Thursday, August 2, 2018

Interview with Matt Kalbaugh of Search for Purpose

Search for Purpose is a newer hardcore band from North Carolina that pulls influence from New Age bands such as Mouthpiece and Strife as well as more melodic projects like Empathy. I first picked up their 7" from my friend John at Headfirst Records earlier this year and recently saw their new LP will be dropping on Plead Your Case later this Fall. A couple songs into the new material and I knew I had to talk to them to see what was up. 

I contacted Lennon from PYC and he put me in touch with their vocalist Matt (who also plays in Magnitude). We quickly got to chatting, here's what went down!
I'm always interested in learning about people's backgrounds, so talk a bit about your family and your childhood, specifically as it relates to the presence of art and music in your household. There wasn’t a particularly strong musical or artistic presence in my house growing up. My grandma on my dad’s side sang in church and played piano, and my uncle on my mom’s side played guitar and had been into punk and hardcore in the 80s. At home, my dad listened to Willie Nelson and 70's rock, and my mom liked hair metal and 80's pop. These were pretty standard musical interests for people their age and I don’t think that that stuff had a terribly big influence on me getting involved in music. The first bands I really liked were Green Day and Blink 182. I borrowed the "American Idiot" CD from a friend in 5th grade and hid it from my parents so they wouldn’t look at the lyric booklet. Around that time I got really into what I considered “punk” which to me was listening to stuff like New Found Glory, skateboarding (I sucked), and wearing Element shirts. My friends and I would listen to all sorts of music and try to skate and emulate the stuff we saw on MTV. After seeing older kids play in bands at my school talent show, I was hooked on the idea of playing music. From there I started playing guitar and stumbled along for a couple years before finally finding a foothold around age 13. So how did you transition from those bigger punk bands to more underground/DIY oriented stuff? I used to read a lot of Alternative Press around 07/08 and got exposed to stuff that way. Most of the bands in there have not held up for me in the slightest, but it was an important stepping stone for me back then.
At what point did you start going to hardcore shows and who were some of the first bands that really made an impression on you? I got into hardcore in late high school, but very loosely. I wasn’t aware of a real local “scene” (and there wasn’t really one anyway). There were a few hardcore bands active in other cities in my state, but my city was more focused on metal-core and stuff like that. I think the first “real” hardcore show I went to was just a bunch of local bands or smaller touring bands that I don’t even remember the names of. I do remember that it was in a venue that had been converted from a movie theater. As far as the first bands that made an impression on me go, Have Heart was absolutely huge. This was a couple years after their breakup and I would watch the last show video religiously. I discovered Bold from Pat’s shirt in that video. After that I went down a youth crew rabbit hole. Youth of Today and Gorilla Biscuits got me in to straight edge and older hardcore. So you mentioned messing around with guitar pretty early, when did you get to the point where you felt comfortable enough to want to start a band? I always wanted to do a band but it was a while before I actually did. I think I joined my first band at 18, then started one of my own at 19. Since then I’ve gotten more and more comfortable with doing bands of different styles and expanding my range of influences. What was your first project and how did you wind up eventually playing in Search for Purpose? The first hardcore band I ever did (and the first band where I was responsible for writing most of the music) was called Crash Course. If I remember correctly we played shows for like 4 or 5 months and didn’t release our demo until we were almost broken up. It was supposed to sound like Lockin Out stuff/Warzone but was just really bad. I did a couple other bands after that. I was playing guitar in a band called Substance when I got bored and wanted to do something new. I decided to start SFP as a solo studio project where I wrote everything and had my friend Connor play drums on and record a demo in late 2016.
What sort of influences were you looking to integrate on that demo, and once it was done, how did you go about fleshing out a full lineup for the project? I always tell people that I was trying to emulate New Age bands on the demo, but looking back on it I don’t really know what I was doing. I guess I was trying to do something that sounded like pre-Victory Strife mixed with Mouthpiece. I really can’t stand the demo and looking back I think I really missed the mark on it. When I decided I wanted to play shows, I just pulled people from other bands and had them fill in. We had a couple different lineups but eventually settled on the one we have now. Once you had a line-up more or less solidified, what did the writing process look like for the 7"? Did you still write all the music or did the other guys start adding their own flavors? The 7” was actually a compilation of the first demo and a two song tape we did after it, so there wasn’t anything new. That stuff was all written by me and Connor. We didn’t have any physical copies left of anything and the only tapes that existed were made by my friend’s label in the UK, so not many people had access to them here. I figured that doing a 7” would be a better way to make sure people could have a physical representation of our early music. How did you guys hook up with Nikolay at Ugly & Proud to release the 7"? Niki from Ugly and Proud knows a guy who runs a label here in NC and he got my info from a mutual friend I have with that guy.
In terms of the new LP "Eternal Emotion", what if anything were you guys trying to do differently this time around, either in terms of the writing process or production? The LP is a lot more melodic. I was drawing influence from bands like Empathy, Encounter, Flagman, and Turning Point. The writing process has generally been the same for every release we’ve done. I write guitar parts, Connor does drums, I write the lyrics, then I figure out bass lines last. The LP had a little bit more group input on a couple things. Our guitarist Paul wrote the acoustic parts in the outro and in the song "Eternal Emotion". Other than that it was all me and Connor. Lyrically the new record seems mostly pretty introspective, the one line that caught my eye was "To build an enduring future, the first step must be an act of love." That line could obviously apply to lots of different things, curious if you could elaborate a bit on what you were trying to capture there. My lyrics always come from something I’m feeling and I like to deliver them in a way that leaves them open to interpretation. However, when I wrote that song “Reconsider” I had a very clear intention of making it about animal rights. Everyone in SFP is vegan and straight edge, but we don’t label ourselves explicitly as a vegan straight edge band. However, I wanted to write an animal rights song because it’s a topic that really means a lot to me. In particular, that line you mentioned is referring to how if we want our planet to continue to survive, we have to consider engaging in what I called the “act of love”, which is thinking about the effects our lifestyles can have on our world and life beyond ourselves. Even the smallest change can make a difference and help ensure our future is livable for the next generation.
I noticed you went to school for Sociology which is cool cuz I'm a high school Social Studies teacher and I usually have a section or two of Sociology.  Curious to what extent your background in hardcore and your studies correspond....also, what are you planning on doing with your degree? Man, what’s crazy is that I’m in a grad program to also teach high school social Bachelors on its own was essentially useless for what I wanted to do (social work/counseling with at risk kids), so I decided to get into teaching. I’ll be done with that program this upcoming Spring and hopefully getting a teaching job for Fall 2019. So the LP comes out this Fall.....I know you guys have already toured a decent amount up and down the East Coast....any plans to see more of the country? Any particular bands you're hoping to play with/places you want to get to? As far as touring goes, SFP isn’t my main band but we’ve managed to play enough random one off shows up North to get around a fair bit, which is cool. We will probably do a tour towards the end of the year, to coincide with something cool that we’re doing at the beginning of next year. Anything else to add about the new record or other stuff SFP has going on? If you preordered a record, you should have it by early/mid October. Keep an eye out for information about our record release show in NC, I believe it’ll be on November 3. Thank you to everyone who’s listened and given it such a warm response. While I’m wrapping this up let me shout out Lennon from Plead Your Case and Garrett from Exact Change for arranging the collaboration of a lifetime to help me put the record out. Hopefully we’ll hit a few spots towards the end of the year.
Eternal Emotion:
All photos used courtesy of Spencer Chamberlain:

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