‘Time To Die’ is the latest release from smalltime US hardcore outfit, No Victory. What it may lack in its sonic polish, it more than makes up for with lyrical authenticity and sheer musical aggression. No Victory’s vocalist, Austin Polus, spoke with me recently over Skype about bands being products of their environments, tough dude bro attitudes in the hardcore world, the recent Gorilla Biscuits controversy, and that fucking trashy snare drum tone on the new album.
I wanted to talk about how a band’s environment can shape their sound or image. As you guys are from Gary, Indiana, which was named the murder capital of the world. Because that harsh, almost desolate nature of having these abandoned houses and factories, of having a very high crime rate a dead industrial area, does translate into the sound and vibe of ‘Time To Die’ I find.
Yeah, it’s crazy. This isn’t an area where the media covers violent crime. So that’s how people forget that it’s been the murder capital of the world ever since 2002. It’s been one of the top five cities for murders and violent crimes. I did a lot of research on it in college and living in Gary, Indiana, there’s a one in six chance that you will be involved in a violent crime.
Jesus Christ…and the population isn’t that big either? It’s about, what, 100,000 people?
Well, it really died down and it now sits at like 80,000. There’s no industry there and there’s not a lot of jobs there. The only difference between other cities like say, Detroit, is that Gary is 95% abandoned. It’s crazy to see what major cities turned into over the years. What I found out was that a large amount of the white population that lived there left. When businesses were booming, a lot of POC moved there and a lot of whites didn’t like that so they basically turned a section of Gary into its own city; forging their own pricing to live there. Once everyone moved, there went all the jobs and the economy just went down hill.
Over here in Australia, we have a lot of smaller, rural areas, sure, but there aren’t any cities that are abandoned over here. I think Gary is a rare ill of the modern age. I did a little research on it as well for this interview and it’s so true that when a large group of people jumps ship, it doesn’t create that trickle down effect of fewer people means more job positions. It’s just fucked!
Yeah! And that’s when the violent crime came in since those people had no jobs, that was the only thing they could do to survive.
It’s so sad to see. With you and other guys in No Victory, I’d assume that hardcore music and this band is a really positive outlet for you and has kept you all away from the crime lifestyle?
It definitely has for me. This whole album is about all of the experiences that I’ve been through or the major things that I felt I needed to talk about and raise awareness on. Contrary to a lot of other beatdown bands out there, where most of them talk about fighting people and having vendettas and beef with people in general, I don’t write about that. I don’t have any vendettas or beef with people; I just have “beef” with experiences I went through and I’ve now turned them into this music. I never want to be viewed as someone who was just saying something for the sheer sake of saying something. I don’t want people to think that I am a phony or anything like that.
Well, that’s really evident on the album; that honesty. And as you said, a lot of hardcore bands do just focus on the inner scene politics and the superficial bullshit of their local scenes. Half of them are just these suburban fucking bands anyway, and I think many of them write and play a certain way because it is what it’s expected them.
Yeah! Especially in 2016, I’m seeing a lot of people trying to be hardcore while maintaining an image of themselves that’s just not them. They write about all of this stuff, but none of them have actually gone through it. I even see my friend’s bands do it, talking about how they’re so violent and how they’ll back their words up, but they’ve never done anything like what they’re saying. I’ve started to be as lyrically genuine to myself as I can and not write a song about how I’ll kick this guy’s ass or how I don’t fuck with this person. Even though a lot of people would probably think that I do write songs like that, just because I play in a hardcore band, I have far bigger real life problems to care about then some hardcore beef.
What you said about bands trying to maintain a certain false image or a Rockstar image, I think that flies in the face of what hardcore music represents. Trying to have that larger than life persona is the antithesis of hardcore.
Yeah, I completely agree with that. You’re not a rock star if you play this music. I see a lot of bands today ruining the authenticity of hardcore, just because of what they’re doing and saying in real life, on the Internet, and in their music. It’s weird to me. I just don’t see it as fans back in the day and I can’t really say that, as I’m only 21. But coming from an area that has bands like The Killer, Blood In Blood Out; the bands that actually went through the shit and wrote about it. You can tell who is just riding a gimmick that they’ll think will push them up the hardcore hierarchy, which I don’t think is even real. I definitely see people taking hardcore and using it as their ego booster. It reminds me of those old 80’s high-school movies with all of these cliques, and no one wants to be the dorks. But in hardcore, I think that we’re all the dorks [laughs].
[Laughs] Well said, man, well said. I agree it really is like that sometimes. Just like what Nails said on their new record – “You Will Never Be One Of Us”.
You know, I definitely drew a lot of influence from that band that talked about things like that. I drew from how raw bands like that can be. But for this record, I didn’t talk about any hardcore problems, just the problems in my life.
No, right on, man. I saw an interview that one of the band members did recently, and in it, one of the questions was something like, “Do you think hardcore music is making a comeback?” Which is such a generic and filler question in my eyes, as I feel hardcore has always thrived, no matter what. It’s like a cockroach in a nuclear winter; it always survives!
[Laughs] yeah! It was always there. I just think in 2016 that there are a lot of young people in the scenes now. I’m definitely not a jaded person about that, but I think that older people within the hardcore scene get jaded about it and the younger fans. I’m never one to say that there is actually a rise and fall in hardcore, nor who belongs and who doesn’t; I’m just a guy that’s here in the scene.
I think that a lot of people in this genre just have a very pretentious way of looking at it. But I think it’s simpler than they make it out to be. Now, on that topic, and this is a really bad segway to my next question, but as you were at This Is Hardcore recently, no doubt you heard what Gorilla Biscuits singer, Anthony “Civ” Civarelli said on stage and how it was misconstrued to him being racist?
Yeah, I was, it was so crazy to see. What he said was not what people thought he said. What he said on-stage was good, just in not the best way, but I’ve seen other things from him where he’s just not that clear when he speaks. He’s like me; he doesn’t make his points the best [laughs]. Anthony was just saying that it sucks that you have to wear t-shirts saying that black lives matter in this current day and age. To call him a racist is to be as ignorant as so many people thought he was being. He and the rest of Gorilla Biscuits, and older bands of that era have fought against racism in hardcore and preached about the same shit he was preaching when they started; that everyone’s equal at a show. Black, white, brown, yellow; none of that mattered.
What he said brushed people off the wrong way, but for all of my friends and I there that day, didn’t see it badly. I just saw all of these people who weren’t there on the day getting mad about it afterwards. It’s weird that the Internet can project so much and push something so far; good or bad, wrong or right.
Very well said, man. I think it was a shame to see it being taken out of context, but I can easily see how it got misconstrued. But I look at it this way; the first person to stage dive was a woman of colour and she did not seem to care. As you said, the people right there in the moment moved on and just wanted to get down to ‘Degradation’.
Of course! You also have to look at it that these bands are from a different time. They are aware of what’s going on, just not as how in-depth it can get. With our generation, we have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram; all this shit that people can find things on and write about. Some of those bands probably still read the paper! If you wanted to call someone out for being a racist, why don’t you call out an actual racist and not someone who set off a trigger warning for you? I have seen those guys literally fighting racist people, so calling him a racist was just…dumb.
Yeah, it’s a bit of a clusterfuck that this middle age hardcore guy was just preaching equality and unification and people not getting it. That’s the difference with bands like yourselves, though; the lyrics or at least, the themes are genuine and they aren’t just there to sell records or get on Warped Tour and bigger tours.
I would never compare ourselves to those older bands, but we definitely have the same perspective as them. If you like it you like it, and if you don’t like it, you don’t. We write what we want and not what people want us to write about. You have to take a grain a salt with hardcore nowadays, I think.
Of course, just like a review of an album; take a grain of salt when you read it. Shifting gears, I wanted to talk about how the album was mixed and mastered by the band’s drummer, Derick. As it was recorded by Isaac Hale, the guitarist from Knocked Loose. What I like about that is that the best person to understand your band’s sound… is someone in your band.
For sure! But it’s funny, our guitarist is definitely a very knit picky person, and if he doesn’t like something then he’ll make it known to everyone. So we have to work around that [laughs]. Because he doesn’t want to spend a couple grand on something that he won’t like, which is fair. But with doing it all ourselves, Derrick and I just thought ‘Fuck it!’ but it all came down to a crunch time. We’ve been getting better at our mixes lately, but we knew that this wouldn’t be to a high, professional standard but still somewhat decent. We knew that it’d have that…unique, “home” sound. Originally, we were going to record the album in our basement but Isaac could cut us a good deal. But a big thing for me that people are iffy about is the snare drum.
See, I can really appreciate that DIY ethic but that yeah….that snare drum, I was gonna ask about that!
Well, I think we definitely could’ve done something better for it. But some people seem to like it… Others have compared it to getting hit by a dodge ball or the St. Anger snare drum tone; just really trashy. It’s really funny [laughs].
I love that open you’re about it! I mean, you could’ve just blended in a generic drum sample or something like that to beef it up or change the tone slightly. Now, Austin, I’m just looking at the $1,000 price on your Bandcamp page on my laptop right now….
Oh, yeah! Well, I wasn’t sure if we could sell the album ourselves. Plus, I didn’t really know how to turn down the price. I know Bandcamp lets you stream stuff, and that you can make people pay what they want, but I didn’t know how to turn that feature on, so I just made it out to be this unrealistic price. You can buy it on iTunes for nine dollars, it’s on Spotify, and it’s on various blog spots. But no, it’s not actually a thousand dollars! Some people are getting so confused and angry about it, it’s so funny.
Oh, man! I remember looking at the band’s Facebook page and seeing some comments from people asking why it was that price or saying that no one will pay that price. I couldn’t help but laugh seeing the band’s replies of “It’s obviously not that much” and you had the other streaming links for it posted everywhere.
We were trying so hard to not be so patronizing and say that our nine-song album was not going for a thousand dollars. Like, who do people think we are? If someone asked for it, I will just send them the link to the Media fire copy myself.
That’s too funny, man. Like that Gorilla Biscuits situation we were talking about it before, sometimes people will make something small into a bit of a “storm in a tea-cup” situation. “Oh, this band is selling their album for a thousand dollars? I better make an angry blog post about it!”
[Laughs] we have multiple times written about this for people, that the album is on all of these other platforms. I think that people just don’t read or listen properly sometimes.
Yeah, it’s a bit of selective hearing I think. As they haven’t heard the whole thing or read the whole way through, they get angered when things go down differently or things change, not knowing that it’s already been addressed and everyone else has moved on.
Dude, I have been guilty of that when I was younger, to be honest. In high school, we’d read books and write reports on them. But I would just watch the movies and write my reports on that. I did that for Of Mice & Men, and I only read the first page or two [laughs]. People can definitely be lazy. They won’t look into scenarios fully and they’ll just comment anyway.
Yep, I’m pretty guilty of doing that too when I was younger. But with social media, it is just so easy to get distracted and to talk shit about something, about anything.
I know people who just thrive off talking shit and not knowing what they’re even talking about, just because they get some kind of rush or accomplishment around it. It’s a big problem, as our online world has a bad habit of probing people and issues without knowing the full extent of the situation.
For sure. Well, Austin, we’ve been talking for ages now and I think it’s time to wrap this up. I know that it is such a generic fucking question to end on, but what are the stretch goals for No Victory at this point moving forward? Maybe to play This Is Hardcore?
That would be very cool, but even if we didn’t it, we’d be totally fine with it. We’d just love to play music, really, and just take this band as far as we can. I honestly just want to travel and see places that I would have never seen if I was not playing music. It would also be really cool to see something that means so much to me help other people out and have them relate to it.
Right on man, those are all rather simple goals, but that ain’t a bad thing! Look, this has been a really good chat, Austin, thanks for jumping on Skype with me, really appreciate it brother!
Yeah dude, thank you for wanting to chat! It’s been real nice talking to you!
‘Time To Die’ is out now. Check it out below!