Saturday, 28 October 2017

DROWSE INTERVIEW





D&O-Your S/T 7” was my first exposure to Drowse. I see that there are two previous releases, a demo and another EP. What can you tell us about those previous releases and how they lead up to the blistering and caustic 7” that Knife Vision released?

Drowse is the first band I have ever been apart of, and I think that really shows on the demo. It is, at most, a six-minute tape we recorded in one shot through a 4-track. The vocals are severely off time, and the kid who recorded it had a delay pedal cranked to the max. Looking back at it the demo is more comparable to an experimental power electronics tape than a hardcore or punk release.

The Power Eats Power EP was the demo + a newer song. We recorded all the instruments individually this time around which helped convey the sound we were going for. However, it still wasn’t living up to what myself and the guitarist were striving for. We realized that when recording everyone individually we lost that speed and energy we brought through live sets. Shortly after a week-long summer tour we parted ways with our original drummer, Chad. We brought in Justin to write the 7” solely because he could play fast. We wrote the 7’’ in about a month and spent 5 more practicing it until we couldn’t play it any faster. I think one of the main goals, if not the only goal, was to take what we hated about the demo and EP and evolve past them rather than allow them to limit us.

D&O-Your 7” is a frantic, noisy and blown out affair. There is that distinct mid-west HC feel filtered through the reinvigoration of the sound that occurred in 2008 (Cult Ritual, Sex/Vid) where bands allowed a multitude of influences seep into their sound resulting in a mutant hybrid that was equal parts catchy and downright mental. What were the ideas and themes that surrounded the recording of the songs on the 7”?

Lyrically the whole 7” is sort of centralized around this unknown force, a killer hidden in the shadows. I wanted to keep a reoccurring theme throughout while still having each song be its own story of sorts. However, below the surface of what’s printed on the liner notes each song is really revealing of my personal life. A lot of my childhood was wrought in fear and neglect. I spent most days isolated in my room. Scared of enraging my step father. From a young age, up until I moved out on my own, life was spent tip toeing around him to avoid a violent outburst. Having someone repeatedly hitting you, punching holes through walls inches from your head for something as innocent as drinking from their iced tea is bound to have long lasting effects on your brain. That lead me to spend most of my days alone reading, watching any and all kids of movies/documentaries. Learning all that I could.

When it came to writing the lyrics for the 7” I knew that I could take all of this turmoil and hate that have been festering inside and use them in a healthy/productive manner. If there’s one thing that Drowse has always been for me, it’s therapy.

The music itself has taken influence from a myriad of bands. Many of our influences are AFI, Jerry’s Kids, Dead Kennedy’s, Das Oath, Cult Ritual and Cut the Shit. From day one we’ve looked to find a way to take what we loved from these bands and make it our own. The demo and EP are failed attempts at reaching this, but I believe the 7” really brought us closer to what we are going for.




D&O-Tell us about Philly and the overall effect it has on you guys personally? My opinion is based on cop shows, so it's a pretty grey and miserable place. What is daily existence like there and what impact has the political climate of recent times had on the city?

In terms of shows, and people Philly is one of the most diverse cities on the East Coast. I love it for that reason. I’ve been here my whole life, and have yet to grow tired of it. The only thing that I’ve really found myself complain about is how walled off each scene is. The hardcore kids tend to only stay in one area attending the hardcore shows, and the punks do the same. It has really led to this weird inner voice telling me that I’m too punk for the hardcore shows and vice versa. As years go by I clench on to this dream that the walls will come down and we can start having mixed bill shows that bring out all types of kids.

Daily existence in Philly is wild. We have the worst drivers I think I’ve ever had to navigate around. I’ve had people tell me they’re going to shoot me while they ran stop signs, I’ve had people come up trying to sell me tasers and knives on the subway. Every day is a new adventure.

I personally don’t think that the current political climate has had a huge negative effect on the city. If anything, I’ve been seeing more people come together to show they do not support the actions of the current “president.” For the first few months there were massive rallies against the Trump administration, and each day you see more and more people hanging signs that they oppose him and his actions.

D&O-How did you first discover HC/Punk? What was the appeal do you think? Is that appeal still present now? It is a vastly different beast now and a much harder place to operate in it seems. How does HC in 2017 sit with you?

I first got into hardcore and punk through the Tony Hawk games, and this punk mix my mom’s old boyfriend gave her. I’ve always loved faster hardcore. It always kept me wanting to move when I was out skating. I started going to shows in the Philadelphia suburbs in 2005. There was a straight edge band at the time called Let Down that was the coolest thing I’d even seen. Kids would destroy rooms during their sets, and that made me love local shows. Looking back now if kids were doing things like throwing sealed cans of soda at the crowd in a room, or moshing into people with a giant wooden cross a venue would get shut down immediately. I think what gets me out to shows now is the fact I get to see my friends, and catching bands I’ve been yearning to see. If it wasn’t for that I’d still be planted in my room watching movies. Since, I want to say, 2009/2010 Philly has lost so many venues for one reason or another. At this point in time the punks have a venue in West Philly that most of their shows operate through and the hardcore kids hop from bar to bar until they get banned. So, I agree the scene in 2017 is worlds apart from the scene in 2010. Hardcore in 2017 is an enigma to me. I’ve seen many people working to bring the scene together in a positive way (calling out rapists, abusers, etc.) but also seeing a “bro” mentality still sticking with people age 25 and up. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I hope more people continue see that a scene united is better than a scene where the minority lives in fear of an unsafe majority.

D&O-To follow on from that question, there was a bit of fall out surrounding a certain member of Drowse and some past actions of his. I am not a judge or jury and I have little interest in dragging people through the mud. Everyone will make a judgment call on where they stand when presented with whatever side of the story they hear. With all that in mind what effect did this event have on the band? I have no idea of the outcome which is very true of all these sort of events, we only hear the initial story, but many fail to follow up after casting their judgment. Having the artist who did the layout of your 7” disowning the whole thing must have caused certain dilemmas going forward. How did you deal with this and has this issue been resolved?

I feel like I should state that Tre was not actually a member of Drowse. Tre filled in on one show, because we had learned that our former drummer Justin had emotionally abused their now ex girlfriend and promptly removed him from the band after his ex had told me everything. About two hours after the show we played with Tre, Zach had messaged me and gave me the run down on Tre’s past. We immediately removed any and all ties we had with him and have since found a new drummer. None of the members of Drowse knew of Tre’s past in Michigan. We simply knew that he used to live with a friend of ours prior to her moving to California, and that he played drums. It was not our intention to have not one but two people with cases of emotional abuse play drums for us. Obviously, I cannot sway anyone to think one way or the other about the band given the circumstances, but once we found out about Tre we quickly removed him from the band and our lives.

D&O- Is all publicity good publicity? I feel that society has become soft and people are very easy to jump to conclusions in general, this is not a statement about Zach or you but just a general observation with the way that the world is now, especially with the rise of social media and the impact it has on our lives. What happens is someone says something and then only those who agree chime in, any other argument or defense is rejected out of fear of reprisal and being kicked out of the “scene”. We are dealing with vicious and disgusting music played by people who aren’t perfect and can fuck things up. On the flip side such notoriety can work in peoples favor, an acquaintance of mine had his recent shows in Australia cancelled by the Anti-fa, the result was more sales than he had ever received for his tapes. I know that is a completely different situation, but it highlights the fear that surrounds such accusations versus the reactions felt silently from those who either don’t care, or more frighteningly perhaps hope to align themselves with the alleged offence. Did you experience any backlash or shock factor sales spikes around these accusations and what was the feeling in the band around selling the 7” with the attached notoriety of it?

I agree that people have come to jump to conclusions rather quickly. Social media has become such a large part of the hardcore and punk scene. I think that writing a lengthy statement regarding any situation, not just the one in question, gets very skewed. I think that people are moving too quickly through twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to really take the time and read a statement clearly and thoroughly and then process it. It seems most people I talk to will skim a post and then make a judgement base on snippets of information. I think once one side, in this instance Zach’s Facebook status denouncing his creating the album art, explains why they’ve cut ties with a band, it really leaves the band coming off as making excuses to save face or explain that the drummer isn’t a bad person. That was why there was never a Facebook post made explaining Drowse’s side of what happened. The last thing I wanted was someone to skim it and then have it come off as us defending Tre. I’d much rather sit down with anyone and explain my side of any story.

I personally haven’t experienced too much backlash from what has happened. Zach and I haven’t spoke since, and his friends have disassociated with me. Our guitarist has since been kicked out of a few punk shows because people are under the assumption that he is in association with Tre. 7" sales were pretty much halted on our end, Knifevision ended up selling a good amount of 7”s regardless of what had happened. Now that Drowse has a new drummer we have been selling more copies than before so that’s a plus.



D&O-Do you think HC has evolved quickly enough to line up with society in general? Or is it the sense of the miscreant, the deviant and the nihilist that is infused into punk that keeps HC so exciting. Can we ever find a balance where we can all co-exist or will it continue to fracture further beyond repair?

I think about this question at work a lot. I think the ethics of punk have evolved to match or even surpass society. It’s a community that puts the person before the music which is certainly great. There are people at shows who are making sure their friends/everyone around them are both safe and comfortable while also carrying that punk ethos of deviance and destruction. I don’t think we’ll ever find a balance within this scene. The more you look to make people feel comfortable you’re going to lose that chaos that has always been brought to punk shows. You’ll always have people that are getting drunk and flailing around, you’ll always have people that mosh “too hard” to remove that sort of fun at a punk show is to imprison the human spirit. Playing a show and having everyone stand in place isn’t fun and isn’t punk. People are there to throw trash cans and move about.

D&O-Drowse seems to focus more on the nastier side of humanity, death, terror, limb lined walls, necrophilia, none of this is new to punk mind you, Vile, Nihilistics, Rupture and TSOL have all done it before and you do it with an equal sense of pleasure and regret it seems. What is it about the depraved human psyche that attracts you and made it the subject matter for the 7”?

For as long as I can remember I have been enamored with both death and the human brain. I think once we fully come to terms with the fact that death is inevitable everything else in life becomes redundant. Coming to this realization allowed me to start looking at my life in my parent’s house, and knowing that I needed to leave, or I would die. By my own hand, or my step fathers was still unknown to me. I would spend days fantasizing how I would die. It was brilliant. I think disassociating yourself from a destructive setting is a healthy way to cope when you spend 24/7 living in fear. Using this thought I knew I needed utilize my life to write a record wrought in depravity and death.

D&O-Does surrounding oneself with such themes warp your perception at all, or is this a coping mechanism? There’s that age-old argument around what is healthy and natural and what is damaging and unhealthy. Where does Drowse sit with this?

I’ve really been able to use writing in this nature to cope with my upbringing. Both writing and performing have been therapeutic. Prior to Drowse my hands we’re constantly torn, bruised, and broken. There was so much self abuse in my life. When it came to writing the songs it all just flows. All of this internalized hatred was being used in a way of creativity rather than destruction. I think that without this outlet I would’ve definitely killed myself off by now. I think there’s a fine line between what’s damaging and what’s healthy, but the way I see it if you’re using the tools at hand to create (via lyrics, art, etc.) it can only be perceived as healthy.

D&O-HC in the live setting is as crucial an element as recorded; Drowse comes across wild and uninhibited on the live footage I have seen. You have just announced some shows after a small stretch of silence. How do you best describe the feelings and emotions that go into performing HC to an audience? Is it a personal thing that feeds off itself or do you find the reactions from those there can influence the show for better or worse? How important is the live aspect of Drowse?

I think the live setting is where Drowse truly comes out. It is nothing but pent up anger and frustration being let out. I spend a fair amount of time prior to each set alone with my thoughts. I use the internal dialogue to feel this unrequited anger. I essentially feed on it. I give my all for that ten minutes, and afterwards am left with a sense of accomplishment.

I think that the ferocity of a band has a strong effect on a crowd. It can encourage the audience to become free and uninhibited. I don’t know if I’d say that’s what happens during Drowse sets. I think we’re too fast for most people to react.

D&O-Where to next for Drowse?

We will be releasing another 7” via Knifevision in the near future, and after that looking forward to releasing an LP. Until then we will keep playing shows in and around Philadelphia. Perhaps embark on another tour as well.