I've already shown my love for Mindforce's debut full-length, Excalibur, on the site, naming it my pick for Hardcore Album of 2018 earlier this month, but I recently hit up the band's vocalist, Jason P., to get deeper in their story. From my perspective, it felt like Mindforce had a buzz pretty early on. "We got good feedback on the band from the beginning and we always had a good feeling about the music we were creating," Jason told me. "Word travels quick in the hardcore scene and maybe it resonated quick with kids. I really don’t know."
That hype began when Chris Weinblad—a longtime fixture of the New York hardcore scene—released Mindforce's The Future of… EP last year via his Trip Machine Labs label. That brings up the whole topic of the hardcore community in that part of country. "The term 'Upstate New York' encompasses a lot. Our scene is the Hudson Valley, which is the area outside of NYC that stretches from Yonkers to Albany. Some relevant cities are Poughkeepsie, Yonkers, Newburgh, and Beacon, among others.
"HVHC has a history that goes back to the late '80s but we’ve always been in the shadow of the NYC scene. Its always been a diverse community with diverse sounds. The current state of the Hudson Valley isn’t great. We need a new venue and new bands. The community is tight, though, and always has been. Scene activity has always been a pendulum that swings back and forth...a new venue will be discovered soon and the shows will start popping off again."
For Excalibur, Mindforce aligned themselves with Triple-B Records, a red-hot label that has also issued recent releases by such hardcore outfits as Candy, Warfare, and Ekulu. "[Triple-B owner] Sam [Yarmuth] contacted us last December about doing an LP for 2018. It’s our favorite label, so joining the BBB team wasn’t even a discussion. I truly think they’re in a historic moment right now and will be remembered amongst the hardcore label greats. We couldn’t be prouder of our team. Triple B on top."
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for a guitar riff fest, but what truly sets Excalibur apart from so many recent hardcore albums is the quality of the songwriting. Careful detail was put into the arrangements and the way the guitar parts mesh with Jason's vocal lines is a thing of beauty. "All of us have been playing together and writing in other bands through the years, so communicating ideas comes pretty easily. A lot of the songs start around a discussion about a type of mosh part we want.
"For this specific record, though, we wrote a bunch of songs and then kept only the 10 strongest. It was tough letting go of those other songs but we had to be honest with ourselves. It was also our first time writing a full-length for this band, so we wanted the songs to keep the listener's attention throughout. We also wanted to structure the songs for a maximum live experience. We want it to be wild when we play these songs live."
Just watch a few minutes of the Mindforce live clip above and you'll see that there’s a soulful energy to Jason's performance and how his singing flows over the music. There’s no macho posturing in how he delivers his end of things during a gig. Not to make it a religious kind of thing, but the vocals seem to be flowing out of Jason in an almost spiritual way. I hit the singer with that thought and while he was taken a back a bit, I think he understood what I meant. "[Laughs] You’re not wrong. Maybe I am possessed at the altar of hardcore! Thank you, that’s a huge compliment. My favorite artists are soulful and aggressive.
"I’ve always had a difficult time controlling myself to music. Especially aggressive and hard music. I sometimes have such a hard time controlling myself that it even got me in trouble when I was younger at shows. Losing yourself to music is the greatest feeling to me. When you hear those chords, dive off something!"
I asked Jason for the rundown on the recording sessions for Excalibur. "It was pretty quick and simple. We recorded with Will Hirst at Gate 4 Studios in MA. He sings in the band Maniac. We like recording with Will because he’s our boy before he’s our engineer and he gets our sound. We wanted to capture live energy that you really only get at shows, so the dudes recorded the tracks live first. I’m not into that punched-in, computery robotic sound that many modern heavy music albums have. I think us doing it live helped avoid that and capture the energy we wanted. Mike went back another day and did solos and overdubs. I went in and did all the vocal tracks on a separate day. We had mad fun."
The striking cover art for Excalibur deserved some attention during our chat. "I like mixing up historical images and gritty urban aesthetics. I’ve tried to do that with all the Mindforce stuff. Walter Crane was an anarchist and artist who mostly drew fantasy. I’ve always been fascinated with Anarchism and discovered his art in one of my readings. He kind of has this reoccurring Lady of Labor that shows up a lot. He probably has a specific name for her, but I don’t know what it is. She's also on the cover of The Future of... EP. My boy Tommy did our graf logo. I told Sam from Triple-B my idea, forwarded the images, and he put it together."
As much as Excalibur is a hardcore album, I told Jason that I hope Mindforce doesn't limit itself to just those kinds of tours/shows. I truly believe that the band can resonate with a broader audience if the exposure is there. "My philosophy has always been play to whoever will listen...and stage dive. I’m down to play with whoever. I’d love to play with some metal or thrash acts but also some rap acts. We want to play out as much as we can and especially get to the West Coast and other areas we haven’t."
Before we parted ways, I put Jason on the spot and asked him for his pick for Hardcore Release of 2019. "Damn, so much good hardcore released this year, but I’m going with the Ekulu EP."
Excalibur is available now via Triple-B Records.