Kris Kneale has a cold. It’s the first night of tour for New York hardcore band Go Deep, and as their vocalist, he’s spent the last few days haunting local apothecaries for a little vial of witches’ brew called Singer’s Saving Grace. The stuff works, but the city was clean out, and he worried that his voice wouldn’t carry through the night, much less thirty days of almost nonstop touring.
Hardcore sneers a little meaner than punk and eschews the sclerotics of heavy metal, occupying some dystopic no-man’s-land filleted by thundercracks and warrior calls. On healthier days, Kneale’s voice lands somewhere between a growl and a roar, clear enough to hear the lyrics he wrote for you but angry enough to startle. He sometimes blazes through a track in not much more than a minute, such that right when one finally pieces together the message from his poetry the song is finished, packed away behind the eardrum until it’s little more than a semi-permanent whine.
Two nights earlier, Kneale missed practice to nurse the virus taking root in his sinuses. The band can only meet when everyone gets off work, which means that at 1:30 in the morning on a weeknight Go Deep ignites the bleary-eyed oasis of their rehearsal space with a succession of explosive chords and blast beats.
Kneale thinks we might’ve played some shows together when we both lived in South Florida. But Go Deep’s drummer, Danny Rico, is more certain. Back then, Rico was in a pop-punk band called Backwash and we shared a stage at a Broward County J.C.C. for its teenage Battle of the Bands. I was the vocalist in a hardcore act named after a prominent character in the Castlevania video game series, but I was already planning to leave the entire Sunshine State behind. Kneale and Rico arrived two years after me.
“I just came here trying to figure out what I’m doing,” Kneale says. “I wanted to play music, but it was just constantly failing and failing and failing. Trying to get something going and then you do the hourly practice phase with some Craigslist band member, and they say some super questionable shit — and then you’re like, ‘I can’t.’”
At some point, Kneale and Rico actually finished a record. Rico tracked all the instruments himself while Kneale embarked on a two-year program at the Fashion Institute of Technology. The songs that came out of those sessions make up Counseling, the band’s first extended play. Counseling contains one of Go Deep’s most popular songs, “Glossectomy”, which is about apathy of the human spirit and those who recognize the evil in the world and choose to say nothing. “I should take your fucking tongue tonight,” Kneale growl-roars when Go Deep take the stage, Rico’s bass drum adding an exclamation mark to every syllable. “Sing me a fucking song.”
I observed as Kneale sat on an amplifier cabinet, stoic and unemotive, while the vocalist in another band screamed nonsense into his face. Moments earlier, that same vocalist had been kneeling on the stage and speaking into his guitarist’s right leg as he breathlessly thanked Kneale for letting him open. Rico was closer to me: He had barely seemed to interact with Kneale all night, and you would have never guessed that the two had once lived together out of their touring van.
The mosh pit saved its best moves for the headliner. Go Deep had hardly played any songs before Kneale announced that one guy, a burly fellow with longish hair, had broken his nose. A white rag was spritely fetched and just as quickly turned crimson. The burly fellow continued to swing and slide in the pit. Kneale described one song as an angry attack on men who catcall. Somehow, the audience already knew all of the words, and they stopped play-fighting long enough to shout them along.
For Kneale, writing music is itself an act of violence. “I’m basically trying to grab someone’s face and scream these words into them, at them, whether they are the enemy or not,” he told me. “I feel like they need to hear it. I’m extremely unhappy and extremely angry at a lot of things in the world, and I want to put that in some type of artistic form. And this is my artistic form.”
“It’s really about the message,” Rico said. “For the most part, I contribute musically and Kris contributes lyrically.” But, at the end of the day, he said, “It’s really about the message, and what Kris has to say.” New York celebrates a reputation for fostering bands like Go Deep that dates back to the first Koch administration, and almost all of them have stood on one end of the sociopolitical spectrum or the other. Agnostic Front wrote a song praising Bernie Goetz and used homophobic slurs; the Cro-Mags are pacifists and vegans who compared factory farming to Buchenwald. Kneale, himself a vegan and straight-edge, writes lyrics closer to the latter.
“There were years when I called Los Angeles ‘the Coast,’” Joan Didion wrote, “but they seem a long time ago.” One reason Kneale might be so angry up on that stage is that these years are about to seem so long ago for him, too. The lights have gone up and the moshers bro-grip each other on the way out. They know they’re about to be left behind. Kneale and the rest of the band will decamp to the West, in search of affordable rents and free sunshine. In between will be the rest of the tour, and then New York will keep on spinning, the center of its own universe, devouring its own and somehow far from satiated. The transience of its most vulnerable classes will ring out like three overdriven power chords in the dark.
Go Deep’s first LP, Influence, will see its release November 6. Their national tour kicks off tonight in South Carolina. For tour dates and additional information, click here.