Formed in 1993 in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn, New York, Indecision is a band that often gets criminally overlooked when music scribes discuss the evolution of metallic hardcore. The group's lean and mean style of songwriting, coupled with their no-holds-barred live performances, made them a local favorite of the New York Tri-state area hardcore communities.
During their original seven-year run, Indecision released a handful of 7"s, splits, and four albums that influenced a host of metallic hardcore bands along the way. Founding vocalist Tom Sheehan parted ways with the group in 1998, but he would later join up with a couple of his Indecision bandmates a few years later in Most Precious Blood, another band he would leave after one studio album.
Having witnessed Indecision's incendiary live show a few times in the '90s, I've always wondered why more people outside of the NYC area didn't discover them. I was listening to Indecision the other day, and it inspired me to reach out to Sheehan. Below is our conversation about his time with Indecision and Most Precious Blood, plus what he's been up to in the years since.
Indecision is so closely associated with Brooklyn. Were you born and raised there?
Oh, absolutely. I was born and raised in Sunset Park. The rest of the guys are from Bay Ridge.
In terms of the kinds of music you listened to, what was your musical trajectory as a kid?
Freshman year of high school, a friend of mine gave me a tape with Dinosaur Jr. on one side and Minor Threat on the other. That was all I needed to hear. I moved on to Sick of it All, since Blood, Sweat, and No Tears had just come out around then. Before that, I was mostly into Anthrax, Metallica, Van Halen, typical metal stuff. As a kid, my sister would make me listen to Judas Priest, Ramones, and stuff like that. Music was always my main interest.
I just interviewed Mike Scondotto from Inhuman the other day, and I asked him about L'Amour. Since you lived so close to the club, did you go see many shows there growing up?
I definitely went to a bunch of shows there as a kid, mostly to see hardcore bands open for bigger metal bands. I used to see Life of Agony there all the time, shows like that. It is weird, even though that place was a big part of my generation of hardcore kids, I don't feel that much of a tie to it.
Did you play in any bands before Indecision? If so, what kind of style(s) did they play?
I was in two bands for like six months each before Indecision, both hardcore/metal. Both were pretty awful [laughs].
I've read that Indecision formed after you, [guitarist] Justin Brannan, [drummer] Pat Flynn, and [bassist] Steve Bago met in high school.
Pat and Bago were in the same year as me, so we were all friendly. Justin was like three years younger, playing in bands, etc. Bago knew him from the neighborhood and introduced us. I had a Sick of it All CD longbox in my locker, he saw it, and we have been friends ever since. We were in a band called Farmer for like six months in 1992. We decided to do a band again and just started playing.
How soon after forming did you start playing shows?
Probably like two months? In retrospect, we probably should have waited a bit longer. We were not ready for prime time. Our first show was on October 29, 1993 at Fort Hamilton High School. We opened for Mike Scondotto's band, Confusion. We probably played five shows in the first year or so? We only really started playing a lot in late 1995, early 1996.
What was the local hardcore scene like in Brooklyn at that time? Which venues were you playing?
When we were first starting up, we had the Crazy Country Club, L'Amour, and this venue called 315 in Bay Ridge. Over time, there were other places that allowed hardcore shows, but none that lasted too long. The scene was pretty strong back then. We had Merauder, Confusion, Darkside NYC, Dead Air, Candiria, and a ton of the younger bands starting up.
After releasing some 7" stuff, Indecision signed with Exit Records, a label co-owned by Pavlos Ioanidis and Amber Green, who were also behind Wreck-Age Records.
I think Artie Philie [then the singer of Milhouse, and a few years later Sheehan's replacement in Indecision] and Scott Jarzombek had something to do with it, I don't totally remember. Artie was like the "A&R" guy for Exit, he was signing Tripface, and, I think, Scott brought them our demo and they were into it. They released our record, Tripface's record, and Silent Majority's record all around the same time.
Indecision's first album, 1996's Unorthodox, came out during a time when metallic hardcore was still in its infancy. What do you remember the reaction to the album being like?
It is funny, back then you would think we sounded like Bathory, but now we sound kind of like a heavier hardcore band. I think people that were into the band liked it but it took time for it to stick. I feel like at the time there were so many little scenes going on, the ABC No Rio scene, the NYHC scene, and the whole Youth Crew thing was coming back into style. We fit in with all of them and none of them. We would always joke how we would play with all NYHC bands one week and then the next week we would play with total Ebullition style bands.
Let's talk about the song "Hallowed Be Thy Name" that appears on the album. A lyric from that song, "For those I love, I will sacrifice," has had a huge impact on a lot of people throughout the world. Justin has called "Hallowed Be Thy Name" Indecision's "Free Bird."
I feel like "Hallowed Be Thy Name" took on a life of its own that we could have never expected. We always thought it was this weird, off-time song and we almost never played it. The first time we played it, we opened a show with it and people were so confused. The longer the record had been out, people got used to it, I guess. We were on tour with Silent Majority and Milhouse and they told us they had a surprise for us. They met us at the show, not sure where, and seven of the dudes had "For those I love, I will sacrifice." tattooed on them. So it all really started there. People get it tattooed on them now that have absolutely no clue that it is a lyric by a hardcore band. I guess that is pretty cool.
I played in Black Army Jacket, and we played some local shows with Indecision around the time of the first album. You guys had some of the biggest pile-on sing-alongs!
I loved Black Army Jacket and a lot of the bands that were around at that time. I was just talking about a Spazz/Get Up Kids show that I saw at CBGB's. The days of the mixed bills were so much fun. I feel like our shows were pretty intense, but not rehearsed. I feel like you see bands that are flipping out on stage and it looks so forced and choreographed. We were just like 4/5 idiots that went up there and just did what came naturally. I think Deadguy was a huge influence on us live. Keith Huckins and Tim Singer were so intense and insane. We were pretty fortunate to be able to play and have people show up. We drew a pretty diverse crowd, but it was always a great time. We were always happily shocked that people would come out and have as much fun as we did. I think the sing-alongs and stuff just sort of happened. We didn't write songs any particular way, like mosh part, chorus part, blah, blah. I think people identified with the lyrics and it just went from there.
In 1998, Rachel Rosen joined the band on second guitar. I remember she had played in Milhouse before that, or am I getting my time periods confused?
Rachel had played bass in SFA, Cause for Alarm, and Milhouse before she joined Indecision in 1997/1998. We met her when Shutdown played WNYU's Crucial Chaos [an influential NYC radio show]. She invited us to play a few months later and became friendly with Justin. She came on our first tour in 1996 with Shutdown and she played guitar at some beat show in Florida. She joined us right before our first European tour in the fall of 1997. I think she added a lot to the sound, she made it way fuller and allowed Justin to play more melodic stuff live, and on the records after that.
Your first album with Rachel, Most Precious Blood, came out that year. One of the songs on that record that always stuck out to me was "Falling in Love is Like Setting Yourself on Fire and Hoping You Won't Get Burned."
That was just me being a melodramatic 22-year-old and dealing with a breakup [laughs]. It used to be called "Sharpener," but Justin renamed it that and I think it works a lot better.
Did you get to tour behind that album much? Was the label supportive in that way?
We had our record release in June 1998 for that record at Coney Island High. We did a European Tour and one U.S. tour for that record, and then I was no longer in the band. We loved working with the label. The only disappointing thing was the distribution. We would be on tour, and before shows, we would go to the local punk/hardcore record stores and the album would never be there. They would have 432 copies of Hi-Fi and the Roadburners [a rockabilly band on Victory Records], but nothing for us, Milhouse, or Silent Majority.
One of my favorite releases from your era in the band was the split disc with Shai Hulud. It's funny, but thinking back, a lot of the stuff I enjoyed the most back then came off splits.
We actually played Shai Hulud's first show with [current New Found Glory guitarist] Chad Gilbert in Miami in 1996. Us and Shutdown were on tour and played this place called Cheers in Miami with Shai Hulud and this great band from down there named Brethren. We became fast friends with all those dudes, they gave us their first recording with Chad and we were blown away. We helped them up here and they helped us down in Florida. We got approached to do the split and we were way into it. It was a dream to have something out on Revelation/Crisis.
I have two funny stories about the record itself. The version that was released wasn't the original version. At the end of one of the songs, we originally used a sample of "The Times They Are A-Changin'" by Bob Dylan. We had to send a recording of the song and a copy of the lyrics to his manager. We got a response saying that he loved the lyrics and he was allowing us to use the sample. The amount of money that the publishing would have cost was insane, so we couldn't afford to use it. It's still pretty cool. Also, we recorded "Merchandise" by Fugazi for the record, but Dischord wouldn't allow us to release it because Revelation had major label distribution. So only the SSD cover ["Glue"] made it. Hopefully Taang! Records doesn't sue us.
That same year, you and the band parted ways. What brought that on?
I think it was time for a change for both of us. The tours weren't going great, and we were away for months at a time. Our van had gotten robbed in Vancouver and we lost a ton of stuff. Around that time, I got admitted into graduate school so I wasn't as into touring nonstop, and they still were. I think it worked out best for everyone at the time.
What do you think of the records Indecision made with Artie Philie singing? Did you follow the band at all?
I didn't really follow the band immediately after, but they played a lot of shows I was at so I couldn't help but see them. I think the records were good, totally different from the first two records. I have grown to enjoy them in my old age. I was pretty bummed they just recorded over my vocals for To Live and Die in NYC. That was pretty disappointing. I preferred Artie's work in Milhouse, though. They were amazing.
After Indecision, you, Justin, and Rachel formed Most Precious Blood. But after recording 2001's Nothing in Vain album, you left the group in 2003.
We just had a weird setup in the band and it wasn't working. We weren't just a bunch of friends from high school that wanted to play in a hardcore band. We were doing it full-time, so we always had to be on tour to support ourselves. I was enjoying being in Most Precious Blood way more than Indecision at the time of departure, unfortunately.
Have you played in any bands since then?
Nothing that has lasted more than one or two practices [laughs]. I am old and lazy sometimes.
What's the status of Indecision now? I know you've played some benefit shows in the past.
We play an occasional show here and there. We try not to overstay our welcome so we play a few times a year at most. We try to play one or two local shows and then one or two "away" shows. We still have a lot of fun with it and we get some of our old friends to come out, and a ton of people who weren't around the first time. We got to play with a ton of our influences this time around that we missed out in the earlier days. Bands like Rorschach, Unbroken, SOIA, Killing Time, and Judge. So it has been a great time. We have a documentary coming out in early 2015, and we're working on setting up a showing in January or so. We are also reissuing the Indecision Most Precious Blood LP on vinyl with Closed Casket Activities. We had it remastered. The artwork is redone and it includes the songs from the Hulud split. It should be out in February 2015, so I'm really excited for that.
What else are you up to these days?
I'm still living in Brooklyn. I run a Forensic Psychiatry Court Clinic in Manhattan. We psychiatrically evaluate defendants in NYC to determine whether they are well enough to go to trial and be a part of their own defense. It is pretty interesting stuff. After Most Precious Blood, I went to law school, passed the bar, and now have a ton of loans to show for it.
Thinking back to the local hardcore scene when Indecision was first coming up, were there any bands that you think deserved some more attention from the public?
I think most of the local bands were completely underrated. Lament should've been way bigger than they were. Confusion and Darkside NYC were hugely influential to bands that may not even realize it. I know Merauder did quite well for themselves, but they should've been where Pantera was. Master Killer is perfect. Dead Air wasn't a hardcore band, but they were definitely part of the Brooklyn scene. It was Mike and Bebop, who both went on to play for Candiria. They were doing the whole heavy, prog-rock type thing way before it became popular again. We just listened to all of the above listed stuff the other day on a car ride to see Sick of it All at Absury Lanes, and they all still hold up great.