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Die Young: Texas Hardcore Band Returns with “Defective Machines” (PREMIERE)

Photo: Jessica Garcia

A few weeks back, Die Young vocalist Daniel Albaugh contacted me via email to ask if I'd be interested in premiering a new track from his band. Instead of a regular song premiere feature, we both agreed that it would be better to tie a longer interview into the piece to bring everyone up to date on all-things Die Young, and for him to clear the air about some stuff that's been bugging him in recent years.

So, check out Die Young's new track, "Defective Machines," below, plus gain some insight on Daniel's headspace, and the band's history and future plans.

Since this is the first time Die Young has appeared on No Echo, please give us the Reader's Digest version of the group's history.

We were most active from late 2002 until late 2009. In November 2002, we recorded our original demo, played our first show, and then immediately went on a West Coast tour in early December. The goal from the start had always been to maintain the band in a way that we could tour as often as possible. We were really aiming to be touring madmen on the level of DIY legends Catharsis or Black Flag—to just go at it with no concern for the consequences living in a financially irresponsible manner would later cost us. Hence the name Die Young.

In 2003 we went on our first East Coast tour, which led us to landing a deal with Immigrant Sun Records out of Brooklyn (Saves the Day, Morning Again). We put out three records with them (the Confessions of a Petty Thief 7" in 2003, then The Message in 2004, and the Survival Instinct EP in 2005). We began touring more, even internationally on Survival Instinct, and all that hard work landed us a deal with Eulogy Recordings out of Florida, which led us to record our first proper full-length, Graven Images, in late 2006 with Jonathan Nunez of Torche.

We toured consistently all over the world for the next two years, eventually putting out what was intended to be our final release, Loss, with A389 Recordings. By the end of 2008, we were just simply tired of touring, and admittedly jaded on the hardcore scene, so we decided to plan a final European and Latin American tour, and a final US show in our hometown of Houston, TX, which happened in October 2009. In the end, we played four continents (roughly about 35 countries), and released many records we are proud of.   

Photo: Jose Calixto

You guys came back in 2014, so, what have been some of the highlights?

"Coming back" was fun. We got some cool festival offers that we were grateful for. We also got to do some short runs with some our music heroes, notably one of our biggest inspirations from day one, Catharsis, as well as Madball, who are quintessentially influential in hardcore as Slayer is to metal. The West Coast run we did with SECT in 2018 was also one of our favorite runs ever. Doing some higher profile shows like that, and putting out the Chosen Path record in 2014 led us to sign a deal with Good Fight Music which allowed us to put out my favorite Die Young material to date, the No Illusions LP and The God for Which We Suffer EP.

As I have said many times, we never intended to come back and milk our old material for all it was worth. We "came back" because we had new inspiration to be Die Young. If I didn't think we were evolving and mastering our craft with each release, I wouldn't want to keep doing this, but I think we continue to evolve, and this new song, "Defective Machines," is strong evidence of that, I think. It's most satisfying to me to keep the creativity alive in this band, both musically and lyrically. It's an outlet that on some level I have continued to need.

OK, since you brought up "Defective Machines," let's get into that. We're premiering the track below, so please give the readers some insight into the song and its lyrics.

Lyrically, "Defective Machines" is my rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me to the End of Love," perhaps some "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division, and the nuance of perspective one gets about monogamy by reading Esther Perel books. If you can't tell, I've been through some rough shit in my home life, but hey, at least I think it made for a good, raw-as-fuck song. What can you do but turn your pain into....something else? Musically, I think Allan (our guitarist and recording engineer) was listening to a lot of the new Behemoth and Converge material when he churned this song out. And that is A-OK by me. I love it. Everyone brought their A-Game to recording, too (Mike, Eric, and Rogelio included). We're really proud of this one. We explore a lot of new territory with this song, and it was cathartic to do so. 

Yeah, before the interview, you mentioned to me that the band has been wrestling with the issue many other bands have in the past, which is fans only want to embrace the old/classic material, and don’t give the newer material a fair shot. 

[Laughs] Yeah, this reminds me of Rick at Good Fight Music telling me to stop being an asshole and just play the "hits" that people came to hear. I hesitate to say Die Young actually has any "hits" but mostly people want to hear the title tracks from 2004-2007, primarily the song "The Message." People will often call out for that one in the beginning of the set, and I'm like "Motherfuckers, you know that's the finale, right?" Be fucking patient, people. We have a lot of other good songs, in my judgment anyhow—songs that I think are better than that one.

We started employing a rule after the come back excitement wore off—if people don't fuck it up or sing along for the songs before "The Message" then we simply don't play "The Message." Fuck them. That's a song about hardcore having meaning beyond the scene itself, and to me, if people aren't interested in the plethora of other subjects I've been trying to have dialogue about for decades now, then "The Message" rings hollow to me in certain settings, as if the hardcore scene isn't capable of caring about much more than its own status.

So the end result there is that old fans leave our recent shows feeling let down. Well, we felt let down, too. Am I an asshole? Undoubtedly, I can be. But we, as a band, want to play what we're feeling, and what we're feeling is what we're writing lately, not what we wrote in 2003. If the crowd isn't going to meet us in the middle, then we'll just do our own thing. This whole supply and demand aspect, to me, doesn't belong in my art. It doesn't fulfill me to do tricks for other people, sorry. 

Photo: Jessica Garcia

You even brought up Patrick Kindlon from the Axe to Grind podcast being dismissive of your more recent work. 

But yeah, about that Axe To Grind episode where Die Young came up in discussion, and Pat said something to the effect he didn't think Die Young has "gotten a lick better since 2003," in response to the release of The God for Which We Suffer... it was clear to me he hadn't given our newer material any real time or attention to digest/process. It's totally fine by me if we're not his thing. We're not a lot of people's "thing." That's to be expected if we're true to our vision—we've always persisted in our own way with total acceptance of that fact, but you know, if you're going to comment on something, at least be versed about it.

I had several people message me about that episode when they heard us being called out in a sense, and I wanted a response for it. The funny thing is that Self Defense Family and Die Young both played For The Children Fest in California last winter, and both our sets were probably the most snoozed on of the whole day [laughs], so Pat and I talked about that and what he had said on the podcast. We agreed, hardcore is just a social beast, and as we get older, even as emotionally stunted and immature as we may both be to stay involved in this scene, it gets harder to stay relevant for social reasons. Merit (aka being a good band) means nothing.

Few bands get to have the legacy of the old NYC bands who continue to reach new generations of hardcore kids without being relatable peers to the younger crowds. For the rest of us, staying on top of the heap in any capacity means being cool with everyone, and I just don't have an interest in that. I keep my circles tight. My friends are real. I am just not much of a salesman or opportunist. If it takes everyone liking me to get Die Young the respect I feel it has always deserved then I guess it's just not in the cards for Die Young. I am more interested in doing our own thing the way we want to and not kissing anyone's ass. 

Photo: Jose Calixto

Since your newer material has leaned in heavier into the metal side of the stylistic spectrum, I was curious to your thoughts on hardcore and how Die Young fits into the current scene.

I am not sure how we fit in now, or how we ever did. Earlier on, we sounded more like a punk-influenced hardcore band with my metallic sounding vocals. Plenty of people didn't like that mix, particularly the Youngblood or old Bridge 9 crowds. Then we also had a lot of punk ethos and I would often go on political tirades during our sets, but we'd often play with "tough guy" bands, and plenty of people didn't like my sentimental subject matter, because they were just there to posture and be physically aggressive, so we got labeled as "preachy" and "political." Then we'd play DIY punk shows in squats with crust bands, and some of those kids thought we were jock assholes because we have songs with mosh parts and didn't smell bad enough.

I don't think we ever fit in, except for maybe in the mid-'00s vegan straight edge scene in California (7 Generations, Gather, and the ilk of '90s-influenced bands that came out of that, but we were never a vegan straight edge band ourselves, so...) and perhaps we continue to not fit in now.

But one thing I am sure of is that we are pushing our limits and our craft better than we ever have, and that is what matters most to me. I really like experimenting with more metal influences in the music. It is just more creative and free. Hardcore is at least 80% spirit and attitude anyhow. For example, Earth Crisis will always be just as much of a hardcore band as Youth of Today, no matter how many Carcass riffs influenced them. Likewise, we continue to be a hardcore band in the way I want to connect through lyrics and discussion with our audience, no matter how much metal our musical direction wanders. That's the spirit of hardcore that I still love the most. 

Photo: Skipp Zhang

What’s the plan for Die Young now? Are you guys aligned with a label/management, or are you looking to start fresh again in that regard?

We're done "trying." We will write and record music we're proud of when (or if) we feel the inspiration to do so. If people want to see us play from now on they need to ask. We're not actively trying or asking to make anything happen anymore. We did that for years, and it is exhausting, especially as we get older (being in a broke-ass band is a lot of hard work, ya know?). We're mainly still in this for the creativity and release of writing aggressive music.

We're not currently aligned with any management or labels, but we'll see what happens. If nothing happens, that's fine, too. It's kind of a parallel to what I was writing about in this song that we're premiering: at some point we've got to learn to let things go and move on. The real thing will find a way to persist no matter what, and that's ultimately out of our control. 

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