves and the rest of the world.


PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM COUTURE

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oston-based tech-death dynamos, Replacire, do things fast. They twist you up all crazy-like with progressive overtures destined for long extensions—but cut everything short and sweet. All sections are created with a deep totality in mind. The sound comes in at a true maximum. Their newest album—the crushing and dynamic Do Not Deviate—hits stores via Season Of Mist on March 17. “My personal goal was to make a heavier record,” guitarist Eric Alper notes. “A lot of my contributions were heavy down-picking power chord parts, and faster string-skip-

ping stuff. We treated the recording process a little more like a job this time around. Writing sessions at least three times a week and weeklong arranging sessions with the full band. We worked really hard to up our game.” And it shows, twentyfold. There’s some real intricate stuff going on in the new record, sections that’ll run patterns around your inner and outer mindscape. It’s dizzying, tingling, and thrashy, but it’s the refined marksmanship that is so very acute. Every angle fits exact, every progressive corner a mental gem. These songs crush ridiculously. The process is working.

“Our methods are different for every song,” Alper says. “Some songs come together really easily, like ‘Horsestance’ for example. That one just kind of happened really naturally and easily in a couple sessions, but some take several sessions to come together. We’ll take each section, give it a name or letter, and write it all out on a whiteboard. Then, we’ll arrange it in different ways until it feels right. Some songs never quite make it. We’ve had to scrap some killer riffs, because they couldn’t find a home in a song.” Replacire’s songs regularly come in under three or four minutes: a wonderful approach for a seriously progressive metal band. There are no

wasted moments; the band attack like a hardcore punk act. Wherever and however these guys are storing their data, it’s working. “We don’t worry about any sort of labels,” Alper explains. “When we write, we’re always just trying to create music that sounds good and challenges us as players. Some of the songs on the new record ended up a bit on the shorter side. We decided not to fight it. We’d get to the end and try to force some more parts, but it felt unnatural. I think it’s cool—music doesn’t have any rules.”

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iven the current political climate, it would be easy to assume Craig Finn was thinking of a Post-Trump world when he named his latest record, We All Want the Same Things. “The title actually came from one of the songs, so I was kind of looking at the lyrics and looking for a title, and it was kind of perfect, in part because of the current political climate,” says Finn, who also fronts The Hold Steady. “Now, the record was named before the current election, but during the campaign, we also weren’t all on the same page. There’s a little black humor in the title, but in some ways, there’s truth there, and I do think we want the same things; we want safety for our children, and we want food and shelter, and we want freedom. We just disagree on how we’re going to get there.” The line is also reflective of the characters in the songs. Like many of the subjects in his music, they tend to be unremarkable people just trying to get through life and their respective situations. We All Want the Same Things, Finn’s third solo record, comes out March 24 on Partisan Records.

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It comes just over a year after his last solo effort. “I’m kind of on a prolific jag,” Finn says. “Faith In the Future came out in September of 2015, and we started recording this one—the first session of many—in November of 2015. I’ve just been writing a lot. Also, in this day and age, with the resurgence of vinyl, it takes a while to get a record out. It takes about six months to make vinyl, so there’s plenty of time once you turn in your record and start writing new songs to start on another one,” he laughs. “So, that’s just what I did.” To promote We All Want the Same Things, Finn embarked on a tour of fans’ living rooms in January that took him throughout the Northeast and parts of the Midwest. It was, in part, something productive to do after Finn visited radio stations during the day to talk about the new album. “For the last record, we did a radio tour to set it up, and I found the nighttime kind of lonely, so I thought I would make use of that time,” he says. “The Living Room Tour was very rewarding. I was playing a lot of new material and, being that it was really quiet and people could hear all of the words—

it was an intimate setting—it was a really nice way to debut new stuff. Beyond that, there is something really nice about people allowing strangers into their house to play music. There was an intimacy there that was really rewarding.”

“There is something really nice about people allowing strangers into their house to play music.” Those newer songs are a little more hopeful than the ones on Faith In the Future. Along with being more exuberant, they’re also more musical, with Finn bringing a lot more guests into the studio to help. “This one’s a little less sparse, and that comes from the fact that the last record was pretty much me,

Josh [Kaufman]—my producer— and the drummer, [Joe Russo],” Finn says, “but this one had a lot more people in the room: a piano player, [Sam Kassirer], a horn player, [Stuart Bogie], a bass player, [Jon Shaw]. And because of that, I think it leads to something that’s a little more joyful.” Finn plans to take these songs on the road, starting with a tour alongside the Canadian duo, Japandroids. Along with his solo shows, he’s also thinking about pulling together more Hold Steady shows, similar to the four backto-back Brooklyn gigs the band hosted in December. “I hope we can replicate that model again where we play multiple shows in one city,” he says. “We’re all a little older, and I don’t think anyone is excited to drive around in a van anymore. But, to put together a block of shows in major cities and dig in and really make the sets different every night and make them really special, I think [that] is the idea.”


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Kate Flynn of The Winter Passing “There’s safety in numbers, and that can apply to mental health too. I was able to reckon with my feelings because another person shared theirs with me. I feel like the music scene and a lot of other subcultures are making the effort to be open about mental health. The social stigma that mental health once had is slowly disintegrating, and a new form of thinking is shaping. It’s starting to be okay to talk openly about feeling the way you do. It’s incredibly important that we promote this new ethos constantly—be it at music shows, art shows, schools, etc.—and keep helping people realize that it’s okay to not feel okay.” AUGUSTA KOCH of CAYETANA “I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will have to deal with this forever, so I’ve been creating ways to cope with it. Having a safe space to be alone on tour—like our van—is extremely helpful. I’ve also been more comfortable saying no to things when I’m having a particularly anxious day without being ashamed. Writing poetry [and] journaling for just me has also been a way to deal and evaluate my progress. Most importantly, being able to talk about it openly without shame has been the biggest turning point. […] People always say, “The show must go on,” but knowing your limits and being able to express them is way more important. Once we detach the shame that’s associated with mental illness, I feel like people will be able to seek help more effectively.” LUCY XAVIER of PRIMAL RITE “Being somebody of mixed race, as well as non-traditional gender [and] sexuality, the current political climate absolutely affects my mental health. I think it’s that way for a lot of people. POC, immigrants, queer and trans people, women; there’s a lot to be afraid of. It’s easy to get brainwashed into thinking your life and your voice don’t have value. But music and subculture communities can be a safe-haven from this, as well as a way to fight back and enact change. Artists should keep this in mind. Art has always driven rebellion and progress—don’t let that slip away.” STACEY DEE of BAD COP/BAD COP “Everyone told me, ‘Stacey, the way out of this is gonna be through your music,’ and it was—my savior was always my fucking music. Music has been the one constant thing in my life that’s good. It’s never turned its back on me. It gives me worth and settles my spirit. Today, I do not say that I have depression and anxiety; I refuse to give those words power over me. I say I’m happy, and I am. I have found a true way out of much of my mental illness. I don’t blame, I don’t make excuses, I am not judgmental, I am not jealous, I keep people’s names out of my mouth and don’t talk about shit I don’t really know about. I’m finally at a place where I see the good, and life is working with me! I’m not letting it go.” BEN COLLINS of MINIHORSE “The music world could help by not glorifying mental illness. Depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders are serious issues, not mysterious idiosyncrasies that instill an artist with extra talent. In most cases, artists are creating despite their problems, not because of them. That’s important to understand. If some of them had had access to better help, we’d certainly have more music, and more of our heroes would still be around. As David Lynch said: ‘Anger and depression and sorrow are […] like a vise grip on creativity. If you’re in that grip, you can hardly get out of bed, much less experience the flow of creativity and ideas.’” NICK WOODS of DIRECT HIT! “I write upbeat, escapist melodies with a creeping lyrical dread underneath it all. I think that reflects my mental state pretty well. Entertainment—at least in my opinion—is meant to make you forget that life is beautiful, but ultimately meaningless, and that most of the big global problems we try to counter won’t ever be solved. […] So, I try to write music that makes light of those brutal truths and pokes fun at existential crises, because in the end, no one can do anything to change any of that. So, you might as well try and forget about it, and enjoy the fact that you exist at all in the first place.” UPGRADE “One of the main points I try to make is to not make other people feel like they are weak because they take meds, while someone else might be able to take a few deep breaths and be OK. We are all dealing with it in a different way, and the focus should be getting the help that you deserve to live a better life.”

To read the full interviews with these 7 artists -and many, many more- head on over to NewNoiseMagazine.com and follow our ongoing spotlight on mental health!

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sort of side-eye humor, but I find that’s the kind of music that I like. Stuff that still has perspective and doesn’t go allout maudlin or tear-jerking.”

more than enough self-deprecating humor present to remind fans that he isn’t above them, but rather, by their side.

As a case in point, he self-describes ADIOS as a “loser’s survival guide.” Despite how it might sound, that sentiment isn’t meant to be an insult toward his audience. Rather, it’s a statement that implies something more instructive. Branan’s stories often serve as lessons on living after you’ve been kicked in the teeth, picking up life’s pieces after your idealism has been beaten out of you. He describes his lyrical approach as searching for grace when times are tough, in a way that’s rooted in realism versus cinematic grandiosity.

“At the very least, I hope it’s a distraction,” he laughs. “But, I think there’s a lot of meat [on ADIOS], and hopefully, some things for people to hang onto.”

That continues to ring true on ADIOS, his fifth full-length available April 7 on Bloodshot Records. It’s an album that explores death both in a literal and figurative sense, wrapping yarns about human failings around raucous rhythms and electrified twang. He’s joined on the record by bassist James Haggerty and former Deer Tick drummer Robbie Crowell, with assistance from guests Dave Hause and Laura Jane Grace. Whether working through the dissolution of an intimate relationship on “Imogene” or lamenting the passing of his father on “The Vow,” he’s unafraid to fully explore the emotional fallout when things come to an end, pushing through despair with a wry smirk.

“Springsteen did it in a lot of his songs in a very hopeful, triumphant, grand, romantic [way], and my stuff is after that romance,” he says. “I joke about some of the songs being like ‘Born To Run,’ except knowing that running won’t do you any good.”

Given America’s stuck political climate, there couldn’t be a better time than now for a record like ADIOS, though Branan doesn’t consider himself qualified to write explicitly political music. Nor does he claim to be driven by a mission to save the world. He does, however, strive to write music he says is useful, and he excels in penning songs that comfort without pandering to detached optimism. He shows listeners that the best “I find that even the darkest way to get over bad times is to stuff I have has humor in it,” go straight through them, and Branan says. “It might be my as per his usual style, there’s

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOSHUA BLACK WILKINS

n Lucero’s 2003 album That Much Further West, frontman Ben Nichols drops a shout-out to Cory Branan, proclaiming that he has “a way with words that’ll bring you to your knees.” That was roughly a year after Branan released his debut effort, 2002’s The Hell You Say, and his heart-piercing wit hasn’t dulled since. Indeed, the Memphis-based singer-songwriter has always been a pointed storyteller, staking his career on writing punk-infused alt-country that doesn’t pull any lyrical punches. Rather, he tackles even the saddest subject matter head-on, tempering sorrow with warmth and honesty.


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PHOTOGRAPHY BY MATT HANNON

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hom Wasluck, the sole mastermind behind the doom-laden post-metal, goth, slowcore project Planning For Burial, says he doesn’t tend to have a sense of the overarching themes in his own music—at least not while that music is still as new as the material on his forthcoming third album, Below the House, out March 10 on The Flenser. “This has always been something that has been hard for me to properly articulate when a project is new or being made, because I tend to not really think about what is happening or being made, I’m just letting it pour out of me,” he says. “So, maybe in a few years I’ll have a better narrative around it, when I’ve had time to analyze my life. But right now, I believe it deals with the push and pull one feels when choosing what of your true self you decide to show to others, whether it be your feelings, general personality, or opening up about any issues you may be going through, so you just suffer alone.” The album’s title, Below the House, came to Wasluck in a dream. “It must’ve happened later in the REM

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cycle,” he notes, “because I remembered it and wrote lyrics around it when I woke up, but it’s essentially about hiding yourself away and the internal struggle you have with yourself because of it.” Wasluck—who Pitchfork once described as “terminally miserable”— is no stranger to internal struggle, as anyone familiar with his music can attest. There was plenty of struggle to serve as the backdrop for his songwriting process for Below the House. The album was written in the Pennsylvania town where he grew up, which Wasluck moved back to after a decade living—and launching Planning For Burial as fans know it today—in New Jersey. “When it comes down to it, I had lost a job right before my last album came out, which was great, because I had the time to fully commit to touring, but I just couldn’t afford living there anymore,” he says of the decision to leave New Jersey. “I had a chance to take up a trade and get into an apprenticeship program back home, so I took it, packed up my and my girlfriend’s life, and moved back.”

Wasluck not only returned to his hometown, but to the home and bedroom that he literally grew up in—which turned out to be less than conducive to living a happy, creative life, at least at first. “I felt isolated from my own world here,” he recalls. “I stopped enjoying playing shows, I became even more distant, and began drinking heavily whenever I wasn’t working just to numb out the depression, but it only made things worse.” That went on for the better part of a year. He was working on the new album throughout that time, but wasn’t really getting anywhere. “It wasn’t until I decided to self-enforce a detox that I was able to really focus on the album,” Wasluck says. “I used recording and working on mixing as a way to occupy my mind. Reflecting on all of that really went into writing the lyrics too.” However, Wasluck insists he is not the “terminally miserable” character he’s been made out to be. “It might not come across right away because of my own shyness, but I find myself to have a pretty good

sense of humor about it all,” he says. “I’m a very approachable person, where I think, at times, people think I’m this really serious, sad guy.” “Though those elements do exist, it’s definitely not the forefront,” he concludes. “I never really thought about it much—even when making the album, because I spent so many years of running this ship on autopilot—but I realized that the only actual goal of Planning For Burial is for longevity, to be able to keep creating—hopefully, in some form that people will pay attention to.”


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PHOTOGRAPHY BY TIM TRONCKOE

he world needs a record like this: creative, explosive, heartwarming, motherly, soul-nurturing,” vocalist Mina Caputo says, relaying her deep reverence for Life Of Agony’s new offering to the world, A Place Where There’s No More Pain. “I think a lot of people can use a real flow of material from an obnoxious, paradigm-shifting punk rock band.” On April 28, Napalm Records welcomes the fifth studio album from this nearly 30-year-old band.

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Born in Brooklyn in 1989, Life Of Agony have consistently melded alternative, hardcore, metal, and hard rock into emotional, groove-filled, heavy songs. A Place Where There’s No More Pain is their first record in 12 years, and the first album Caputo has recorded with the band since her transition in 2008. The ability to communicate intense emotions has always been the band’s strongest trait, and the vocalist’s tumultuous struggle with depression, drugs, and gender identity is reflected here. “Just because I’m a transsexual doesn’t mean I don’t get angry, [that] I won’t want to punch you in the fucking face,” Caputo asserts. “I don’t follow any cliché stereotypes. ‘I don’t think that’s very womanly of you.’ Well, I don’t really give a fuck,” she laughs. “I can be very

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angry. I am a human being. I experience a slew of emotions in one day. Just because I’m feminine doesn’t mean I won’t grab my mic cord and choke you, ‘cause I will if I have to.” “There are a lot moments of angst on the record,” she adds. “Vocally, I get brutal as fuck. I out-sing all the boys—and all the girls. I get as real and as bloody as emotion can get.” Overall, Caputo reports feeling liberated and easier to access these days. She acknowledges being sensitive to a world of hate and friction, but new coping skills free her from much of the suffering that past drug and alcohol abuse did not allay. “I still get depressed. I still get anxiety,” she notes. “Music is the best drug for me. If I don’t pick up the guitar or sit down with the piano, I get very depressed. Songwriting is my ultimate high. [The peripheral responsibilities of music] are completely irrelevant: the shows, the tours, the interviews. I am here to write music.” The music ties into Caputo’s ability to cope with the stresses of life, but much of the relief is due to her choice to transition. “I knew it and felt it. I can feel the wholeness of me now,” she says. “I care about how I feel now. I care so much

about feeling good. That’s where it starts and ends. Once you focus on and hone in on that—those two feelings— you have to go for the things that bring you good feelings and fun times in life. My anxiety comes from confusion. Politicians, bombings, people trying to blow us up, all this drives people berserk. And the regular people do not get the credit for it. We are holding it down, and they keep on fucking things up. We are confronted with infantile people running the world. It drives kids and parents crazy. Then, parents take it out on kids, and that’s how it all starts, the cycle. A lot of people don’t acknowledge how they feel so low. They ignore the pain.”

ticals. That stuff will hurt your nervous system and your brain and your soul.”

Caputo delves into the trauma of her own childhood, sharing, “My grandparents were Italian in Brooklyn. I lived that stereotype, right out of ‘Raging Bull.’ The shit I saw as I kid: my father drugged up, falling down flights of stairs, my grandfather beating up my father, beating up my grandmother. I can’t believe I made it this far. I can’t believe I survived all those beatings. I could remember how it scarred me, changed me. It made me depressed, made me feel unworthy. Some things in my life trigger me to go back into that childhood momentum. But you have to be your own pill, forget all the pharmaceu-

“It took my whole life to get to the point where I had to stop feeling responsible for other people’s feelings,” she concludes. “That was my breaking point. I just can’t give a fuck what other people think or say, even if I lose my career. I’ll throw everything away to be happy. I need to be open. I was too busy dying, not living. I need a happy being. That’s when I am most productive. I’m most productive when I’m happy—for no reason, just from living.”

“I was afraid my entire life to come out to my family,” Caputo continues. “People knew I was eccentric. People maybe assumed I was bisexual. They always saw Keith with a girl by his side. But I was very feminine. I was never a masculine man. I could not cover up my femininity. […] I couldn’t deal with playing this male role. I couldn’t take it anymore. It sucked. I hated living as a guy. I thought, ‘I’d rather be dead. Let’s start consuming lots of drugs and harming myself.’ I was not facing what I knew I had to face. I was afraid.”


NEW CD-EP / DIGITAL OUT 04.28.17

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDREW CARVER

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ne of the hardest things to go through in life is loss. It is an albatross of grief, anxiety, and pain that quietly takes root in one’s heart and mind. The darkest of human emotions harbor within depression to the point where even one’s physical body is affected. This isn’t about losing a job or a bet or things of even lesser consequence— though those certainly carry weight of their own. It’s about living on while others don’t and can’t. Joy and hope are replaced with guilt and fear, and somehow, people are still expected to get by day-to-day. For Crusades guitarist and vocalist Dave Williams, this is a story he put into song. Eight of them to be exact. They are collected on the band’s new album, This Is a Sickness and Sickness Will End—out March 7—a joint release from Ryan Young’s Anxious & Angry and the first for Williams’ new label, Countless Altars. “The two parents who passed were my wife Jessica’s mother and my best friend Alex’s father,” Williams explains. “So, while not my biological parents, I spent most of my ‘growing up’ time in their two homes, as my own was sorta splintered.” Williams shares that these two losses occurred close together, but in different ways. His mother-in-law suffered over time from an inoperable brain tumor, while his friend’s father was taken by a sudden heart attack. “My

particular perspective— grieving that profound loss, but feeling almost as if I shouldn’t mourn in the presence of their real children— was quite… confusing,” Williams admits. Throughout this process, he became emotionally hardened in order to be supportive of others’ grief. “It sapped me of a lot of sensitivity and empathy, and I still don’t think I’ve properly dealt with the emotions that I probably should have in the wake of those deaths,” he reflects. Williams clarifies that his initial intent was not to write a record about loss, but it was fairly unavoidable. “When you’re so deeply entrenched in something for every minute of the day, I think, inevitably, your art is going to reflect that,” he relates. He adds that this was his only outlet for catharsis and that “writing and creating remains the only real vent for the constantly churning, anxiety-ridden mess that is my brain.” These four musicians from Ottawa, Canada, create atmospheric songs built by vocal harmony, melodic yet punchy guitars, occasional piano, and academically beautiful lyrics. This Is a Sickness and Sickness Will End continues these trends and closes a three-year gap since Crusades’ last release. In that stretch of time, the members funneled their creative energies into other projects such as Black Tower, The Creeps, and the Ottawa Explosion Festival while writing simulta-

neously. “There has rarely been a period in the past six years when we haven’t met up weekly,” Williams affirms. He adds that staying busy and multitasking likely kept them sane throughout that period, noting, “Having somewhere else to focus your attention and kinda hit the reset button was certainly helpful to me, anyway.”

"writing and creating remains the only real vent for the constantly churning, anxiety-ridden mess that is my brain." Crusades have largely been a band who staunchly deny and actively denounce religion. While their atheistic dogma is less at the forefront on the new record, it is certainly present—though approached from a different angle. One of Williams’ paramount challenges after losing his loved ones was being allowed to grieve absent religion. He recalls, “There was often an oafish, foolish priest milling around my inlaws’ home, offering ‘comfort’ and judgment, reminding the widower-to-be that, in spite of what his heart may tell him, ‘God’ insisted otherwise.” He continues, “It was a sickening display of manipulation and only

further solidified my deep loathing of that particular institution.” This anger and frustration carries throughout the album. Each of the tracks on This Is a Sickness and Sickness Will End are named after lines from some of Williams’ favorite poems about loss, coupled with the years they were published. “What I can’t verbalize to even those closest to me, I seem to have no problem putting into a poem and putting that poem to music and allowing people to dissect it and draw meaning,” he ruminates. Even a cursory glance at Williams’ lyrics over the years shows the strong influence poetry has on his writing. “The notion of a ‘sickness’ is meant to play out on various levels,” he says of the record’s title. “There’s the cancer that took my mother-inlaw from us, and its stronghold on my wife’s bloodline, the genetic predisposition that now lives on in my own wife and children. There’s the religious disease that infects, distracts, and destroys countless people all over the planet, that swells and oozes even more in these times of grief and need. And there’s also the sickness that is masculinity, of maintaining a front of bravado, of unwavering callousness when those around you so badly need your real humanity. I suppose the sickness is whatever runs rampant that needs to be done away with, that even the most seemingly enlightened of us are guilty of at times.”

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIELLE SPIRES

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hen Wax Idols singer-songwriter Hether Fortune released American Tragic via Collect Records in 2015, she probably assumed she was putting the most tumultuous experiences of her life behind her, including a heartbreaking divorce and a battle with depression. Little did she know that the relationship between Geoff Rickly’s Collect Records and its financial backer, the notorious “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli, would put the album at risk just weeks prior to its release. “It was heartbreaking and sad, but it’s not the first time we as a band have had to push through difficult circumstances,” Fortune remembers. “[Following the controversy], I set out to focus on building a strong but small team of young, motivated people to work with who get it and believe in the project.” Today, Wax Idols are a four-piece based out of Oakland, with a sound that harkens to post-punk and songwriting elements from dark wave and post-hardcore. Additionally, the band have launched their own label, Etruscan Gold Records, which is reissuing American Tragic on cassette March 10 and issuing their forthcoming record, Happy Ending, sometime this spring. “We are doing Happy Ending with Monte Vallier at Ruminator Audio in San Francisco, where all of the Wax Idols records have been made,” Fortune explains. “We wouldn’t want to do it without him,

honestly. If there were a se- struggle with depression, cret member of the band, it or so I’m told.” would be Monte.” Although committed to this "I’VE HAD A course, the tragic fire at LOT OF WEIRD Oakland’s Ghost Ship beEXPERIENCES came cause for the band to pause and take a closer look SINCE THE at their subject matter. “It FIRE THAT affected every one of us very HAVE LEFT deeply,” Fortune confesses. ME FEELING “We lost people we loved in PRETTY there: wonderful, kind, brilliant young people. There’s HAUNTED, SO IT REALLY no closure to be found or sense to be made of DOESN’T FEEL any it. No silver lining—just a LIKE WRITING devastating loss. It’s been FICTION particularly difficult for LATELY, me to continue writing for WHICH MAKES this record lyrically, considering that it is so heavily IT MUCH on death. I’ve had SCARIER FOR focused a lot of weird experiences ME" since the fire that have left “Lyrically, Happy End- me feeling pretty haunted, ing is sort of a concept al- so it really doesn’t feel like bum that explores what it writing fiction lately, which might be like to maintain makes it much scarier for consciousness without be- me emotionally.” ing attached to a physical body,” she discloses. “It’s According to Fortune, mansort of a ghost story, but aging her mental health and its more existential than depression, especially in it is ‘spooky.’ I’ve thrown light of her losses, is a prifictional narratives in the ority because of her past mix lyrically on every al- battles with mental health bum, but I wanted to push issues. It is also a fight her myself to do something friends and bandmates are different and more ambi- helping her navigate. “Evtious as a writer. Exploring ery one of us battles with death and consciousness in this way can be very heavy of course, but more than anything, I think it’ll make people laugh. It’s definitely a dark comedy of a record. I’m a clown in a lot of ways. When everything feels too horrible and heavy to bear, I find a way to make light of it however possible. Comedy is a classic defense mechanism for people who

a range of mental health issues, which is one of the things that has helped us to bond so tightly I think,” she says. “We support each other through the dark days, and there is no judgment between us. Having the support system of the band, my close friends, partner, and family has often been the only thing that keeps me alive. Quite literally.” “I refuse to medicate myself with prescription drugs on a daily basis,” she adds, “so I try to go to therapy as often as I can afford to, meditate, have lots of sex with my partner—the endorphins help a lot—and am just really careful with and kind to myself whenever possible. I’ve been taking CBD [Cannabidiol] tinctures to help manage depression and anxiety as well.” Today, Fortune is cautiously optimistic about the band’s, the label’s, and her own future. On the upside, Wax Idols recently announced a North American tour with the recently reunited Thursday, which kicks off March 28. “We are really excited and so honored to have been chosen,” she beams.

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“I didn’t get diagnosed until 2012, but I have always struggled with anxiety and still do to this day,” Boucher shares. “There will be things that happen to me that I think are normal, like always feeling a tightness in my chest from anxiety. One day, we were driving in the van, and I brought it up and asked, ‘Does anyone ever get a tightness in your chest that makes you feel like you are being pulled in half?’ The band was like, ‘No.’ And I was like, ‘Oh shit, I thought that this was a feeling that everyone felt.’ There is a whole litany of things that come with the highs and lows of anxiety, and there are things that I’ve learned to live with, or cope with, that are not normal. I am constantly finding out things about my life that I thought were universal things.” “I went to a therapist when I was 19 and did several sessions to figure out what I had,” he recalls, “but I have always had a difficult time having others help me with things. Going to a therapist or talking out my problems with a third party has never been something that has truly helped me. It always introduced more anxiety as I was thinking and rethinking and overextending myself.” “When I’m writing, it is a selfish thing,” he continues. “I don’t think about anyone else when I’m doing it. It is my therapy, just my way to get out the way that I feel. I guess sometimes I come a little unhinged and start talking about things that I didn’t want to discuss, but I guess I’d be doing myself a disservice if I wasn’t as honest and as real as possible or being myself while I was writing.”

“I guess I’ve thought about what [my friend’s] parents would think if they heard the record, and I hope that they’d think that I’m doing it good,” Boucher reflects. “I want to leave the memory and give it some permanence in the song in the most positive light that I can. I don’t think I’m mad at

any of my friends. I just think that I’m glad to have known them and am sad that I can’t talk to them anymore. I think it is important to remember them in the most positive light that I can. That’s my own way of coping.” Relinquishing control is also a struggle for Boucher, who admits to having personally driven the band’s van nearly every mile on all of their tours to date. “I’ve been the sole driver for four years now and have done five full U.S. tours driving us,” he expounds. “I think, during our whole tour with Bayside and The Menzingers, there were

from the loss of friends to suicide. “The last thing I wanted to do was tokenize my friends as people who were lost,” he says. “I am much bigger than that, and these are just small looks into my life. I’m incredibly grateful for the people who have been in my life and who have since taken their life.” “It is difficult to play these songs sometimes,” Boucher admits. “I write about autobiographical experiences in very exact and personal ways, to the point where it should make people uncomfortable. A lot of times when I write them, I write in a few minutes in my room or in the van late at night or in a situation where I feel incapable of doing anything else. So, I grab my guitar and start talking into my phone to get my ideas out or get things off of my chest by saying them out loud, so that they are out there and I am aware of how I’m feeling. Then, when talking about the songs later, I’m digging deeper, which is harder than writing the songs in the first place.”

Boucher’s struggle to confront difficult emotions is apparent on Sorority Noise’s You’re Not as ___ as You Think, an emotional wrecking ball that is set for release on March 17 via Triple Crown Records. The album finds Boucher coming Although removing his filter to terms with a lot of his feel- to tackle feelings of sadness or ings, including those resulting loss with heavy subject matter

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is what makes Boucher’s vignettes so relatable, it is also a source of concern for him. “It terrifies me to think that I’d ever put my friends in a bad light or to make them feel like they were in any way less than incredible,” he says. “So, with these songs, I don’t think I’m trying to do that.”

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JESSICA FLYNN


maybe six hours that I didn’t drive. On this tour, I think I’m going to try to take a step back, but my head is racing so hard all the time, and when I’m not driving, I get swallowed up. If I’m not driving, just sitting, my brain is literally on fire. When I drive, I have to focus on the road and my brain can’t freak out as much as if I was sitting in a solid space alone. I’m trying to get back from that, from being our only driver.” On You’re Not as ___ as You Think, Boucher also took a significant step back from being the Sorority Noise’s only driver in the studio. The band recorded the LP with producer Mike Sapone—who has worked with the likes of Brand New and Taking Back Sunday—over the span of 10 days, three times longer than it took to track 2015’s Joy, Departed. This increased time allowed the band to hone their songwriting and visceral performances. “I am a producer,” Boucher confesses. “This is the first record we ever did that wasn’t in my studio or that wasn’t with me or one of my professors who worked at my college. So, I was very hesitant to let someone in on this, because I’d spent so many months on this where I just ate and breathed this. So, when Mike expressed an interest in doing this, I thought that he is the one producer that I’ve always looked up to. He was the one person who I would have picked out.” “I remember calling him once and being like, ‘I’m having a nervous breakdown, and I’m worried about bringing someone in,’” he continues. “My bandmates hadn’t even heard the songs yet, and I was worried that someone was going to fuck this up. So, I was hesitant, but I can’t—in a million years—have asked for anyone better to work with than Mike.

[While in the studio], I’d have a weird idea for something, and he’d say, ‘Let’s follow it. Let’s chase that.’ So, we pursued a lot of ideas that I’d maybe have strayed away from, because I didn’t have the wherewithal to realize them or have the confidence in them. He has a brilliant mind. I’m super grateful to have been able to work with him.”

to play your first game of the season, you spend a lot of time on your opponent’s defense and making sure that you are best equipped to deal with that when it comes your way. And then the next week, you play another team and they are an entirely different team. So, with mental illness or manic depression, there is no correct way.” “So, I don’t have any overarch-

how I look at my mental illness or manic depression. When I feel it coming, I know that I want to keep myself in a positive headspace, make sure that I know that I’m a good person who is doing what I can to the best of my ability while things try to penetrate that. Sometimes, things get through. But I’ve come to the point now—after a lot of focus and attention

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JESSICA FLYNN

Boucher is very vocal about his pride in the resulting record— and anxious to bring these songs to the band’s fans. He also realizes that hardships— particularly those related to mental health challenges—will continue to crop up. But in addition to his growing confidence as a musician, he is gaining confidence in mitigating the lows and darker moments that exist in his headspace.

ing or grand answers. I wish I did,” he continues. “I think it is important to know that it is a long battle that you are constantly going to have to deal with and that you have to have every possible ability to make it through it. And to know that, above all, you are worthwhile, and that is the most important thing to keep in your head.”

and touring and being in places that make me uncomfortable sometimes and working on it the best I can to have a healthy and positive lifestyle. Though I’m in dark places some of the time, I’ve learned to get ahead of it and to start to get on the right track.”

“[It is like] in the fourth [Harry Potter] book, ‘Goblet of Fire,’” “A lot of people at shows will he concludes. “Voldemort and ask about what I do or coping Harry are reading each othmechanisms that I use to deal er’s thoughts accidentally, so with my mental illness or strug- Snape gives [Harry] some lesgles,” he says. “If you are a quar- sons on having bad thoughts terback and you are planning come into his head. So, that’s

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That is the message behind Punk Talks, a free mental health service geared toward helping artists, fans, and professionals in the alternative music industry. When asked to explain the meaning behind the mantra, founder Sheridan Allen simplifies it like this: “My hope is that we can eliminate the idea that you have to be miserable to be creative. It is crucially important to me that people understand, while music can [be] an excellent and healthy outlet for negativity, negativity is not necessarily a requirement of creativity. I saw a huge amount of people refusing to practice self-care for the ‘sake of music.’ Believe it or not, it is possible to be mentally healthy and be a talented artist!”

or in-person at shows or festivals. Allen toured with You Blew It!, All Get Out, and Free Throw throughout February and March. “When I heard about the tour, I reached out to Tanner [Jones of You Blew It!] about joining them for a few dates, and they were gracious to have me,” she says of the Abrendot Winter 2017 tour. “This will be my first time bringing Punk Talks to Boston and Philly, as well as returning to some of my favorite cities like Lansing and Richmond.”

Allen—who launched Punk Talks back in January 2015— describes the project as a “product of my quarter-life crisis.” A senior at Northern Kentucky University at the time, her attention became divided when she sought to make one last attempt at finding her place in the music industry. “I was trying to figure out what role I could take on,” Allen says. “I had no photography skills. I wasn’t a writer, and I certainly couldn’t play any instruments. So, what could I do?”

Allen previously worked with You Blew It!—and many others—on Punk Talks’ 2015 Silver Linings Charity Compilation. She also joined Free Throw last summer with Tiny Moving Parts and Prawn, as well as a separate tour with Sorority Noise. “I am so excited to be working with bands who truly care about the importance of mental health treatment and making sure that it is accessible and normalized in our community.”

She cites bands like Modern Baseball, who have had major successes, but might not have had an outlet to confront “the stress they must be under.” “I was so stressed, and college was the only thing on my plate!” Allen exclaims. “I couldn’t imagine having to plan full U.S. tours during summer break on top of that. It sort of dawned on me that mental health services weren’t really available or accessible within alternative music. Lots of support groups—[To Write Love On Her Arms], HeartSupport, etc.—existed, but I saw a real lack of actual services. I was about to graduate with my Bachelor of Social Work and knew that helping people was my only real skill set, so I thought, ‘OK, this could work.’” Allen says Punk Talks works on a referral process. “If someone is interested in services, they can email me at punktalks@gmail.com,” she explains. “I am the only person with access to it.” If someone is requesting therapy services, “I will first try to help them identify in-person therapy options in their area,” she adds. “If we have exhausted all other options and they are an eligible candidate for our services, a referral is sent over to our volunteer [Licensed Clinical Social Worker], who will contact them to begin services.” That LCSW is Ryan Kelly, who offers a weekly 30 to 45-minute session by phone. Other members of Allen’s team include volunteer coordinator, Hailey Lamb; outreach coordinator, Emily Balcerak; social media coordinator, Alyssa McCarthy; artistic director, Joel Funk; marketing director, Jeff Fidler; and financial director, Michelle Tirpak.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDY WELLS

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Advocating and educating others about mental health services and mental illness is crucial to keeping the conversation alive and moving forward, and Allen takes the time to promote Punk Talks through social media platforms

It has been two years since Allen created Punk Talks and began her journey, but she still remembers the days when she was “hand-printing logo shirts” and “[using] my graduation money from my parents to sponsor the smallest stage at Bled Fest.” One accomplishment she holds onto tightly is the release of Jingle Yay!, a holiday-themed compilation album, which included a new song from singersongwriter Julien Baker. “To go from the truly literal definition of DIY to releasing a new Julien Baker track in the span of two years was absolutely something I never expected,” Allen continues. “Through Punk Talks, I’ve been able to truly see the best that our community has to offer.” “The power of positivity is strong in a time when our nation’s future is uncertain and things are generally scary,” she concludes. “I’ve learned that DIY houses some of the kindest, most intelligent, insanely talented individuals in the world, and I feel so privileged to be the voice for mental health in our scene.”


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17 YEARS OF INDEPENDENT

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hey say laughter is the best medicine, but what if art actually is? Artist Shawn Coss thinks so.

DEPENDENT PERSONALITY DISORDER

DISINHIBITED SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT DISORDER

Throughout history, people have found solace in various art forms. From soothing songs and commemorative images to the emotional release that often accompanies the act of creating, there’s something inherently calming and human about art.

Over the course of one month, Coss brought to life horrifying yet beautiful renditions of Major Depressive Disorder, Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and many more, personifying mental illnesses to reflect the challenges they present for both people who suffer from them and people who don’t fully understand them. “I actually have a degree in nursing, and I spent a lot of time in a psych rotation,” he explains. “I did a couple rotations dealing with really intense patients who had psychotic breaks, and I actually have a couple of friends who work with behavioral patients who have been able to help me out with the [conditions] I have questions about. Like Conduct Disorder was one that I wasn’t completely sure on.”

Working primarily in pencil and ink, Coss is best known for his work as an illustrator for the webcomic “Cyanide & Happiness” or from his clothing line, Any Means Necessary. But his true passion lies within the dark arts. Known for his black and white meets greyscale style, Coss upholds a creepy yet whimsical and almost stringy aesthetic, twisting the human form to project a broader meaning into his work. Coss has been in the industry for years—making his first real connection with “Cyanide & Happiness” back in the MySpace days— but it wasn’t until October 2016 rolled around that Coss’s work and contribution to mental well-being really blew up through his participation in the annual Inktober art challenge. For avid users of Instagram, Inktober is difficult to miss. It’s a series of 31 prompts from which artists create original pieces, interpreting one subject in their personal style for each day of October. Typically, these prompts revolve around various Halloween monsters, but Coss had other plans. “This year, I was kind of trying to think of something new to tackle,” he says. “I reached out to my fan base, […] and one fan suggested maybe covering mental illnesses and disorders.” Initially, Coss was skeptical of the idea, but after just a few pieces had been posted, his Instagram was stockpiled with feedback. “The next day when I woke up, they had, like, 1,000 likes or 2,000 likes,” continues Coss, who was used to getting only a few hundred likes per piece. “Then I started getting all of these Facebook messages—I think I counted up to, like, 2,500 individual messages of people just telling me how much the artwork reached out to them. They would tell me their story about what kind of disorder they were suffering from or just the horrific stuff that happened to them as a child that caused some of these

disorders, […] and I realized that there’s something to this and it’s helping people relate, so I just kept pursuing it.”

Having recently extended his family, Coss has concerns of his own, mainly pertaining to the new experience of fatherhood. “My personal favorite was probably the Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder,” Coss says. “I have a pair of young daughters, and just the thought of having my child run up to a complete stranger—who could be a pedophile, killer, or anything like that—and have no ability to differentiate between ‘this is a safe person and this is not’ is utterly terrifying. So, that was kind of important to me.”

NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER

SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER

Coss’s own use of art as therapy alongside the positive feedback from his Inktober series has now taken his career in a much different direction than he initially expected. “I’m starting to put a lot of focus into mental health,” he says. “When I started doing my style with my versions of mental health stuff, just seeing the reactions from people and how much people like it, I was like, ‘Maybe there is a connection here. Maybe the path I’m supposed to go on next is tying in mental health behavioral disorders with my artwork.’ […] I’m having a lot of institutions reach out to me for my prints and my books. I think this will really help patients and parents understand [these conditions] by personifying an illness.”

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on Tardy is the drummer for the intimidating and ferocious death metal legends Obituary. In addition to pummeling eardrums and the boundaries of taste for 30 years, Tardy, his vocalist brother, John Tardy, and original guitarist, Trevor Peres, tour the world playing punishing death metal. For seven years, they have been joined by U.S. death metal icon, bassist Terry Butler, and, most recently, guitarist Kenny Andrews. The band’s 10th album, Obituary, comes out on March 17 via Relapse Records. Despite portending apocalyptic destruction—a World Demise if you will—for generations of disgruntled youth, Tardy has another surprising passion: kittens. Not like the kind for satanic rituals, but the cute, cuddly

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kind that Tardy and his girlfriend, Heather Wienker, have tended to for 13 years. They’ve dubbed their feral feline-centric charity the Metal Meowlisha. He begins, “I volunteer with The Humane Society of Tampa Bay. They have a program to help stop population problems in my town, in my state.” Tardy volunteers for a local TNVR—or Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate, Return—program. He continues, “Cats that live behind a Taco Bell or a church or apartment complex—cats make a colony. They don’t roam or keep wandering. They stay in a certain area, they congregate. We trap them and get them spayed [or] neutered. We vaccinate them and then return them to where we trapped them. They know where they are. They can live their lives out, but do not get pregnant and have other babies. [This process] stops the population problem.”

Tardy elaborates on his arduous but rewarding daily process, noting, “I go to about 25 different locations every night.” He says each colony has about two to 12 cats. “I know it’s important,” he asserts. “It’s something which I am super passionate about. If not, they would keep breeding. I got a big heart. I provide them with food and water each night before my dinner.” The nightly tour around his neighborhood takes about two hours. “I stop by all my colonies and check if there are new kittens,” he says. “Any kittens under two months old, we can put them in my bathroom, socialize them. We spay [and] vaccinate, then put them in an adoption program to get them a new home.” The first obvious question is: does he ever keep these adorable kittens? “Of course,” Tardy replies bluntly. “The unadoptable ones, the ones that are not friendly or [are] awkward, we keep them.” Tardy and Wienker have each had their own cat for 17 years, so when a maladjusted kitten is in their

bathroom, the inevitable happens. “Some cats, they warm up to me or they were terrified of other humans and can’t get adopted,” he says. “I tell them, ‘I won’t give up on you. I won’t put you back outside. You can live here at my place.’” Awww, Obituary: always reaching out to the outcasts, even outside of metal. “We are very proud,” he adds. The next obvious question: since this is a volunteer gig, does all that food and time provided go uncompensated? “It is expensive. It takes all my money,” Tardy confirms. “But I don’t have human children. My girlfriend and I have been doing it close to 13 years, and we see the dramatic difference it makes in our community.” To help provide food, medical services, and shelter for Tardy’s feline children, visit obituary.cc/helpcats and donate to Metal Meowlisha today!


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VASTUM: CARNAL LAW: 20 BUCK SPIN

Having already smeared our speakers with Vastum’s last two albums, 2013’s Patricidal Lust and 2015’s Hole Below, 20 Buck Spin are now reissuing their 2011 debut, Carnal Law, on vinyl. The ability to own this piece of death metal glory is enticing. The treat is that it will be remastered by Brad Boatright, whose mighty knobs will boost and enhance the San Franciscan quintet’s feral delivery. In addition to grimy riffs and disturbing rhythms, Vastum attack with menacing dual vocals from Daniel Butler and guitarist Leila Abdul-Rauf. Carnal Law was originally issued on only 500 LPs and quickly went out of print. This monstrous reconstruction comes March 10.

THE BRIEFS: HIT AFTER HIT AND ODD NUMBERS: MODERN ACTION RECORDS

The Briefs are one of the greatest bands involved in this thing we call punk. Their debut, Hit After Hit—originally on Dirtnap Records—hit shelves in 2000, and this newly remastered version will be issued via Modern Action Records on National Kickball Day, April 17. It is limited to 500 copies on Coke Bottle Green vinyl. The Briefs have attitude and clout. They play catchy, sharp punk. Their razor wit and confrontational lyrics do not detract from their punky hubris with a cavalier delivery. Odd Numbers is a batch of early demos and unreleased tracks pressed on 223 CDs, 150 gold vinyl LPs, and 100 of the colored stamp version.

TODAY IS THE DAY: TEMPLE OF THE MORNING STAR: THE END RECORDS

The End Records are unleashing one of the most iconic records in heavy music for its 20th birthday. Not simply loud, not just heavy, Temple of the Morning Star is an aggressive, antagonistic record. Today Is The Day had three LPs—on Amphetamine Reptile—in five years and debuted on Relapse Records in 1997 with this monolithic album. Their audio attack was both calculated and organic. The release is slated for March 24, remastered on two-CD and two-LP formats, and features exclusive, never-before-heard bonus material to total 32 tracks over 108 minutes. This is more than a record: it’s a punishing journey, a séance, a ceremony of disgust and chaos.

SCREAM: NO MORE CENSORSHIP: SOUTHERN LORD RECORDINGS

Among all the doom, drone, and black metal, Southern Lord’s reissues of Poison Idea, Brotherhood, and Uniform Choice prove their love for hardcore. Now, Virginia’s Scream are bestowed the vinyl honor for their 1988 release No More Censorship. By 1988, Scream—then with Dave Grohl—were creating a pounding of weird metallic groove skate punk. No More Censorship is passionate punk even if it lacks the raw chaos of 1981. The tracks were unearthed from the original multitrack sessions and remixed at Grohl’s Studio 606, and the inlay and presentation are revamped and reinvented to include unreleased photos, poetry, and prose from the members. The reissue will be out this summer.

SLEATER-KINNEY: LIVE IN PARIS: SUB POP RECORDS

Since 1994, Olympia, Washington’s Sleater-Kinney inspired legions of fans and musicians with the caustic slang and rambunctious punk of Riot Grrrl. The scene was empowering for women without subduing its members with chains of folk or indie fetters. This collection of tracks come from a show on March 20, 2015, at La Cigale in Paris. The band harvest gems from their indie darling years spent on Kill Rock Stars and Sub Pop. Live in Paris captures fan favorites like “What’s Mine Is Yours,” “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone,” “Jumpers,” “No Cities To Love,” “Entertain,” and closers “Dig Me Out” into “Modern Girl.” The vinyl is on black and the Loser Edition Clear Glass color. It was released on Jan. 27, also on digital, CD, and cassette.

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XIBALBA: DIABLO, CON AMOR... ADIOS: CLOSED CASKET ACTIVITIES

Pomona, California’s bastards, Xibalba, are teasing us with three new joints on this brand new 7”. Closed Casket Activities released Diablo, Con Amor... Adios on Feb. 17. Xibalba continue their death metal-driven hardcore in their quest to resonate alongside the heaviest of bands. This 7” mesmerizes vinyl hoarders with electric blue with olive/blue splatter, orange with bronze splatter, and solid electric blue color schemes. These songs come across slightly more polished in production, but still drop-tune your ass off with mosh parts for all who dare.

DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL: COVERED + TAPED: SELF-RELEASED

Dashboard Confessional announced a tour for 2017, and the majority of the dates immediately sold out. So, as a nod of appreciation, frontman Chris Carrabba covered four tracks that he felt were important and stirring. Defying any genre allegiance, Carrabba pulls from a wide spectrum. Covered + Taped includes The 1975’s “Sex,” Julien Baker’s “Sprained Ankle,” Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself,” and Sorority Noise’s “Using.” Carrabba’s interpretations are sparse and melodic, layered vocals and acoustic evoking somber feelings even out of the Bieber tune. Sorority Noise’s “Using” beckons Elliott Smith and Bright Eyes and Johnny Cash, the cold echo of Carrabba’s guitar bandying with coarse crooning. The EP is available only on Spotify.

FUCKED UP: YEAR OF THE SNAKE: TANKCRIMES

In the beginning, Fucked Up played short hardcore songs with sincere defiance. By their second album, Hidden Life, they embraced more expansive narratives and more varied approaches and benchmarks. Their main home these days is Matador, but this additional installment of their Year of the… series puts Fucked Up back at Tankcrimes. Year of the Snake boasts a staggering 24-minute title track, backed with the 6-minute “Passacaglia.” The CD will also contain a bonus track—the 5-minute “Year of the Snake (Container Remix)”—which also comes with mail order copies of the 12” on a bonus flexi disc. The main release will be available on picture disc, splatter vinyl, or black vinyl versions. This release finds Fucked Up expanding boundaries with electronic music and third eye-exploring tales.

IN THE COMPANY OF SERPENTS: AIN-SOPH AUR: SELF-RELEASED

Though it’s not a reissue or an EP, In The Company Of Serpents are releasing an extremely impressive package for their new full-length. This Denver doom duo take their time to perform elaborate sections of thick sludgy perfection on Ain-Soph Aur. Vocalist and guitarist Grant Netzorg and drummer Joseph Weller Myer extract mountainous tracks, gargantuan riffs, and wisely constructed sections of movements. Ain-Soph Aur will be released on a limited 100 copies on fiery red and yellow 12” virgin vinyl. Each Deluxe Package also includes: one hand-printed, numbered, and signed block print by Grant Netzorg; two enamel pins and two embroidered pleather patches of the Flaming Sword and Serpent of Wisdom A side and B side artwork; and one printed record tote bag.

SOUNDGARDEN: ULTRAMEGA OK EXPANDED REISSUE: SUB POP RECORDS BY THOMAS PIZZOLA

I might be carbon dating myself, but I remember when I first read about Ultramega OK in the pages of the classic hard rock magazine, Circus. It was 1988. Long before grunge took over. The review basically said if you were looking for something heavy and a little bit different, then you should check it out. Liking both heavy and different, I picked up the cassette and instantly fell in love with Soundgarden. Now, about 30 years later, Sub Pop are giving this release the expanded, reissued, and remastered treatment. The remastering was handled by legendary producer Jack Endino, and just like the job he did with those Tad reissues last year—get them!—he knocks it out of the park. The album is punchier and more powerful sounding, making it a total upgrade from the original production. Plus, Sub Pop has added demos to show the band’s creative process from beginning to end on a few of the songs. These are just a cherry on top of the sundae. I guess it’s time I replace that cassette.

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DEEP CREEPS: WHITE ROT : SELF-RELEASED Idaho’s wild noise punk monstrosities Deep Creeps are all sophisticated nut bar-free jazz meets the gargle monsters of shit hell. Yet deep within this insanity and madness is a wickedly tasteful and mindful nuance. Their latest slab of vegan bacon, White Rot, is an organic masterpiece. There’s a scary Norwegian black metal vibe going on, an edgy satanic math-rock flexibility—à la The Locust—and a classic hardcore vibrancy running rampant all over the place. The cassette insert comes with a recipe for “Vegan Garlic Roasted Idaho Potato Soup.” This is the tape of dreams.

MYLINGAR: DÖDA VÄGAR: AMOR FATI PRODUCTIONS I think if the Prince of Darkness himself were to meet up with the Holy One one afternoon in purgatory, he’d bring along a cassette of Swedish black metal wizards Mylingar’s newest recording, Döda Vägar. He’d not only try to frighten the Almighty, he’d try and tempt him as well with the record’s irresistible darkness and complex void. Infinitely frightening, sneakily avantgarde, and utterly disabling at moments, Mylingar’s debut offering is unique not only for its sheer originality and pummeling nature, but also because, I swear to you, you hold this tape in your hand—all black, fourth dimensional, and perfect—and it actually physically shocks you. The dark arts are infused in this thing.

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PUBLIC SPEAKING: ENCHANTED TOUCH: CARESS, REDACT REMIXES: ALREADY DEAD TAPES & RECORDS An uplifting and deeply inspiring cassette, Public Speaking’s Enchanted Touch: Caress, Redact Remixes is a masterfully touching piece of art. Brooklyn’s Jason Anthony Harris, the force behind the avant-garde and noise-soul project, uses abstraction in deft and heartfelt ways. The compositions focus on the physical and mental violence targeted at the LGBTQ community. The reverberations of these pathetic acts are at the heart of Harris’ work. Ultimately, the artist shows how the acts of love, kindness, and infinite creation can—and always will—conquer hate and cowardice. The noise is magical on the cassette, and all sale proceeds go to New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth—a NYC-based organization helping transition homeless LGBTQ youth into safer and more stable living environments.

SUNKEN CHEEK: TEMPERED EXHAUST: AUGHT VOID A darkly meditative and artful cassette, assembling moods of detachment and horror—equally— with transcendence, Sunken Cheek’s Tempered Exhaust is an architecturally derived, post-modern landscape of vision. Layers of steel diagrams, bleak sand castles, and lunatic orbs fall from the grey skies, piece by piece, in this arty little statement. The collection of forms and sections is impressive, building toward a lucid center of imagination. If you could imagine your invisible self, walking upside down in a cube on some lost spaceship, reaching for a puzzle piece to unlock the nightmare—you’ve found yourself at the temple of Sunken Cheek.


Recounting stories from a variety of countries such as Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Botswana, “Heavy Metal Africa” is at once a travel guide through the continent, a digestible textbook of its history, and a collection of interviews from its heavy metal bands and fans. There is a fantastic collection of musicians and bands in this book, from Cape Town’s Zombies Ate My Girlfriend to Kenyan Afropunk band ParkingLotGrass to the death metal groove-driven Wrust from Botswana and so many more.

difficulties through dark imagery, it is also able to show light through the dialogue with the interviewees. Their sincere love for the art form— and creation of a community around it—is what gives these artists and fans the hope to fight against such extreme corruption. There is a genuine feeling of passion and gratitude felt through these voices that is utterly outstanding.

“Heavy Metal Africa” is an easy-to-pick-up read with strong detail and impact. Its ability to open minds to One of the book’s standout a world many do not think aspects is its inclusion of about every day is not just the interwoven relationship powerful, it’s important. between heavy metal and Af- There is a whole other world rican politics and religions. of art and heavy metal just Digging into the continent’s waiting to be explored, and history of colonization and “Heavy Metal Africa” is one economic battles, the mu- of the best ways to discover it. sicians and fans find their peace and passion through the music. While “Heavy Metal Africa” captures these

A

frica—sometimes known as the “cradle of life”—is rich with the cultures of its peoples. As the second largest and second most populous continent on the planet, Africa has a history rife with a mix of political discourse, natural wonder, and intrigue. Split between so many countries, languages, and ethnicities, Africa is a vast land of religion, politics—and heavy metal. “It was remarkable to travel to Africa to see how much [more] I had in common with metal fans there than I would have assumed,” author Edward Banchs says. “Metal fans are up on what is going on with their facts in African nations, just as much as we are in the U.S.”

“Heavy Metal Africa: Life, Passion, and Heavy Metal in the Forgotten Continent”— released in October via Word Association Publishers—details Banchs’ trip to Africa to explore its denizens’ bond with heavy metal, and heavy music in general. Growing up with a love for Africa and metal, Banchs saved up as much as he could to begin an exploration across the land. “[The] first African metal band that I heard was [The] Warinsane on a trip to Cape Town, [South Africa], in 2007 during an encounter with a local metal fan,” Banchs states. “I connected right away. Pantera-ish, but very familiar. For me, on that trip, it brought so many things together.”

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across a makeshift soccer field toward a path leading into the jungle. When I first saw the motorcycle, I was excited to let loose on the open road; it was so hot, the breeze would have been a luxury. But there was no road, just a machete-cut walking path through the thick jungle. The vines and palms slapped me in the face—a friendly reminder of just how sweaty I was—as the bike jetted down the narrow path.

I

woke up to the sound of her screaming from an intense orgasm coming through the palm walls of my hut. I had been staying in this hippie commune in a remote part of the Amazon Jungle for three days and woke up to that same sound every morning. Typically, a 25-year-old screaming with sexual pleasure turns on a married man like myself, but I found this a bit uncomfortable, since she was nine months along and ready to give birth at any moment—literally. When the screaming stopped, I found the courage to get up and go start the fire to make coffee for my lady. As I approached the hut where the food was served, I could hear the eerie sound of ZeZe singing classical music to her boyfriend, John Lock—as we secretly called him. They were an elderly couple in their late 60s, and she was always singing for him. ZeZe was a professional singer who came to the commune with John. He was the cook and was in charge of foraging for food from the makeshift “plantation.” (I would also come to find out he was a secret alcoholic who came here to get five hours away from the closest bottle. Still, that didn’t stop him from knocking back the “ticopi”—fermented yucca—with the locals.) My girl stayed upstairs; it was all too awkward for her to pretend like everything was OK between us in front of everyone. We had been fighting for three days straight. Backpacking through the jungle will do that to your relationship, if not end it altogether, which we were on the brink of. Every morning, the indigenous kids from the community came to the commune to help with the planting. Bruno— the commune leader—was “teaching” them how to live sustainably. He explained this to me while rolling a joint to go with his morning coffee. “We’re showing them techniques for farming to help the community here,” he would boast, sitting back and rubbing his beautiful pregnant 25-year-old wife’s belly while the native kids planted and watered the plantation for him. After three days in his commune, it was apparent to me: disguise free labor as free

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education and build an “alternative lifestyle” commune on an island to avoid taxes, and you can truly live like a king. A wonderful hustle. I asked Bruno when the boat would be ready to take us back to town, but he was stoned and had forgotten to mention he was fixing his boat for the next six days. He must have also forgotten that I was paying him to stay at his house. If I had to spend another hour at this budget Manson Family commune, I would attempt to swim home. “The only options we have are this,” he began. “One, we shine a mirror from the shore to signal a boat. If they come to shore, then we can ask them to take you to another community where you might be able to get a boat back to the main town, but you guys will be on your own. Two, I ask the people from another community to see if they can guide you back to town. It will be a long journey through multiple communities with many different boats and hiking through the jungle—but it might be your only chance to get home anytime soon.”

Obviously, we went with the latter. After waiting a few hours, the boat didn’t come. With tensions high, we gave up and went back to our hut. We’d always had our fair share of problems, but lately, they were stacking up so high the scale had begun to tilt. The stress of commitment combined with sleeping in a wet hammock underneath tarantulas and bats for the last few weeks had gotten to us. We were ready for anything that wasn’t each other. We needed silence, and we couldn’t even find that in one of the most remote places left on earth. All we could do was sit in silence hoping for another boat. Well, almost in silence—ZeZe was humming Portuguese love songs as she squatted and took a piss outside our window. It was another four hours before a native man named Indio came to our rescue. Paddle firmly in hand, he took us two hours across the river to where two motorcycles were waiting. Because we were foreigners, we had to pay a toll in every community we passed through. We hopped on the bikes and jetted

After an hour, we arrived at the boat that would finally take us home. It was easily over 100 years old and had a Honda lawnmower engine with a propeller tacked onto it. The motorcycle driver hopped off his bike and onto the boat. He ripped the pull-chord on the old engine and signaled for us to hop in. To say we were on the brink of collapsing is an understatement. Between the mounting stress of our relationship and that hot sun hanging high in the sky, we were ready to call it quits. That morning, we even devised a plan for who got what when we broke up. But as I looked at the river ahead of us, I saw my girl in a whole new light. I put my hand on her leg, and the boat rocked furiously against the waves of the river. Even though the boat was old, she handled the water well. The stern popped up and came smashing down against an oncoming wave. Water jumped over the side and drenched us both, causing us to burst out in laughter. I grabbed her and kissed her hand, and she put her head on my shoulder. We listened to the sounds of the wood creaking and twisting, bending with the chaos of the awesomely powerful river rushing beneath us, and we both knew that—just like this old boat—we had a lot of years still ahead of us.


New Noise Magazine Issue #31  

This issue features Sorority Noise, Wear Your Wounds, The Jesus And Mary Chain, The Damned, First Blood, White Reaper, Greg Graffin, Less Th...

New Noise Magazine Issue #31  

This issue features Sorority Noise, Wear Your Wounds, The Jesus And Mary Chain, The Damned, First Blood, White Reaper, Greg Graffin, Less Th...