When thinking about the band Rockpyle the first words that come to my mind are hometown pride.
On their recently released EP, Fresh Out the Bin, the Canadian band frequently references their hometown of Sudbury or "Nickle City" as it is often called. Sudbury for those unaware is a city in Northern Ontario, known for its blue-collar mindset and its mining industry.
Rockpyle plays a energetic heavily hip-hop-influenced brand of beatdown hardcore that draws from many different styles and eras of rap music. Aesthetically too they have an eclectic set of influences from mining, and Trailer Park Boys, all the way to the grind band Haggus (which is partly responsible for why they perform in ski masks).
Their aesthetic combines both their love of the visual aspects of rap, and the working class environment they grew up in. Something (though possibly unintentionally) exemplified in their music video where they can be seen drinking both Hennessy and Canadian light beer.
Rockpyle is a quartet made up of vocalist Gatlin, guitarist Connor, drummer Niko, and bassist Tony. I was lucky enough to get the chance to speak with Connor and Niko about Sudbury’s hardcore history, some of their own personal influences, and their hopes for the future of Sudbury hardcore scene.
So, just getting started, you guys played a gig last night, correct?
Connor (guitars): Yeah, we played our first hometown gig. We haven’t had a hardcore show in our hometown in about 10 years so this was a big one. We`re trying to bring the scene back slowly. We`re the only band around playing hardcore in our area.
Niko (drums): There still is some punk and stuff like that, but from more what id call the metallic side of things were still the one and only.
As far as heavy music shows go is it fairly dead? What does heavy music in Sudbury look like currently?
Niko: There are some shows. We actually just had like a big out-of-town tour package come through Sudbury that did really well. It was at a venue that historically did not really run metal, punk shows throughout the entirety of its existence. But they hosted basically the first one , I believe since 2007, 2008.
Alexisonfire is probably the last one to play there since 2008. I guess a couple months ago Fit for an Autopsy, Acacia Strain, and 'Escuela Grind came through. Hundreds of people were there it was crazy. I couldn’t believe it, it blew my mind.
It feels like things are on an upswing in Sudbury and even like in the province. So our hope is that Sudbury will get that trickle down effect.
What has growing up in Sudbury been like? And has it influenced your songwriting?
Niko: So, we’re a big mining town. There’s cultural things. It’s a very blue-collar town in some ways. It has a distinct culture. It feels almost like a different province from southern Ontario. I dunno if it’s the Sulphur in the air coming from the smoke stacks,but I just feel like the northern Ontario mentality is a lot different. And many different aspects of life social political all the stuff right.
There used to be a Sudbury sound and the punk scene is a little more like the Sudbury sound, it was kind of indie. The biggest punk band that came from here was Vicious Cycle. We just played last night with the spiritual successor to Vicious Cycle, Monk.
When I think of that sort of sound, bands that come to mind are bands like American Nightmare, Give up the Ghost, and Ceremony. But also like old-school hardcore punk bands like Bad Brains and Black Flag. But those Sudbury sound guys are well into their 30s so we’re like the generation under, so our perspective on things is a bit different.
When I started going to shows it was the tail end of Vicious Cycle, so I got the tail end of punk in its prime in Sudbury. I feel like Rockpyle is a combination of everything that kind of came post that Sudbury punk prime era. So whether it be like when we write songs a lot of it is relating to just the mentality in Sudbury, or the things that we may like associate with on a personal level, or what we may relate to. Our band is also super influenced by Trailer Park Boys.
Connor: I can elaborate a bit more on the influence Sudbury played on our writing. As Niko mentioned we are a mining town. We are four hours away from any other major city. Any direction you go is about a four-hour drive. And our city is not small enough to where you're bored, but not big enough to where you feel free to express yourself.
If you wanna feel like you fit in you have to kind of make it yourself. If you don’t do your own thing, then you’re conforming to playing hockey, going ice fishing, and driving lifted trucks. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
We actually wrote a song on the EP called “Parts Unknown” which is about being in a band from a place unknown. Trying to fit into a community that we are not a part of and trying and make friends. We have no clout we have you know nothing. Well take any show we can get and its been kind of a struggle. I think we made a lot of good friends in the hardcore scene recently though.
How did wearing ski masks come about? Was that something you guys decided you wanted to do from the beginning?
Connor: So, that comes back to our vocalist. He was the one guy that always would come around and put on some new fuckin beat down music. Me and Niko would be having a campfire, you know he`ll come over and be like, “Yo, listen to this new beatdown band!” Just the ultimate beatdown hype guy.
So this whole entire band is based around him. And the mask thing started off as like a joke for promos, we were gonna wear the masks. We ended up playing our first show and we didn’t wear them and our first show was terrible. We had so many difficulties, the sound was terrible, I was having guitar problems. It was bad mojo the entire time. After that I was like fuck it I don’t wanna show my face anymore, I just wanna stay low key. This band is for Gatlin.
Niko: He`s the face, the personality, the heart and soul of the band. this band started for him. This band was basically like what can we do that makes sense for Gatlin.
Connor: I also find it fun to match my mask to a nice show outfit.
Niko: Connor wont tell you this himself, but he's a bit of a fashionista. Connor borrows from a lot of rap culture. So I definitely feel like that’s been a big influence on us. It seems like there’s always been a harmonious relationship between rap and hardcore. In my opinion its now closer than ever.
It seems usually that hardcore bands that have a hip-hop influence ttend to pull from east the golden age New York stuff like Wu-Tang or Biggie, and occasionally Memphis stuff like early Three Six Mafia. I noticed that on “Back in Business” you guys use a very modern-sounding rap instrumental. Can you speak to the influences behind that beat?
Connor: I made that beat, I’ve got 10-15 beats on my computer that I’ve never shown anybody I just make them for fun. I’m not gonna pretend like I’m a hip-hop historian. I like what I like and that’s the new age Soundcloud stuff. When it comes to rap I’m more interested in the instrumental side. I’m definitely into producers like Pierre Bourne, Rip Squad, and Misogi.
Niko: I think we’re trying to be like a mix of old and new as well. A theme for the band is to be part of a new wave of things. So we can pay ode to things we like in the past, but were trying to look to the present and forward as well.
As far as heavy music goes what would you say were some of the biggest musical influences on the writing of your Ep? And also what are some of the most important albums to you guys personally?
Connor: I listen to everything, and me and Niko are big into grindcore. I listen to a lot of hardcore, grindcore, metalcore all that stuff. I guess for this EP I’m unsure, cause I was listening to a lot of 200 Stab Wounds and Frozen Soul. I just write stuff I think you know would compliment the aesthetic, and what Gatlin has thought up.
Niko: For personal records, I really do love Abandon All Life by Nails. That band wrote songs in a very modern way and was very heavy but also to the point. I think the way they wrote songs on that album influenced the way that I contribute to writing songs for Rockpyle.
Also, I love the self-titled album from Magrudergrind, and it's one of the best albums that’s ever been written ever. Its just like the craziest. The guitar tone is nasty and the drummer of the band is one of my biggest influences on drumming ever I just love that band so much, specifically that album.
Lastly Just for fun what would you say is the best episode of the Trailer Park Boys?
Connor: Probably the J-Roc one where he gets caught in his room doing some unspeakable things. “Microphone Assassin," that’s the best episode of all time.
Rockpyle on social media: Instagram