Leaking Head: Rochester Band Is Rooted in Fine Rust Belt Hardcore Tradition

Photo: Kylie Newcomer 

The story of Rochester, New York hardcore band Leaking Head almost ended before it began. "The original Leaking Head began and ended in 2011," guitarist Jake tells me. "I wasn't in the band at the time; Tyler played guitar, Tim played bass, our friend Conner played drums, and Cougar did vocals.

"This lineup played a couple gigs, recorded a demo, then called it quits. In 2019, I had been hanging out with Tim and Tyler a lot and we decided to jam on some hardcore punk songs I'd put together in 2017-18," says the guitarist.

"We all felt frustrated with the fact that no one in Rochester had been playing straight-up hardcore punk in a while. Cougar had expressed interest in doing vocals for a new band inspired by Poison Idea."

Tyler made a great decision about the new endeavor: "I remember the old, 2011 Leaking Head and I didn't want to pass through the agonizing process of coming up with a new band name. Kevin asked to join after we had practiced a few times because Tim and Tyler told him that our stuff sounded like Anti-Cimes and old Japanese hardcore."

Leaking Head's forthcoming Better Homes & Gardens EP follows up the group's 2021 demo and Rockstar Lifestyle - Live at Fury's lathe-cut picture disc 7-inch:

"When we started, I said I wanted to play 'international hardcore,'" says Jake about the Leaking Head approach. "We all seemed to like that descriptor. After I read American Hardcore: A Tribal History as a teen I just kept going. I hopped online, read a lot, and obsessively consumed old hardcore punk from all over. USA, Scandinavia, Finland, and Japan stood out as favorites but I checked it all out. I felt fascinated by how those bands had distinctive regional and/or national musical styles while still remaining within the confines of 'hardcore punk.'"

Jake brings up an interesting point about the whole influences thing. "A lot of contemporary bands pick a hyper-specific variant to draw from, like 'oh, we play Boston Crew-style, we play D-beat, NYHC, UK82,' etc. With Leaking Head we want to play within the genre’s confines without confining ourselves further. Our taste is too varied; we’ve all approached this stuff from differing perspectives over the years, our tastes all developed differently.

"People have compared our sound to 9 Shocks Terror/H100s/Gordon Solie Motherfuckers, that whole Clevo crew. We always get stoked on those comparisons. All of us like those bands a lot and there’s a bit of an affinity for Cleveland in the Western New York scene. We’re in the Rust Belt, at the very least we’re definitely not in the 'Northeast.' And I would personally cite H100s and GSMF as big musical inspirations for me."

Leaking Head vocalist Cougar also joins the conversation, talking a bit about the band's songwriting subject matter. "The themes in the lyrics me and Jake write usually tend to be about really miserable or unfortunate subjects and events. Almost like a sense of hopelessness with a touch of occasionally being completely full of ourselves."

Jake adds: "In terms of Leaking Head, I’d say Cougar and I have focused a lot on the bitterness and frustration which grows within a social milieu (like the punk scene, for instance). Dynamics between people that you’d want to ignore. I’m sure we’ll expand our range of themes in the future but those are the bones we’ve pulled the most meat from so far. If you’ve ever found yourself in a group of supposed fellow freaks and felt more out of place there than you did at your high school, we’ve got something for you."

Cougar gives me the hot tips on Leaking Head's hometown: "The scene in Rochester has actually been on a satisfying upswing the past year or two. But it's now being threatened due to losing a new DIY punk venue as of very recently. That's definitely going to change some things. Every show is going to go back to being at a bar again unless you personally are going to put forth the effort in booking at a park or something.

"Such unfortunate timing, considering I've seen more kids and fresh faces attending gigs than I have in years. Kegstands Pub, Deal With God, Street Hassle (all Syracuse) are great, our friends in Violent Way, Exhibition, and Smash 'n' Grab have been putting in a lot of work, Science Man and Zero again are great. Those are all Buffalo bands. Only Shallow, Danny's Favorites, and Unorder are Rochester bands I find worth mentioning. We're Leaking Head and we run this fucking town."

Guitarist Jake chimes in: "I’d second everything Cougar said and mention all those same bands. Our rhythm section is in Hallucination Realized, and they’re a great band as well. I’d describe them as 'extreme hardcore,' not sure how else to put it succinctly. There’s this Rochester band Snakebit who come across like a mix of GG Allin, Rollins-era Black Flag, and black metal. It’s a band that makes your tummy hurt when you see them play. And I love that. I think they broke up last week though. 

"Rochester finally got an influx of new, young punk kids during the past couple years. I thought the cyclical appearance of new people had stopped recurring years ago in Rochester. But now those new people need to start bands. We need a few more in Rochester specifically. 

"We’d like to mention that we all really like Illiterates, Speed Plans, and the whole Pittsburgh scene as well. That’s still our 'region,' broadly speaking, and those bands should get more hype from all the hardcore cool guys."


Better Homes & Gardens will be out on September 2nd via Mangoe Records (vinyl) and all digital outlets.


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