Game is a UKHC band I first covered on No Echo back in 2017 when I profiled Ola Herbich, the combo's vocalist and proprietor of the label they record for, Quality Control HQ. "[Guitarist] Callum [Baird] wanted to do a Selfish Records/ADK-styled, more metallic band for ages and was listening to a lot of GISM and Zouo, so he asked Nicky [Rat] to drum and then me to 'sing,'" Ola tells me about the group's formation. "This is when the former two still lived in Leeds. We had a practice in The Flex basement and it went ok. Callum and Nicky then moved to London to become my housemates and we wanted to give it another shot. By this point Jonah [Falco] had moved to the UK and so we asked him to drum and Nicky switched to bass and that was the final lineup! A few months later we recorded a demo and put it out on a flexi 7" in homage to our influences. That was December 2017."
In terms of their musical approach, it's easy to see Game playing on bills with everything from American and Japanese hardcore to speed metal to UK82 bands. I ask Callum if that wide-spread palette reflects the kinds of live dates Game have played to date. "I think so, yeah. There’s a fairly big pool of influence we look to for inspiration from Japanese hardcore to NWOBHM to Eastern European punk, and I guess the bands we’ve played with reflects that, though it wasn’t curated to be so. We just like to play live and take what gigs come to us which can lead to playing to lots of different crowds. Seems like people are into it from a variety of scenes, so that’s cool!"
On April 12, Game will be releasing No One Wins, their debut LP. With Quality Control HQ handling Europe and Beach Impediment Records taking care of the North American release, the album was recorded by James Atkinson at the Stationhouse, mixed by Jonah, and mastered by Arthur Rizk, a guitarist (Sumerlands, War Hungry) who has also worked on recordings by the likes of Power Trip and Inquisition. Take a listen to the track "Trwoga" for a taste of what lies ahead once the LP arrives online on August 12, and then physically on August 22:
In terms of the lyrical side of Game, Ola offers up the different kinds of topics she's hitting on the new material. "When I started writing lyrics, I wanted to talk about similar themes to what UK hardcore punk was singing about in the early '80s but updated to be relevant to our experience today. I think about the relationship between words and meaning a lot, how in a post-modern world the link between them can be loose at best, people take advantage of how we hold words in such high esteem, and yet they can be manipulated to mean nothing. This is also why I took the decision to 'sing' in both Polish and English. Being bi-lingual, I guess, gives your brain access to a perspective where you experience no absolutes in how to communicate and one language can express something better than another, and it's about sharing a feeling rather than a specific meaning.
"The technology that is an integral part of our lives now, gives wings to the image and word evolving at great speed and meaning changes constantly. Being based in the UK, irony is also something that is part of daily life here. This kind of humour can be both damaging and addictive, but also hold a valuable mental release from a world that is increasingly complicated and difficult to make sense of. Another big influence for me is Adam Curtis the documentary filmmaker. His films about Western societies since the '80s really blew my mind and there's definitely a few songs directly exploring his ideas about the relationship between psychology, technology, consumerism and the economy."
Ola tells me more about the lyrics on No One Wins. "Some songs explore old symbols of so called 'fallen or single women,' such as witches and Medusa, that were used to paint us as a scourge of society or evil, in order to keep women in line with the expectations of family and subservience to the home and men. The lyrics use those symbols and turn them into ones of empowerment. This is nothing new and plenty of feminists have done this already in music and art. However, I just wanted to join in!
"Finally I'm a big sci-fi fan so one song is literally about the themes in Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov haha. I guess that was also a little nod to Sacrilege. Tam Simpson often sang about Lord of the Rings themes!
Jonah—who you might know from his work in such bands as Fucked Up and Career Suicide—gives me the lowdown on the No One Wins studio sessions. "I had recorded our flexi in the tiny room we practiced in up in North London, and while recording with me was an option again, it seemed like a good opportunity to push a bigger sound into what we're doing. All of the music our sound is based on seems to walk a line between either sounding completely raw and crashed out, and attempting to be slick and pummeling. Felt best to follow suit and work with UKHC stalwart engineer 'Atko' at his place up in Leeds: an entire building which had formerly housed the local police precinct.
"Nowadays, the live room is stacked floor to ceiling with every vintage guitar amp you could possibly conjure in a dream, and the upper floors where some Yorkshire Police Constable would be filing papers is littered with rock and prog records, shag carpet, a live-in bar, and faux-Victorian porcelain dogs. The session took a day and a half of non-stop tracking and fine tuning, and we brought the whole thing back to London for the mix."
Since Ola's so connected to the hardcore community through the label and bands she's played in, I ask her what would she would say are both the most promising and the most disappointing things about the scene’s current state. "I feel like 2019, at least for me, so far feels really hopeful. For whatever reason I felt a weird vibe in 2018 and things seemed a bit down, both in terms of gigs, not so many releases, at least in the UK, and a little hopelessness from talking to people. I guess even though 'a new year' is just a made up time period, it does have some sort of psychological power and I've felt like it's been a really busy and positive start. Hardcore punk gigs have been way better attended, more gigs happening, new kids turning up. Static Shock Weekend was so good, and every set popped off, loads of new releases are coming out or are in the pipeline, lots of bands are planning tours or have already gone out and done them. New people putting on gigs and finding new venues.
"Disappointment-wise, think it's mostly social media, algorithms making it harder to promote gigs and bands, and Brexit."
Before our conversation ends, Ola leaves me with some encouraging words about our scene. "I think if we all just keep working hard, getting the music out there, attracting more people to gigs, reaching out to bigger more mainstream scenes to get people to come to the more DIY/local gigs, we'll keep this positivity and growth going. What I think is quite unique about London at the moment also, is a large crossover of people who will go to different shows, which I think in other cities would be completely different scenes. So, that's another thing I'm excited about. Discharge was hardcore, Cro-Mags was punk."