Norway is stereotypically known for it’s black metal, but here’s a pick the hardcore kids can enjoy: Atena. The five-piece recently released their record Shades Of Black Won’t Bring Her Back through Negative Vibe Records, and although the title may sound like something you put in your myspace bio in 2007, the songs are surprisingly solid and even inventive. Atena offers elements of hardcore, metal, metalcore, and noise metal, providing welcome little surprises at every turn. It’s like if Periphery, Sworn In and For All I Am all met up one day to write an album. From songs like “Divorce,” that offer quickly changing syncopations, to “Molly,” which sneers with the gruff sounding laughter of a child’s taunt (“Na na na na na na”), Atena will keep you hooked.
For All I Am aren’t afraid to sneer and growl with the heaviest of their hardcore counterparts, which is why their video for “Young Grave” provides such an emotionally striking contrast. Almost entirely composed of melodic vocals and relatively minimal instrumentation, this track expertly builds tension for the biting screams and bolder sounds to cut through at the climax. Set in a small, windowless room and never allowing any of the band members to appear in the same shot, the video itself matches the minimalist style of the song, except for intriguing little embellishments here and there; wind flipping through the pages of a book, a girl lighting a candle. Yet the most important thing here is clearly the message: “Write a song that’ll change your life one day / Where the harmful words of other people dim away.” Watch the video below and listen to a song that might just do the same for you.
“The most annoying sound in the world is your own phone ringing,” Marquis Green laughs as his home phone shrieks its way into our interview. While the incessant alarm of one’s phone is sometimes enough to warrant throwing it across the room, what Green admits has him most troubled these days is the current state of the music industry, most particularly, the hardcore scene. A quick Q&A about his business, Triforce Studios, quickly evolves into a manifesto on the over-saturation of media, the under-appreciation of local bands, and what he wants to do to bring about change.
Green began the NYC-based Triforce Studios with friends Daniel Briones and Peter Lanza in 2012. The name, which owes itself to the trinity of founders and not, as many happily assume, to Legend Of Zelda, quickly came to represent more than just a recording studio. The endeavor branched out into the realm of cinematography and even music lessons, filming live shows and taking professional grade photos of both local and well-known acts. While Triforce has showcased names like Our Last Night and Crown The Empire (live video “Menace” below), Green reveals that this is not where his passion lies.
“As far as bigger acts go, I personally try to stray away from working with them because everybody wants to work with them,” says Green. “I feel like to put my work out there that way isn’t going to make much of a difference.” Instead, Green prefers to work with lesser-known bands for the reason that the word ‘local,’ like the word ‘scene,’ has become stigmatized. Having worked with bands like Call It Home, The Machinist, Illusionist, and Young Graves amongst others, Green laments the fact that the local bands who work so hard to get noticed are far less likely to be. “You don’t hear the locals anymore. You hear the word ‘local’ and it’s like, “Oh man, shitty EP production, terrible merch, bad image.’ It’s so negative.”
According to him, this is is partially why many are quick to eulogize the hardcore scene as if it were a thing of the past. “There are too many bands and there are too many promoters and there are too many things that are over-saturating this scene in particular. I feel like a lot of bands don’t get a voice because there is always someone else willing to play that same sound cheaper and look better, look the part. It’s not really allowing the music to be heard firsthand. I think that over-saturation is what’s making people feel like the scene is dead, because in a sense it is because it’s becoming numb to good music.”
Yet Green also claims that the future does not have to be so bleak and believes in his and Triforce’s ability to help change the music climate for the better. As he talks about the future remolding of the company, he does so with a surge of energy in his voice. “We’re going to start packaging media for bands on our featured artists list and then we’re going to give that to them to use to promote [themselves] to labels,” he explains. “We wanna be that line where people say, ‘Oh, you’ve worked with them before? We need to take a closer look at you.’”
So where does this need to help musicians keep their drum heads above water come from? With the mantra of the Studio being, “Triforce is for the people, by the people, and it will always be that way,” one has to wonder why these democratic ideals are so important. The answer lies in Green’s own failings as a musician.
“I have failed multiple times trying to get into the industry, and not because of me. I believe that now that I know the business from the inside, trying to make it and seeing other things drag you down, I know what tools need to be there for you to get an extra foot in the business. That’s why I enjoy working for the people, because I know what it’s like to be you. I know money is always tight and I know that opportunities don’t always come. I want to be able to audition some opportunities for you that you might not have gotten.”
The injustices Green speaks to resonate with a fundamental tenet of HXC Magazine: Never separate the audience from the show. Noting a distinct separation between “The People” and the institution that the music business has become, Green holds fast to the idea that improvements can be made; that the term ‘local’ doesn’t have to be blacklisted as long as the right steps are taken and the right elements put into place for change.
“That’s the urgency we need for the scene,” he claims, and his phone yells out one more time.
For All I Am stand front and center on the stage of the famous dingy basement known as The Studio @ Webster Hall in New York City. The post-hardcore group has fans lined up against the base of the stage waiting for the first pinch harmonic-filled riffs to come in. Vocalist Aria Yava breaks into a guttural growl and immediately there is newfound community, as kids who have seen the band a hundred times and kids who’ve never even heard of them head bang to the beat. Before long Yava is handing off the mic to various guest vocalists who are coming up on stage and roaring out each lyric with as much gusto as they can muster and admiration in their eyes as they look over at Yava. Together they share the stage, bouncing energy off one another for a few bars before the cameo-vocalists step aside. But they are not walking off stage back with the rest of the tour crew. These kids are walking back into the crowd as fans who just got the chance to sing alongside their favorite band and convince the crowd it was all meant to happen instead of being a spur of the moment occurrence. This happens several times throughout For All I Am’s set; Yava even brings local scene star Christopher Tito of Zoúmeon stage with him for a verse. At this point even the club’s bartenders and bouncers are watching. Suddenly, the entire venue becomes the stage.
After the incredible live performance these Illinois natives brought to Manhattan, we needed to know more about For All I Am. So we hit up Aria Yava to chat about the band’s latest album, their experiences playing live, and of course, their incredible fans.
HXC: Congrats on your latest release, No Home. What was the inspiration behind such a bold album title?
Aria Yava: It’s not like a literal title, it’s a kind of an analogy for your mind. Your home is known as a comfort place. So “no home” actually means you don’t have comfort in your own skin.
Is that idea of “no home” where your mindset was when you went into that album?
It wasn’t just me, actually. It’s the whole band. We went through a couple things together personally where we did feel like that and that’s why we wrote that album together and for anyone who kind of feels that way. I know people go through rough times and have different phases through their lives. A lot of people I’ve talked to at shows actually feel like they don’t have a comfort of their own skin or even in their own homes, literally, because of their family or because of insecurities. So we wanted to write an album that relates to those kinds of people.
Do you think people can kind of find that “home” then at local shows?
I don’t know if shows are a home, but they’re definitely more of an escape from whatever they’re dealing with. When I go see my favorite bands I feel like I don’t have any problems. I just kind of forget about it for a little bit and just enjoy some good music. Sometimes that’s what people need just to keep moving forward.
Who would you say is your favorite band?
As of now it’s kind of hard to tell. I haven’t been going to a lot of shows since I’ve been on the road lately, but I’ve been listening to a lot of Define the Great Line by Underoath. My favorite artists, my whole life, have been Underoath, Paramore, Architects, those kind of bands, just like the raw bands that don’t use too much production with sounds that really rock.
Are these the kind of the bands that initially inspired you to pursue music?
Going to see Underoath for my first time really changed my perspective on music. That’s when I really wanted to play music and do the help-people-that-are-helping-me type thing. I kind of discovered the power of music and how it moves through people. It’s like a universal language; no matter what language you speak, you can still understand what music is.
We caught your New York show on the Mind Games Release Tour. You had fans getting up on stage with you to do guest vocals with you. It was crazy.
Yeah, I know. It’s like a regular thing. We don’t hold ourselves to any entitlement, to having the stage to ourselves. The show is for everyone there, for everyone to have a good time, us as artists, listeners and even the staff and the promoters. Everyone just wants to have a good experience, so we make sure that’s easily achievable.
Do you have any favorite venues?
I definitely like the Ground Floor in [Williamsport], Pennsylvania. Their hospitality is unreal and they have a built-in fan base which is really cool because all the fans check out all the bands that go through. They all give them a chance, which is awesome and that’s what every scene should kind of do. Everyone should be open minded and just enjoy the music.
“We don’t hold ourselves to any entitlement, to having the stage to ourselves.”
Do you prefer playing shows with barriers or ones without?
You know, unpopular statement: definitely both. They both have their own vibe and both have their own experience. Sometimes I do like stage diving and I do like when people grab the mic, but I also like when I can have the stage and I can lose myself in the music and in the performance aspect.
Do you have a favorite track to play live off of No Home?
I definitely like “Six Souls.” It’s really heavy and hard hitting, but the other song I like is “Out of Line” because it kind of relates to what I always go through all the time and it helps me cope with it. It’s also a really good, energetic song for the crowd to have a good time to. So, I think those two are my favorites for sure.
You said you really liked to play “Six Souls.” Is that why you wanted to do the video for that song?
Well actually management and the label chose the songs that we shot for, so it was up to them, but we were stoked on their decision and we fully agreed with them, too. There’s also more [videos] coming, so I’m going to be working on those soon.
Do you have any concepts for them yet?
Yeah, we’re running a lot of storyboards and coming up with more specific ideas. We want to go in more with the concept of the songs and the messages in them are going to be more symbolic with our band and kind of go a different route.
Would you say that’s something you prefer to do, something more theatrical than just the minimalistic club show vibe?
I believe so. There’s a lot of bands that are all kind of talking about the same thing lyrically, so we want to do what we do as a band and kind of go in specifically. I feel like more people relate when you kind of relate to them more closely because they’re dealing with something more specific. We kind of like make lyrics so people can take it with them and progress and move forward with what they’re doing rather than just say ‘Hey, we’re here for you.’ Realistically, we can’t be there for everyone all the time; it’s impossible. No one can do that, so we want to really lay it down with the music and help them take away something from it.
You can tell you really care about your fans.
Oh yeah, it’s definitely important. If you don’t pay attention to that you’re kind of leading a pointless career in my opinion.
So if you could sum up For All I Am in one word, what would it be?
Real. That would be the best way to put it. Nothing is fake. We don’t do anything for image. We don’t sell ourselves, we just kind of put everything out there genuinely and hope people take it as genuinely.
Webster Hall is a New York City music venue needing no introduction; a fact well-represented by the black-lettered “Most Tweeted Venue of 2014” printed above the entrance. Yet while many know of the neon-clothed ravers that attend the EDM shows held there, The Studio in the basement remains a haven for the hardcore. It is there in that dark cove of headbangers that we at HXC Magazine became aware of a person who occupies the venue as if he himself holds up the walls. Without fail, every time we attended a show at The Studio @ Webster Hall this person, to whom we affectionately referred as the “Kellin Quinn look-alike,” (so dubbed because the resemblance has affirmed my belief in doppelgängers) would be front and center. He became a fixture for us, a kind of skinny-jean’ed Where’s Waldo. Upon attending the Palisades album release show on January 6th and witnessing him hop on stage for a fierce vocal guest spot during For All I Am’s set, we learned his name is Christopher Tito, he is the vocalist for the NYC metalcore/post-hardcore band Zoúme, and he is an HXC Diehard.