Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Interview with Ben Lowrey from Failure Pact

Failure Pact is a newer hardcore band from Portland, Oregon that has some rocking tendencies which remind me of The Hope Conspiracy or The Suicide File. They’ve been pretty busy the last couple years, having put a song on the Blasphemour Records comp, self-releasing their “Care Less” 7” and most recently putting out a new tape called “Late Nights”.  They’re currently in the midst of their first tour which is taking them along the West Coast.

I actually booked their guitar player Geoff’s old band Cynarae a few years ago but only realized recently that he was in the band, haha. Anyway, we hooked up a distro trade when their 7” came out last year, and the other day I was super stoked when an unsolicited copy of the “Late Nights” tape showed up in my mailbox. The new songs are an awesome step up…..the final song “Choice” is particularly strong with it’s awesome opening and deep emotional resonance.

I recently exchanged emails with their singer Ben to get some history on the band and talk about what they’ve been up to since. Read on.

Alright so one of my favorite things about doing these things is just getting to know people better, so talk a little bit about your background, childhood, family, etc.

My names Ben Lowrey, I was born in southern Oregon & moved to British Columbia when I was 2. My parents went there as missionaries for 6 years. I spent a lot of time just hanging out in the woods & swimming in leech laden rivers. After that we moved to Prescott, AZ where I spent a good chunk of my life. I formed some good friendships there that are still important to me. Living in a small town didn’t leave you with a lot of options for things to do, especially if you didn’t care about partying & getting fucked up. Spent a lot of time hanging around in parking lots goofing off all night or filming ourselves doing stupid shit like throwing things off of a cliffside behind our mall like watermelon, soda bottles or a box spring mattress. I moved to San Diego for 7 years before I finally moved to Portland & the last 13 years of my life has just been working random jobs to pay rent. I’ve gone to a lot of hardcore shows in that time frame but haven’t really had much of an opportunity to get involved.

Tell your story of how you started getting into punk and hardcore. At what point did it go from something you were curious about to being like "Damn, this is it!"

I got into punk & hardcore thanks to a friend of mine when I was a sophomore in high school. There used to be this show that I watched that played skate videos & underground band videos. One time they played a video from P.O.D. funny enough from one of their independent albums & I hadn’t been exposed to heavier music like that before. I listened to mostly rap like Snoop Dogg, The Fugees & Busta Rhymes. So when I asked my friend Matt if he had ever heard about P.O.D. he showed me bands like Overcome & Focused. When I heard Overcome for the first time I knew from that point I wanted to be in a band & that this was something I needed to be a part of. This was when I lived in AZ so a couple years later I was able to go see Overcome & get exposed to the hardcore scene in Phoenix. From there it was only a matter of time before I was being exposed to bands like Minor Threat, Gorilla Biscuits & other bands most people start with.

Oh shit dude, you are talking to a definite OG spirit-filled hardcore kid, haha. Did you get to see the original Overcome line-up or the later Facedown incarnation? Also, tell me you got to see Jeremin at some point when you lived in Arizona!

Haha yeah I can't say I'm still into or a part of that scene anymore but there are still a few bands I can listen to & respect for exposing me to hardcore. I never saw the original line up of Overcome by the time I was able to get to shows. It was shortly after they released “Immortal Until Their Work is Done”. Seeing them in the Nile Basement in Mesa, AZ is still one of the most exciting memories I have from going to shows. Walking down into a dank graffiti covered basement that feels more like a dungeon than anything else, feeling slightly terrified & not knowing what to expect, it doesn't get any better. 

Can't say I've heard of that band. A lot of the bands I saw then escape my memory. There were so many that came & went. A few that I still have stuff from & remember are Kyds vs. Columbus, Kilnemia & Abishai.

It's been really cool to watch Failure Pact come out of the gates really pushing things DIY with the "Care/Less" 7" and now the "Late Nights" tape, both of which you guys have self-released. Talk about what's motivated you guys to go that route as opposed to perhaps holding off for label support.

Self-releasing records has always seemed to me the way you at least have to start out. I wanted to start this band to have an outlet; I didn’t know what would really come of it when I talked to Geoff about it. I’ve been trying for years to put bands together with no real success. I figured if we could at least practice once in a while & I could blow off some steam that would be better than nothing. I’ve also never had the chance to record with a band before so when we had songs that were ready I wanted to record them. The next step was to press it simply so I could have some kind of proof that I could do it. Now I think the motivation is to get songs out so people can hear them & hopefully enjoy them enough to come to our shows.

So after years of trying to get something going, how did Failure Pact finally come together? What were some of the initial ideas you had for the band, influences, you discussed, etc.?

The band got started back in March of 2013. I had known Geoff for a little bit & knew he played music. He was looking to do something after his band Cynarae called it quits. He told me he had talked to a few people about starting something & whoever got at him first was in haha. So we got a practice space & started writing stuff to make it official. As far as influences vocally I really like Blacklisted, No Warning, With Or Without You & I love the vocals on the Harley's War record “Cro-Mag”. I'm not good at relating our music to other bands. When I first heard parts to what would become "Only A Memory" I was blown away. I felt it had a sound all to its own.

In addition to FP I noticed you've been booking a decent amount of shows out in Portland. What's your favorite part about organizing gigs and perhaps the biggest drawback/frustration?

When I lived in AZ the closest place for shows was 2 hours away. So when I was done with high school I wanted to start bringing shows to my town so I didn’t have to travel to see the bands I liked. My dad was a pastor so I was able to use his church to put shows on & I brought quite a few shows through. Bands like Figure Four, End on End & As I Lay Dying. 

I’ve always enjoyed doing shows so when Geoff was getting hit up to book bands I was excited to get back into it. It was hard for a little bit to find suitable venues in Portland that were all ages after some shut down. right now it’s pretty good & seems to be only getting better. My favorite part about doing shows I think is being able to help support bands on the road & building a community where we live that supports that. The drawback to doing shows for me is the thought that we might not make much for a band. That’s one of the worst feelings is having a show that people don’t show up to.

I know a lot of times people within the church can be stuffy or put off by aggressive music.....were your folks cool with you getting into hardcore? Did your pops face push-back from people within the church when you started throwing shows?

The people in my dad’s church didn't care at all about the shows we did. Most of them might have not even known. He was never really involved past saying yes or no, haha.

You guys are in the middle of a tour right's it been going and what bands are you most looking forward to playing with in the next week or so?

My only goal for the band initially was to just get in a room & scream. Anything past that I was would be a bonus for me. Now having two releases & quite a few shows under our belt it feels great but a little unreal for me. After I hit 30 I assumed it wouldn't happen. Now we are on our first tour & it's exciting. A lot of headaches to get to this point but it's worth it. 

At this point we are 3 days in, last night we played in Santa Barbara with pale hands who was really good & PTD a bunch of young kids with an amazing energy & intensity. I'm looking really forward to playing Tijuana, Mexico with Bonebreaker! I haven't been to a show in TJ for probably 10 years. They were always a lot of fun & this band is brutal as fuck!

Your lyrics are very straight forward and to the point.....who would you say have been the biggest influences on your writing style?

I can say that lyrically George Hirsch is by far my favorite writer but I don't think I can say that's an influence cause I don't think I'll ever write on that level. I just try to write about what I know or how I feel. I don't think I'm very good at being poetic or clever with my writing so I just try to be as honest as possible. That's what I've always loved about hardcore is that sincerity goes a long way.

The song "Choice" on the new tape is obviously incredibly powerful and I imagine it must be extremely cathartic to play every night. Talk a little bit about how that song came together with the voicemail and all that.

“Choice” was written for my late friend Andrew Ashcraft who died fighting a fire in yarnell AZ back in June 2013. His troop was overrun by the fire & 18 other firefighters died along with him. My group of friends & I from Prescott, AZ have had to deal with some tragic deaths of friends over the years & the second phone call I had received telling me news of this sort. It really hit me in a bad way.

When Geoff showed me the opening for what would become “Choice” I knew that was going to be the song I used to try & channel my thoughts & deal with the pain. Every time we practiced it I just tried to sing whatever came to mind in that moment. Eventually the ideas of the song came together & it all came out in a matter of minutes on paper. It was a very good experience for me & one of my favorite songs to play live. The voice mail had been on my phone for a long time & when we finally recorded it just made sense to put it on there.

What's up next for FP after this run? An LP? More touring

After our tour we have a few local shows lined up for the next couple months. After that we are gonna take a break to finish up some new songs we've been working on & record then for another EP. After that hopefully an LP.

All photos taken by Adrienne Dee-Olsen

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