Urban Sprawl is a Bay Area-based hardcore band that is one of the more recent additions to the Revelation Records roster. "At the time, I had been playing drums in multiple hardcore bands pretty actively and I was starting to get a little burnt out on it," vocalist Taylor Todd tells No Echo about Urban Sprawl's beginnings.
"I’d always wanted to sing in a band and set out to make that a reality. I had made a couple other attempts to get some people together and either people didn't take it seriously or it never came to fruition."
Guitarist Kwame Korkor came out to San Francisco from New Jersey and moved into an empty bedroom in Taylor's apartment, and after the two bonded over a love for the Wasted Time LP, the musicians wrote and recorded a demo of raw hardcore.
Taylor picks up the Urban Sprawl formation story: "Our drummer, Kurt [Walcher], [guitarist] Ian [Burris], and myself had been playing in a band together called Mothball and I knew they were solid players and friends.
"At the time, [bassist] Jasmine [Watson] was playing in a bunch of bands so I was reluctant to ask her but I’ve always loved her bass playing, so I asked her anyways and to our great reward, she was down.
"We played our first show in September of 2018 with Woundman and the rest is history."
The first release to come out of the Urban Sprawl x Revelation Records union is Concrete Altar, a new 5-track EP. "[Revelation Records A&R rep] Adam [Lentz] and I have crossed paths a bunch of times from our bands together and us both being involved in our respective corners of the California hardcore scene for the last 10 years," says Taylor.
"Our guitar player Ian and Adam actually go way back and have been close friends for many years. So when the demo came out, he did what any good friend would do and checked it out.
"He was really into it, did an interview with us, hung out at some of our socal shows, and teased the idea about doing a record for a couple of months before finally pulling the trigger.
"It’s pretty unreal to be able to work with someone who’s a friend but also someone who’s willing to go at lengths to make all your crazy ideas a reality. He’s gone way out of his way to make this happen. We’re all very grateful."
He brought up Wasted Time, but No Echo asks Taylor about some of the other common influences he and his Urban Sprawl bandmates share. "I’d say that we play '80s US hardcore with a decent amount of UK82 and D-beat influences thrown into the mix.
"We all have lots of different influences on a personal level and as individuals come from many different corners of the hardcore world, but with this band, we came together to play a style that was more rooted in punk.
"Some of the influences that bond us together would be BL'AST!, Poison Idea, Double Negative, Crucifix, and No Tolerance."
Seen/heard in the music video above, Concrete Altar features a song called “Slaughtered” with lyrics that read like they could be the plot to a movie, but I have a feeling they’re based on something more real than that. Naturally, I asked Taylor about his lyrics to that one.
"That’s so cool you interpreted my lyrics like a plot to a movie! When I write lyrics, I hope to paint a picture of an idea or a particular feeling around a subject rather than shout out some facts or bullshit.
"That song is about how the increased visibility and rise of populism, neo-fascism, and blind patriotic ideals of the last few years have so many people completely swindled into believing a false narrative that goes completely against their best interests.
"It’s a unifying theme throughout the record that I fear that due to many outside sources and influences that a large portion of our world is moving towards a complete disconnect from our own humanity that completely blinds us from our true interest and denies ourselves and all those around us any dignity of life. Literally licking the boots that break their teeth.
"Put into simple terms, it baffles me that so many people still believe in a system that by its core design works to oppress working folks and people of color. Those lyrics were written almost a year and a half ago and as history has progressed since then, we’ve seen that these illusions have proven to create an extreme threat to everyone on so many levels."
I tell Taylor how I love how “un-hardcore” the cover art for Concrete Altar looks. "We’re all incredibly happy with how that came out! Our friend Beau Adams did the painting. He tattoos at a shop here in San Francisco called idle hand tattoo and plays guitar in Fatigue and War Bison, both bands rule!
"Beau has always done these amazing, medieval, religious-looking gold leaf paintings. We came to him with no idea but had a sense of what he was gonna do and trusted his abilities. He was a friend and liked our band so we wanted to support him. He knocked it out of the park, and we couldn’t be more stoked!
"It reminds me of a Templars record if they were a much more evil band. I love the Templars so much. If you’re ever in San Francisco, make sure you get tattooed by Beau!"
Since Urban Sprawl is part of the Revelation Records family now, what is Taylor's all-time favorite release on the label? "Oh wow, that’s a hard one. So many of those records mean a lot to me. But I’m gonna say Youth of Today - Break Down the Walls. I instantly connected with the lyrics and it shattered my reality of what I thought a punk could be.
"At the time I heard them, I was really into street punk and had a huge sense of relief that I didn’t need to be head to toe in studs to be punk when I couldn’t afford and didn’t have access to punk gear in the small town I grew up in.
"Youth of Today's music is frantic, out of control, and blistering fast, and still makes my head wanna explode every time I listen to them to this day.
"Growing up, I was also a super-timid kid that got walked over constantly, so the track 'Take a Stand' became my anthem."
Concrete Altar is available now via Revelation Records.
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