If you keep up with the current hardcore scene in the States, you're probably already aware of Punitive Damage. Since forming last year, the Pacific Northwest outfit has issued a demo cassette and an EP called We Don't Forget, both featuring no-nonsense hardcore with a winning balance of speedy parts and mid-tempo moshier grooves, all pushed forward by a gruff vocal blitz that sounds as gnarly as the riffs they're cutting through.
"Steph, Alex and I used to play in a vegan straight edge band, and we’d written and recorded all these songs that we’d never played live," Punitive Damage guitarist Mike tells No Echo about the story behind Punitive Damage's formation, "unfortunately, the recordings sat for years unfinished. We’d all moved on to other bands, but some of those other members and ourselves were misaligned with our goals as a band."
Drummer Alex takes over the story: "Mike showed our good friend Kenny Lush what we had sitting unused for the last few years and he convinced us we should kick things off. Once we figured out the lineup and got together it felt so good."
Convulse Records (Goon, Yambag) will be compiling both the aforementioned Punitive Damage 2019 demo and We Don't Forget EP as a single 7 inch. You can listen to the tracks below and make your own mind up, but how do Mike and Alex describe their particular take on hardcore? "Raging hardcore punk played by some NW rockers," Alex says. "For influences, maybe Career Suicide and Force Fed?" Mike chimes in: "I would say we draw very heavily NWHC bands before us. That’s probably the biggest for me.
"I look for inspiration in classic hardcore punk. I try to keep it to mainly downstrokes," the guitarist jokes, kinda:
No Echo asks vocalist Steph about her lyrical point of view on the Punitive Damage material. "At the risk of sounding corny, I try to write about things that have a lot of personal meaning to me, and the things that make me mad as all hell," laughs the singer.
"A lot of what I was feeling was frustration over how people are so easily convinced and willing to eat up propaganda about the dangers of 'the other,' and act on its behalf.
"Past and present, people don’t stop to think critically about how the people in power and the most to gain are always willing to point at the most vulnerable or 'undesirable group' and say they’re the problem. It’s like having someone put their boot to your neck and that person is telling you the people who made the shoelaces are the problem."
Steph has also used her platform with Punitive Damage to write about matters close to her family. "I wrote about how my dad grew up in the thick of the Soviet occupation and told me how people were so enthusiastically willing to act on behalf of the state and the oppressor, even though they were the ones being oppressed.
"It wasn’t until he was much older than he later discovered his best friend, who he trusted more than anything in the world, was actually secret police and responsible for the disappearances of many of their friends."
The second track on the 7 inch is a ripper called "Smug Rat," and Steph hooked No Echo up with some of her thoughts behind her lyrics on that one. "'Smug Rat' is honestly me reaching my limit with the people who only exist within the sphere of hardcore to police, micromanage and be hypercritical of everybody for their own personal benefit. I don’t believe they have any genuine interest in the music or what we represent.
"These are people, who oftentimes are hiding their incredibly problematic behaviours themselves, want to find problems with everyone and everything they do, while simultaneously contributing nothing to their communities other than like, parroting a slogan. All the while acting like they are the ultimate authority and perfect standard without flaws or mistakes. This is not to be mistaken with holding genuinely problematic people and ideas accountable—that’s obviously incredibly important and necessary.
"But I’m over them. I see them for what they are, I don’t like them, and I’m tired of clowns with ACAB tattoos acting like cops thinking they belong."
Punitive Damage's We Don't Forget EP will be out soon via Convulse Records and can be pre-ordered now. This pressing will be 300 7"s—150 on red, 150 on black.
The label will be donating all the proceeds from a new Punitive Damage shirt that they're selling with the 7" pre-orders, as well as all of the profits from the 7"s themselves, to both the Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network and the Northwest Community Bail Fund.
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