Last year, Minus exploded onto the American hardcore scene with an impressively uncompromising demo. Featuring members of Violation, Internal Affairs and Trash Talk, it’s no wonder Minus have managed to make such a devastating impact. Already with a 7" in pressing, soon to be released on Triple B Records, Minus are quickly becoming one of the US hardcore scenes most promising exports. Vocalist Travis answered a couple of questions for us.
Alright first up tell us your name, what you do in Minus, and favourite non-hardcore band or artist.
My name is Travis and I sing in the group Minus. Favorite non-hardcore band is too huge of a question for me to answer in this interview, but lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Tom Waits, Regina Spektor, My Morning Jacket, Portishead and Voxtrot. I could go on forever, but I’ll draw the line at five.
From what I can gather, a lot of you guys play in other bands? Which ones? And why did you decide to form Minus?
Yeah, pretty much everyone has their hand in something else. Dan sings in Downpresser and, unless I am completely wrong, just joined All Is Fleeting on bass. Austin plays guitar in All Is Fleeting, guitar in his latest undertaking called Bodykast and he plays bass in Fell To Low, in which I also sing. Tim played in the recently defunct Pressure and was in Trash Talk for a little while and filled in for a million other Southern California bands. Derek was in Violation, Ability, Internal Affairs, Piece By Piece and basically every other band in California over the last four years or so.
The band started when Violation was fizzling out. I think Derek wanted to play in a band of his own again and had all these wild riffs in his head and no real means to get them out, so he got together with Austin. I think we all ended up in this band because we’re all good friends, we’re all real hardcore dudes who have all been around and going to shows together for years. Dan and myself were a pretty natural fit for the band and when we decided on adding a second guitarist, Tim was a really good fit as well. He was another guy, that while not from the same area as us, we had been friends with and had hung out with at shows for years. Within the first practice or two, those guys banged out the songs that would become the demo.
A lot of people these days will say "I want to start a New York hardcore band," or "I want to start a crossover band," and those are cool and all, but Derek said "I just want to start a hardcore band," and that’s what Minus is. I think when you start out trying to be so specific, you end up limiting yourself and a lot of it can end up kind of contrived. I’m not from New York, I cannot be in a new York hardcore band. Of course we draw from a lot of influences, but this is a hardcore band, played by hardcore dudes and I think people will recognize and appreciate that.
Your new 7” ‘Hard Feelings’ is coming out soon on Triple B Records. How have you found the process of making the record, from writing it to releasing it?
The riffs and stuff for the ep seemed to come together really easily. Pretty soon after we had finished recording the demo and started playing shows, the guys wrote and recorded a really rough demo of what would become the songs for the 7". Writing, for me, is always kind of an ordeal. I am never satisfied with the lyrics I come up with and I end up re-writing songs over and over until I have to stop myself. With this kind of music it’s really easy to say, "Fuck this, fuck that, I hate you" and there is definitely some of that on the record, but it is really scary to put something real and personal out there for everyone to hear and judge and there is also a lot of that on the record as well.
We recorded at Young Bros. Recordings in Los Angeles with our good friend, Taylor Young of Ruckus/Nails fame. Recording ended up being kind of tricky because everyone’s schedules were so crazy and I think it ended up taking a couple months to finally finish everything. When we finally finished recording we went through a bunch of different mixes which took another month or so. It took a while, but everyone is finally satisfied with the way it came out.
Sam from Triple B was the first person to seriously hit us up about putting out the record. We considered some other options, but decided that Triple B was the right way to go. Sam is a good dude, who knows what he’s doing and knows how to take care of bands. It was a bonus to find out that Triple B is doing a record for our Southern California brothers in Soul Search. The label is doing good things and it is cool to be a part of it. Right now we’re just working out the cover art and layout, which shouldn’t take too long.
Do you have a favourite song on the record? Why is it your favourite?
My favorite song is "Solitary Soul". I put a lot of emotion into that song and it’s the first song I’ve written where I felt that I was completely honest with myself, not to mention that the riffs are hard as all hell.
The demo was released last year – did you expect such an overwhelming response? Why do you think it has gained you so much positive attention?
I was kind of surprised at how well the demo was received by everyone at first. I thought it was pretty good for a demo and good starting point for our band, but I was really surprised and excited when I heard that Flatspot Records wanted to press it as a 7". I think it got so much positive attention because it was really heavy hardcore without any of the contrived bullshit that usually comes with that style of music these days. I am from a sleepy beach community, I am by no means "street" or anything and you won’t find me in a pair of Tims anytime soon. My city is one giant suburb of nothing. That isn’t to say that things are perfect or easy in my world or that I don’t have anything to be angry about. I just think that people can recognize real, honest hardcore when they hear it.
What do you all do outside of the band? Do you find it difficult to fit shows and tours in around your schedules?
We’ve got a lot to work around in this band. Derek just recently moved to Indiana to start his PHD at Purdue, so we’ve got a fill-in to play off shows while he’s at school. I think we’re going to try to put some new songs together and record when he’s home for winter break. Dan’s got a desk job that keeps him pretty busy, but I know he’d drop it in a second if anything big came up for either of his bands. The dude loves hardcore. Austin and Tim are both in school and that poses it’s own problems, but it isn’t too difficult to work around. I don’t have too much going on, but I am currently on a 5 week US tour with Nails, doing merchandise and whatnot and I will be accompanying them on their European tour in November, so obviously things are a little slow for Minus right now. We’re going to to be playing a record release weekend in October for the Demo 7" which will be awesome and we are currently working on booking a short tour with our friends in Ruckus in December.
To a person who has never heard Minus before, how would you describe your sound?
No bullshit, heavy hardcore. Plain and simple.
Which bands are the most influential when it comes to writing your tracks?
I can’t really speak for anyone else when it comes to riffs or whatever, but I know there’s some New York stuff in there as well as whatever weird metal bands that Derek listens to. When it comes to lyrics and stuff, I try to keep my influences outside of hardcore, like The Rolling Stones, Neil Young and old man stuff like that, but I am a hardcore kid and that influence will always be there.
What is the wildest thing you’ve seen at a show?
I don’t want to glorify violence or anything, even though it can be damn entertaining sometimes, so I’ll keep it light. Minus ended up on a house show in Ventura with our friends in Blasting Concept and a bunch of other weird punk bands. The girl whose house it was made the mistake of announcing that it was the last week she would be living in the house and things got weird. There were fucked up punks stumbling everywhere and passing out in the front yard. I was looking for the bathroom and I walked into a bedroom where and bunch of people were lying around and shooting up, which was pretty disturbing. There were people in the kitchen just tossing anything they could find up into the ceiling fan and watching it fly everywhere. Someone took their time and made a whole big nice sandwich just to throw it at the fan. It was hilarious. We had to sit through a bunch of awful bands which was all pretty uneventful. Then we started playing and people were getting thrown all over the place and getting knocked out and moshed to the ground. Dudes started punching holes in the ceiling. A friend of ours then stuck a chair, legs first, into the ceiling and then it was all over. People started tearing the place apart. I expected there to be some fights, but all of the drunk ass punks fucking loved it. When we finished playing, the girl freaked out and made an announcement and people calmed down a little bit. Blasting Concept played after us and shit started going crazy again. People were literally pulling the walls and ceiling apart and some kid climbed up through the ceiling and disappeared, only to come down through another hole in another part of the room. I got hit in the chest with an open gallon of milk. It was fucking chaos. As soon as Blasting Concept finished, we helped them pack up all the gear and split. On our way out of the neighborhood, we passed a bunch of police cruisers speeding toward the house.
Do you know much about the Australian hardcore scene? Would you ever consider visiting us?
I really don’t know much, which is unfortunate. I’m only familiar with a few bands like Blkout, No Apologies, and Iron Mind. Miles Away played in my city a year or two ago and that’s about it. I know Derek is more knowledgeable on the subject as I think he’s the only one that has been. I’ve always wanted to go to Australia, way before I was ever in a band. It would be amazing to make it down there as a band and I know everyone else would agree. I’m not really sure if we’re at that point as a band yet, though.
When did you get into hardcore, who got you onto it and which bands did you listen to?
I first started regularly attending hardcore shows in 2001-02, when I was 15 or 16. Before that I was always into punk and even a few hardcore bands, but I lived in a really small town and I never really understood that there was any kind of distinction. Like, I would listen to NOFX, Rancid, Misfits and the like, but I would also listen Sick Of It All and Madball. I never really had an opportunity to go to any real shows or anything, so I never knew there was any kind of difference. It was all just punk to me, which I think is awesome and, to some extent, I still feel that way. The only real introduction I had to this world was that my sister randomly owned some of the Punk O Rama comps. I stole them and was hooked. When I moved to Santa Barbara I had a chance to attend a lot of cool shows and I started to get into "real" hardcore or whatever. I was a product of the time, so I was really into Converge, American Nightmare, Bane, Hope Conspiracy and them some really bad metalcore bands. You get older, your tastes mature and you learn a lot of the history and you just get sucked in. That is why I am still a hardcore kid and probably always will be.
Sum up everything Minus is about in one sentence.
Thanks for your time dude! Anything else you’d like to mention before we wrap up?
It was no problem. I just think it is crazy and awesome that someone on the other side of the planet cares enough about this band to take the time to ask these questions. Thanks a lot.