While I usually try to keep my photo updates seasonal, general chaos and disorganization prevented me from doing so this past fall… and winter… and spring… I am still in the midst of organizing negatives and reviewing work from the past six months but here is some in no particular order.
Hailing from Austin, Texas; Institute emerged in 2013 to become one of my favorite contemporary punk bands going. While made up of members from other Austin hardcore punk staples like Glue, Wiccans and Blotter, Institute is more informed by early 70’s anarcho crossover bands like Crisis and Warsaw (but the dudes are careful not to let themselves be defined as too Gothy). I had a chance to meet up with Moses Brown and Arak Avakian when they happened to be passing through New York City on their way to Toronto. Along with their friend Harry, they were fresh out of a stay in Newport, RI where they had made up a fake contracting business so they afford an ‘opulent’ Canadian getaway; starting off by ordering every appetizer at a fancy French place called Le Gamin in Greenpoint, where I first met the duo.
Following their addictive debut demo, Institute will be releasing a new EP on Sacred Bones Records this October 14.
Well, I wasn’t able to find out much information on you guys. How did Institute come together?
M: I wanted to write some songs, so I just did and recorded them on a four track. I had five songs but then our bass player Adam called me up thinking I had a whole band already. I said “Uhh, No. But I got these songs, you want to do a band?” One of those songs I wrote, “Dead Sea”, was eventually used for Institute, but we as a band wrote the rest of the demo in a month or so after that.
So Adam sort of pushed the band into existence?
M: Yeah, sort of out of confusion.
I was wondering if you intentionally set out to do something really different from the more straight forward punk stuff you were doing with Glue and other bands that you are all involved in?
M: There was no conscious effort. We just wanted to start this band.
That’s sick. I missed you guys when you played here last time, which sucked. But I saw this video of you guys playing in Boston and I was surprised by how hard people were going off. For some reason, when I was listening to the demo… Everything comes off as punk but…
M: It’s melodic…
Yeah, it’s melodic and some parts and weird and some parts are slow. I was wondering how Austin responds to you guys?
A: People Pit!
M: Like it’s Glue… It’s confusing. I think people don’t know what to do. The fact that we are in hardcore bands and usually play hardcore shows in the same scene… Most people that come out want to push around if they like a band.
So moshing is the only way the fans know how to react to music that they like?
M: I want everyone to jump up and down.
A: Most of the time it just seems like everyone wants to be in front of each other.
M: But it is a good response!
What was the response like in New York?
M: It was actually really good! I think Adam Whites said that in New York people are either going to love you or they are going to hate you.
M: He said that we won over the crowd. To me, it was just a show.
A: It felt very regular.
I think that the problem with playing at Lulu’s is also the space was so weird that everyone could have just stood there eating pizza and whatever.
A: Naw, it got wild.
I really like the lyrics to the songs. It isn’t some faux Goth overly sentimental sad shit but not ignorant boring punk posturing. A lot of the songs seem to tell a story, are they autobiographical? Were there any songs that were hard to write?
M: I just want to lyrics to be authentic. I like to be able to scream at people in a crowd about the things I don’t like about myself. That said, I don’t take myself seriously at any point. the lyrics come from the perspective of like “wow look how stupid I am”.
What are you inspired by lyrically? Are there specific themes that you find yourself coming back to?
M: I write about being a kid a lot. How disappointed I am with my childhood. A lot about me being disconnected, shutting myself off. I always say that I wish I had a regular childhood, like got in trouble, pissed off my parents, partied in high school, but I didn’t do any of that. I got nothing out of childhood, I ignored it. I feel screwed up now because of it.
Are you making up for lost time?
M: No! I’m doing the same thing but I’m conscious about doing it now. I am cool with it.
What was your childhood like?
M: I was talking about this recently… Harry was talking about how shitty of a kid he was and … I don’t even think my parents got mad at me.
A: And Moses and I have known each other since we were like ten years old. I would always go out and stay out late and want to break into a building and throw cans of paint onto the highway or drive a golf cart around or whatever and Moses would be like ‘ gotta wake up at seven’, and wouldn’t come along.
M: I was super regimented. When I didn’t have something to do I would wake up and skateboard for three hours and then ride my bike home and … always do the right thing. Or what I thought was the right thing. I didn’t let myself have any fun.
Were you a straight edge kid?
M: Naw. The High school that we went to… There was no straight edge scene. I didn’t even know it was a thing. And then after high school we met people who were in hardcore bands and were like huh?
A: Yeah! And our scene didn’t exist at all until we were kinda older, 19 or something.
Did you guys kind of make it?
M: There were definitely older guys who had bands but there is definitely a new batch of bands in Austin.
A: There have always been bands in Austin, but not always crowds
Did you start playing music together?
A: Pretty much. I used to go over to Moses’s house to skateboard. At some point I got a guitar for Christmas. His Dad had a studio and all this sick gear. I was really amazed; I had a six-inch practice amp and this shitty guitar…
What was your first band together?
M: Lemonade Stand Syndicate. It was really bad.
What were your influences?
M: The Hives and the Dead Kennedy’s.
That is an interesting combo.
M: It was weird.
A: I wanted to start that band because I knew a kid in my class and I thought that he talked crazy. I asked him to sing in the band and swore it was a real band.
M: We played like three shows… We played a wedding…
You played a wedding!?
A: Ya! It was cool.
M: I think the demo is still up on myspace.
I am curious about your decision to release a record with Sacred Bones but also don’t wanna do any PR or any of that stuff.
M: We wanted to work with them. When the demo came out and people liked it, we decided to say yes to whatever we could do. Why the hell not?
A: The demo was pressed onto a 12’ on Deranged and the whole experience kinda sucked. We didn’t know the dude, and we had no idea what was going on.
M: He was distant from everything, from the artwork to the pressing at the factory; it was like no one knew what was going on. But after we did the 7’ with Adam…
And he is on top of his shit for sure.
M: Yeah. And with the new record… I am insane about the artwork and the way that things look. Sacred Bones were down to do all this screen-printing, making sure the jackets were the exact paper that I want.
A: And they offer any opportunity from zero to one hundred. We just knew between meeting Taylor and Caleb and playing a few shows with Destruction Unit that it was the right choice to make.
Well, the album art seems important to you, Moses. And I know that you make art as well. Tell me a little bit about the artwork for the album and how your personal art differs from art that is associated with the music that you make?
M: The whole theme of Institute is really influenced by Dada stuff. I am into abstracting Dada. Stupid shit. Dada was already about the absurd, so I’ve just been making it even more absurd by cutting images up and scrambling them around. I wanna steal things and take them to a next step. I am not sure how it connects to the music really, except that Dada is punk. The new personal art I’m trying to make is honestly informed by Institute art. Institute could have gone a very different way, in terms of how it looks. The first demo was brutalist architecture… Very angular, black and grey. But it looked too Goth.
A: We had to be really careful not to step into being too Gothy.
M: We have nothing against death rock; we just want to be a punk band.
But there are definitely parts of your music that seems informed by peace punk and Goth? Especially the guitar work. Are you into those things but careful about being a punk band?
A: It’s hard to specifically cite our influences, because we write everything together,
M: The feel of the band and the direction that it is going in is very much like early anarcho / death rock back before it was defined and basically just still punk. The demo feel, epileptics that 1st UK Decay 7”. All of the classics’ demos. Then obviously Crisis and Warsaw. I like a lot of death rock stuff, but I am more into the early stuff that is more punk.
So you guys have a new drummer?
M: Yeah, I think our old drummer was having trouble balancing being in a band and going to school.
A: Our drummer used to sing for the band Recide. They played for four years and just recently stopped playing. I don’t want to say that it was his baby or anything, but it seemed to be everything to him musically.
So who is drumming now?
M: His name is Barry, he is from Houston. He plays in Back to Back.
A: We are good friends with everyone in that band. I was always listening to their demo and thinking, fuck, these drums are really good. As it turns out, Barry had recorded everything on all their records. He is just one of those guys that can do that. We had one practice and I feel like we can tour again already.
Do you think he can change the direction of the band at all?
M: He’s on the exact same frequency as us
I thought Houston was pretty far from Austin?
A: It’s about two hours, but in Texas, that is not that far to go. You are used to driving. If you wanted to drive to LA from Austin, you’d already be half way by the time that you have left Texas.
I know there is a pretty good scene going in Austin right now. Are there any bands that you feel are being overlooked?
M: Pinkos got overlooked hard. They are no longer together.
A: Scattered across the USA now.
M: But they might reform in Chicago. They were really good and nobody cared about them. There are also a bunch of good brand new bands but I don’t have much of a connection to them yet. Pinkos were one of those bands that I loved and I couldn’t understand why nobody else did.
A: There is a band called Detestados. They don’t have a demo or anything, but they have probably played six or seven shows. Spanish vocals, but sounds like Italian hardcore. It’s tight.
Any other new Austin music to look out for?
M: Adam just started this band called Bad Faith, our 16 year old friend Parker is in this new band called Stacker. All these bands are demo-less, but that’ll change soon.
A: Try and listen to the new 7” on Video Disease from Iron Youth.
M: Not a punk band, but I just finished a tape of experimental music I’ve been working on called Peacetime Death. I have to mix it, but then it’ll be totally done.
Well, before we sign off, I got to ask you about your vacation!
M: It’s good!
A: So good. We love Newport.
M: It’s cool too because we just got back from Glue tour which was essentially a vacation. We went West and just hung out at the beach everyday and saw nature.
A: I have been on vacation since May fourth. My lease ended at my house and I graduated from college a few days later. The morning after that I left for Institute tour. I’ve just had the same four tee shirts in my bag all summer. Anyway, tonight we are going to surprise our friends in Impalers when we show up in Toronto. Take that, read this in the future.
This is by no means a comprehensive photo documentation of the weekend. Simply a few snaps of one of the most inspiring and insane weekends I have ever enjoyed in semi-chronological order. Shout out to all who made it possible, to smoke machines for looking really cool but making it really hard to take pictures and, of course, to astroglide.
MY NEW ZINE HIGH ON HUNGER WILL BE MADE AVAILABLE 2/7. THERE WILL BE A RELEASE PARTY AT MOLASSES BOOKS IN BROOKLYN. FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. 9 PM.
“High On Hunger” is a new zine by Jane Chardiet featuring personal essay, photography and interviews with 12 artists about their artistic goals in the new year. By asking artists to reflect on their accomplishments of 2013 and declare set goals for themselves in 2014, High On Hunger hopes to manifest creative action by helping to provide the vision. Each artists was photographed licking flame as it served as both a ritual and a symbol of the creative process.
Come celebrate the release, enjoy a couple drinks and browse some books.
☯JS Aurelius, Artist and Musician (Ascetic House/ Destruction Unit/ Marshstepper)
✳ Heather Benjamin, Illustrator (Exorcise Book/ Sad Sex)
ϟ Margaret Chardiet, Artist and Musician (Pharmakon/ Cheena)
☠ Christopher Hansell, Musician, Curator (Ascetic House East/Warthog/ Ligature)
Founded by Ryan Rousseau and Jay Reatard back in the early 2000’s, Arizona’s Destruction Unit has been through many members and sounds. Their latest LP, Void delivers top notch freaked out, fuzzed out tracks ruled by three guitars. I had a chance to speak with 3/5 of Destruction Unit’s ever changing line up at one of my favorite shitty watering holes; after a whirlwind week of recording and shows in New York.
JANE PAIN: When I asked for older MP3s, Jes claimed that Void is the only thing that is “relevant”. I know that the band aims to make each record different but what did you mean by this exactly? Is the current line up/ record divorced from previous line-ups?
JES: Yeah, I mean… It is different because it is different people. Even the line up now is different from Void. I think that Void is good but the way we do things does not involve looking behind us, except to prevent future mistakes. People ask us to repress or reprint things but if we have already moved on from it there is no point in dragging it back to the surface. We’re beyond that.
JP: I had a question for someone who is not here… Do you want to be him? Turns to Nick Nappa.
NICK NAPPA: Who is he?
N: I can’t feel my legs.
JP: Ryan said that he prefers recording alone because he can make things sound exactly how he wants them to sound quicker but it seems that the current Destruction Unit stuff seems way more collaborative, particularly tracks like “druglore”. Obviously this is because there are new members in the band but… There is more to it… For example, Jes has fielded a couple of interviews -including this one- without Ryan, the bands establishing member. Do you think that he has loosened the reigns on Destruction Unit and allowed current members of Destruction Unit more control?
Jes: The amount of control any specific member exerts in this band is not something we can comment on.
JP: The last NYC date was in the midst of hurricane Sandy. You said that you “never considered skipping New York”. On this stint, Destruction Unit came all the way from Arizona for two Destruction Unit shows and one Marshstepper show. Maybe I am fishing for something as a native New Yorker; but is there an affinity towards New York City for you guys?
J: There is an affinity to the people that we know here; I wouldn’t say there is necessarily an affinity to the place. It’s an interesting city.
ANDREW: There are a lot of people from Phoenix out here too.
JP to Chris Hansell, their publicist and friend: Yeah, I heard the dude that you pushed out of the Marshstepper show was an Arizona dude.
Jes: We have known him for yeeeaarrsss.
Chris: I just felt like he was ruining it.
N: He’s IN Marshstepper, dude.
Jes: Yes. Chris kicked a member of Marshstepper out of his own show. It happens.
JP: Are there any place that you detest? Or would rather not return to?
N: There are so many.
Jes: I won’t ever go to Kansas again. I’d rather not discuss that in the public forum for legal reasons though.
JP: The next question is the mandatory desert question.
Jes: Let’s hear it!
JP:: Have you ever considered residing in a different habitat?
Jes: Sure. I love Arizona but it also kind of sucks in a lot of ways. There isn’t much here. Most of the stereotypes are true. It is hot, it is very spread out, there aren’t many resources for artists or anyone really. Some people fetishize that, and think they are better off for it. It makes them “tougher”. To me, it doesn’t matter either way. I happen to live in Arizona, and I enjoy it. But I would could enjoy any place I live. You get different perspectives from different places. The wider your range of experience, the better.
JP: How do you guys feel about the upcoming Merchandise/ Milk Music tour! What do you expect when touring with those dudes?
N: Strong camaraderie.
A: I am mostly excited about it because I am going to be going to a lot of cities that I have never been to before and I just feel really good about this whole thing. I think it’s going to be great. Everyone’s together. Having three bands touring together can be problematic but it’s also a gift.
J: Three of the best rock bands in the world right now all touring together, that’s something to be excited about. I am also interested because I am pretty sure this is the first tour that I have ever been on that I didn’t book. It will be interesting to not have to deal with all of that shit.
JP: And you are always dealing with everyone’s shit!
J: All of the shows are going to be wild. Everyone involved in this tour has known each other for years now. It makes sense. It was bound to happen inevitably, whether it is with these three specific bands or not. It just makes sense
JP: And I saw that Nylon printed a photo of you as an honorary member of Merchandise not too long ago… Can comment on being down there with those dudes/ that shoot and playing with them?
J: I went to visit them in Tampa, and traveled with them to Miami for Art Basel. Which, by the way, was mostly rubbish. The shows were great and Merchandise were great at both of them. Then they tricked me into being in that photo. I had just rolled out of bed and they called me and said to meet them at this auto-junkyard. Showed up to a photoshoot.
JP: You guys are about to play SXSW. How do you feel about big music fests like that? What has your experience been? How do you feel about playing bigger shows as opposed to the smaller, DIY shows that you normally do?
J: South By Southwest as an entity is pretty awful. It’s quite an exploitative affair. A bunch of people trying to attach their name or logo to something, anything. Why are we still trying to identify with other people? Especially people so far removed from our own personal experience. How arbitrary is it all? You can’t feel alienated if you have no desire to be a part of something other then yourself. And that is what strength is.
The less you claim to know about a stranger, the more beautiful they are. Because they don’t have anything in common with you. And why would you hope for them to? Why would impose your context onto another? We don’t live for a community or for a scene. All of our friends and collaborators are infinitely far removed from us, but for that reason they are equally as relevant, equally as far out in a different direction. As for playing bigger shows, we’re are quite comfortable playing anywhere, whether that’s a 5,000 capacity hall or a 50 capacity basement. With these bigger gigs you have to be more careful about people trying to co-opt or homogenize your work. When business people start thinking they might have something to gain from what you do, you have to be aware of that. We are well aware.
A: I think also… The thing with festivals is that there are a lot of people who have not heard the music yet. A lot of people will be hearing it for the first time, which is really cool.
JP: Most definitely. I heard in another interview that important elements of Marshstepper are balancing transcendence and humor while still remaining aggressive. Do you think that also holds true to performing with Destruction Unit?
J: It’s not meant to be taken lightly or seriously. Essentially I am saying that what we are doing is quite significant, but it’s ever evolving and changing. The farther out there you can go, the more legitimate your cause. Cultural revolution is schizophrenic, its bipolar, its hallucination, its finding the one thing nobody loves and loving it for everyone. It’s speaking too soon for too long about nothing at all. Keep moving forward with new ideas and new methods and new people. If you can’t look yourself in the mirror without laughing, you’re holding yourself back. We are all a product of our own terrible culture, and its impossible to change that culture while we reside within it.
JP: You said that Marshstepper and Destruction Unit perform different ‘functions’, what are those functions?
J: I don’t know if I can answer that at this moment.
JP: Damn! Andrew, you are really young. You’re 19, you shouldn’t be in this bar, you model nude for Marshstepper, you slay the drums…
A: Thank you!
JP: How did you guys all meet and what does Destruction Unit mean to you?
A: I’ve known these guys for a long time. I have known Jes for a really long time and looking up to these guys for a really long time. When I first started a band, we wanted to sound like their band.
We all started playing shows together and a sense of community grew out of it. This whole thing has been awesome for me. I have only been in the band for two months and it is just blowing up! It is something I am proud of. I think it sounds good. Glad to be in this band with these people.
J: I think it is important to note that age is pretty irrelevant. We have learned from and been impressed by the younger group of people as by those that came before us. I looked up to people growing up too, but one thing I have always kind of hated was the older people who stuck around, thinking of themselves as the elders and taking themselves really seriously, demanding respect and admiration. Art has a short shelf life. Longer than a decade but shorter than a generation. If you can keep up, you can stay relevant, but the work you did 20 years ago certainly hold’s no one hostage anymore. None of this has anything to do with age. It is all about your intention.
JP: What’s your favorite drug and why?
A: It’s different for everyone in the band. I want to say some psychedelic but smoking weed is cool.
J: All drugs are great if you know what you are taking and how much to take. Some things have more of a social stigma than others, but in reality, the world is much less black and white. My advice regarding drugs? Be a taker not a user.
JP: Then how do you feel about Speed Boat?
J: Speed Boat is a big inspiration for everything that we do. This interview, this trip, these bands. Really, none of this would be possible without Speed Boat. The amount of work that he puts in is incredible. The other day he drove all the way to New York from Arizona just to come to our show. He is a true testament to believing in something.
C: He sold the merch when he got there…
A I have known Speed Boat since I was twelve and I don’t think there is a better feeling than knowing Speed Boat since we were kids.
J: He’s actually kind of an asshole.
A: Yeah, he’s a dick. I hate him.
JP: I guess that is a good place to end considering my next two questions were is Speed Boat your favorite band and are you Speed Boat?