Human Animal Interview

Human Animal is a new band from Erie, PA started by couple of dudes who cut their teeth in some of the most awesome classic bands from that area (too many names too mention, read the interview!). But it’s not about bringing back the past, Human Animal definitely can stand their ground. When band’s debut ep dropped last year I knew they still got it. It packs so much heaviness that you can't ignore it, but there’s also a lot of finesse to these songs. Some nice metallic vibes makes you think about the 90’, but everything is sharp, fresh and up to date. Check out the interview to learn some cool stuff about the band, but also some insights into the history and current state of Erie scene.

Human Animal is a new band from Erie, PA started by couple of dudes who cut their teeth in some of the most awesome classic bands from that area (too many names too mention, read the interview!). But it’s not about bringing back the past, Human Animal definitely can stand their ground. When band’s debut ep dropped last year I knew they still got it. It packs so much heaviness that you can't ignore it, but there’s also a lot of finesse to these songs. Some nice metallic vibes makes you think about the 90’, but everything is sharp, fresh and up to date. Check out the interview to learn some cool stuff about the band, but also some insights into the history and current state of Erie scene.

Can you introduce Human Animal? How did it get started and what is the inspiration behind band’s name?

Human Animal started at the very tail end of 2011 in December. Our drummer Bobby and guitarist Adam were talking about starting a project together and told me, not asked me, told me that I was singing. Which I’ve never done in a band! We recruited our friend Nate who is known for being an awesome guitarist to bring some serious solo action to the table. All 4 of us have been friends for a really, really long time. We’re talking like 2 decades plus. None of us had played together in any bands in a really really long time. We were all doing different stuff over the years whether it was hardcore, rock, funk, covers, etc… but all 4 of us kind of found ourselves bandless and frustrated around the same time. It seemed like all of our projects we were doing lost momentum or we were super frustrated with how things were going. So our main intent was to just have an excuse to hang out again like we used to back in the day, have some fun brevity and camaraderie, and also to write some songs unlike any of the projects we had all just left. And we’ve achieved just that. Things were a little slow initially as right after we started practicing my wife had our first baby so I took some time off from the band. Then in spring of 2012 we started to pick up the idea again. We didn’t have a bassist for awhile so I was just playing it at practice then during the summer over some ice cream we asked our friend Ryan to join on with us. He’s a lot younger but we had all been hanging out a lot over the summer besides him being a really good musician and super into hardcore, he really clicks with us as a friend which is equally just as important for this project.

I had the idea for the name for a few months but was nervous about telling the guys as I thought they would think it sucked so I kept them in suspense. When I finally put it on the table they all said within a second “Yeah I’m into that”. It was met with a lot less resistance than I expected haha. It actually stems from 2 different sources. 1. It’s taken straight from the NYC band BIOHAZARD song of the same name that was on “State of the World Address”. They are hands down one of my favorite bands ever. Bob, Adam, & Nate also love them equally as much as I do. They’ve been a huge influence on us growing up involved with metal and hardcore in the 90’s. They have an awesome mix of groove, bounce, attitude, and heaviness, sometime a lot of us in the band really enjoy. Plus Nate loves Bobby Hammel’s solo work and also his 360 spins! I don’t think we sound like them much as I haven’t really started trying to rap yet (you never know!) but they are definitely an influence. And 2. Over the years I’ve kind of figured out that I didn’t necessarily fit in with the thugs of the world but I also didn’t mesh with the overly pseudo intellectuals either. I mean I do like talking about books, current events, and society, but also if you treat me wrong I’ll pop you in the mouth for it. So I keep one foot planted in both worlds. I felt like I was somewhere in the middle and joked that some day I wanted to start a band that I would consider “Intelligent Caveman-core”. And I often thing of Henry Rollins, “part animal, part machine” too. So the ridiculous yet memorable name Human Animal just seemed to sum up those ideas as well.

When Dark Days EP came out I know many people really liked it. What do you feel about it finally coming out and was it a good feeling knowing that kids are feeling your music?

We spent the better part of year just working on those 5 songs. We wanted to put everything we could into them and it was the first album & songs I’ve written lyrically and sang on so that was a big deal for me. Also our drummer Bobby engineered, recorded, and produced the whole thing so that was a new exciting process for him and us as well. So we’re a bunch of older guys just trying to step outside of our comfort zones and pushing ourselves to learn and try new things. I feel like we’ve all really gelled well together and these guys bring a lot to the table which in turn makes me want to keep working hard as they inspire me.

The response has been really good so far. The best part was reading on some messageboards some reviews and stuff as you know most of your friends will just pat you on the back and say good job. But when it’s someone you don’t know complimenting it that means a lot as they tend to not mix any words and just put out an honest review. We’ve gotten some good press online but it’s still a bit weird. It’s really hard to be objective and guess what others are thinking. We’ve only played a hand full of shows and we’re still at that point where kids are just kind of staring at us. But regardless we do our thing and bring it as hard as we can. One thing I’ve enjoyed is when people tell me which is their favorite song as they tend to pick out different stuff that stood out to tell, so that’s pretty fun to hear. I hope that things just keep continuing to stay on the positive side and we can just keep getting our stuff out there and showing kids what we do here in Erie, PA.

The ep will be released on 7” vinyl. Tell us something about it? When it will be out and who is putting it out?

Well in order to not waste any time getting the songs around I had just put it up on every online avenue I could for free download. Some old friends in North Carolina heard it and we’re really digging it. They all used to come up to Erie for shows and we’ve all spent a lot of shared history and fun times together. I think they really connected to us as we’re basically from the same school and upbringing in the scene. Danny & Jonathan run a screen printing shop and wanted to expand that by putting out music along side it and threw the idea to us about doing a vinyl version of “Dark Days”. We were immediately into the idea as I love vinyl and think that sitting at home reading lyrics, checking out the cover art, and listening to 7”s is an integral part of growing up a hardcore kid. It’s just you and the band connecting. As of the beginning of April Danny had received the covers and that was the last ingredient we needed. By the time anyone is reading this ordering should be up on the Holy Mountain Music website. The 7” is limited to 300 copies (100 on clear and 200 on mixed vinyl). They’ll be a pre-order bundle of those with a HA shirt only available from HMM and it comes in a rad silk screened box. They make pretty awesome stuff and it’s great being connected to a screen printer now! They recently did some really nice tank tops for us. We’re extremely grateful they did the 7” for us as we’re a new unknown band so it’s a lot of faith for someone to put that much time and money into us. Hopefully we will represent them well and we appreciate them hooking us up like that.

You describe your sound as “intelligent cavemen struggling to deal with the modern worlds frustrations”, which is one of the best definitions I’ve heard in a while. Was there any vision of how the band would sound when starting the band?

I guess I kinda touched on that description a little earlier but as far as actual styles I wasn’t exactly sure how we would sound starting out. Adam wrote a lot of the initial guitar riffs and his older bands that he played in (xDisciplex AD, Shockwave, Jesus Wept) were pretty metallic and moshy. But Bob and I have always been more into rhythm and groove like Snapcase, Quicksand, Orange 9mm which you can hear in our really old stuff we did together in Brother’s Keeper. So I think we found a nice mix of that stuff. The first time those two got together I think they just jammed on Biohazard and Integrity covers to be honest! But we all like a wide variety of stuff so I don’t think we wanted to lean in any direction too much. We just wanted to be a straight up hardcore band. We’re all sort of discovering where we’re headed with this and it’s a lot of fun. We’re consciously trying to keep the songs from sounding too much like each other and having elements of fast and slow, bouncy, moshy, melodic at times. I’m also trying to keep things interesting with different vocal pitches, the way I sing, and mixing in some group vocals. I try hard to enunciate my words too and not just make it a bunch of low gurgles and mumbles. We like music that is heavy but without really on just breakdowns to be heavy. To me heavy and hardcore is way more than a mosh part, it’s a vibe, it’s style, and substance.

What do you want for the listener to get when listening to your music?

That’s a tough question really that I haven’t thought a ton about. To be perfectly honest, this band to me has been a bit of a selfish project as I’ve cared more about making myself happy with it than worrying what others will think. It’s been more about my expectations and standards of what I would want to hear. If others enjoy it, cool. If not, that’s okay. I know my tastes are weird and lots of my friends make fun of my musical likings but I’ve never cared. At best if they listen to it and enjoy what we did than that would be awesome. I think as far as musicians and quality my band kills it. As far as song writers I think we’re keeping it pretty classic in a punk hardcore sense but also trying to make the songs catchy, memorable, and energetic. One goal is to keep the songs from being one pace whether it’s vocally, tempo, or in general. We want to throw our some unexpected parts without being too weird. Lyrically I’m just writing about whatever is on my mind at the time. Things that eat away at me a little on the inside. I’m sure there’s plenty of people out there that share some of my thoughts so maybe they’ll connect on that level too.

You did video for Swine Flu track, when will it be out?

The video is dropping this week as well when the ordering info for the 7” goes up. Holy Mountain offered also to make the video happen and our jaws dropped when they put that out there. That was super cool of them to do for us. It was a ton of fun to make and we kept it pretty simple for a first video. We would really like to do more and more of them as time, ideas, and money allows. I feel like it’s just another medium to further express ourselves and our songs. I know I watch tons of videos online to check out new bands or bands that I don’t even enjoy just to watch them though. It’s a fun, long, and unique process that I hope we explore further. I have ideas for super serious ones and the other guys also have ideas for one where we involved in a hot dog eating contest so who knows what the hell the future will bring with that!

The list of the former bands you guys were involved in is impressive: Shockwave, Brother's Keeper, Prayer for a Fallen Angel, Abnegation, xDisciplex AD. During the time when these bands were around, Erie hardcore was a force to reckon. What’s your best memory from that era?

The shows were huge back then. I’m not sure where or when things took a turn with that. But for years like mid 90s to early 2000s an Erie hardcore band could pack in 350-700 kids in a venue. There was so much stage diving, singing along, and moshing it was so much fun. Kids actually cared what the bands were singing and talking about. I think the general energy in the room was just spot on. Also a lot of cool stuff was happening outside of the popular bands. Lots of kids were doing zines, a bunch of different people booked shows, lots of local charities too. My favorite memory or part of that era was watching my friends get excited for new projects and getting to work with or sit along side as they were being creative and going down new roads in their lives. Now a lot of kids and my peers all seem so sheltered or scared to try new things that we’ve all become pretty complacent and dull. But yeah, just the overall enthusiasm is what I really remember and think about from those times, oh yeah and we were all 50 lbs lighter too!

Correct me if I’m wrong, but right now things seem to be kind of slow over there. I haven’t heard many hardcore bands hailing from your area in recent years. Why is that? What happened?

It’s hard to say. In early 2000s a bunch of the monumental bands from the 90s in Erie kind of ended like Brother’s Keeper, xDisciplex, Neverfall, Digression etc… I moved 7 hours away back to Eastern PA where I was born in Philadelphia. So I missed a good few years from 2003-07 until I moved back to Erie. All the while I was in Philly I was still releasing music for Erie bands and trying to be involved from far away. Upon moving back I noticed that more and more of a gap between the younger and older generation. I blame a lot of my friends for not picking up the pieces and staying involved within the scene. A lot have gotten lazy and although they still listen to hardcore they don’t come around, start new projects, get involved with younger kids, set examples etc… A couple bands had decent momentum like xRepresentx, Jesus Wept, Hank Jones, & War of Ages and in more recent years there’s been some other quality bands. But I think between the worldwide scene just becoming so saturated with bands and also the lack of many locals overly pushing themselves and working hard can be problematic. I see a lot of people that just sit back and think people are going to come running to them with handouts instead of busting their ass and making things happen. And in the end they just cast the blame on others for missed opportunities. Your band is really only going to do as much as you put into it.

What do you think about hardcore from Erie area right now? How does it compare to the old days?

There’s a lot of kids really excited about hardcore still but show turn outs are at a really low point. For the later parts of the 2000s what I would consider straight up hardcore shows had okay turnouts but the younger “scene” metallic screamo stuff was what would really pull out tons of the younger kids. Booking agents would do those shows just to be able to afford the hardcore shows that they might lose money, but also cared more about. But the crowds at those shows sucked a lot of times with underage drinking, drug use, vandalism, and just acting like a bunch of immature idiots. The venues were treated like a damn high school bathroom practically. Then at the tail end of the 2000’s we lost the two historic venues called Forward Hall & another one called The Hangout. They hosted all ages DIY shows for a good ten plus years. So for awhile we didn’t have anywhere to do shows and national touring bands stopped coming through Erie.

Also the hardcore scene around here (and many other places) really started to get silly with wanting to be violent moshing, gang / crew mentalities, and a few of the bands were very in your face straight edge. I like crazy shows, and I’m 36 and still straight edge and friends with many of the people I’m referring to, but regardless back in day we welcomed all kinds of misfits from any walk of life into the scene. My theory is that kids don’t come around as much is because I feel with more recent vibes I could also see it being more alienating to younger kids and more of a turn off. Then the ones who have stuck around spend more time trying to live up to that thug lifestyle. They want to dance hard and someday get asked to be in a crew. That’s their aspirations. They spend more time trying to live that life instead of picking up an instrument, starting bands, booking shows, putting out records, clothing lines, zines, artwork, or any other constructive creative ways of being apart of the scene. So the future is pretty bleak. And to be honest, we’re all a bunch of nerds anyway! The only bands around are people who have been in a ton of other past bands. There are no younger Erie hardcore bands right now and that scares me.

With having said that though there are still a bunch of people carrying the torch. We’re still very new as we only played our first show 5 months ago, our bassist also plays guitar in a fast American Nightmare / Killing the Dream style hardcore band called PHASES who have a new full length coming out, my old band SMOKE AND MIRRORS is still going and just put out a new CD on rad local label / show promoters Down For Anything Records, some of the guys from xREPRESENTx (who just played a 10 year anniversary show) have a new heavy band called HELLSENT, and another female fronted sorta old school sounding band called COUNTERFEIT which are cool. There’s also MERE PHANTOMS who are more political, noisy, grindy, grimey stuff and some metalcore stuff like PERDITION & POLARIS BREACH. There’s a great smaller DIY venue called BASEMENT TRANSMISSIONS ran by an old punker Bob Jenson and I think that place is rad and then there’s another new all ages venue opening up. So there’s still plenty going on, it just might not be on the level it was back in the day but I’m always optimistic and there’s always some people around who still give a shit.

What are band’s plans for the rest of 2013?

Nice, something light hearted before I depress the shit out of everyone haha. 2013 already has us working on new songs. We have 3 that we started pre-production on and 2 others that Nate has written. They’re a nice mix of fast, groovy, and heavy. All 3 so far are pretty unalike each other in a good way I think. I really want to put out some split 7”s on hopefully a foreign label and a US label. I just want to be prolific and in small doses too. Most bands are better in EP form as opposed to full lengths, especially early on. I hope to shoot another video or two and play a bunch of out of town shows. We’ve been talking to a few different labels about some projects but nothing is solid yet. We’re pretty much up for anything and working with anyone as long as they’re not shitheads. It’s nice having our own recording studio too so as soon as we have songs ready to go we want to put out new releases. We’d love to get some more traveling under our belts, as much as our wives will let us!

Do you have any shout outs or anything that you would like to say?

Thanx a ton for the interview and for helping spread our name around. It really means a lot and was fun to do. It’s hard starting a band from scratch and getting anyone to pay attention to you. I’d really like to thank my bandmates for pushing me into uncharted territories, all the bands we’ve played with, and friends who have been supportive. I’d also like to thank our wives for being as patient and understanding as they can as a bunch of mid to late 30 year olds are spending hours at a time making a racket out in Bobby’s garage. Get involved in your local scene more so then just buying tshirts and moshing. You’ll be thankful that you did later in life. Be involved not a spectator. Erie Hardcore 2013. Lake effect… in effect.

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