Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Interview with Brendan from Incendiary

Incendiary first caught my attention a couple years ago when I saw they had a split with my friend Justin’s band Unrestrained (who you need to check out if you are unfamiliar, they have a new record dropping soon!). Among the recent crop of bands playing “90’s style” hardcore, Incendiary certainly sits at the top. Their new LP “Cost of Living” which was released a few months ago is an absolute rager and has received more play for me so far this year than any other new release. I recently had the opportunity to talk to their vocalist Brendan; check it out!

Talk a little bit about your introduction to punk and hardcore, how you discovered this community, and some of your earliest experiences going to shows.

I started playing the drums from a pretty early age and I was always drawn to really fast punk drumming. I started getting into bands like Pennywise, and that led me to start going to some local punk shows where I saw my first (and one of my favorite) hardcore bands called Subterfuge, a local Long Island band. I got pretty into going to local shows and then once I discovered Strife I was hooked.

How did Incendiary come together? How long had you guys known each other and what was on your list of influences when you started the band?

Incendiary came together in the summer of 2007. I was just looking to sing for a heavy, late 90s style hardcore band and play some local shows. We went through some lineup changes early on but it's been the 4 of us for a few years now, plus a few bass players. We were mainly influenced by bands like Snapcase, Indecision, Strife, Buried Alive, 108, etc.

I've always seen the Long Island scene as a place that produces an amazing crop of diverse bands; everyone from V.O.D., Skycamefalling, On the Might of Princes, Capital, and Cipher just to name a few. How would you say being a band from Long Island has influenced you guys both sonically and in terms of how you run the band, and how are things going on Long Island at the moment?

Everyone in this band takes a lot of pride in being from Long Island and being considered a LIHC band. We all grew up going to local shows there and the scene had a big impact on us. Obviously, there is a tremendous legacy here with a lot of the bands you mentioned. Sound wise, VOD is probably our biggest influence as far as LI bands but we all are pretty knowledgeable about some of the more obscure LI bands that we love. I'm sure those bands, whether purposely or not, have influenced our sound in some way.
Long Island, like every scene, has had its ups and downs, but I think the past few years it has been stronger than ever. We've had solid show promoters and a ton of kids starting new bands, which is one of the keys to a strong scene. Backtrack has put Long Island on the map while they conquer the world, and now we have King Nine, No One Rules, Provider, Bottom Out, High Card, Jukai and a ton of other younger bands carrying the torch. 

As an outsider, it really seems like Incendiary is blowing up a good bit. You've been playing really big shows for quite a while now; just this week I saw you announced that you will be playing the Suicide File/Panic reunion show, doing a small run of dates with The Acacia Strain, as well as heading over to the UK in the fall. Within the band is there is a sense that things are starting to take off? What would it look like for you guys to take it to the "next level" and is that even something you're interested in or that's feasible given that it seems like you all have a lot going on outside the band?
The past 2 years or so have been really exciting for us, especially after Cost of Living came out this March. We've been a band since 2007 so it feels great to see more people interested in our band. We're going back to the UK for a second time in September and it's one of my favorite places to play so I'm particularly excited for that. Incendiary has never been a full time band and that isn't going to change, but we have never let that stop us from doing as much as possible. I don't subscribe to that weird local band mindset where everyone’s complaining about their jobs and how they have no time. Most of us work 50+ hours a week and have a lot of responsibilities outside of the band, but we are all on the same page as far as making the band a priority in our lives. We've turned down some unbelievably cool opportunities that we probably would have taken if we were all 20, 21, etc. but I'm so grateful for the opportunities we HAVE been able to do.

Yeah you guys have definitely kept busy; 2 LP's, 3 splits and a 7" is a ton for a band that considers themselves part time. Given the number of releases you have done, I'd imagine at this point you have a pretty well-defined process for writing new material. What did the writing sessions look like for "Cost of Living" and was there anything different you tried to do this time around, either musically or lyrically?

We started the writing process for Cost of Living pretty early on. Even though we have a decent amount of material, it generally takes us a long time to write. Either Audley or Bobcat would come in with at least a riff, sometimes almost all of a song and we'd go from there. There were definitely a lot of late nights in the practice space after long days of work but I think by and large everyone is happy and proud of the outcome. I don't think we were trying to change up our sound too much but there was a sense of trying to write more focused, structured songs. A lot of the songs have a distinct verse/chorus pattern that we didn't really care about having in the past. Like the music, the lyrics also usually take me a while to write. I generally get a rough recording and base my lyrics around the music itself. Very rarely do I write a song without any music first. As with the music itself, lyrically I wanted to try to create more of a sense of structure.

In the span of those 6 releases, you’ve worked with 4 different labels, with Closed Casket Activities handling the last two. How did you guys hook up with Closed Casket? Do you see them as the long-term "home" for Incendiary or is it likely that there may be some more label-hopping in the future?
We had known about Closed Casket for kind of a while, I was always really impressed with the quality of the vinyl releases, particularly the artwork. We had chatted with Justin a little bit in the past so we kind of had our eye on being on the label. When he approached us about working together we were super psyched. It's basically a perfect fit for us. I think we fit the type of band Justin is interested in working with and we also happen to love the other bands he puts out. He is super hands on which is probably my favorite characteristic of him/the label and we are constantly bouncing ideas off of each other. We've had some interest from other labels but right now we're very happy where we are.

Most of the bands you mentioned as influences (108, Indecision, Snapcase) were pretty issue oriented, and while I hate to be that guy who gripes about the current scene and says "back in the day" was better, one frustration I often feel towards hardcore at present is that there's not as much emphasis on social and political issues. It seems like most kids just want to mosh and don't care about what's going on lyrically. I feel like you guys are somewhat unique in that while none of your songs are necessarily overtly political, there is definitely an underlying sociopolitical/cultural critique going on. As you guys have played and toured a ton over the last several years, I'm curious if you share that feeling and I'm also wondering if you could talk about how you approach balancing personal and more socially-conscious lyrics.

Without a doubt, yea. I think there has been somewhat of a de-emphasis on lyrical content the last however many years. I think it's pretty tough to put a finger on exactly why that is but perhaps internet culture has shortened attention spans so much that we just want to "get to the point" so to speak. I'm not sure if those shortened attention spans lead to interest in more thoughtful, perhaps complex, lyrical content. From my perspective, addressing issues from the perspective you mentioned just felt very natural to me. I approached Crusade in an almost concept record sort of way, where I had an idea in mind exactly what I wanted to say. However, songs like "The Streets Only Bring Blank Stares" strayed from that and focused inwards. I originally wasn't going to write in that way but I wanted to just stick to a natural process of writing down what was coming out. A lot of songs from our splits are more personal and then I shifted gears somewhat back to a more social commentary perspective for Cost of Living. None of that was premeditated though, I tried to just approach writing in the most honest way I could.

On a related note, you guys just finished a weekend of shows with The Acacia Strain, a band who in my opinion has some lyrics that are goofy as hell to put it lightly. First of all, how did you guys get hooked up with them and how were the shows? Secondly, when you do a run like that, obviously you will probably turn a lot of new kids onto the band; is part of your hope that you can also introduce them to social and/or political topics they may not have otherwise been exposed to?

Yeah we just did finish those Acacia Strain shows, they were awesome. Vincent, the singer, is a hardcore kid and was the one who pushed for us to do it. I could care less about Acacia Strains lyrical content. They've been a band for 12 years and do what they do, killing it all over the world. This was a great opportunity for us to play to some new people. The great thing about their fans and "metalcore" fans in general is they are, by and large, incredibly open minded. They just want to hear heavy music, period. They don't care about the specific genres. It reminds me of when I was younger. The hardcore scene can be very finicky because you have some of the older guys not giving younger bands the time of day and then you have some of the younger kids being so wrapped up in what is new and cool at the moment. Hopefully we got some people at least a little more interested in hardcore and who knows, they might go and check out other bands.
What's up next for Incendiary? I know you guys seem to be a fan of splits....after your last LP "Crusade" you did a couple; anything coming up that you might be able to clue us in on, "dream" bands that you'd love to share vinyl with?
Up next we have This is Hardcore in Philly which we're all extremely excited to play. Modern Life is War is playing our day and they are one of my favorite hardcore bands ever, should be great. After that we are heading back to the UK to do a short run of shows. The UK is one of my favorite places in the world and the shows were amazing the last time we were there, so I can't wait for that. As far as splits, unless Hatebreed comes knocking, I never want to do another split again. Three is plenty haha.

Lastly, and this is the most important question of the interview, who should we all be thanking for coming up with the idea of inserting that huge "RUUUUUUFF" before the massive mosh that comes towards the end of "Force of Neglect"? (-:

The "RUFFFF" in Force of Neglect was all Karebear. He did it on a random take and we just looked at each other and were like "we're keeping that" haha. Thanks a lot for the interview, Michigan is at the top of our list (seriously) for places to play. Our schedules are as tight as ever but we'll be out there as soon as we can. Thanks so much for the interview!


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