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You and I: Going Back in Time with the Members of the ‘90s New Jersey Band

Photo courtesy of Repeater Records

From 1996 to 1999, You and I was a group straddling the line between hardcore, metal, and emo, playing the kind of eclectic live bills that reflected that diversity. To help prove my point, I played in a power violence-like band (Black Army Jacket), and we shared the stage with You and I on a fest that also included such varied acts as Los Crudos, Cave In, and Pig Destroyer. That kind of diversity is something I miss about that era of hardcore.

Next month, Repeater Records will be issuing Complete, a discography featuring all of You and I's releases, including Saturday’s Cab Ride HomeWithin the FrameThe Curtain Falls, and their sole 7 inch. All of the songs have been mastered for vinyl by Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Super Unison), so you know the shit sounds great.

No Echo spoke with the members of You and I about their time together to celebrate the forthcoming release.

Tell me a bit about the formation of You and I. Had you guys known each other from playing in previous bands?

Tom Schlatter (guitars): Justin [Hock], Jon [Marinari], and myself were previously playing in a band called Instil (not to be confused with the Canadian band of the same name). When Instil was coming to a close, the three of us had expressed interest in doing something new.

Technically, You and I started in the winter of 1996. We went through a couple of drummers and second guitar players early on in the band before reaching out to Casey [Boland] to play second guitar. We had met Casey when Instil played with his old band, Sky Falls Down. Soon after, Casey’s brother, Chris, joined the band as our drummer.  

Chris Boland (drummer): My brother Casey and I had created music since we were toddlers. Entering high school; we actually had a decent band. After our singer left, Casey took on vocals along with his guitar duties and we came up with Sky Falls Down. This took Casey's writing to a new level and helped me expand on my drumming. I was never a well-taught drummer. I kinda just went with the flow and was a raw and self taught. Sky Falls Down came to a close and Casey joined You And I.

You and I actually became one of my favorite bands. For a group of kids under 20 years old, they wrote and played some amazing music. Summer of 1997, Casey told me the drummer for You And I (Charlie) was leaving the band. He asked if I would be interested in joining. I was nervous, excited, and I was about to say no. The moment I said yes, I was told to learn 12 songs in a 2-3 weeks time period. You and I had a mini Northeast tour planned and didn't want to cancel any of the shows. I think I was able to learn 10 of those songs. August of 1997, played my first official show with You and I.   

I remember most people referring to the group as emo, or some kind of subset of that style. How did you view what You and I was doing, and what were some of the shared influences you guys had during that period?

Tom: By the time the band formed in 1996, I was really not interested in settling with playing one particular genre of music. I would listen to a song like “Angry Son” by Indian Summer and then “In the Name of Progression” by Unbroken, and really loved both. I wanted to figure out a way to do both seamlessly. 

I had really liked what Endeavor had done on the Of Equality record and what Converge had done on the Petitioning the Empty Sky record. Both bands seemed to employ an approach of weaving in and out of genres, not repeating parts often, and moving their songs along quickly. It was new ground and we definitely stumbled on the writing process at times, but when we got it right it felt like a serious achievement.

We didn’t have a label for it at the time. Our friends would joke and call us “emo metal." 

Photo courtesy of Repeater Records

Justin Hock (vocals): We were doing what felt natural to us at the time. Everyone in the band was legitimately listening to so many different bands that it’s hard to quantify a certain sect or genre. To me, it was not that much different from anyone else. It felt incredible to play. 

I think I, albeit too naive, believed that there was an inherent respect amongst all of us who inevitably ended up in the punk rock/hardcore scene…otherwise, how did we end up in the same place, etc? Somewhat. As far as labels go…once one of my best friends explained to me what ‘scramz’ was…bloody hell...

Chris: Tom summed up this question pretty well. In reference to his "not repeating parts" comment;  that was very hard for me while learning to play drums with You and I. I remember when I was picking apart the songs, "Absence".. I think I counted 14 parts of no repeating. I was up to the challenge, and it worked out for the most part. It made me listen to similar styles of bands at the time.

I began to realize; there were not many bands doing the same thing. I don't remember "emo" being a genre at the time. Playing the music felt more metal and punk rock. At times there were parts that seemed like ballads; but didn't know the term "emo" at the time.

Did we get emotional? Yes. Was there crying? Yes. Each one of us in the band had our mental demons. Playing these songs live was an outlet for us. It was never an "act" as some critics said about us. When we would practice; there was the same energy and emotion put forth with each song.  

Photo courtesy of Repeater Records

Casey: Metal. To me at first it sounded like straight up Harley riding Iron Maiden Metallica Megadeth metal. I spent hours studying the first practice tape they handed me to whip up my own riffs. It was a challenge, as I was accustomed to more traditional verse-chorus-verse structures and what I heard were songs with 20 different parts and wild metallic riffs.

Before I joined, a friend named Ronen somewhat derisively called the band “screamo” and I had never heard that term before. I don’t think we ever called ourselves emo and instead thought we were pushing ourselves musically by fusing different sub-genres of hardcore. I still appreciate the show flyer that categorized us as the “Slayer of emo.”

Something I’ve talked about with other folks is the diversity of the bills back then. What are some of the standout shows/fests You and I played back one the day, and did you find that certain crowds (hardcore vs. emo, etc.) received you better than others?

Tom: You and I were one of those “straddle the fence” bands, meaning we would get booked on every sort of show. I think this was mainly because of the genre jumping I discussed earlier.  There was more musical variety in the lineups back then, as we often played with bands who were as light as Cerebus Shoal and other times played with bands as heavy as Dillinger Escape Plan.  

Chris: My favorite shows and/or fests were when it would be us with World Inferno Friendship Society, Atom and his Package, Converge, and bands like Piebald. All such different sounds; but I loved being able to enjoy not hearing the same thing over and over.  

Casey: It was just a given that you’d play with a tough-guy hardcore band with a name like Benchpress and then a ska band with a name like Skapocalypse. In February 1999, we played a show near Wilkes-Barre, PA with literally a dozen tough guy bands. We perversely decided to wear white button-down shirts with black ties, just to goad meathead juicers into fighting us. I remember feeling true fear when we set up our gear and someone up front sneered, “Who is this, the fucking Beastie Boys?” We played and prepared a hasty retreat.

Instead of being clubberlanged, bulbous side of beef boys donning 25 ta Life hoodies expressed their enthusiasm and purchased t-shirts and 7 inches. 

Justin: I’ve always loved diverse shows and had the opportunity to see/play hundreds of them throughout my life. I lost track of when a single sound was the draw of a show. Either way, the greatest show I’ve played in my life was in Omaha on New Year’s Eve 1998…besides the Maryland (?) Fest with none other than Four Hundred Years and Fields Lay Fallow. There we so many incredible bands we’ve played with.

The New Brunswick punk community was very close-knit back then. For those who weren’t there, how would you describe New Brunswick and the people that made up that scene in the mid-‘90s?

Tom: I wouldn’t really describe it as close-knit from my own perspective, though I really liked going to basement shows and seeing bands in that format before the Alternative Press/MTV fetishization of basement shows.   

Chris: New Brunswick definitely had an amazing scene for punk and hardcore music. Many amazing bands were born and excelled from that scene. But for the term close-knit, I have to disagree a little. Again, just my perspective, my own personal experience, and observation of the time.  But it was more of like a bunch of close-knit cliques.   

Casey: Similar to the overall NJ/tristate area scene, it was sonically diverse. We didn’t play with bands that sounded like us because there weren’t many other bands that sounded like us in NJ at that time. You’d have an overtly political band many called “arty” like Stormshadow or a raging punk band like the Degenerics. We got along with these kids and I felt a sense of community with the bands and people at those shows.

At the same time, there were many who hated our band and were not shy about telling us to our faces. A beloved New Brunswick scenester of the time came up to me on College Avenue and told me, “Hey man, a lot people like your album. But I don’t. It’s really not that good. I don’t get it.” Back then, there were these horrible things on the internet called chat rooms wherein a lot of keyboard knuckle-draggers called us crybabies and the usual homophobic slurs.

And for some reason my brother seemed to periodically arouse the ire and elicit threats of a thorough beatdown from this thuggier, mentally dimmer element of the scene. I suspect this was due to the perennial problem of bands refusing to bring their gear to shows and demanding to use yours. While I’d usually quake and offer up my guitar and amp with a “Sure, oh yes, yes sir, would you like me to tune it for you?” my brother would instead bark, “No, no drum for you.”     

Justin: Every time I was there I was treated like family as long as I was in a band that was well-respected. 

Did you feel a close kinship with any specific bands from that time period? 

Tom: The band I probably felt the most kinship to was Saetia. They were the only band I knew at the time that was doing something similar to us musically. The vocalist, Billy [Werner] was a very passionate, inspiring person that could engage in earnest conversation and make you feel totally comfortable. Watching the guitarist, Jamie [Behar], play guitar was a total lesson in dexterity and creativity.  

When we toured with Saetia, I really hit it off with Steve [Roche] (then bass player) and have been good friends with him ever since. Other bands I really loved playing with as musicians and people were Your Adversary, the Cable Car Theory, Song of Kerman, Carlisle, the Degenerics, and Zegota. 

Justin: We met so many people and shared so many incredible experiences…be them in a band or not. My fondest memories of that time involve You and I’s practices at my parents’ house and the following trip to the inlet to sit amongst the rocks with friends.

Why did You and I break up when it did? Was it a matter of wanting to move on to new projects, or was there something else that happened?

Tom: You and I had a great recipe for breaking up with three main ingredients. From a physical standpoint, Chris’ doctor informed him that he should stop playing drums due to an asthma condition. The idea of getting another drummer seemed unfathomable since Chris’ personality and playing style was a huge part of the band. From a creative standpoint, I think we were starting to pull in different directions musically and aesthetically.  

Writing the last record was a little harder and not as organic as it had been in the past. We probably didn’t deal with this in the most healthy way, as our own self-awareness wasn’t really developed at that point. From a philosophical/emotional standpoint, I think there was a sense that the band had run its course. We started the band when I was a junior in high school and ended it when I was a sophomore in college. The things that the band expressed or helped me through were no longer in the forefront.

Trying to play songs you wrote as a junior in high school and attach the same volatile urgency that you had then as someone who has gotten older is not necessarily ideal. It became harder for me to understand how to go about the band, the friendships, the writing because my life had changed so much. I think this was the case on some level for all 4 of us by the end of the band, and I wish I had the tools back then to be able to express that clearly and in a healthy way.   

Chris: Why did we break up? It's definitely like, 80% my fault. Yes, I did have a medical issue. An issue I was told to take it easy for at least a few months. I was also going back to college in the fall of 1999. You and I disbanded May of 1999. Musically, I always felt I was holding the band back. Casey, Tom, and Justin wrote amazing music and lyrics. I did my best to fit my raw drumming into making the songs sound as good as possible.

Yes, I was proud of some of the songs I was part of creating. But, I was hard on myself for not being able to do justice to a couple of the earlier songs. Toward the end, I felt the song writing was not seen eye to eye with each member of the band. It seemed to go from full time fun to more moments of stress and unhappy faces. That was where I began to question things. If I wasn't having fun, was it worth it?

Then I had a health scare with a heart issue. It was icing on the cake. Kind of off topic, but I just want to add one more thing. All of the years after You and I disbanded, I felt regret. I quickly missed playing the songs and the friendships I had let go. A few years after, I used to dream of playing the songs live again. Then, in 2011, that dream came true. The days rehearsing, reminiscing, and just getting to know one another again. It was awesome. I will never forget those couple of months leading up to the reunion show.  

Photo courtesy of Repeater Records

Casey: Keith Huckins (Rorschach, Deadguy) gave a fabulous response to this question in this very website when asked why Deadguy broke up: band politics. Isn’t that always the case? I remember wanting to get away from the metalcore scene we seemed to be merging with towards the end of the band. In early 1999, we played a show at the Melody Bar in New Brunswick with Zao and a horde of similar bands and I thought, ‘I don’t want any part of this.’

Some of us were in our early 20s, but were still basically teenagers and handled our communication and emotional reactions like teenagers. My brother’s health issues were the primary reason, but we were beginning to diverge musically in a way that couldn’t have been reconcilable for much longer. The last record reflects that to a degree. 

Justin: Everyone covered the break up very well. We were all heading different directions and, in some way, we all wanted to try something new. We were treating ourselves horribly in regards to mental health and, as a result, were treating everyone else horribly as well...the last record tells that story in a way. There was no way moving forward at that point as a collective given our individual struggles. Simply put, as Tom stated…the band had run its course.

Now that you’ve had so many years away from the material you created together, how do you feel about You and I’s recorded legacy?
 
Tom: When we were preparing this record I had to listen back to the songs while they were being mastered by Jack. I feel somewhat detached from the songs, almost like it was another life. I think listening to them now I probably have a little more objectivity because of that. Like any band, I think there are some moments where we really hit the mark and others where we came up short. 

All in all, I can’t complain that I got to make this music. Sometimes people tell me that this band means a lot to them or changed their life and honestly I just don’t know how to respond to those notions. I’m humbled but also don’t really have the tools to understand how to react.  

Justin: I apologize…but the word ‘legacy’ and all of the descriptions that are similar are very uncomfortable for me. I am consistently humbled that people still even remotely remember this band twenty-one years on. I am incredibly thankful to have been a part from inception to deletion…the significance of these very few years cannot be overstated. They saved a lot of us. Many of us.

If you had to pick one You and I song that best encapsulates what you were about, which one would it be and why?

Tom: I always used to say if for some reason we had to break up after releasing the first 7 inch I would feel that we achieved what I had set out to do musically with the band. There’s no exact explanation why, but the songs just totally hit all the points in a really organic way that represented the band really well.

Chris: "Seascape." I couldn't even tell you back then what the lyrics were/are. But, from a playing standpoint, that song always made me go through many emotions. It did not matter how many times we played it. I felt the same each time. I could tell fans felt the same way. The look on their faces when Tom would strike those first notes; their was definitely a connection with those in the crowd.

Also, "Crossing the Rubicon." I can't say it encapsulates what we were about; but just that I loved how it was written. The pure punch you in the throat riffs, and the fact it let people know we were not just some "emo" band [laughs].

Casey: “Forever Lasts a Moment” from Within the Frame. I felt like this was a truly collaborative song that came together cohesively, despite having the usual ridiculous number of changes. Sometimes you throw a bunch of ingredients in a blender and you end up with total dogshit. But every once in a while you Vitamix something special.

Justin: I err on the side of Tom regarding the first 7 inch…albeit with one caveat. The first 7” and the curtain falls are my favorites. The first record was everything you would eventually hear from us. My personal favorite moment of all the records is the "Something to Remember" and "Hearts Divide’" on Side A. I remember where I was writing the lyrics and the moment we first played them back to back like it was yesterday.

The final record is as close to getting an idea of what we actually sounded like live…the rawness is beautiful. There is so much packed into that record…including the frustrations we had with one another considering we had broken up before it was actually recorded. 

I sincerely thank you and appreciate your interest in the corpse of a band that is now old enough to legally drink. I joke. All my love.

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The You and I Complete discography will be out on September 14 via Repeater Records. Pre-order your copy on 2X vinyl here.

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