It’s rare to come across such a tough, charismatic woman fronting an incredibly heavy hardcore band. While Baltimore band Sharptooth and their vocalist Lauren Kashan are a wonderfully unique find, we have to stop and consider why that is. Sharptooth are almost entirely melody-free, bearing similarities to bands like Every Time I Die and Stray From The Path, and for some reason that comes as a surprise. When people hear “female-fronted band,” they often immediately think of Paramore or even one of the many metal bands out there that are led by chicks. But in hardcore, there is a strange absence of fem that Kashan wants filled.
Our second installment of our Character Development series takes us to a world of evil turtles, magical pipes and lovable, bouncy lizards. What would your favorite, mustached, red-clad Italian plumber listen to as he flattens killer shrooms and smashes bricks in his efforts to save the beautiful princess Peach?
Stick To Your Guns vocalist Jesse Barnett’s other project, Trade Wind, are coming out with their debut full-length on July 15th. The record, You Make Everything Disappear, will be released through Graphic Nature Records/Equal Vision Records and is currently available for pre-order. The full-length follows up the band’s 2014 EP, Suffer Just To Believe, and will feature the track “I Hope I Don’t Wake Up,” for which they’ve just premiered the music video below. Check it out and be sure to grab your copy of the album!
On June 19th, Yahoo! Screen streamed the first date of Vans Warped Tour 2015 on its Live Nation Channel from the Fairplex in Pomona, CA. The live stream kicks off a hugely important festival for the “underground,” but it also kicks off an important question: Do live concert streaming and hard rock shows really belong together?
We’re all used to seeing live performances on TV by now. Come the Super Bowl, the halftime show is all that matters for many viewers. We watch televised performances from the likes of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, The Oscars, and nightly programs like Jimmy Kimmel Live and Conan. While broadcasted musical events have become commonplace, live concert streaming takes the concept to a next level and thus raises next level questions. When a -core band’s show inside a local venue becomes easily viewable from remote locations, is it just cool or does it take something away? When you can watch Stick To Your Guns play a set from your laptop in bed with some hot cocoa, for example, it inarguably changes the experience. But is it for the better?
Vans Warped Tour and Stick To Your Guns aren’t the only examples of streamed shows, of course, and Yahoo! isn’t the only platform for this market. (Others include IROCKE and ConcertTV & Concert Window, for instance). Various acts from genres all across the board have dabbled in the new digital music phenomenon. Bands like The Ghost Inside, Falling In Reverse, Chelsea Grin, August Burns Red, and Bayside have live streamed their shows via Yahoo!, as have acts like Stone Temple Pilots, Infected Mushroom and Meghan Trainor. On one hand, you might note how fair the platform is to music of all types. Heavy bands aren’t usually deemed noteworthy enough to appear side-by-side with ultra-famous pop singers or widely-known psychedelic trance groups. Alternatively, though it may be nice to see your favorite bands emerge from the more shadowy corners of the music world, there is something about watching their performances from a computer screen that can justifiably raise an eyebrow or two.
I’ll admit, the first time I heard about live concert streaming, I thought it was pretty freakin’ awesome. “No way!” was followed by “I’ve gotta try that!” was followed by “I’m totally living in the future right now!” I actually tuned in to a couple of shows to see what it was like or to see how the bands actually performed live. Each time, I stared at my computer screen allowing that exact same train of thought to pass through my brain…for about 60 seconds. Then I got over it.
Then I started thinking, That’s cool. I’m sure the people who are actually there right now are having fun. Because although being able to watch a live show from your couch is admittedly a neat trick, the initial magic wears off rather quickly. Sure, with pop acts and more mainstream sounds it’s probably a bit different. After all, watching Super Bowl Halftime shows is always fun. But pop, hip-hop, and stadium rock acts are what the doorman of Oz would call a horse of a different color as compared to a hardcore outfit. Those streamline genres are more tailored to broadcast performances. For the most part, vocals are really most of what’s going on in a pop act, and the audio engineers are well-adjusted to those kinds of smooth vocals. But introduce some screaming and growling into the mic, some double bass pedals alongside intense cymbal work, and some crunchy guitars and most live music coming from your home speakers sounds crappy. Even though the actual live show at the venue could be insane, a live hardcore band will never sound as good over your internet connection as it will in person. As it always has with this kind of music, it comes down to the live show, and the thing about live shows is you should probably be there when they happen.
Half of hardcore is the live performance. The recorded tracks are what get you interested perhaps, and they’re definitely what keep you going, but the live show is what it’s all about: being between a certain set of a walls with a certain set of people playing your favorite set of tunes. You go to your favorite venue with familiar graffiti impetuously scribbled on the walls. You stand in a crowd of 50, 100, 500 people wearing shirts of bands you’ll be seeing next month or whose CD you have laying around your car. You get pushed around, jump up and down, thrown front to back, toppled, drowned in the sweat of strangers, get a beer spilled on you, and get close enough to the band that the spit as their screaming flies past your eyelids. To use precise terms, there’s a vibe, an energy you get from the sense of community and from the charisma of the musicians striking chords you’ve heard alone in your room a thousand times. You go to a show to not be alone in your room anymore. You go to a hardcore show because there’s nothing like being ata hardcore show.
True, live streaming can allow you to virtually attend a show you otherwise might not have been able to attend. Boiler Room streams music events from all around the world, making it possible for someone who lives in New York City to “attend” a concert in London. Live streaming also may introduce you to new bands before you decide you want to spend your money on a ticket. However, you don’t get an accurate depiction of what the band in question is actually like because you’re not physically in the space, and you could end up hating a band you might have otherwise loved.
Am I standing atop a hill with a torch in one hand and a mace in the other shouting, “Down with the internet!”? No. Is live concert streaming a terrible development in technology? By no means. However, does it make sense for genres that have historically and culturally found a home in dingy basements and mosh pits? Not in my book.
Minimalism is perhaps the most common theme spread throughout hardcore. When you embellish a basic chord progression in hardcore, suddenly it’s metalcore. If you add lots of lights and a barrier, that local vibe is gone. You’re “selling out” in a sense. There’s a real sense of community derived from such a simple idea that you can just pick up an instrument, have a message and play it for people to hear. This is perhaps why many music videos in hardcore are homemade, live footage from shows, or simply the band playing in an empty warehouse or white room.
So what happens when a metalcore band heavily routed in the hardcore community takes a stab at it? Well, just like their music, it embellishes that idea a bit more.
The Orange County quintet Stick To Your Guns have been riding the success of their latest album Disobedient and have just released the second music video, “The Crown,” in support of that album. As the song and video suggest, we are but small creatures in a much bigger world, and with power in this world, as Ben Parker notes, comes great responsibility. For a highly politically vocal band, this video has a lot to say simply through images and contrasts. Take a look at the video below to see some pretty incredible visuals paired solely with STYG playing in a very bright, white room and let us know what you think!
To anyone who has recently heard the new Sworn In record, The Lovers/The Devil, you may be asking yourself “What the hell did I just listen to?” And this is a pretty standard reaction as many of the tracks on the quintet’s sophomore effort are pretty much collections of not-so-collaborative noise. After the great success of their debut full-length, The Death Card, this shift from “emocore” to experimental melodic metal(ish) collage-djent (yes, that is a mouthful just as much as an earful) felt almost disappointing and out of place for the band.
A couple weeks back I cited Sworn In as one of the bands you need to know based mainly off of their highly innovative efforts on TheDeathCard, or XIII, depending on how you want to read it. It’s a fantastic album that carries a distinct sound throughout the entire work, but is filled to the brim with dynamic and out of the box rhythmic patterns over strange chord progressions and an intense use of distortion pedals. It’s what I imagine broken hearted spoken word in a dive bar would sound like if suddenly Rise Records wanted to remix it. While it’s definitely a little bizarre, it’s also incredibly intense and highly enjoyable. So when The Lovers/The Devil dropped and I couldn’t understand my own disappointment in their strange, new musical direction, I had to take a step back and ask myself, “Have Sworn In gone crazy or are they really just musical geniuses no one understands?”
When it comes to art and music, where do we find the exact divider? In fact, is there even a dividing line or is music simply a form or “genre” of art? And if so, is art all encompassing of “the arts” and thus not solely focused on the major artistic media such as painting, sculpting, and drawing?
Okay, so where is all of this philosophical stuff coming from that sounds like the beginning of a bad 101 class in college? And why am I asking so many goddamn questions?
Well, that’s kind of the point. When you listen to a great record, not just a good record, you want the music to challenge you. This is why listening to albums like Stick To Your Guns‘ Disobedient will always hold more of an impact than listening to Falling In Reverse‘s Just Like You. While FIR may have catchy and even danceable riffs and hooks, STYG are preaching lyrics with a strong message as well as musical backbone. People love Bring Me The Horizon for similar reasons. While the music is amazing and ever-changing, it’s the personal and emotional aspect of tracks like “It Never Ends” and “Drown” that will resonate with the listener long after the records stop spinning. If the music doesn’t subliminally force the listener to think in some new or different way then there really is no point to invest yourself in it.
When I first heard The Lovers/The Devil I was confused. I had previously only heard the singles “Sunshine”and “I Don’t Really Love You” and I couldn’t quite get a grasp on why the fuck a band so rooted in doing spoken, emotionally driven unclean vocals would want to introduce these weird meshes of melodic cleans sporadically throughout each track. It wasn’t sonically pleasing, and it wasn’t aesthetically intriguing either. The fan feedback via social media also seemed to be just as disappointed or confused as I was (though now, looking back, I think it was more confusion disguised as disappointment). The one major thing this album was doing was getting people talking–whether it was good or bad, people were genuinely discussing these out-of-left-field singles that seemingly no one could figure out.
In a strange move, Sworn In took to social media themselves to really push the idea that the album needed to be listened to as a whole, not just in bits and pieces. They stressed it was a concept album divided into two major ideas, The Lovers and The Devil, naturally, and encouraged fans not to write them off for their shift in sound.
So with that I went back into it.
And still wasn’t satisfied.
When we think “concept album,” we are thinking of an album that is divided up into varying sections and stories, but what if each track on The Lovers/The Devil is actually more of a microcosm of the entire album? Just about every track except “Oliolioxinfree” has this bizarre separation of depressing lullaby-like melody amongst thrashy, experimental hardcore. The title of the album is problematic enough. The Lovers/The Devil is not only annoying to type, but it’s also kind of jarring to look at and say. It’s two separate ideas used to create one concept, one idea. Perhaps this jarring sonic effect was the purpose; perhaps this album is meant to be just as jarring as the stylized title suggests.
The fact of the matter is that The Lovers/The Devil is never going to be truly sonically enjoyable. There is an intentional formula behind it that makes it just impeccably grating to listen to. But it can be appreciated for its conceptual sophistication. Think of Jackson Pollock. His paintings are sporadic and all over the place, but they say something far more transcendent than just a run of the mill portrait. They create outward commentaries on society and the people of the art world as well as those who view, collect, and showcase his paintings. They say that there are set formulas for “art,” but we do not necessarily need to follow them in order to create Art. There may not necessarily be a skill displayed within the painting, or a catchy flow to this album for that matter, but it’s a concept that came about from both past experience in and knowledge of the industry as well as technical skills in general. It’s throwing conventions to the wind and in the end creating conversation.
You cannot deny that people are talking about The Lovers/The Devil. While this time around the lyrics may not be the selling point that the listener takes away, it’s the challenge of making a new sound with a dualistic concept present in almost every track that is completely throwing people off their game. Metalcore, hardcore, djent, punk, dubstep, whatever alternative music you listen to is always so rooted in verse, chorus, verse, chorus, hook/breakdown/bass drop, chorus, blah blah blah, that when an album comes around and changes the entire dynamic, people tend to jump and just say it’s bad. But “bad” is the wrong word for The Lovers/The Devil because the album isn’t one to be listened to for its musicality, it’s meant to be listened to for its innovation and artistic nature. I will never bump this album on a car ride or at a party. I will never want to listen to it because of any melodic nature it may hold. And that’s because The Lovers/The Devil shouldn’t be viewed as a record. It should be viewed as sonic concept Art. And for that, Sworn In deserves to be lauded for their efforts, not beaten down for making a record absolutely no one expected.
Growing up is never easy. Sometimes you feel like no one understands you and sometimes you might even feel like you are nobody at all. With the latest video from Stick To Your Guns, “Nobody,” the band capture the story of growing up feeling invisible because you might think you’re the outcast. It’s something everyone in this scene can easily relate to, which is why STYG also offer up going to shows and finding those people and the environment similar to how you think, feel and act as the perfect outlet to truly being and owning who you are. With metaphorical visuals carrying the story this video portrays, “Nobody” and its accompanying footage work cohesively as the youth anthem they were created to be. Check out the video here and let us know what you all think!
A band that have been and remain socially conscious to a point of great inspiration, Stick To Your Guns deliver an album which ignites passion equivalent to the kind it took to make it, inciting thought, and greater still, action from beginning to end. Not only is it a well-crafted installment in terms of composition and sound, but it does what truly impressive hardcore records do—it interacts. ‘Disobedient’ is not just a product but a living, breathing tool of engagement. It creates a dialogue, it establishes connection in energetic, honest, and heartfelt terms. STYG have not only recorded songs but they’ve captured a spirit. This is the kind of record that is dismissive of the capitalistic demands of the music industry. It’s a record that sounds like it was made purely because there was a need for it to be made, and to borrow from “I Choose No One,” made from men, not machines.
Each track is not widely different from the others; a quality generally to the detriment of a record, but not here. Rather, each song builds upon the last as one sustained effort. ‘Disobedient’ reveals itself to the listener more as a speech being dramatically delivered by an activist at a podium (emphasized by the intermittent sound bites sampled from a 1974 conversation between Jiddu Krishnamurti and Dr. Allen W. Anderson, transcript HERE) than a standard album. Even the effects put on the vocals serve at points to make it sound as though Jesse Barnett were shouting through a megaphone.
The record opens with the chanting vocals and warlike drums of “It Starts With Me,” as if to prepare us to enter battle with STYG as our leaders–and you better be okay with that. “What Choice Did You Give Us,” “Nothing You Can Do To Me,” and “The War Inside” are declaratory and combustible, provoking a guilty conscience should your feet remain on the ground. “Left You Behind” offers a softer conclusion to the record, a poetic and symphonic gesture that begs the listener to start from the beginning again and take it all in, which this reviewer highly seconds.
Some of you may question what it takes to be a true HXC Diehard. While the answers to that inquiry may be varied, one trait we look for is entrepreneurial spirit. No, we’re not talking about stiffs in suits walking down Wall Street. We’re talking DIY. The term ‘DIY’ is significant enough in the hardcore scene historically, and when applied to bands conjures forth a few well-known facts: Zero label support, hard work, and relentless pursuit of passion. But what about when it’s applied to one person? Meet Leonel Salcedo, founder, manager, and contributor for CrossHeart Industry. We interviewed him for our Diehards section because he had an idea that he chose to follow, and it led him to be not only a participator in his local scene, but an active shaper thereof. Read the interview below to find out more about him, CrossHeart, and what makes the New York hardcore scene worth investing in.
Christopher Tito from Zoumé named you an HXC Diehard—someone who really goes above and beyond for the hardcore scene. Why do you think you deserve this nomination?
[Laughs] I’ve been attending [local] shows for three years. I’ve never missed a show, and I have a bunch of local friends in local bands and I support them. Not only that, but I’m creating a social media platform that help bands promote themselves around the world, and also helps fans connect with every band they wish to.
To be honest, I was just sitting at home and I was just like, ‘Fuck it.’ It was just random, one of those random ideas that just happen and you’re just like, ‘Okay, let me see what I can do with it.’ Things just happened and it ended up shaping up on its own.
So you say it’s a way to help bands promote themselves. How does it work?
So, if you have a new single coming out, you’ll be able to preview it to a few thousand people, depending how much you pay and how much [exposure] you wish. Not only that, let’s say you have an album coming out, you can stream it for free, you could play your whole album on the website. For the fan part, if you attend shows, if you purchase merch, tickets, albums, if you take pictures with the bands you can also earn rewards for doing basic stuff like that. In return you get [more of] the band’s merch, new albums that are coming out, and more.
“They don’t even know your whole history, they just easily become your friends. Just saying ‘hello,’ it automatically sets something off.”
What is your role?
I’m just the founder and manager. I keep the whole team in tact. I’m also a photographer. That’s it for me. We have three other photographers, we have another manager, and we have someone who writes reviews on albums and upcoming events, someone to run our social media websites, and a graphic designer.
Is that how you know Zoumé or did you hang out with those guys before you launched CrossHeart?
That was before we launched CrossHeart. I met Christopher Tito when he was really in his scene phase. I don’t really recall how I met Jeff (Freedman, bass/vocals). One day he just came to one of my parties I threw. Brean (Holguin, drums), I just randomly met. Farhan (Tanvir, guitar) was just from hanging out with the guys.
Where are you from?
I’m Dominican. I was technically born there, but I came to America when I was one year old, so I’m kind of an American in my own way.
Where in the New York area do you live?
I live in the Bronx.
Why has the local NYC scene become so important to you?
Damn, that’s a tough question. I guess one of the main reasons is because I see a lot of my friends struggle with their own bands. A lot of them, their dream is to make it out there and tour the world. I see a lot of these other mainstream bands that really don’t deserve it. So it’s like damn, these guys are really struggling to make it out there and these other bands are like, ‘Oh my god, I’m so beautiful. Sign me.’ It’s kind of hard to explain. It’s just something you grow up with. I’ve been going to shows for three years. I don’t want to say I grew up with those kids, but they became family. When you go to shows, all these kids have their own life but when you chill with them and you hang with them and you actually spend some time with them, it’s so easy off the bat. They don’t even know your whole history, they just easily become your friends. Just saying ‘hello,’ it automatically sets something off. It’s really weird, but cool.
How long have you been working for CrossHeart? Where do you see it heading?
It’s been six months since we’ve started. For the future, we’re planning to launch our beta by this summer. If it goes well, then we’ll become a full website by next year. That’s what I have scheduled for now. But if everything does go well, I’d see us becoming one of the major milestones in the music industry.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
I guess it would be Samuel L. Jackson, Dave Chappelle, Lelouch.
Why those figures?
Because Samuel L. Jackson is one badass motherfucker. If I could be any motherfucking badass in this world, it would be him, and I just have to say ‘fuck’ a lot because that’s his character. Dave Chappelle because he’s one of the funniest men on this planet. It’s something great to make people laugh a lot and if you have that talent, fantastic. Lelouch, because he pushed the boundaries of himself and he did anything possible to make his dream true.
Stick To Your Guns, Fit For A King, Scary Kids Scaring Kids.
Why are those your favorite bands?
Honestly, I really don’t know. I’m not a person who listens to music lyric-wise. When I hear it, it’s just something my body is very accustomed to. I can’t explain it.
Who would you name the next HXC Diehard?
Oh, crap. I’ll go with Marquis Green, Hector Sabino, and Tyler Andrew.