Gritty's Kids is a Philadelphia DIY hardcore punk interview series, but it's oh so much more:
It's the "Step Down" video with Gritty as Sandal Weisberger; it's Bill Florio's bar mitzvah video with Gritty giving you his love and his infection, it's John Brannon's tweets, but instead of 'Check it out,' they all start with the image of Gritty on DMT, his fur encrusted with Whiz and Sean Couturier's teeth, sharing a joint with a possum in an Excrement of War cape at Cousin Danny's. The rest, you'll have to sort through with your therapist and/or dealer.
I chose Philadelphia scorchers, Interloper, for my first interview of this feature because they embody what the Philly underground has felt like to me over the past several years. When I moved here in '05, I was in grad school and figured I was done with punk. It just didn't seem interesting or relevant anymore, as much as I wished the younger generation well. That rationale seems completely absurd to me now, and local bands that combine the sense of urgency I was missing with the underdog moxie this city is notorious for are a major reason why. I hope you enjoy this peek into a scene whose clogged, pretzel-shaped heart won mine.
P.S. No one knows whether or not Gritty is straight edge, but I once looked directly into his eyes and woke up three months later behind the Wells Fargo Center tarred and feathered with mescaline and orange fur.
The '16 demo is thrashy as shit, and my neck, traps, and genitals were sore after having listened to it. I also appreciated how the toms sound like the skin of posers stretched over the hollow skulls of their children's children. Was that your intention?
Salvo: The first demo was recorded by Kev in our old practice space, I’ll let him get into the specifics of how he captured those sounds.
Kev: Just two mics, a Tascam Portastudio, and five gnarly bastards...
Kiser: I was just hoping that the recording reflected the cover art that i picked out- which is an old crude sketching of a yeti wilding out and smashing stuff. It’s from an 11th (?) century Tibetan flora/fauna guidebook. It’s funny because most of that book is straightforward sketches of birds and plants and shit, and then bam yeti is wrecking a village.
Dee: Being a drummer I should know how to tune my drums by now, but I don’t [laughs]. That being said, I kinda just go for a deeper tone in the toms. It comes out sounding really boomy when recorded. Especially the way we recorded the demo.
There's an obvious love for '80s hardcore like Gang Green in the mix, and on top of that, you layer-in these NWOBHM dual-guitar harmonies. Kev and Dee's other band, Alement, also has that metal influence, ala Nausea or English Dogs. Salvo's band, Nightfall is some fantastic D-beat furor that mid-'90s Minneapolis butt flaps would have been lucky to have. Who's the metalhead? You can tell me. I showed you that zitty, mulleted pic of me from '89 w/the Testament shirt, so cough it up.
Salvo: I think it’s safe to say that we all have an appreciation for metal. When I’m writing guitar parts I’m equally influenced by bands like The Execute and Judas Priest. When I was first getting into heavier music as a young teen, I thought punk sucked and was way more into death metal. I definitely have a photo of myself as a zitty teen wearing a Cannibal Corpse shirt that I might leak at some point. But then my friend showed me bands like Disrupt and Destroy and I realized that not all punk was shitty pop stuff and I was forever changed!
Dee: Kev and I have always been on the same wavelength as far as influence goes. We both got into the crust/metal/stench pretty heavily. I would say it shows throughout all of our projects at least a little bit.
Kiser: Dee and Kev are cousins by the way. I’m older than them, but I remember seeing them in a band together when they must have been in high school. I didn’t know them at that point but i remember wanting to be in a band with them.
Kev: I’ve ventured into more metal from a punk avenue, and to me it’s the same shit! Especially in terms of the '80s japanese harcore that interloper is so influenced by, with intense riffing and blazing leads and all that.
The Studio Chaos//Distort session (recorded by Jimmy from Pittsburgh's Eel is straight inconsiderate. If you brought that kinda rawness to my rec room, I'd put my own head in a vice, Casino-style, and pour bath salts into my eyes. Does Tuesday night work for you? I mean... uh, how did this recording come about?
Salvo: We all love Jimmy from Pittsburgh. That man has some of the best taste in punk and totally gets where we’re coming from as far as influences. I think Kiser was the one who first pitched the idea of recording something with him. That demo was essentially recorded “live” on a 4-track in Jimmy’s basement (with the only overdubs being vocals and guitar solos) in one afternoon. We mainly wanted a way to showcase a bunch of the new songs we had been writing while we were still waiting to get our first EP out. We also had our buddy Shanesaw do some EQ to the final mix before putting it on tape, but as you can see it’s still a fuckin’ raw artifact.
Kiser: Yeah! I wandered over to Jimmy’s house once when they were just happening to record Eel’s latest LP. it was real cool to be a fly on the wall for that. They just steamrolled through the entire thing with minimal pause, no do-overs. Like it is what it is in that time and place. Jimmy is a madman, there were cords running through custom boxes that looked like they were made out of garbage or something. I didn’t really understand it, but it was super punk and weird and they were having a wild time doing it. It was close to a year before i heard the recording, but that day i decided that i wanted to bring interloper to Jimmys and get freaked.
"Model Prisoner" made the leap from the demo to the new EP. It takes this rollicking fuckin riff, straps it on the front of an ‘82 Dodge Caravan w/283k miles on it, and drives it into a dumpster pool. Dee's galloping footwork, the theme of us all playing the roles of both prisoner and guard, and the guitar leads that close it out don't hurt, either. None of that is a question, so tell me about this track, and why it's so friggin ill.
Salvo: "Model Prisoner" was a song I had already written before I joined the band. Kiser wrote the lyrics and Kev dropped in that mind-melting solo and it all came together really nice. I think it was like the 3rd or 4th song we put together as a band. I suggested we re-record it because I thought it would really benefit from the studio treatment at the hands of Dan Kishbaugh (Panther Pro Audio). Both Nightfall and Alement had recorded with him before so we knew he could make it sound larger than life.
Dee: "Model Prisoner" has been here since the beginning. Yes, Salvo, 3rd or 4th sounds about right. We’ve been playing this one since our first show! Such a solid tune and so much fun to play.
Kiser: Lyrics for that one are more on the cerebral end for me. I really like the lyrics a lot, it’s just that I wrote them quite a while ago when I read more, like Foucault/Camus etc. I’m really glad that we always still play it because it still fits our style and it’s easy for me to sing since we’ve been playing it for so long. It’s automatic, I can be blacked out and still not fuck it up.
Kiser, your vocals on the new ep remind me of Charles from Rorschach on the Remain Sedate LP, in that there’s some gnarly, reverb-y, torn-up-vocal-chord nastiness while still having a tonal character. Live, you have this rad Charlie from Deep Wound or Dan from Die Kruezen quality. Is this really your first band?
Kiser: I lived in West Virginia some years back, and was in Nuclear Holochrist. Some members of the band weren’t into/ weren’t familiar with DIY ethos so it never really went anywhere except for playing gigs here and there. Despite that, it was a good band even looking back. John, the other punk in our band, absolutely sick guitarist, wrote almost everything. It was like GISM meets Accused.
That was 15 years ago or longer, so I had a lot of self-doubt about whether I still had the energy—or could still deliver vox in a punk/hc band. I still do have that doubt, but whatever fuck it. It still feels right to me. I’m turning 40 this year and frankly, I feel privileged to still have that drive inside of me and that my body hasn’t yet fallen apart.
Kev: Some say, he is the amphetamine yeti...
I started this feature on No Echo to highlight how special I've found the Philly punk scene to be since moving here a decade ago. Clearly, though, it's seen the same awfulness as any other, in terms of multiple incidents of sexual assault (in the past year alone) and punks of color and queer kids feeling alienated and/or fetishized. What's your take on the strengths and challenges in the local DIY scene?
Kiser: I think it’s crucial to center marginalized people and to value their inclusion- and not just in punk. Fetishizing others does not do that, and I think that it is very self-serving. Like using others as a commodity of sorts. Unfortunately, it can be seen in lots of different circles and it creates more mental labor for people who already struggle disproportionately.
Salvo: I moved to Philly in ‘99 from Connecticut (and the scene up there is a whole different story) so I’ve been going to shows here for about two decades. Over the years, I’ve watched the scene grow in size and then collapse on itself, only to restart with some fresh blood. Venues and bands come and go, and there’s a constant influx of new people moving here from all over to fill the ranks of all the punks who “retire” or wander off to do something else.
As with any community, there’s always problematic people that need to be dealt with, predators and wolves in punx clothing trying to take advantage when they see an opportunity. The main challenge is always making sure people take this shit seriously; too many garbage humans are given a pass because they’re in a cool band or have cool friends. But one thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of the people getting called out lately are all transplants, people who moved to Philly to take part in this bustling scene and end up bringing their own baggage and shit behavior along with them (and maybe also moving here to escape their reputation in their old town?)
So, on the one hand, I think it’s a good sign that Philly isn’t afraid to call out these people when they’re being abusive or otherwise shitty. Trash from other towns washes up on our shores, and we take it the fuck out. That said, there’s still lots of work to be done. I’ve personally been involved in accountability processes for several people in this scene, and have had to cut ties with former bandmates when it became evident they had no interest in actually changing their behavior.
Kev: Having been born here, and just about my entire family being from Philly, it's no secret to me that this city has the highest inequality and poverty than any of the largest cities in the US. It's pretty clearly divided by race and class in many ways, and definitely hosts its fair share of ignorant attitudes. It can be a bummer to see some of these same things play out in the punk scene, especially as more and more people flock here to benefit from the cheap rent (same). It’s definitely a positive to see the punk scene become more aligned and serious about many issues, such as sexual assault, being more inclusive, etc.
I'd say the Philly punk scene is a great deal less ignorant from when I was a teenager, even if it's far from perfect. At the same time I often get jaded when it seems like those of us who are more of means more easily get established and benefit from the scene, or some seem hide behind identities, politics, and social hierarchy to insulate themselves, or those who seem to just be here doing some fashionable cosplay on endless benders type of shit.
I also think the punk scene totally provides a venue for many to deal with their mental health in the worst ways possible, and ways that are accepted and normalized. This often magnifies many issues in my opinion. On a positive note, I think the punk scene should be a place for encouraging growth, and dismantling all the bullshit this society dumps in our heads, and I think there's a concerted effort to make it just that.
Dee: This is a tough one for me. I see the scene from such an outside perspective because I live just outside the city. Sure, I have been a part of a lot of the punks here, now, for a long time, but I just don’t get any of the fine details of how people interact on a daily basis. I make it to some shows that I don’t play, but not enough. My bandmates usually handle booking gigs and tours, and I interact when I am there. I catch up with familiar faces, and sometimes meet new people. I have only had good times. A strength is that the folks here do care. We are becoming more aware and more assertive towards our ideals and beliefs. We are doing this together. This is how I see it and feel it. I do have much to learn, though I have been around for years.
Last question: What's your major malfunction? Seriously, what happened to get you all into this action? I don't care about your first shows, but tell me something about what gave you focus in coming together and doing this?
Dee: Kev and I have always had a passion for Japanese styles and Swedish styles of hardcore. We began Alement doing the crust/stench/metal and just wanted to dive into something totally different. A new group of guys, playing a different style of music. I think this in part kept our minds always on the move and always thinking of something unique. It allows us to get creative in other ways. I have such a drive to play music and when any band I’m in starts making new material, I love it. The whole entire process is magic to me.
Kiser: Me and Kev talked about starting a band for a good two years before we acted on it. It was pretty much drunk talk, except it eventually actually happened. We would say that we’d sound like Lip Cream mixed with Totalitar. Even though we don’t sound like that, we do sound like stuff that I listen to which is sick. Being in a band with all of them is great. They teach each other all these fast riffs with a bunch of chord changes, and all that i have to do on my end is jump around and yell like an idiot.
Kev: Exactly what Kiser said, turning drunk talk into real talk. Also, I’m always late to practice.
Salvo: I came on board once the core idea of the band had already been created by Kiser, Kev, and Dee. Kiser specifically asked me to join because he wanted someone else in their 30s in the band (Kev and Dee are babies). We had another bassist named Max for our first couple of gigs, but he couldn’t commit due to school, so we were able to lure Ian into the fold and raise the average age of our band members even higher haha.
Ian: [comes in from a smoke break] Shit, did I miss it?
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