Life Force is a straight edge hardcore band that was formed in 2018 with its members spread out across Texas and Oklahoma.
I was able to chat with their vocalist, Flint Beard, to discuss the release of their highly acclaimed album, Hope and Defiance, their highs and lows during the pandemic, counterproductive vs. productive bands, what it means to apply your message into tangible change, and much more.
Every legacy has its origin story. Let’s hear the backstory of the band! How’d you guys meet, what connected you, and birthed Life Force as we see it today?
[Matthew] Fletcher and I have known one another for years. We met in college by chance, bumping into one another in a bookstore. He’d just gotten home from being on the road playing bass with Shai Hulud, and we struck up a conversation about hardcore that was spurred by noticing one another’s shirts. Funny enough, I was wearing a Dead Hearts shirt, he was wearing a Gorilla Biscuits shirt, for anyone wondering [laughs].
We connected immediately, and eventually bandmates when he joined the straight edge band I was fronting at the time, and we’ve played music and have been friends ever since, and somehow that was about 12 or 13 years ago now. Holy shit, that hardly seems possible.
Well, anyway, he hit me up in late 2017 asking if I’d be down to front a new project he’d been dreaming up, and he described it as “a modern take on Chain of Strength, but darker and heavier”... how could I say no to that?
So, Life Force was born and we recruited John (drums) and Davis (bass) not long after, both friends and bandmates from former projects. On second guitar we had a rotating cast for a while but finally locked in Josh in early 2020 right before the pandemic really hit, to round off the lineup as it sits now.
Speaking of 2020, I thought the title of your album, Hope and Defiance, was perfect for 2020. It should be the tagline for last year because we needed both of those things during a year filled with so much political, racist bullshit and of course, the pandemic. With that being said, what were some of your highs and lows (if there were any) of 2020, shit, even 2021?
Ah, thanks so much! We were trying to think of a name for the record, and that’s actually part of one of the lines from my favorite track, “Higher Standards." The song itself is a message to the scene at large, calling for higher standards in terms of the type of people and bands that we idolize in hardcore... specifically, those who have nothing of substance to say and those who glorify ignorance and negativity.
In talking about it we realized that the line worked really well to describe society as a whole, and would fit perfectly for a record title itself, so I’m glad you like it!
In terms of lows for the last year, obviously, the lows were the same universal lows that everyone has been experiencing: financial anxiety, work (or lack thereof) anxiety, health anxiety, and members of the band actually contracting COVID (it all turned out ok, thankfully), maintaining feelings of humanity and social normalness in a time of extreme abnormality and separation from one another, etc.
For me personally, the definite low for me in 2020 was the postponing of my wedding, which was supposed to take place in September 2020, and is indefinitely on hold waiting for vaccines.
In terms of highs, there were some definite high points: our guitarist had a beautiful new baby girl, our LP dropped to a lot of acclaim, sold out so fast that we had to do a second pressing immediately which now has also already almost sold out, and last but definitely not least we signed with MAD Booking to go tour Europe as soon as that’s possible, all of which are fucking amazing and we couldn’t be more thankful to everyone who has supported us and helped us along the way.
"Higher Standards" was a perfect opener, man. It just sets the tone for the record, “what’s left is just fashion, with nothing to say. All style, no substance, a waste of a stage." With that being said, what are some things in the modern hardcore scene that you find counterproductive to the culture?
To me, the things that stick out in hardcore as counterproductive to the scene are the same things that are counterproductive to the lives of folks in the scene, and society at large for that matter: rampant sexism and the uplifting of men who turn out to be predators and abusers; latent racism from “influential” scenesters that gets brought to light when a band’s private group chat gets leaked; the prevalence of hyper toxicity and the tendency of hardcore kids to shit on one another endlessly until the internet clout machine tells them someone is “cool” and then they get idolized and celebritized in a way that’s more akin to rock and pop stars than it is to members of a punk subculture (idolization that of course lends itself to the above two problems being glossed over or outright ignored); and lastly, the unfortunate reality that a lot of folks in hardcore bands don’t bother themselves with pairing their music with a message that resembles anything substantive, progressive, or meaningful.
There’s this super-unfortunate trend (it comes and goes through the years and depending on what scene you’re in geographically) that actively hypes and encourages bands that churn out the most ignorant and violently indifferent (read: uninformed and apathetic) material.
It’s a huge bummer to me because we’ve all seen when hardcore can be a vessel for and an actual movement based around positive self and societal improvement, leading the charge as a subculture of would-be outcasts pushing for what we know is right and moving society in a progressive direction. Instead, we get derailed by would-be rockstars and cool guys.
To follow up on that first question, what are some things in the modern hardcore scene that you find productive and progressive?
I think the scene not just giving lip service, but taking part in public endorsement paired with activism in the arenas of anti-bigotry, animal rights activism, literacy in leftist political ideals, mutual aid projects, etc. are all very worthy and progressive outlets for the justified aggression and rage we all feel towards society and that we express at hardcore shows.
A positive way to use the anger and negative feelings that brought us all to this scene in the first place.
Going off what you said about public endorsement paired with activism, what are some things you have collectively (or individually) done other than the music to make a positive impact within your community?
We have members doing amazing things across the board, from dedicating their professional lives to the care and education of the developmentally disabled; to taking part in direct action related to racial justice and engaging fascist cops on the front lines; to taking part in direct action for animal rights carrying out large scale demonstrations and fundraisers to that end; to dedicating all the money that we’ve ever raised as a band to various charitable causes and campaigns; to raising money in our own scene through booking and playing shows and other means to commit thousands of dollars to the sick and needy families of friends and fellow hardcore kids; to collaborating with other writers/artists/photographers/designers/labels to raise funding for what we see as critical facets of the modern scene like local venues and websites like No Echo.
We are very proud of what we called in our song by the same name “Acting for Change” as opposed to standing on a stage and calling for change into a microphone and then doing nothing tangible to enact that change ourselves.
It's reassuring to hear you guys are actually, "applying the message, to live the change" rather than just saying empty words and nothing happening, kudos. The Impact EP was another very successful project of yours that dropped back in August of 2019, then followed up quickly by Hope and Defiance in April 2020. Was the material you guys were working on for The Impact also geared toward Hope and Defiance in any way?
Actually no, they were two very distinctly separate projects. The Impact was written and recorded about six months or more before it actually dropped. Then, as soon as it had been sent off to the label we were already booking shows and writing new material that would eventually become most of Hope and Defiance.
I think we have done a good job of keeping a thematic thread of similarity in all of our material from the days of our demo up through now, so maybe that’s what you’re picking up on, and honestly, I’m stoked to hear that because it’s exactly what we were going for. We want people to be able to hear the music and hear the messages and say “Oh, that’s definitely Life Force."
I would agree you guys have done a great job at keeping your thematics in a perfect line, distinguishing your sound from everyone else. I thought it was really fitting how you recruited Tim McMahon (Mouthpiece, Hands Tied, SEARCH) for your lead single, “Out Front” for Hope and Defiance.
The juxtaposition of yours and McMahon's voice brought that Youth Crew spirit for a track that says so much about societal pressures and our conditioning to the system, “revolt through clarity”. What brought this collaboration to fruition?
Well, I’ve been a fan of Tim’s for a long time, and have thought he was a fantastic lyricist and vocalist in all of his various projects, so when we got approached by New Age for a record deal, the first thing I said was “Holy shit, we’ll be on the same label Mouthpiece was." So when we started chatting about wanting that part to be a guest vocal feature, we just reached out to him and asked if he’d be down to contribute!
I had the pleasure of meeting Tim and his wife, Traci, when I went out to California for the REV Fest 30th Anniversary shows, going so far as to ask him for a fanboy photo at the time [laughs]. We had connected on social media from that and kept up the connection through the time when Life Force formed and the LP came to be.
In all, we’re super-flattered that Tim was so stoked to be a part of it, and like you said his voice definitely brought in some of that old(er) school spirit and added to the storied history of New Age and our bands being connected in that way, it was just all around such a surreal and awesome thing to happen on our first full length.
The photo speaks, "just you wait for this." I see the camaraderie! Collaboration is something that keeps creativity alive and thriving. Are you open to future collaborations? If so, who are some people you'd like to get in the mix of Life Force?
We definitely are! I’m not sure, to be honest with you, we wait until the stuff is written and then get a vibe for who we think the song is really fitting for! We’ve talked to a few really mind-blowing folks, like personal heroes of ours, and they’ve expressed interest if/when the time comes, but I won’t jinx it!
I respect that, man! I'm sure whatever happens will blow everyone away. In terms of creativity and your creative process, what have you guys been doing to keep yourselves inspired and alert during these times?
Honestly, it’s been quite the slog for everyone in the crew. Everyone’s been unable to gather due to the pandemic and our geographical distance from one another (we’re spread out across about 8 hours and two states), so we’ve just been staying in touch with riff ideas and quick bedroom demos of new material for one another, biding our time until these vaccines can finally roll out and we can hit Europe! I think everyone’s staying motivated by just focusing on personal hobbies and work mostly, to be totally honest.
Sounds like you're all hanging in there and staying focused, still pumping out the jams! Do you guys have a direction that you're currently working towards for the new music, or is it still in the works?
New material is very much still in the planning stages. I’ve got some lyrics written and we’ve got a few “skeletal” tracks put together, but the direction is the same as it’s always been to be honest. Our M.O. has consistently been to write in our specific style, paying homage to our influences while still giving it our unique spin, coupled with pertinent lyrical messaging.
I'm fuckin stoked to see what comes outta your guy’s team next! Keep the heat coming! Since we've all been spending a lot of time cooped up due to COVID, who are some bands you've been vibing to?
I’ll have to answer this question selfishly and just give you my personal run down, as I’m sure if we were to poll the whole group the list would be a mile long.
For me, the constant rotation recently has been: Paul Cauthen, Bambu, World Be Free, World of Pleasure, Zulu, Ten Yard Fight, Silverchair, Take it to Heart, Shakewell, Angel Du$t, and Rain of Salvation.
Well, you've just thrown me onto some new cats! I'll give them a listen. Even though the idea of being a band (putting on shows, recording together, etc.) has been put on pause because of the pandemic, what is some advice you'd give to fellow artists that wanna start up their own band during these times?
Honestly, I think now is the perfect time to start a new project, to be real with you. Because the pandemic has taken away the parts of being in a band that people get hung up on that take away from arguably the most critical piece when you’re starting out: sitting at home and writing/practicing your instruments and your music.
So many people, especially in hardcore (myself included, mind you), cobble together a short set and jump on stage or into the studio first thing, and it takes us a while to realize we suck [laughs].
Then we buckle down and start practicing and actually start honing our sound and all that. Well now is the time to practice and really sit and write material with your bandmates, to sit and really spend time conceptualizing what you wanna do and really put thought into the project, seeing as time is so abundant right now, so don’t waste it!
I couldn't agree more, man. Now that we have all this time on our hands why not start up something we've been eagerly ready to jump into? The hardest part is just starting it. Well Flint, as we conclude this awesome interview, give us an idea of what we can expect in 2021 from Life Force and where they can reach you guys at!
Just like always, we’ve got some stuff cooking as we speak! We have a backlog of badass merch designs that we’ve put together during the pandemic, as well as some new recording equipment that we can use to make rough track demos to send back and forth to one another so as to facilitate writing from a distance... all to say there are things in the works!
Aside from writing and merch, as soon as it’s safe and we’re all vaccinated we’re headed across the pond thanks to MAD Booking and we’ll be announcing the dates and our tour mates as soon as we know when that will be, shooting for fall 2021 or so!
Thank you for the time and questions, I’ve really enjoyed it!
Hope and Defiance is available now via New Age Records.
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