Orphan Crusher is a new band playing their first show this Sunday at Union Arts with Demands and others. Rather than ask some basic questions about things bands do not care about, we had them chat with each other.
Demands and Orphan Crusher are two bands who fall on different ends of the punk spectrum. Orphan Crusher embraces the heavy, the slow, the dirty, they seek to drag us down with them. They play a brand of punk one could call sludge. They just recorded a demo and are playing their first DC show this weekend. Demands on the other hand has the goal of playing as fast as possible. They play a subgenre of punk called hardcore punk, influenced by many of the early bands from DC’s hardcore scene. Demands has been playing since 2012 and just came out with their second tape. They are playing the same show this weekend, which you can check out on Sunday, June 22nd at Union Arts DC.
To mark the occasion of two different subgenres playing together, we decided to sit down to see what we have in common and what we think about punk, getting older, the local scene, and music in general.
James: So let’s do basic stuff, who we are, we are James and Dan from Demands.
Denman: And Denman and John from Orphan Crusher.
James: How old is Orphan Crusher, how long have you guys been around?
Denman: We’re still in diapers, but they’re some pretty shit-filled diapers.
John: Orphan Crusher started after the random demise of LTW a little over a year ago. I had met Matt and Daniel on H Street – we all work in the service industry. They were playing music together and invited me along; we have been practicing once a week for the past ten months or so and we recently recorded 25 minutes of music.
Dan: It happens when you’re a sludge band, you get going slow and steady (laughter).
James: How would you guys describe your music, one of the descriptions was sludge, what exactly is sludge music?
Denman: For me I would say just sludge, as the only descriptor. And it’s sort of something that in my mind, is really specific and the sound at least comes from the American South. It’s sort of this specific version of the American South, sort of co-opting doom. It comes from doom and it’s got a lot of big, southern riffs. It’s also a lot filthier and dirtier, slower and messier around the edges.
Growing up in Mississippi near New Orleans there were bands like Eyehategod that really made that sound. And even moving on, I really like bands like Iron Monkey, bands like Soilent Green, even though they mix a lot of genres, things like Grief or even parts of Noothgrush. More recent bands like Graves at Sea even though they’re not southern, they carry parts of that sound with them. That’s my two cents on the subject.
Dan: Aside from bands, are there any equipment requirements? I hear a lot about stoner metal, they really want to use vintage solid state amps, you hear about Sunn amps. Anything like that in sludge?
John: I do appreciate a good vintage tube amp. I do play through a couple of Sunn cabs, I sort of play the bass guitar in this band like a guitar, just a lot slower than I did when I was in LTW. The sound is also a lot thicker, I’m playing through a bass and guitar amp for ultimate crunch. I just want a really murky, muddy, filthy sound, that’s played very slowwly..
Denman: You guys, what is your sound, where does it fall?
James: Demands is a fast hardcore band, that’s one of the many types of punk that I like. There’s something I’ve always liked about just playing really fast. There’s a particular beat that just gets me really energized, ever since I was a teenager, listening to punk bands, going to shows.
Dan: We wanna play fast stuff and we also have some mid-tempo songs to break it up a bit, make it more interesting. I like to think with this band, we all have influences but we’re not necessarily trying to do worship music, where bands just try to do one style of music. Just play whatever we think sounds good as a group. I think that throughout the history of the band diversity has really been our strength. We’ve had people into all sorts of stuff in the band, we try to combine everything that we’re all into and make it into one cohesive presentation.
James: One thing that’s interesting is that as I get older I still like hardcore, but I also like more diverse influences in my music. So I still like that primal element of punk being the all-encompassing genre but I like having other influences. Do you guys feel that way too?
John: Absolutely, I listen to a lot of Disclosure.
James: Did you guys come from a punk background? Would you guys describe your background as punk? I think, that’s what I do. How would you describe your background?
Denman: I would say that my background is punk. However anyone wants to think about it, I kind of view whatever I do as still coming inherently somewhere from that space, whatever that is. Even if it has nothing to do with punk. And I’m not saying it’s a scene or politics or whatever, it’s just some kind of headspace that we can all probably identify with one way or another that influences things I do, just because that’s what I come from.
Dan: I listened to an interview with Elliott Smith one time, I’m a big fan of his, it sounds totally not punk, but he even talked about how it didn’t influence his music but it influenced the way he went about things.
John: It’s more of a vibe, that’s what punk is, and I’ve been doing that since I was 16. It came from the same place since I started playing music. It’s just sort of this feeling that stems into other things.
Dan: You know it when you see it, even if it doesn’t sound like punk.
James: I wanted to ask since some of us have been around a long time, I know I first saw Denman at the Warehouse Next Door in 2005. What do you guys think of the local scene now as opposed to the way it was several years ago. The venues, the bands?
Dan: I grew up in New Jersey, I started going to shows in the mid-90s, this was before everyone has internet access, and you sorta had to find out about things by seeing it or by having one of your buddies tell you about it. You saw what was on the forefront and always had to work backwards. What strikes me about kids today, especially in Washington, DC, there’s been a certain continuity of the scene. Kids are very aware of the early ’80s roots of punk and educate themselves and build around that as a foundation, and then go do what they want to do. So that’s sort of representative of the younger kid music scene here. You hear a lot of bands that are influenced by Minor Threat, SSD, early Black Flag, Jerry’s Kids, the list goes on. That doesn’t mean that early ’80s punk is the be-all end-all of interesting music, but if you look at that versus scenes where kids just look at whatever’s new and start trying to replicate that, then it’s pretty cool that kids around here do it that way. It’s definitely not what I saw when I was growing up.
James: Do you guys think there’s too much reverence and nostalgia for the ’80s hardcore scene?
John: I don’t think there’s too much, I just think that there are fortunately a lot of younger kids getting into punk and wanting to play and learn instruments. To be honest, that type of punk music is good for a beginner to intermediate musician. I’m sure as they get older and develop into what they really like listening to and want to play, they’ll probably get more intricate or creative in their sound. I think it’s great that people are getting driven creatively to want to play instruments. I think that’s kind of what’s happening. I’ve noticed in the past couple years there’s a lot of similar sounding youth crew type punk hardcore bands and I think it’s great. I think it’s awesome that all these young kids want to play music, because when I was 18, I didn’t really see a lot of that, as far as peers go. It was honestly people that were six-ish years older than me. People like guys that were in Majority Rule and Pg. 99, those were my influences when I was growing up.
As far as the scene right now goes, as far as finding out about shows it’s easier than ever with DC DIY Shows Facebook group. It’s the new Pheer.com, which is what I grew up on. The show accessibility is there but you also have the social media connectivity that Facebook gives you. You get to learn who’s going to shows, you can read people’s comments, and you can meet people that way and then you can meet them at shows and then form bands and get on shows, that’s how we got on this show that we’re playing Sunday.
James: Speaking about Facebook, one thing that I’ve been thinking about is the increasing prevalence of using Facebook and only Facebook to promote shows. It makes me worried because it’s giving a lot of control to one company. As we know, Facebook is now charging bands to promote shows or whatever content they want to promote. I wonder if there’s any other way to do it, other than shunning the internet entirely, and we’ve seen bands that do that.
John: I think the only other way to do it is to do it the old-fashioned way and make fliers, put them at all the record stores, go to the shows that you’re able to go to, and pass out your music.
Denman: I feel like a lot of people would say that that era is dead and I understand what they’re saying, but it’s still effective. It’s not as effective as it was back in the day, but if you pound the pavement and you put things in hands and you put up posters, it will make a difference.
John: It’s especially effective in DC I think because this city is small. I can bike from one end to the other and it’s not that big of a deal. It’s very easy to get around to all the record stores and shops that people frequent who might be into this kind of music, and to leave your mark there.
Dan: First let me answer the previous question because I didn’t get to jump in. I think definitely people have too much reverence for the early ’80s, because I’ll bet if you were to go back in time and meet those people they would not be as cool as you, or kids today, imagine them being.
Aside from that, is there any other way to do it, of course there will be. As soon as Facebook starts charging people enough money then some other thing will come up and then people will be doing things that way. I think that the old fliering thing never really goes out of style. My friend Mike does a DJ night in Mt. Pleasant. I’m convinced that one of the reasons why he got so many people to show up there is because he went around with fliers and a bucket full of paste and went up to light poles and put it all over the place. It was an overwhelming advertisement in sort of an artsy way for what he was doing. So yeah, there’s still other ways of doing things.
James: I wanted to talk about venues. This show we have on Sunday is at Union Arts which I think is a really awesome new space and I’m really excited about it. I think that since the Corpse Fortress and Hole In the Sky closed there were a few years when things went downhill because there weren’t as many DIY resources, we kind of gravitated toward bars. And bars are more focused on selling alcohol than on promoting shows so I’m really glad that we have a few new houses like the Dougout, like Ft. Loko, the Rocketship has been around a few years and Union Arts is doing shows now. What do you guys think about the importance of DIY venues in the city?
Denman: For me it takes it back to an even more basic idea, it’s about art, art needs space. The whole reverse suburbanization of America is causing a huge, huge problem. I’ve been in DC for ten years, in that time I’ve seen massive changes. It’s just space, space goes away. You’ve got developers coming in and for them every square inch is something that you can make money off of. The focus can be to bring money into art but art requires a lot of time and space more than thinking in terms of just a business. So especially at the DIY level it’s just harder and harder in a lot of cities in America right now to find the space to make any form of art. While I don’t say it’s totally doomed and fatalistic I do have that question a lot. As to what’s going to happen, how do we still make things work if we lose cities which have previously been the hotbeds of where cultural scenes have developed?
Dan: I think one of the coolest things about punk rock in general is the spirit of ingenuity and drive to get shows happening in any possible place you could have them. Over the past few years, we were just talking about some DIY spaces closing down. But one of the things that opened up was a Mexican/Salvadoran restaurant in Tenleytown started having shows, because people went in and talked to them and convinced them that the room they had upstairs that was reserved for birthday parties could be used as a show space, and that lasted for two years or so.
When I was growing up, some random guy from my town convinced a Chinese buffet that they should have shows once a month in their restaurant. The bulk of the shows I went to between the ages of 13 and 18 occurred there.
I understand the point and I appreciate spaces for art but at the same time I appreciate the sheer randomness and the characteristic of punk rock, like “we don’t give a fuck, we’ll have a show wherever.” If it’s a bar, I’m all for that as well, but I do have a strong preference for shows being all ages, and I don’t think that within our scene that needs a whole lot of explaining. If a show space pops up specifically for the purpose of doing shows obviously that deserves our support more than, say, a venue that’s out to sell as much beer as possible.
James: Two of us are 29 and two of us are over 30, and a lot of the people we see at shows are now ten years or more younger than we are. Do you guys ever feel a disconnect between yourself and a lot of the other people at shows? Are you still as excited about playing music and going to shows as you used to be?
John: I’m definitely still just as excited about playing music. It’s something that I just need to do, that I would be unhappy with myself if I ever stopped doing. I haven’t played a show in DC in over a year, my last show was with LTW and Priests at the Rocketship. As long as I can still play, I can still function as a person. That’s what it’s for for me, it’s a cathartic thing, and that will never change. Just because people are younger than me at shows that I choose to go to when I have time, I’m still just as happy and it doesn’t weird me out. I think it’s great because it just proves that this kind of thing is going to continue. And that’s the whole point.
Dan: I’d say that there’s been no plateauing in the level of excitement. Mainly I make music that I like as a representation of me, like “here, this is what I think hardcore punk should be, take it or leave it.” Before we put something out I listen to the thing every day, and criticize it in my own mind, think to myself what it says about us and how we can do better next time, so definitely I’m just as excited as ever.
James: Anything else?
Denman: Basically I’ll quit being a vampire for peripheral culture when someone stakes me.
James: I think that might be a good way to end it. Come check out Orphan Crusher and Demands on Sunday June 22nd at Union Arts DC.