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New Artist Focus: Funeral Chic

Photo: Dan Rawe

One listen to Funeral Chic’s Superstition is sufficient to conjure dystopia. At once I see post-apocalyptic scavengers and outlaws ravaging the wasteland or, perhaps, a sun-blotting horde approaching the crest of their home state’s Southern Appalachian Mountain Range. Their dark alchemy of crust punk and metal is the soundtrack to grave-robbing for beer money, a subterranean punk club in the world’s moldiest of crypts.

Though they hail from Charlotte, NC; there’s a distinctly frost bitten and urban feel to their pitch black hardcore. In the grand tradition of punks playing metal, there’s no chance of finding the midsection. The Venn diagram of extremity has been completely mangled and erased by the recent Prosthetic Records signees, joining an ever-expanding roster of fresh and exciting bands like Wristmeetrazor, Neckbeard Desthcamp, and the mighty Venom Prison. 

Marrying metal and hardcore punk is rarely, if ever, this fun. Gnarled rock 'n' roll mashed up with black metal’s “swarm of sound” idiosyncratic approach, Superstition doesn’t really sound quite like anyone. For those needing them, there are myriad touchstones. There’s the street-ready and metallic punk fury of Midnight, the blast beats of godhead caliber grindcore, the low end buzzsaw of post-Entombed HM-2 blackened hardcore, the scorched earth policy of epic stadium crust, and the raw manic production of Scandinavia’s naughtiest exports.

Despite flourishes from all corners of rock 'n' roll’s adjacent subgenres, Funeral Chic has a seemingly endless supply of weapons in their arsenal and a singular, fresh attack.

Photo: Teddie Taylor

Rounding out their sonic terrorism are scathing guitar solos that sound both squealing and tortured, inhuman blasts of drums that’d fit equally well with Marduk as they would Terrorizer, and a scuzzy bass sound I wouldn’t trust in a dark alley. All this said, I think music is ultimately a product of who it’s played by...  and this is punk rock in its truest form. At its core, this music is defiant protest music that has far more in common with the collectivism of ABC No Rio or 924 Gilman than the sheen and gloss of the “pro” and  careerist metal scene at large. Regardless of our (my) need to put things in boxes, the band will likely sidestep any comparison bandied about. 

As the unparalleled Kim Kelly so thoughtfully posited in her excellent review on Pitchfork, they manage the sweet spot between a litany of scenes, being as they fit everywhere and nowhere in equal measure. They’d likely just as soon lay waste to the most derelict Berlin squat as they would playing direct support to Cannibal Corpse. Both opener “Rotten to the Core” and midway point “Decorated," whose opening soundclip salvo declares simply “Fuck the Cops," are perfect introductions to their masterful synthesis of Satan and the sewer.

Photo: Dan Rawe

Chris Colohan (SECT, Cursed, Burning Love) and Mike Riley (Pulling Teeth) both make phenomenal guest spots, doing their best to help beckon the world’s end. Music this intentionally bludgeoning and putrid is oftentimes far too self-serious or, leans way too “party thrash” for its own good. Yet, Funeral Chic manage to present as raging, celebratory, and triumphantly nihilistic. 

Vehemently anti-fascist and anti-pacifist, these crusty metal warriors are aggressive, progressive set to wake the collective scene the fuck up. They’ll likely not stop at the Black Mountains of the Carolinas. Get ready. Both Robert Stroud (guitar) and D. Ryan. (vocals) were kind enough to indulge me in my favorite pastime... punishing rad bands. 

Give us a little background on the North Carolina scene and your place in it.

Robert Stroud: North Carolina has always been a good place for punks. No idea why. Corrosion of Conformity played the state fair last year as a hometown show. There's probably thousands of sub genres with their own scenes here, but it all melts together and the result is a good variety of styles between bands. Everybody is doing weird shit and mixing genres and attitudes just to see what works. I maintain that Funeral Chic could not have existed in any other environment. We come from different musical backgrounds and have very different interests, but we know there's value in playing up those differences and putting it in the songs we write together. I think we finally embraced that fully on this record. Honestly, I don't know any other way to do it now.

I’ve heard lots of sonic comparisons that fail to hit the mark. Out of fear of being lazy, I’ll steer clear. I must say, the brilliant alchemy of blackened crust, metal, punk, hardcore, and black metal sounds shockingly unique. How’d that come together? 

D. Ryan: As far as everything post-Hatred Swarm, I don't really identify with the blackened crust or black metal labels. But objectively, I get it. It's fast and pissed off. Sure. 

Robert Stroud: I get such a fucking kick out of seeing people try to squeeze us into a genre label, or comparing our sound to other bands as a reference — some of the bands they list are way off the mark. But it's also cool to see people getting something different out of it than what we intended. Honestly a lot of our influence comes from places that don't sit anywhere near the type of music we play.

This record has plenty of references to bands like Fleetwood Mac, Thin Lizzy, Van Halen, ...then there's the more obvious stuff like Motörhead, Poison Idea, Tragedy, Obituary, etc. It was a lot of "fuck yeah, I want to try something like these guys did" and then finding a way to do that with our sound. 

Photo: Kevin Condon

Your sound enables you to play anywhere in the Venn diagram of extreme music. Who’ve you soiled stages with? 

Robert Stroud: We've been really lucky to play with some incredible bands in the last few years. A lot of other groups that defy the typical genre labels as well. Our favorites are shows with other NC/SC bands that we really respect and admire, bands like Joy, WVRM, Invoke, Toke, SECT, Dreamy D...there are honestly too many to properly shout out. 

I must ask about VITOA? Care to elaborate on it? Are people surprised to find that you’re seemingly far more political than expected? 

D. Ryan: We tend to stay in our lane until the things we care about are compromised. Then, we're involved. Otherwise, everything we have to say is already right there. V.I.T.O.A. means people of color matter. Trans people matter. Cops don't matter. Being lumped into the black metal genre and subgenres and the stigma that exists there sometimes, I think it can be surprising to new fans. Even still, that's only a portion of what Funeral Chic is about. It's also personal. It's pain. It's ugly. It's desperate and anxious. 

As a sucker for guest spots, I gotta ask how getting both Chris Colohan and Mike Riley happened. 

Robert Stroud: Well, we were at This Is Hardcore last year when Pulling Teeth had their reunion show and approached Mike really just to show our appreciation for the music he's made. Pulling Teeth is a big influence on us as well. So, we exchanged info, and then later as we were in the middle of writing the album we reached out to him about contributing and collaborating on a song and to our surprise he said yes. I think his part in that song really elevates it to another level.

As for Chris...he's a fucking champ and one of the most legit people I've ever met. We were again lucky enough to play with his current band, SECT, and made that connection there, and just like with Mike he said yes when we asked him to contribute. It became one of the weirdest and best moments of this band too: since it was difficult to schedule studio time for his part, he ended up recording his vocals in the back of our van when they toured through North Carolina. It was pissing down rain outside,we recorded him through a mic wrapped in a shirt into laptop, and it should've sounded like total garbage but he fucking nailed it in like three takes and it made it on the album. A real testament to how much of a real fucking musician that guy is. 

D. Ryan: Extra shout out to Shane from Grim Gang for rippin' a few bitchin' solos. 

Shane Kelly from Grim Gang. (Photo: Facebook)

2018 was a big year for y’all? What’s the immediate future hold for Funeral Chic?

D. Ryan: We have a small release tour next month. That's about all we can talk about at the moment, I think.

Robert Stroud: We're lining up our tour schedule for 2019. Already started on writing the next record. Maybe a few surprises littered throughout. Just trying to fuck the world before it fucks us. 

Photo:  Brooke Tucker

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Superstition is available everywhere and can also be purchased directly from Prosthetic Records. Funeral Chic can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Bandcamp.

Tagged: funeral chic, new artist focus

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