Juxtapositions are cool right? Well, Withdrawal are a scorching hardcore band that comes from the frozen tundra of Winnipeg. They’ve done a couple of releases on A389, are good buds with my boyfriends in Hollow Earth, and recently announced that their new LP will be released later this year by the always awesome Escapist Records.
Given all that, I figured it was time to learn a little bit more so I reached out to vocalist Adam. Read on to learn about living in negative 40 degree temps, the history of the band, the new record, and a comparative analysis of the sexual merits of Justin Trudeau and Mike Moynihan.
I always like to try and get a more holistic sense of a person; their family, their background, etc. so talk a little bit about coming up as a kid. Have you been a lifelong resident of Winnipeg and how would you say growing up in the arctic tundra has impacted you as a person?
I am a Winnipegger, born and raised. Growing up I never really thought about the scope of where I lived compared to the rest of the world, it's only after I started traveling that you start realizing just how remote Winnipeg is and just how little people know about it. We're about as far north as you can get without it being completely desolate and remote. There's basically about 6 months out of the year where it's just absolutely uninhabitable to live in. You can't go outside for very long, because it can regularly drop to -50 Celsius (-58 Fahrenheit) so for me I just spent my entire youth inside playing video games and playing hockey when it would warm up a bit.
Nowadays, I'm just extremely mad about having to start my car and let it warm up for 20 minutes before I go anywhere. Sometimes I wish I was a little closer to some major cities (we're about 9 hours north of Minneapolis) because I see all these coastal cities that get amazing shows every other week, whereas for us there's probably about 10 big touring bands that come through in a year. But maybe that makes us appreciate them a bit more when they do.
How did you first start getting into music generally and hardcore & punk specifically?
When I was 13 I went to go see the Mighty Mighty Bosstones play a show, which is maybe a bit corny to some people, but through their CD's I got into Minor Threat, SSD and Slapshot. In my early teens, my brother and I started scamming those "10 CD's for 99 cents" subscription services and that's where we started REALLY getting into punk (my brother) and metal (me).
Joel got into the Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph skate-punk bands and I got into Fear Factory, Godflesh, Napalm Death and probably a few questionable nu-metal bands. You have to understand that growing up as a twin you have to fight for every scrap of your own identity, so if my brother liked one thing I would have to like the other. We both went to see Hatebreed tour on “Perseverance”, and seeing all the local HC kids hanging out and moshing at that show, that was the first real moment where I was like "Hey, this is happening locally, these people exist here". I slowly infiltrated their ranks by offering to do sound at local shows, and now over 10 years later here I am, a completely fucked up, 32 year old mosh mutant.
I guess I wonder how location affects things where you're at in terms of turnouts and the vibe of the scene/shows you guys have. Here in Detroit there's like 3 shows a night sometimes so you often have awesome bands playing and like 20 people will be there, but I've always heard (and sometimes seen first-hand) that in small towns there's not much going on usually, so any time anything remotely interesting comes through, a ton of kids will be there going off, haha. How do those dynamics typically play in Winnipeg?
As far as turnouts and the vibe of shows, when it's -40 out everyone tends to stay inside the venue even during bands that are maybe not quite your thing, so there's always seemingly more energy as a result. At least that's my observation. Lots of support for our local bands too, I've seen numerous touring bands get blown off stage by our locals. I think with larger cities, there are so many huge bands and great line-ups coming through all the time that maybe kids are a little spoiled. There's the "Oh, I'll just catch them next time" vibe. Up here, there may not be a next time. We don't take any shows for granted I think.
So given the challenges of living in Winnipeg (fairly remote to anything else, insane temps, etc.), what are the things that keep you there? Family, a sense of identity, etc.?
I think really, it's just that I'm familiar with the place. I'm not one for big changes in life, which is a fault, maybe things would be different if I had packed up and left Winnipeg a while ago. But I'm comfortable living here, with my job, with my friends. What if I left Winnipeg and couldn't find a job I liked? Or I couldn't find a cheap apartment?
The idea of trying to make an entire new social circle of friends is fucking horrifying. Talking to new people at 32? Torture. Change is terrifying to me and I've seen so many people from here pack up, move to another city with stars in their eyes and morph into a fucking brutal loser.
Talk about the origins of Withdrawal and the influences you guys have tried to pursue over the years. I know you identify with that holy terror sound and aesthetic, but I'm guessing bands like Integrity and Rot In Hell have never come through Winnipeg. What would you say has pulled you towards that end of the spectrum?
Well, we started in late 2007. The first line-up was all friends who hadn't really played in a band together. Musically, we wanted to play fast, triplet-heavy metallic hardcore and I think at the time we were listening to a ton of Buried Alive and that Palehorse record "Amongst The Flock", which I think is the last great "double kick" hardcore record FYI. Over the years, we started getting maybe a little crustier and darker, and smarter and dumber at the same time. A thinking man's All Out War or a dumb man's Catharsis. I think now, we take more chances musically with some goth and post-punk influences, but most people won't notice a Killing Joke-style guitar part if it has a circle pit drum beat underneath.
Thematically, lyrically and visually, I've always been drawn to darker bands like Starkweather, Integrity and older Converge. Those bands all kind of had lyrics that were abstract enough for people to find their own meanings in them, which is a bit more imaginative that typical NYHC "convict poetry" style lyrics, which I also love mind you. The "Holy Terror resurgence" in the late 00's, all those bands took the presentation a little more serious. I always liked that. Real effort and energy put into the entire presentation of a band, even if we wasted a ton of money on screen printing special covers for records, or spending all night wax sealing demos... that always seemed to be a better way to do a hardcore record rather than farting out a record a year that looks and sounds the same as everything else.You guys have a couple releases on A389, and now the new record will be coming out on Escapist. How were your experiences working with Dom and how'd you wind up connecting with Mike?
LORD DOM: one of the hardest working label guys in HC, a great guy and a top-tier riffer. My favorite thing about Dom is that he doesn't put out any hyped up bullshit records just to make a couple of bucks. He always put out stuff he was into, whether it sold or not. For someone who was in DAY OF MOTHERFUCKING MOURNING, Pulling Teeth and many other riff clinic bands to have liked ours enough to put out 2 records of ours was quite the honor. He also got us on shows with Catharsis, Gehenna and Integrity. Huge. He's kind of scaling back the record label a bit, but I hear he is putting a lot of money into repressing "Strange Animal" by Canadian metal-core pioneer Gowan...
Uncle Mikey has been a fan of our band since the demo, and was actually supposed to put out a split with us and Rot In Hell back in 2009 but it fell apart across the ocean and we sat on the songs for years. I first met him in person at the Burning Fight book release shows in Chicago.
He's flown out to the coast to hang out with our band on tour. Lover of Taylor Swift and Nick Rockwell, two of my favorite American singers. He puts out bands he loves and has a very underrated catalog if you ask me: Burn Your World, Turmoil, Purgatory and Crucified. All great releases. I'm glad to finally get the chance to release something on Escapist; it's been a long time coming.Lyrically, the new record is definitely pretty bleak, spinning tales of drug abuse and general desperation. I know you've said you're heavily inspired by bands that have a sense of mystery around their lyrics, but I wanted to ask about a couple of lines in particular. In "Your Dreams Are Dead" there's a line that says "I have sacrificed everything, losing everything has set me free". I know you use a lot of religious imagery in your lyrics, and this line in particular definitely has some of that flavor to it for me. What inspired that line or idea?
That whole song to me is essentially about kind of realizing where I'm at and that I've carved a path for myself by being a strange, straight edge, lifer hardcore kid weirdo. I think I'm kind of on a course that I can't stop now. The time when I should have been going to school, getting married, buying a house or something I spent focused on touring, writing music and living in a dump of a house with 3 other grown-ass men.
But even though I fucked off on doing the generic adult thing, I'm totally okay with that because I can kind of just do whatever I want. I don't have to worry about a mortgage, kids, any of that stuff. "Losing everything has set me free" just sounded more dramatic than "I don't have kids, I can call in sick and sleep in all weekend". Maybe it was the wrong choice in the long run but fuck it.
In "Forever (Final)" you have a line that says "We carry suicide notes we've disguised as our art". That one really struck me....I've always been someone who sees punk and hardcore as vehicles for social and political change and in that sense I guess I usually gravitate to more posi and political oriented bands. That said, I feel like so many bands in the scene have gravitated over the last decade or so to darker, more nihilistic themes. I'm wondering if that line is meant as commentary on some of that perhaps....
You're kind of there. That whole song was just about wanting to do more than sit in a cubicle all day at my old job. Again, going back to making the choice to sacrifice in order to create and do this weird hardcore band instead of being a number on a security card at work.
That line in particular is just about putting everything I am out there in lyrics, and maybe some people would just dismiss them as rambling or just music, when it's more than that to me. I know what you mean though, and we have a song that touches on the romanticizing of suicide and depression in hardcore on our first 7".
Maybe there was a shift towards darker, more nihilistic themes in hardcore over the past decade or so, but are things in life better now than they were 15 years ago? I was a lot happier then, I think most people would agree, so I can kind of understand where that trend is coming from. I definitely like some political and socially aware bands, but I think I'm too prone to hypocrisy and putting my foot in my mouth to even attempt a song like that.
So the new record drops later this year...what would you hope people who check it out take from it, be that a person who's been backing Withdrawal from day one, or a new kid giving the band a listen for the first time?
I just want people to be able to listen to it from start to finish and feel a variety of emotions over the course of it. Anyone familiar with our older songs will be excited to hear it, because it delivers on everything we've touched on in the past. It's been 8 years since we started, so I think this LP really ties all the years we've spent in this band together. It's worth the wait.
And anyone who hasn't listened to the band will find stuff that no one in hardcore is really doing at the moment. We have a fuckin' stoner-esque mosh song with tambourine on it for fuck's sakes. We didn't front load the record with the best 4 songs at the front and then slapped the poo on the end, like you'll find on a lot of the more generic HC releases nowadays.
I dunno man, I don't want to pump air in my own tires, but we killed it on this record. Totally happy with everything about it... Hopefully, people listen to it and feel like something has changed for them. That's all I can hope for.
You guys have definitely built a reputation for being road warriors, what are you guys plotting once "Never" is unleashed in terms of the where and with whom?
Well, we used to be road warriors but things kind of cooled off for a bit when a couple of members had kids. With the LP coming out, we owe it to ourselves and Mike from Escapist to hit the road. The LP is a majestic eagle, we can't cage a beast like that, you gotta let it spread its wings and fuckin' fly. So we have some cool things kind of lined up with some friends across the states that we'll get to once we have the physical copies on us. Shout outs to Hollow Earth, Tourniquet, Year Of The Knife, The Banner... things are brewing.
Band that shreds harder: Propaghandi or Cursed?
I'm a little bit of a Chris Colohan fan and even though they're home town heroes Prop never really did it for me, and I'll tell you why. It's the weirdest phenomenon but despite the fact that they're a progressive and PC band, for whatever reason, they attract the worst local horde of white hat, Oakley shades, goatee, puffy skate shoes and seashell necklace knucklehead homophobic jocks. I honestly don't get it.
You'd think they'd hate them, but for some reason the classic Winnipeg hoser just loves crushing a 24 of Molson Canadian and push pittin' to some fuckin' PROP bud. Also, here's another strange fact, before they had that new guitarist join, they used to pay a guy here an hourly wage to jam with them on guitar. Not as a member, but a hired goon. Super weird. Anyways, that went off track, but yeah, Cursed.
Who would win in a fight: Dwid or Don Cherry?
Tough call. Would Dwid be blinded by Don Cherry's heinous suits? Nowadays, Don Cherry looks like if you coughed on him he would explode into a pile of dust, like a vampire on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Gonna have to go with Dwid on this one.
Sexier beast: Mike Moynihan or Justin Trudeau?
Now we're asking the hard hitting questions. This is a bit of a sore spot for me, because I have only recently started to get over Mike ending our 5 year long fake Facebook relationship in order to date a real life girl…longer than my actual relationships in life.
Justin Trudeau is a certified hunk for sure, and while he wants to decriminalize marijuana, Mike secretly smokes it all the time despite claiming to be straight edge. So that's a point for Justin. Justin is constantly appearing in pandering super liberal publicity stunt videos online, whereas Mike held a knife to his penis in one. So that's a point for Mike.
I guess I really love Hollow Earth though, and as far as I know Justin Trudeau hasn't sang for Shai Hulud yet (but considering how many hired goon singers they've had it's just a matter of time) so I guess begrudgingly I'll say Mikey Moynihan.