The second episode of HXC Magazine‘s Cellar Door Sessions podcast is here and this time we talk about the records that changed it all. The key records that shaped our music tastes and who we are today. Not only do we talk about blasts from the past, but we name a few contemporary records that you definitely need to check out right now! If you like Whitechapel, Senses Fail, Get Scared, Hundredth, Vanna, Beartooth, Taking Back Sunday and more, listen to this episode of The Cellar Door Sessions ~creeaaaakk~.
Sometimes bands come along that take you by surprise for resurfacing a sound that really hasn’t been relevant since Morrissey’s face could be purchased un-ironically on a T-shirt. Creeper, the latest band from the UK that you probably don’t know about but 100% should, creates that old school sound in a brand new light. With a real gritty, grungy rock ‘n’ roll vibe reminiscent of bands like Green Day, The Smiths, and My Chemical Romance among many others, comes this little known six-piece to break the waves.
The following is the first interview in our ongoing serial “Women of Hardcore.” For more from the serial click here.
After a morning of speaking on panel, loitering in empty bars themed after literary eccentrics Oscar Wilde and H.P. Lovecraft, and meeting with an artist for a friend’s tattoo consultation, I remember it’s almost time for my interview with Katie Cole, drummer of Ohio band Dangerkids. Stranded in the lower east side of perhaps the loudest city in the world, I try to find a quiet place. The bar I end up in is playing music and has no service. Turning the corner, I cubby myself in the frame of the backdoor to protect Cole’s answers from the wind. There, she tells me all about the upcoming Dangerkids record, the band’s recent tour in Europe, and how to laugh it off when dudes think you’re the drum tech and not the drummer.
First thing’s first, I apologize for New York City’s screeches. “It’s okay,” she assures me, “I was just in the weirdest place ever. I was trying to find a quiet place too. I went into this coffeehouse; it was so loud and no one spoke English.”
“Where are you?”
Though the drummer is back at home, she and her bandmates recently ended their European tour–where you’d actually expect a coffeehouse to be filled with non-English speakers.
“What was your favorite place you visited?”
“Scotland. Just ‘cuz everyone there’s crazy. They just like to party and have fun.”
Anyone who has heard Dangerkids’ debut record, Collapse, knows that fun is a big part of the band’s M.O. I tell her how the first time I saw the Rise Records band, they were opening for We Came As Romans in NYC. We all know that opening bands can be pretty insufferable, but Dangerkids were so assured and animated they nearly stole the show. It’s a refreshing change of attitude in a scene where bands can take themselves too seriously.
“I get excited to play any time,” she says, “so I smile the whole time. We all get really pumped.”
“During that night’s set over a year ago, Tyler (Smyth, M.C.) said something between sets about not letting anyone tell you you can’t do something, especially because of your gender. Do you have any personal experience with that?”
“I honestly don’t get as much hate as I ever expected to,” she admits. “Obviously there are some people who will judge you or think you’re not gonna be good at what you’re doing because you’re a girl, but I don’t see it too much. Most people who hate the most on it have never even listened to us or haven’t even seen us play. I feel like after people watch us they don’t tend to hate on it as much. A lot of people think it might be a gimmick or something like that, but they tend to respect it after we play.”
I share with her that when I go up to band members after shows, sometimes guys automatically assume I’m a groupie.
“Yeah, God I hate that! No, that’s so crazy. I’ve seen that so many times and it makes me so angry. People always think that I’m doing merch or that I’m a drum tech or something. That was the funniest thing. We played this show and I was sitting on my drums, about to play, and one of the sound guys on stage was getting so angry. He was just like, ‘Where’s the drummer?!’ And I’m like, ‘I’m the drummer. I’m setting up my stuff…’
“He didn’t even know you were in the band?”
“Exactly. No one ever thinks that when I’m setting up my drums. They’re just like ‘Oh, she’s just setting them up.’
“That’s kind of cool though, on the other end of it, because you get to surprise them.”
“Yeah. I don’t let it bother me. I think it’s funny.”
“That’s a good attitude to have about it.”
“Yeah, you should be that way too.”
Interrupting the interview, an old, unshaven man hobbles by and stops to talk to me about some nonsense. I point to the phone. He keeps talking until finally, my frantic hand motions are enough to shoo him away. I return to Cole in my ear, talking about playing Rock On The Range on May 15th. “Other than that [we’re] just finishing the album,” she says. “Once we get that done we’ll be able to play a lot more shows.”
“What can you tell me about the new album?”
“I really really love it. I love the direction that it’s going. It just sounds more like Dangerkids. We’re developing into our own style. There’s a lot more radio rock, a little bit less screaming. But it’s really cool, I feel like anyone can get into it.”
“What was one of your favorite songs off your first record?”
“One of my favorites is ‘Cut Me Out.’ That’s one that a lot of people don’t really know; it’s not one of our big singles. I really like that one, it’s really fun to play on drums. ‘We’re All In Danger’ is probably my favorite to play on drums because it’s so fast—it’s exhausting.”
“I know you said the new record is going be more radio rock, but is it still going to be that fast-paced vibe that we got from the first album? Or is it gonna be totally different?”
“There are a couple heavy ones that if you’re into heavy music you’ll be like (she cheers). There’s also a couple really fast songs. We actually opened with one of them when we were in Europe. So it’s got a lot of similar stuff as the first record. I think anyone that liked that record will definitely love this next record.”
Wrapped in what she’s saying, I hardly pay any mind when someone bursts through the backdoor I’ve been sheltering in and slams my body off onto the sidewalk. It’s also warm enough outside that the ice cream trucks are on patrol and sounding their creepy songs down the street. Note to journalists: Avoid this situation at all costs.
With a finger in one ear I concentrate on Cole with the other as she begins to tell me more about her touring experiences.
“Our first tour was with Sleeping With Sirens. The first show—I think it was in Atlanta; it was at the Masquerade—we went on and in the middle of our first song [“Countdown”] the track cut out. It ended up being okay, but it’s always really scary when that stuff happens.”
“Who are your favorite bands to tour with?”
“Sleeping With Sirens is really fun to tour with. I really like We Came As Romans. We toured with Silverstein too which I thought was really cool ‘cuz that’s one of the bands that I used to listen to all the time.”
She pauses, then adds, “I don’t really listen to a lot of heavier bands. I’ll check them out and I like it, but I usually listen to pop and emo music from back in the day.”
“What other bands do you listen to from back then?”
“I love The Used; they were one of my favorites. I was obsessed with Green Day when I was younger; they got me into everything. Taking Back Sunday…any band like that. But The Used is definitely my favorite. I love Underoath too, they were great.”
We bond over the importance of Underoath for a minute. “Aaron Gillespie is my favorite drummer,” she says. “I really looked up to him for a long time and he kind of helped my style develop. He just plays interesting things. I’ve never seen someone play the types of beats that he plays, and he has so much energy live. He’s really fun to watch.”
“Favorite Underoath song?”
She goes with the anthem, “Reinventing Your Exit.”
“How would you describe Dangerkids in one word?”
Cole struggles for a moment. Finally, she comes to an answer. “Motivational,” she chooses. “A lot of our songs are about getting through tough times. It’s crazy how music can do that. I’ve always really liked sad music and film scores. If I’m ever feeling down, I listen to that kind of stuff because you just feel it so much. If I’m not doing that I’ll listen to Kesha.”
“People always take very different views of the saying ‘Music saved my life.’ Where do you stand on that?”
“I feel like my whole life basically revolves around music. If it wasn’t for music I wouldn’t be playing drums, or be in a band, or doing anything that I love, really. I’ve always loved to be able to travel and play for people. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have music. So I think that’s definitely true for me. I think it’s true for everyone in the band.”
Before hanging up, she turns back to the film score question and divulges that her favorite soundtracks are from Titanic and Forest Gump. Last words? “Hans Zimmer is dope.”
Expect the release of Dangerkids’ sophomore full-length record sometime this summer.
Punk Goes Grunge really doesn’t sound all too inspiring. In a world and music scene in which Punk Goes… is a franchise, hearing breakdowns accompany Katy Perry tracks or ’90s throwbacks is nothing new. In fact, it’s almost expected since making a solid pop cover track can help make or break a band when it comes to getting signed to a label. That being said, what happens when punk (or what’s in actuality post-hardcore, metalcore, and pop punk) try to cover grunge or metal songs?
Typically you get one of two things: either a sound so similar that you find yourself questioning why anyone covered the track in the first place or a sound so entirely different and jarring that the integrity of the initial song is completely lost.
We got our first real taste of this problem with Punk Goes ’90s Vol. 2. The Color Morale made a cringe-worthy, over produced cover of the Foo Fighter‘s staple “Everlong,” Ice Nine Kills showcased an amplified pop rock version of Green Day‘s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” and Motionless In White rendered an exact copy of Rammstein‘s “Du Hast.” A good cover is a song that takes the base of a track and holds the nature of that song true but also adds the flair of the band covering it to make it their own. Industrial metalcore bands like Motionless In White shouldn’t be releasing covers of industrial metal bands like Rammstein simply because there is nothing much they can do to add to that track. Other bands, like the Foo Fighters and Green Day are such iconic faces in modern music that they simply shouldn’t be altered. The same is to be said of Nirvana. Absolutely no one should be covering Nirvana tracks right now, regardless of the current resurgence of Cobain’s popularity.
My anger towards this situation appeared after hearing the latest compilation of Nirvana tribute songs, Robotic Empire‘s Whatever Nevermind, in which the label collected bands such as Torche, La Dispute, Circa Survive and Touché Amoré to render classic and even not-so-classic Nirvana songs as their own. Along with the release of this album on Record Store Day, the grand April holiday also saw the release of Comeback Kid‘s cover of “Territorial Pissings.”
Nirvana, as with Green Day and the Foo Fighters, are still incredibly relevant. They haven’t quite fallen into The Beatles iconic fame and legendary status as people are still trying to uncover exactly who Cobain was and what Nirvana actually meant for music. The tale of Paul McCartney and John Lennon has been uncovered, publicized and revered in a way in which releasing an entire film of cover songs like Across the Universe is both acceptable and lauded. Conversely, we’re still in a state in which we don’t quite understand most of Nirvana. Hell, there’s still a debate on why or even if Cobain killed himself, and unless you’re Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, Butch Vig, Steve Albini or Courtney Love you probably have no grasp on how or why he wrote and recorded music the way he did. Being unable to interpret that significant fact of such an iconic voice and figure should lead people to have enough respect to not actually go and remodel one of Cobain’s tracks.
Grunge is the voice of indie. Grunge is an informal outlet of punk. Grunge is the signature rock sound of the early ’90s. But grunge is also exceptionally dead. There’s no way an indie/punk/post-hardcore/rock band can come in today and revive grunge. Alice In Chains couldn’t even find success doing it when Layne Staley died. And believe me, they tried. If a forerunner in the grunge movement couldn’t keep it alive, there’s no way any of these more marginal bands are going to be able to.
Let’s talk about “Polly.”
“Polly” is one hell of a fucked up song. For those of you who don’t know, “Polly” is about a real life rapist who held a girl captive and whose first-person perspective Cobain felt absolutely compelled to write about. That’s fucking weird. Bands like La Dispute, who I have nothing but respect for, should not be covering that track. Not only do they do very little to change up how the song initially sounded, but they lose a lot of the eerie concepts placed behind that song because they didn’t write it. Those twisted thoughts were not in their heads to make that track genuine or forthcoming. It’s a cover that offers nothing to the music scene and doesn’t challenge the listener in the way that Cobain’s original version did. They probably would have had better luck covering “Rape Me,” but I guess in today’s world you can’t cover a track with that title in the same way that Slayer is no longer permitted to cover Minor Threat‘s “Guilty of Being White.”
Then there are bands who cover truly iconic Nirvana songs. First off, it should go without saying that if it smells like the only Nirvana song you know, it shouldn’t be covered. But people still do. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is so well known and so iconic, that when you hear an alternative version of it, most people are inclined to cringe since they are banking on hearing those blaring soft to loud contradictions within the verse/chorus song structure and the complete inability to determine whether Cobain is saying “hello” or “how low.” Covers typically force the coverer to pick one phrasing and pursue that translation, thus making it a decided interpretation of song we still don’t fucking understand.
Are all covers bad? No. Circa Survive’s “Drain You” is listenable, but simply because they added very little to the track. But with every just vaguely different track comes a track so butchered that it’s upsetting to hear. Kylesa‘s cover of “Come As You Are,” for example, is another moment in time in which someone believes you can make that song an indie slow jam and get away with it. You can’t. It makes a classic song feel tired and drained. In the end you are left with the feeling that people are trying way too hard. Cobain wrote these tracks with definitive thoughts in mind. Over-thinking a track that’s already had an intention placed behind it is unnecessary and loses the effect the track initially held.
So then, are these covers ever acceptable? In my opinion, no. Do some bands do it better than others? Yes. In comparison to White Reaper‘s cover of “Territorial Pissings,” Comeback Kid does it much, much better. When listening to the two side by side, White Reaper gives the illusion that they are trying to cover a Nirvana song in a well-planned, strategic manner. Comeback Kid, however, just sound like they decided to jam out to a Nirvana track. It’s genuine fandom rather than a fabrication of a song someone bigger and more important wrote. The same can be said of Every Time I Die‘s live cover of “Tourette’s.” ETID didn’t release the track in recorded form, and therefore hold the same genuine appreciation for Nirvana by showcasing it live and in a fashion that makes a song off of In Utero sound like a track from Bleach while still having that real old school ETID feel. But not one of these tracks are better than the originals.
No Nirvana cover will ever be accepted until Nirvana fades from mainstream relevancy. Once Cobain becomes Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney and the world is ready for new interpretations on the grunge world, then covers can be acceptable. But the ’90s are way too close to the now and the vocal strains inside of Nirvana’s haunting tracks are still as eerie and hard hitting now as they were twenty years ago. Let the band ride the legacy they created, and if you have to cover it, do so genuinely. Do so live. Do so in the moment without the over-thinking and strange musical additions and interpretations that help lose the messages Cobain, Novoselic and Grohl created. And for fuck’s sake, if you absolutely have to do Punk Goes Grunge, someone hit up a Bleach song. Maybe I’ll shut up if Josh Scogin does a cover of “Negative Creep”; maybe then I’d believe that these covers can actually happen. Until then, leave it to Kurt or keep it to live performance. The world isn’t ready for over-produced interpretations of tracks we still don’t understand. Lose yourself in the music, don’t think so much, and in time, Nirvana will be appropriate to re-examine through cover songs.
Check out the album stream for Whatever Nevermind via Noisey right here.
THIS EDITORIAL WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED THROUGH TAYLOR MARKARIAN’S GRIMM ROCK REVIEW AND IS RE-PUBLISHED HERE VIA THE AUTHOR’S CONSENT.
“Rock ‘n’ roll” is a heavy phrase. It carries with it sex, drugs, death, youthful rebellion, dreams made and dreams broken, all culminating in a unique spirit that has all but become synonymous with America itself. Unfortunately, folks, it’s all over.
Gene Simmons told us the bad news on September 4th in an interview with Esquire— “Rock is finally dead.” So all of you up-and-coming’s out there can pack your bags, clip on a tie, and major in finance, because none of what you’re doing matters. The kids lined up around the block hours before the show can go home. Warped Tour? Mayhem Fest? Shut ‘em down. And all of those band t-shirts in your closet can be sewn into a nice dark quilt for grandma because there’s just no arguing with Gene.
Really, who are we to point out that Warped tour garnered $23.4 million last year and is the longest running musical festival in the country (Billboard Magazine)? Or that numerous acts such as My Chemical Romance, Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blink-182, The Foo Fighters, and The Used have become landmarks of rock and of American pop culture post-1983, the year Simmons demarcated as the last of true “musical anythings that are iconic, that seem to last beyond their time”? How can we dare to worship albums like Senses Fail’s Let It Enfold You or Taking Back Sunday’s Tell All Your Friends 10 years after their release? And what miscreant keeps plastering the words “sold out” on almost any venue hosting Asking Alexandria, Pierce the Veil, Lamb of God, or Avenged Sevenfold?
The answers to these snarky questions are multi-dimensional and interconnected. In all seriousness, Gene Simmons is partly right. That amorphous, umbrella term—“Rock”—is dead, in that its dozens of subgenres have made it relatively meaningless. No one can be just a rock band anymore, because it’s simply too broad. What are you? Metal? But what kind of metal? Thrash, Nu, Black, Death? Are you hardcore? Meaning, are you post-hardcore, hardcore punk? The lists and divisions go on and on.
Another reason Gene Simmons is right is the same reason that he is laughably, infuriatingly wrong. His definition is limited. He equates rock with acts like (what a shock) Kiss, The Beatles, The Stones, and U2. For him, rock is dead because it is no longer main stage. The arena shows are reserved for Justin Bieber. Radio time is given to endless repeats of the latest Katy Perry club mix.
Well—and let me be as professional and eloquent as possible here—DUH! It’s 2014, not 1980. (And it’s not 2008 either, by the way. The “file-sharing” argument is not news. So if Gene Simmons was going to announce the vicious murder of music, meaning all music, it should have been during the golden age of Limewire, not in 2014 during an LP revival.) The technology has changed, the entertainment market has expanded, and the media is over-saturated. Of course when we develop new electronic gadgets every five minutes the mainstream sounds of our generation are going to be pop, hip-hop, and EDM-centric. The enormous technological shift finds its echo in a shifting cultural paradigm, so it makes sense that the gritty, raw texture of Beartooth is going to be passed over for smooth, shiny, easily-digestible Deadmau5 nine times out of 10.
But does that make all rock music irrelevant and the victim of senseless slaughter? Of course not. To stand by such an assertion would be flagrant and ludicrous reductionism. All genres have their time in the spotlight, and if we’re being true to the meaning of rock, the “underground” is exactly where it should be right now anyway.
“The meaning of rock.” What’s that? It’s a question that can engender thousands of answers, but if we’re speaking historically, rock is fundamentally counterculture. Rock always needs something to resist. Whether it be The Sex Pistols or Bob Dylan, rockers of all branches have been “anti—” and controversial for decades. They even oppose each other.
On the other hand, rock is and has been one of the most uniting forces the world has ever known. It provides much needed respite for the world-weary, the angst-ridden, the broken-hearted. Kids who might otherwise have wanted out of this life decided to stick around because of that one chorus in that one A Day To Remember song.
So we pick up our guitars. We set up our kits. We plug in our amps and attempt to dial them past 10 even if we won’t ever book Madison Square Garden, because house parties and club venues and even empty basements are just as good. We don’t scream the lyrics for the money. To paraphrase a Dangerkids song, we do it because “there is something in us that won’t leave us alone.”
So, in the spirit of all that is rock ‘n’ roll: Fuck you. Rock is alive and well.