One of the piece of merch I want the most might be the Youth Crew 88 shirt by YOUTH OF TODAY. Aside how critical I can be about this kind of hardcore I love so much, well I do love it a lot, and all the sketchy side linked to it too. Let’s face it, there’s something really conservative in this type of music, with the attitude and what’s linked to it, the fact it screams for changes but it still comeback to be the same things done by the same type of people, the violent mosh and the violence at shows that began somehow there, the collector factor, that made a JUDGE records the most expensive record of Discogs.
But I can’t deny all the positive sides it brung. First of all, The Straight Edge, and it’s already a huge thing. Even though I’m more close to a 90’s uber PC vision of it, FLOORPUNCH kept me focus all this time. Also, the naive and always too much positive way of thinking, which is more than important since in the world as we know it, you gotta find a way to get a grip, and listening to a good old INSTED records can’t be more motivating. The empowring feeling it can give. The way it shaped the sound of hardcore, and one can’t deny it matters since we’re still talking about music (more or less). And the list can go on.
With all this torn past, Youth Crew hardcore made its own way, still surviving the times and giving birth to another band every now and then. It’s not very perfect and neither changed its own defects, but at least it’s trying and it is still giving me chills when I’m listening to it, urging me to be the spark to lit the light of society. During the last few years, React! Records put out some really crucial records in the genre, so much that I can’t even pick one up. Amongst them, you can find BREAK AWAY last effort so far. Well, honestly, it took me time to be into it. I can’t really explain why but it bugged me for a moment. As time flew away, I decided to get back to it and there was it. I finally found what I wanted out of this records. So brace yourself, because we’re putting back FLOORPUNCH to the front. Do you remember hardcore ?
Damn that’s the longest intro I’ve written so far look at this thing right here ! Anyway, here we are with Ace, vocalist of the band based in Richmond, 26 and working at the sale department for UPS freight. And we were both at work when we did this interview. Sometimes job sucks but when it gives you time for an interview I can’t complain.
Ace : “My friends and I are constantly on the watch for police because we all have an inclination for mischief.”
DxR : “Inclination for mischief ? I’m game. Tell me more about that.”
Ace : “Well haha, I’ve got a lot of stories, a lot of them involving fireworks and running through the streets here since I was a teenager.”
BREAK AWAY is a band for more or less 5 years now. It went through a lot of line up changes, 11 different members since they began playing and is now made of…
A : “Legan has been involved in Richmond hardcore since the early 90’s. He was in Cast Aside and Dead Serious. Cast Aside is one of my favorite bands from Richmond, so when we first started we said we were looking for a second guitar player and he said he wanted to do it without really knowing me or anyone else. I freaked out in a good way because of how much i liked Cast Aside. He turns 40 this year (I think). He is what hardcore is really about. He’s been straight edge for about 2 decades, he’s just awesome. I’m proud to be in a band with him.”
…Who is the only other original member with Ace…
A : “Sam our drummer is in BRACEWAR, FRIEND OR FOE, a band called REACTOR 4 and a band called UPPERHAND. I might be missing some.”
…And the last person credited is Eric, who plays bass.
DxR : “You are a band since at least 2010, but it seems that it only begin to “happen” nowadays. Do you see it as a good step or are you tired somehow ?”
A : “That one is a great question. Not tired, just ready to be recognized on an even bigger scale. Thanks to React! And opportunities like This Is Hardcore I think by the end of the year we will be at a comfortable level.
When I started Break Away I had (and still do) a lot to say and I wanted to get that out there and also be a straight edge band that influenced people and gave people a band to believe in. We didn’t come out of the gate with everyone loving us and we still aren’t like a “hype” band but we keep on trying and climbing and trying to do more. It’s been a long process.”
DxR : “Do you think the line up of your band affected the way it grew up ?”
A : “I think so definitely. The reason I think the new record is so good is that we’ve had the best and most consistent line up for a long time and because of those guys the songs are just better.
DxR : “Is there a good vibes going on between y’all ? Do you feel enthousiast when you go on rehearsal ?”
A : “The chemistry between the members is great. We all come from different parts of the Richmond hardcore scene but we mix very well. Members of break away are legit born across 3 decades (70’s, 80’s and 90’s). Our existence is about unity.”
In fact, I remember listening to their For Life 7″ a while ago, but I can’t say for sure if a lot of people were into it. Now, if you like Youth Crew a bit and follow a little the hardcore news, you might know this band at least by name, as React ! did a great job promoting it. In fact, they even put out a video clip.
A : “We made the video to document our friends and just having a good time. It’s definitely goofy, but we had a really good time making it. I actually made BREAK AWAY to be on React! Our first 7” I sent to Aram when he owned the label and I didn’t hear back from him for a few days so I figured he didn’t like it, so we went with mind rot. Only after we announced Mindrot was going to be putting it out did I get an email from him saying he liked it and that he had been at a wedding for a few days. Mindrot was a good place for us to start though. MINDSET was a big influence on making a “youth crew” style band. I wanted to be on the same label as them. I became friends with Evan through being a MINDSET fan and I sent him an email with the demos for the LP and he liked it. Being on React! Is a very big deal for me because it’s what I wanted to do from the onset.”
DxR : “It seems that you see React! as a big label, on the same level as Revelation, since you created a band to be on that label. Is there any cult about it, or sort of way to get reknowed or you just like the label ?”
A : “Well since I was a teenager it has been looked at the “straight edge” label, and I liked that. I would say React! Has a bit of a cult following, we are kinda “harder” in sound than a lot of bands on React! So I think we might be outside of the regular React! Records fans general taste, but I think it’s cool to kinda be the “dark” band on the label.”
As I wrote before, I can definitly compare this band to FLOORPUNCH. Sound wise first of all, and how hard hitting it is. There’s litterally this “tough” side to it, that made people say it is not a Youth Crew band. And the lyrics too are kind of right in your face and aggressive, Face Aggression being a good title for the LP though. It was clear for me they embodied this type of hardcore then.
A : “Floorpunch is my favorite band of all time, so I’m glad that comes out.”
DxR : “Even attitude wise ?”
A : “Yes definitely attitude wise. I made BREAK AWAY to be like FLOORPUNCH, so I wanted to embody a lot of their aspects.”
One of the first Straight Edge bands coming out of Richmond I listened to might be DOWN TO NOTHING. And even with the sketchy side this band might carry for some people, I do enjoy their music a lot. In one of the bands I’m playing in, we were even covering Pipeline, which allowed a lot of people to joke on us, because they weren’t a dead band, which is funny in my opinion.
A : “DOWN TO NOTHING is like the AGNOSTIC FRONT of Richmond. Everyone looks up to them, they are a big influence on me and my friends. I would say break away is more outwardly straight edge in our music than those guys are, but they are the best. They are still heralded here for sure, people take them very seriously and for the most part everyone likes them here.”
It was a bit hard not to talk about Straight Edge with this type of bands signed on React ! Records. So I’m not really sorry about the cliché here. And I got to admit, all the people I interviewed from Richmond were Straight Edge, and I didn’t choose it. I swear.
DxR : “When did you became Straight Edge ?”
A : “I guess I started calling myself straight edge when I was 16 but technically I’ve always abstained from drugs and alcohol and sleeping around.
Most everyone in Richmond is straight edge. It can be clique oriented sometimes, but that’s getting better.”
DxR : “Do you make a difference between bands like BREAK AWAY and bands like SLAPSHOT for example ? Do you got that PMA ? Have you ever been angry against someone who was smashed ?”
A : “I’m definitely more angry. I don’t hate people that drink or do drugs, it’s more I don’t understand the thought process. I do have a problem with people that have been disrespectful while under the influence though.”
DxR : “So you don’t relate to UNIFORM CHOICE or UNBROKEN speech for example, telling that we should help people using instead of hating them ?”
A : “I love UNIFORM CHOICE and I love UNBROKEN but I think people need to find their own path. I don’t have a problem with people being different than me, it’s all about self respect and respect for others. If you drink and do drugs and are a respectable person, I have no issue.”
DxR : “Admiting you have to play a show and one of you can’t make it for any reason, and the only peeps available to replace is not Straight Edge, would you play with him ?”
A : “That’s happened twice. The singer of the band Holy Land has filled in as a last resort before. Normally there are like 15 straight edge people in Richmond that know break always songs so it’s not a big deal to get someone to fill in.”
When he is not putting his money on his band, Ace is also a collector. It’s seems to be a weird syndrome in hardcore punk to collect things up. A lot of the people I interviewed, and myself, are collectors. Aside hardcore punk related stuff, we all seems to have our own little weaknesses. But I also think it can help bands to be creative with their merch. COLD WORLD, for exemple, who always tries to put out original merch design, ripping pop culture more than hardcore merch. As BREAK AWAY ripped Polo bear (and what a cool shirt)
A : “I am definitely a Polo collector. I love Polo, Ralph Lauren and Jordan’s. I also collect Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger stuff. A few select records and band shirts. I have a ton of band shirts.
A : “Honestly, it’s MINDSET because I’ve gotten to be a part of so many of their sets and have learned a lot from Evan. When it comes to Seattle bands from that time period, I love BETRAYED and GO IT ALONE
DxR : “5 Favorite non hardcore records ?”
A : “Weezer – Blue Album
Metallica – Ride the Lightning
Mobb Deep – The Infamous
Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf
Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsys”
DxR : “If one day you have a kid, what is the first hardcore rcords you make him listen to ?”
A : “I would show them INSIDE OUT, BAD BRAINS, CRO MAGS and GORILLA BISCUIT because that would cover a lot of grounds”
DxR : “Would you rather live in a world without YOUTH OF TODAY or a be born without hands ?”
A : “I could write songs without my hands so I need those!”