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2Minute Minor: Chicago Hardcore Punks Stay Busy Despite the Quarantine

David Byrne once famously uttered “The arts don’t exist in isolation.” The Talking Head himself mustn’t have been familiar with 2Minute Minor.

The Chicago hardcore classicists are decidedly in and of the moment. Case in point is their newest EP, Lockdown, which was written, recorded, and now released during our forced collective layoffs or staycation. Pieced together separately and remotely, the five-piece’s latest was cobbled together from cell phone recordings. The resulting 4-song set still somehow sounds long-labored over and sonically studio-worthy.

The band certainly aren’t strangers to the prolific or inventive. Starting with their 2017 Demo, their relatively brief hardcore tenure has been littered with yearly EPs, full lengths, and the odd singles despite the increasing demands of family and other full time bands. Assembled from Windy City lifers, 2Minute Minor specialize in a sound steeped in tradition, unapologetically in debt to early USHC, Oi!, and straight ahead punk rock.

The EP starts with proof-positive of their elective self-isolation, as the vocal booth sounds eerily like the singer’s bathroom. From there, the band launches into an assault not unlike Slapshot who, fittingly, also sports a band name and aesthetic cribbed from hockey. Quicker than a stay in the penalty box, the band are out and back onto the ice in time for an old school mosh part.

Few songs literally sample the shitter, but 2Minute Minor have thankfully gone to their respective “studios” with facemasks in tow. Lyrically, it namechecks Covid-19 as if needing time stamped evidence of their hastily stitched but crucial ripper. “Mi Familia” sports a killer bass riff equal parts Motorhead and Cro-Mags that again mines early hardcore. The sub two minute blast, though ultimately a tribute to familial sacrifice and the grief it carries, manages to shoehorn bits of the rock n’ roll inclined sleazy punk of Poison Idea and Blood For Blood.

“Deep Grief” and the following “Lockdown Outro” sport the use of samples in expert fashion. The former is all bounce and groove a la NYHC’s primitive beginnings. The juxtaposition of deeply moving lyrics to otherwise rollicking old school hardcore is a smashing success. Though they kick in doors a la Murphy’s Law or Warzone, the proceedings are given a deeply serious air, as the lyrics mourn the loss of a friend to gun violence.

The band doesn’t skimp on backing vocals, either. Gang vocals and “whoas” litter the entire thing, calling to mind Wisdom In Chains and similarly minded purveyors of unity. The aforementioned “outro” plays the whole “Intro” game in inverted fashion. One could easily imagine their shows beginning on the slowly thumping tom drums and sirens herein, yet here we are. The world is upside down, anyway. 

Frontperson and Chicagoan Wiley Willis, also of October Bird of Death, was kind enough to take the time to indulge me in some questions. As per suggestions, we kept our distance during our virtual “socializing.” It’s approximately 3,706,560 feet from Chi-Town to Charm City if my math is correct? Safe enough. Stay inside, y’all. 

Welcome! Introduce yourself to No Echo Readers! 

Hey this is Wiley Willis of 2Minute Minor. Myself and guitarist Bob Shields started the band in early 2016. As long as Bob and I are on a release and it’s hardcore punk it’s pretty much 2MM. Bob and I have two line ups of 2MM for the most part. We have a Kalamazoo Michigan chapter, where I spent many years, which includes Brad Swanson, Jeff Hostetler, and Adam Nolan, that does the more crossover sound like the single we released in March titled “Choke on the Blood” featuring Eddie Sutton of Leeway and we have a Chicago chapter, which includes Zach Bridier and Marko Karacic, that does the more hardcore punk sound like the Lockdown EP we just released.

Bob and I are in another band with our good friend Sean Kelly (Who also played bass in 2MM for a year) called What’s Your Damage? I play drums and Bob plays guitar. It has a late '70s/early '80s post punk vibe. I would say that Bob and myself make 2Minute Minor and we have friends and fellow musicians that write, play, tour with us when need be. 

In about 9 months, I’m assuming we’ll see as many new albums as babies born. Yet, you recorded your brand new EP remotely and, unless I’m mistaken, wrote one of the songs while quarantined. Please walk me through the process.

We actually wrote all 4 tracks, recorded, mixed, mastered, and released the EP in 7 days. 

I was talking to our drummer and mixer, Zach Bridier, on the phone, and was bummed that our crossover record in Michigan came to a screeching stop when the lockdown was announced. We had 4 of the original 6 tracks written and we were working on the songs "Hard Times" by Cro-Mags and "Caught in a Mosh" by Anthrax to make the EP 8 tracks when the virus and lockdown stopped us cold. So, Zach and I had the idea to record it all with our cellphones separately in our homes. I reached out to Marko, he was our very first bass player in 2016, who also plays guitar and asked him to help write this Lockdown EP with Bob and I.

Marko agreed and we talked to Sean Kelly, our bass player in Chicago, and Zach, our Chicago drummer, and asked them to do it. Doing it all on our cell phones was a nightmare that I would never ever wish on my worst enemy. The mixing alone took forever. I was on the phone with Zach for 3 days straight from 9am-6pm working on the mixes with him. It took that long to get them listenable.

I had to record my vocals in the bathroom so my dog would not freak out and think I was yelling at her. Also, after each take, I looked out the window and 3 of my neighbors were looking at our house wondering what was going on inside. 

The band has been exceedingly prolific. What do you attribute that to?

We try to put out a EP once a year and do as many singles as we can. It’s all about staying busy and as long as we have a charity to raise money for and things to say we will continue to push our content. We are also doing a 1” record in the summer. We will be raising money for suicide prevention.

We have a special guest vocalist on it as well. Mr. Tim Mann from the '90s hardcore band Focused. It is called We Hate 2Minute Minor and it will have two 10 second songs on it. We love making music and we love raising money for people and pups. We did a Up the Pups compilation and raised over $1,500 for the pups for a no kill shelter. It’s all about giving back to the community. 

From the name and imagery to the aesthetic, y’all are clearly hockey fans. Can we all agree that the Capitals deserve this year’ Cup? Joking aside, how bummed are you? 

I love hockey, I played growing up. I grew up in the upper peninsula of Iron Mountain, Michigan, so I know all about playing hockey. I watched the Red Wings in the '90s and followed hockey religiously. To be honest, I haven’t really watched any professional sports since 2001. Yet hockey will always run in my veins. I went to visit my Aunt and Uncle who live on a lake and I put on the old skates and grabbed the stick and puck and was on the lake for hours. So to your Capitals comment I have no idea what that means [laughs]. Bob is going to proofread all this jazz so maybe he can weigh in. He still watches hockey. He went to a Blackhawks game recently.

“I could get on board with Ovi if he was on an Original 6 team…. I’m kidding, he’s great!” - Bob

Pardon the pun, but “sticking” with the hockey angle, you share a bit of the menace and sound of the storied Boston puckheads Slapshot. What’re some of your inspirations, if not influences? Where’s the Oi influence come from? 

Slapshot is a huge inspiration for me. Choke Kelly is one of my favorite vocalists. I’m a fan of Last Rights, Negative FX, and Stars and Stripes, who we got the chance to open for at Northeast Oi! fest in Connecticut last year, and of course the almighty Slapshot. 

I’m heavily influenced by straight edge hardcore and hardcore with a message. We get our Oi! influence hardcore bands that also have that influence, like Slapshot, Warzone, Uniform Choice, Cro Mags, Iron Cross, Sheer Terror, 7 Seconds, and Agnostic Front. 

Current events aside, how’s the scene in Chicago? Any bands you’d like to big up?

Chicago has a great music community with some of my favorite local Chicago bands like: Battle Royale (Windy City hardcore), Shitizen (old-school punk rock), The Kreutzer Sonata (hardcore punk), KillCult (the singer, Quinn Anderson, of my other band, What’s Your Damage?, main band that is old-school punk), Decline (SXE Youth Crew), C.H.E.W. (hardcore punk) and Through N Through (the best and heaviest Chicago throw down hardcore) TNT is my buddy Ruben L Garza Jr’s band. Dude has the biggest heart and stands for some great things. 

Aside from the band, what’s keeping you sane these days?

My job is on hold for now. I work at a print shop here in Chicago on the Northside. Really making these EPs are truly the only thing keeping me sane personally besides exercising and spending time with my family. We moved during all this craziness and I just had my lockdown birthday. 

Can’t let you escape without indulging my favorite pastime... lists. What’re your Top 5 hardcore LPs. First early USHC and then any other 5! 

In order, my favorite old-school hardcore releases:

  • Cro-Mags, Best Wishes
  • Leeway, Born to Expire
  • Agnostic Front, Cause for Alarm
  • Slapshot, Step on It
  • The Crucified, The Crucified

Other worthy mentions that are for me personally are: 

  • Terror, Keepers of the Faith
  • Rotting Out, Street Prowl
  • Buggin’ Out, Buggin' Out
  • Tørsö, Sono Pronta A Morire
  • World Be Free, The Anti-Circle
  • Keep Away, Detroit Hardcore 

2Minute Minor on social media: Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp

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