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Q&A: Violent Bullshit On The Story Behind Their Name, OFF! Not Being Hardcore, And Their Parents Coming To Their Shows

Q&A: Violent Bullshit On The Story Behind Their Name, OFF! Not Being Hardcore, And Their Parents Coming To Their Shows

Violent Bullshit is, indeed, the shit. The band's five members—vocalist Jayson Green, dueling guitarists Byron Kalet and Andrew Reuland, bassist Matt Cash and drummer Dan Crowell—profusely bleed hardcore and its ethos on their face-ripping, manically ragin' yet ridiculously meticulous 14-minute[!] debut LP, Adult Problems.

Make no mistake: Violent Bullshit is no novelty act capitalizing on the current hardcore revival that's been spearheaded by the Keith Morris-led OFF!, whom they scoff at as being merely punk and not hardcore. VB's not only have hard-earned underground cred (the mustachioed, blood-curdling bawler Green did time as singer in NYC's mammoth riff monsters Panthers and Amherst's screamo-punk progenitors Orchid, while chrome-domed beardo Reuland moonlights in Les Savy Fav), they go out of their way to piss off hardcore fanatics with Grateful Dead-inspired tie-dye merch, are anti-record label and DJ dance music and pro-Turing Machine, with whom they recently played a few shows.

Sound of the City met up with the Violent Bullshit dudes at Williamburg joint Iona in a clusterfuck of an interview about hardcore, Green's supportive parents, and how they came up with their band name.

How did the CBGB Fest gig happen?

Green: We got a booking agent. [Laughing] Yeah, so we started getting more of that kind of stuff.

Did you guys grow up going to CBs?

Green: Us? Nooo. I mean, I've been there, yeah. Kalet: I go to the John Varvatos store now. When we were mostly living here [in New York], [CBs] was notorious for having just terrible shows with a thousand bands on the bill. Green: My old band played there once for CMJ—Panthers, with Justin [Chearno] from Turing Machine. I remember seeing High on Fire on their first tours there.

When did Panthers break up?

Green: We actually did our last tour with High on Fire years ago... Cash: ...when we started [Violent Bullshit], you did a Panthers tour. So there was some overlap. Green: There was a bit of an overlap, yeah. But yeah, probably three or four years ago, was the last time [Panthers] played. It ended with kind of a whimper. Our drummer was married and had a kid and our guitar player got offered a really great job and got married. That left the two lonely weirdoes to try to keep going so it just seemed to make sense—because we weren't so popular—that it wasn't worth it. [Laughing]

Recently, you guys played gigs opening up for Turing Machine. How was the reception to your hardcore sound playing alongside TM's, which is synthy dance-rock?

Green: I think the crossover is—beyond us being very good friends with them—their audience is older people who just, in general, love music. So this idea of having kind of a genre-specific show isn't particularly interesting to anybody, really—particularly the bands involved. Matt and I both DJ dance music and we play in a hardcore band because we love dance music and we love hardcore and I don't see the difference, to be honest. I think most people who love music love all kinds of stuff so it's fine. I think in any situation that if they don't like hardcore, they'll be entertained in that amount of time. We play for such a short amount of time, they may be like "What the hell is this?" And then it's over. [Laughing]

Violent Bullshit has been around a while, but it seems like it's starting to kick in now.

Green: Yeah, I think we've only really started being kind of serious about it in the past year. It was a different lineup when it first started and it was more that I just really wanted to be in a hardcore band again; it had been a long time since I'd done it. So we started off the three of us and we had two other guys in the band. Again, our [original] bass player had a kid, got married, then Andy played with us a few times and Matt was an old buddy and I knew he played bass. Once this lineup got together, we decided we were gonna try to make records.

What was it about being in a hardcore band again that pulled you in? Did you have some sort of revelation?

Green: I was in a hardcore band called Orchid for a long, long time and did a lot of touring. I grew up on the music and love it and still listen to it all the time. I don't know so many new [hardcore] bands, I guess, but some. But one of my favorite things is to love hardcore. So it's just a fun band to be in.

Which hardcore bands do you listen to? Black Flag...?

Green: ...Sure, that and Negative Approach, all the New York '80s stuff. Dan and I grew up on like the kind of late '90s... Crowell: ...yeah... Green: ...like Born Against and bands like that. Rorschach...

Rorschach reunited recently to play show shows.

Green: Yeah. We played a show every time they played New York—the same night but at a different venue. Crowell: That's our thing.

 

Violent Bullshit, "We Don't Like You" (live)

So you have the live set to download on your Bandcamp. What about the new record?

Green: It's out. We have an LP out now. We put it out ourselves. It's called Adult Problems. It came out May 1, and it's awesome. [Laughing] Kalet: A lot of the songs we did in the live set are on Adult Problems and some others, we well.

Adult Problems is self-released?

Kalet: Yeah, we did. We kinda talked about doing it in a couple of different ways but it just ended up being one of those things where...who knows? I think we're actually gonna definitely do more records but at the time I was like "I don't know if we're ever gonna do another record like this." I want this to look exactly how we want it so we can make it sort of as weird as we want it to and not to have to worry about having labels be like "We don't want a full color cover or whatever, this and that." It just made sense to do it ourselves.

But will Violent Bullshit sign on with a label? Panthers were on Vice, Andy is in Les Savy Fav and they are on Frenchkiss...

Reuland: Frenchkiss is owned by [Syd Butler,] one of the members of [Les Savy Fav]. Green: [laughing] Kalet: I think there's been a few things that we've come across while we putting out Adult Problems that we didn't think of, like, "Oh, this is what would have been really convenient to have a record label where we don't have to figure this shit out for the first time." On the other hand, we get to do whatever we want and we're not indebted to anybody.

Is Violent Bullshit anti-record label?

Green: To me, it does not matter. If someone comes along and wants to put out our record and if it makes sense, that's fine. If no one ever does, that's totally fine with me, too. At this point it seems like such a ridiculous setup, anyway. It's like "What the fuck's the point?" Besides like people knowing the record's out. That would be awesome. [laughing] Reuland: Basically, it's nice to have somebody else doing some of that stuff for you but really at the end of the day I think we get a lot of results of just not having to go through the drill of saying like "So and so is thinking about maybe doing it, this person may want to do it." So it was less like that and if we do it ourselves, it would be out that much faster. Kalet: I think we just wanted to get it done and there was no reason to wait around a year to be on somebody else's schedule. Reuland: No one actually buys music anymore, so it wasn't like we were gonna do a big run. Green: Part of what I think we love about hardcore, too, is we're all record nerds. We all have collectible records, so doing a first press of this record ourselves, doing 100 on color and like making it kind of a fun, collectible thing is really part of hardcore for me, it's that kind of... Cash: ...merchandising... Reuland: ...ironically. [laughing]

How often does Violent Bullshit practice?

Kalet: The four us of practice once a week. He [pointing to Jay] shows up whenever [laughing]. [To Jay] But you've been pretty good lately.

 

Violent Bullshit, "We Don't Like You"

Is it difficult to write an effective one-minute hardcore song?

[Laughing] Kalet: The really good songs that we write generally happen very quickly, ya know. We could write a song a night. When we first started playing, we would [write] two or three in one night cuz like we weren't fussing... Green: We weren't writing three or four songs in a night; people were coming in with songs done. It's easy being dismissive of short songs but I think we all put a lot of thought into the songs, as well. We really want [the songs] to be hooky and have these certain elements we want to be there. We think about dynamics a lot. It's not just like we are like "Fuck it!" I watched a video of Off! recording their new record and, literally, it seemed like he was making it up on the spot.

What do you think of OFF!? They've seemingly revived the hardcore genre.

Green: I don't really think they are a hardcore band. [laughing] They're a punk band. Keith Morris isn't a hardcore singer. The Black Flag stuff is great. Whatever. Mario Rubalcaba, the drummer, is one of my favorite hardcore drummers of all time. I think he's amazing. Kalet: Honestly, I haven't even listened to OFF! yet. Crowell: I've heard a song or two. Green: Good live band. Kalet: I think that we want our songs to be memorable, recognizable parts and verses and choruses. A big part of hardcore is singing along and I think we actually take care with our songwriting. We do a good amount of editing that goes into the stuff we do. It's a great minimalist approach. I feel like there's nothing unnecessary in any of the songs. Any time we are writing and there's a part we are playing too many times, we're like "That's not necessary." We just cut it down. Other bands would play the same songs longer. But we just do it [shorter] and that's all you need to get the point across. Crowell: We're paring down further what's already a terse genre. We're not reinventing the wheel but we do take it really seriously. At this point, we're pulling from a pretty long history of a genre that's gone through a lot of changes. We have no problem with like throwing in sort of a '90s breakdown or an '80s riff and some weird noise on top of it. We all actually hold ourselves to pretty high standards.

So Violent Bullshit is all about high standards?

[Laughing] Kalet: In a way, yeah. Reuland: We are more than capable of turning out four paint-by-numbers hardcore songs every time we all get in to the rehearsal space and rehearse for an hour-and-a-half. It would not be difficult to do. There's actually tons of riffs we... Kalet: ...we throw away. Green: We throw away tons of stuff. I also think we are such fans of the stuff, we want it to be awesome. Kalet: We know what the best hardcore sounds like and we are holding ourselves to that same standard... Green: ...and hopefully one day we'll get there. [laughing]

You have some cool merch, too—tie-dye t-shirts. Not very hardcore.

Green: Hardcore kids get so mad about the Grateful Dead...[laughing]...and I love the Grateful Dead. They have a lot of great records. So incorporating that imagery into hardcore make them so mad. When we first started, I made a t-shirt—I had a tie dye Grateful Dead "Truckin'" shirt turned inside out—and with iron-on letters I wrote "Violent Bullshirt" on it. And then it was like, "The first shirts we make [will be] tie-dye shirts."

Your aesthetic is not novelty-type hardcore then?

Green: No, god, no. Kalet: There's no novelty aspect to it and it's tough because we have a good time... Green: ...hardcore doesn't often incorporate having fun.... Kalet: ...unless you're like Murphy's Law and like Gang Green but they're just like "We're partying guys!" Our lyrics—they're serious.

 

Violent Bullshit (live at the Charleston, 2008)

Jay, you write all the lyrics?

Green: Yes.

And who comes up with all the riffs?

Reuland: It's a mixed bag. We all do.

Is it harder to write a short hardcore song than it is to write a five-minute song?

Kalet: I've never written a five-minute song.

But Panthers and Les Savy Fav songs are longer than the hardcore song is.

Green: When a part feels really good, you want to play it for a long, long time and it's hard to stop yourself and instead of being like "this breakdown should go forever instead of like twice." I don't think there's a different skill level [in writing longer or shorter songs]. Kalet: I think it takes a lot of work on any kind of music. Reuland: If your songs are midtempo, then your songs are gonna be longer. Our songs are not midtempo. Kalet: Our songs are really fast but a lot of the structure of like the classic song structures where it's like verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus or something. It's not like we are reinventing the wheel. It's just really fast.

Is it any harder playing a 20 to 30-minute gig as opposed to 45 minutes to an hour?

Reuland: I think so because I feel like by the time I'm really getting warmed up, it's almost over. Green: You come out with guns blazing, then it's like over. I have to say there's really something to leaving people wanting more.

Does it mean anything to you if the audience goes insane while you play or not?

Green: It's nice when people react. We played a show recently where we played at an art gallery opening, and it was one of the most awkward shows I've ever played in my life. The thing is, afterwards, everybody asked all of us and we all felt horrible about it but everybody else thought it was great. To look out on a crowd and just see everybody standing there just staring at you but not moving... Kalet: ...and you look particularly like a fool because you're going crazy and you could see every single person... Green: ...and my parents were there. And my girlfriend's parents were there. Kalet: That's the thing: when we're really trying to go for it and nobody is giving it back, that's like a little bit of a downer. It's either like that, when it's just really off-putting or it's a challenge, where it's really like you wanna win people over and you're putting in that much more effort into it to get them to be with you. Green: That's the only show that I've played where I was unsure about how people were feeling about it. But most of the time, it's pretty clear that people were enjoying themselves.

Did your parents enjoy the Violent Bullshit show?

Green: My parents have seen me be in lots of ridiculous bands over the years and I think that they said that this is not their favorite—the kind of music, obviously. And I'm 34. I'm in a band with a swear in the name. And it's like a genre of music that is essentially for children [laughing]. So, yeah. I don't know that they love it, but they are very, very supportive—incredibly supportive.

So they aren't into Violent Bullshit as a band name?

Green: I think they take some pleasure in the ridiculousness. I didn't tell them the name for a very long time, which is hilarious because i was kinda like "I don't give shit...!" and then it's like "But don't tell my mom." [Laughing]

 

Violent Bullshit (live at Glasslands, 2008)

Jay, did you come up with the name Violent Bullshit?

Green: No, actually Jordan [Blilie] from Blood Brothers came up with it, right? Kalet: Yes, so I was in Seattle—I grew up in Seattle—and so I was back visiting for the holidays and I was hanging out with Jordan and some other friends of mine. He was telling me some horror story about some really awful Blood Brothers tour and he was like "It was us and Thursday and some other violent bullshit." They were on this tour where they were getting just like gay bashed every night and harassed all the time. He was telling me this story and I was like "Whoa." Green: ...then I get a text message from him [Byron] and he was like "Band name: Violent Bullshit." I was like "Okay. That's fine." Kalet: There were a lot of other ideas around that we don't even mention that were really bad. But when everyone can immediately agree on something, you know that's a really good idea.

There are live Violent Bullshit clips that date back to 2008.

Green: I had this idea a long, long time ago of wanting to be in this type of hardcore band. Initially, I recruited this group of other guys to try to do it and it never worked out. Kalet: We were just called Awesome. Initially, we were gonna be called Pizza. But there's another band called Pizza. [Laughing] Green: [Violent Bullshit] has been a long time in the making and it was one of the things I was doing, literally, just because I thought it'd be really fun. We never took it seriously like 'We're gonna go on tour, we're gonna out records out." [Instead] we were like "We're gonna play Brooklyn, we're gonna tour with our friends and play fun shows and have fun." And we still have that attitude, for the most part. Kalet: I couldn't even remember myself how I got into it [hardcore] but Jay's idea for a band like this was our original guitar player Dan had been talking to this other guy about doing a hardcore band. We had our own idea for it and Jay had his own idea for it... Green: When we first started, Negative Approach had a reunion show... Kalet: ...at Southpaw... Green: ...and all the members [of Violent Bullshit] were there independently of each other. I just met these guys, for the most part, and then I went to the show and everybody was there and I was like "This is gonna be pretty good." It's a good start. I was there on a date and the girl suggested that we go there. Green: That's awesome. Kalet: She knew I was into hardcore. I think I mentioned [that I was in a hardcore band and] that we had maybe practiced once or twice before then. I think maybe I it was our first date. Green: Cool date. Kalet: I was fucking impressed.

Have you guys been out on tour?

Kalet: We haven't played outside Brooklyn yet. Green: We haven't. We've played in New York City only. We've never gone out of town.

When's the tour going to happen?

Kalet: We're working on it. Towards the end of the year. Green: Right now—in the way that we're all for the most part—grown up people with jobs at this point and we have schedules we need to work on a bit but I always find going outside of New York that the shows are the best and so much fun. I know that people want to see us outside of New York. I definitely want to do it. We will.

So all of you have day jobs?

Green: Yeah. Sucks.

Are you going to spearhead a new hardcore movement?

Green: I think there's a hardcore movement always happening, and I think there's always kids playing some shitty basement somewhere that are awesome that we'll never know about. There's tons of hardcore bands around that we don't hear about because they don't give a fuck. There's certainly corporate bands that end up getting to the area of press, that we talk about them and hear about them but I think the real hardcore movement always ends up happening at a house show somewhere. But I'm happy to spearhead a popular one—one that makes money. [Laughing] Reuland: We're spearheading violent bullshit. Green: We're happy to be playing hardcore.

Violent Bullshit play The Flat as part of the CBGB Festival tonight.

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