How a band from Long Beach, California gets encouraged to write, record and release such aggressive music is beyond us, but that’s not to say we’re not grateful they did! The blaringly loud post-hardcore quartet Struckout recently signed to San Diego-based indie label Postmark Records who will issue the band’s third full-length on July 20th (pre-order a copy here). Recorded, mixed and mastered at The Atomic Garden by Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Graf Orlock, Joyce Manor, Loma Prieta), Struckout is preceded by the singles “Queer Shit” and “Don’t Translate; Adapt”, both of which can be heard below. But, musically, what makes these musicians tick? We caught up with the group’s members to discus their various formative albums.
Daniel Speer (bass/vocals): 01.mewithoutYou - Brother, Sister (2006)
- The first three mewithoutYou records are bangers, but this is the record a lot of people point to, myself included, as a high bar for loud, punk-tinged guitar music (or post-hardcore, or whatever). I’ve probably spent days listening to Aaron Weiss scream poetry at me - lines about the death of ego, about existence, and about God. I twist and turn them over and over again in my head. Brother, Sister is one of those albums that set the standard for the kind of music I wanted to play. The ornamental elements, the accordion, the horns - those all make the album feel huge, but at its core, the backbone of the songwriting is incredibly solid. Any band that utilizes spoken word owes a lot to mewithoutYou, us included.
02.Mclusky - Mclusky Do Dallas (2002)
- This album, Lou Barlow and early 2000’s dance punk are why I have a distortion pedal for my bass. I will never be as acerbic, irreverent or smart as Andy Falkous is on Mclusky Do Dallas, and I guess I’ve just gotta be okay with that, don’t I? When I first listened to this record in college, these songs were a genuine shock to the system. They are, at their core, structured like pop songs, but they’re biting, cut-throat, short, direct, head-rattling, fat and mean - all that shit and so much more. I always wanted to be in a band, but this made me want to be in a very, very good band. Andy’s newest project Christian Fitness rules too - I’ll always like art that is about making art.
03.Bomb The Music Industry! - Scrambles (2009)
- Every Bomb The Music Industry! record has at least a handful of songs that I’ve screamed out of my car or cried to. Scrambles came out after I graduated high school and during my first year of college. Holy shit, I can’t believe this record is almost ten years old. It felt like the first time I’d ever heard someone write lyrics that were speaking to exactly what I was going through - lyrics that were completely honest, music that sounded both joyous and terribly sad. I would be a very different person if I hadn’t heard any of Jeff Rosenstock’s music. A very, very different person.
I don’t think there’s another record that captured the whole, “millennials being absolutely certain that their future is completely fucked” as well as this record did. Jeff makes me feel less alone. I want this record and Vacation to be held with the high esteem they deserve, and to be recognized as the landmarks they are. I dunno, I’m not one to throw around, “voice of a generation,” but this album did more for me than any other album of the last decade did. I still go back to it. Jeff is an incredibly consistent artist and he continuously puts out great records, but Scrambles was my introduction to who he is, and it’s still my favorite record by him.
Whether or not you think this video is some “Queer Shit”, you should watch it.
James Goldmann (percussion): 04.Callisto - Noir (2006)
- Post-metal is, and will probably remain, my most played genre of all time. Much like post-rock, post-metal relies on some of the same tropes while taking it to darker, more experimental realms shared by extreme metal - dissonance, intensity, introspection and more. While many are familiar with the “godfathers” of post-metal, such as Neurosis and Godflesh, and perhaps even some contemporary acts like ISIS and Cult of Luna, Callisto has always been my personal pick for the best of the genre, and Noir in particular is my favorite record ever.
Noir perfectly blends post-metal, sludge metal, and jazz (yes, jazz) into an intense, atmospheric trip through lush gardens of guitar and winding dirt roads of groove. There are moments where the steady build of a riff finally peaks into a burst of color and beauty, like the climax of “The Fugitive.” These moments fill me with so much emotion it’s impossible to adequately explain how much of an impression this record made on me. Ariel Björklund’s drumming is one of the biggest influences on my own style, and the songwriting of Callisto as a whole significantly affected how I compose my own songs (evidenced in my side-project A Constant Knowledge of Death more than in Struckout, admittedly).
I owe a lot to this band and album - it’s been with me through some of my lowest and highest points, and even just to lull me to sleep. Noir is the epitome of beauty in a severely underrated scene.
05.Between The Buried And Me - Colors (2007)
- As someone who considers themselves well-versed in the modern progressive metal scene, I can confidently say that almost every popular modern band in the genre owes a great deal to Between the Buried and Me. Having created a multitude of records over the last eighteen years, ranging from their original deathcore sound to their current, more Queen-inspired efforts, BTBAM has consistently put out stellar album after stellar album with some of the most impressive songwriting heard in contemporary metal.
That being said, Colors is undoubtedly the most touted of these efforts - the 64-minute epic pushes what a five-piece can do to the absolute limit, rarely relying on additional instrumental overdubs (with notable exceptions to moments of extreme genre shifts, like the hoedown at the end of “Ants of the Sky”). Furthermore, the album gives the impression of one continuous song via tight transitions between each of the 8 tracks, even with several songs exceeding ten minutes.
Images of Struckout performing at Programme Skate & Sound in California.
BTBAM then decided that just producing the studio record that way wasn’t enough - one year later, they released Colors_LIVE, a live album/DVD in which they performed the entirety of the album without breaks, followed by a second set of older songs (endurance, right?). I was fortunate enough to experience a similar show in 2017 when the band went out on their Colors 10 year anniversary tour, playing the album in its entirety again. It was an extremely humbling experience seeing these five nigh-virtuosic musicians absolutely kill every song with barely a moment to breathe.
BTBAM was one of my first experiences with extreme music, and between the ridiculous amount of times I’ve listened to this album and seeing it live, Colors continues to inspire me to push every one of my projects to the absolute limit, whether it be technically, compositionally or tonally.
06.Thrice - The Alchemy Index: Vols. 1+2 - Fire & Water (2007)
- The awkward mid-2000s alternative rock bands like Breaking Benjamin, Linkin Park and Thrice were probably my first experience with anything heavy, and maybe even anything outside of classical music. I still hold the former’s Phobia very close to my heart and frequently reminisce blasting it while playing Half-Life 2; however, Thrice’s The Alchemy Index: Vols. 1+2 - Fire & Water is the one release from that era that truly made a significant impact on my musicianship.
Thrice’s Vheissu was their first bold move into more experimental realms, but this release pushed them past being just another mediocre post-grunge band. The Alchemy Index is a collection of four six-track EPs themed around the four elements: fire, water, air and earth. Thrice released them two at a time almost exactly six months apart, and while I love all four for different reasons, the first half showed me just how weird and diverse a band can be and remain successful. The first EP, Fire, is very heavy, aggressive, noisy punk; the second, Water, is the exact opposite - ambient, mostly electronic-based jams.
Moreover, Thrice further flexed their songwriting ability with the final tracks on each EP: each song is structured as a sonnet with the same chord progressions in different keys, and the final two lines share the same melody. It’s incredibly inspiring seeing an artist produce something so commercially risky and own it; the only other example I can think of similar to The Alchemy Index is The Devin Townsend Project’sDeconstruction and Ghost, two 70+ minute records released simultaneously in 2011, with the former being extreme progressive metal and the latter ambient folk.
While I’m honestly not even close to a fan of Thrice’s more recent efforts, I still regularly fall back on this record when my writing is feeling stale, or I’m feeling completely uninspired. It’s hard evidence that I don’t have to compromise my sound to find success in this brutal, hyper-competitive industry, and that gives me hope for my future in music.
The cover artwork for Struckout’s third full-length album, Struckout.
Garrett La Bonte (guitar): 07.Low - Things We Lost In The Fire (2001)
- My brother took my sister and I to my first show when I was 14, which Low happened to be headlining. I had never listened to them before seeing them, yet it was an extremely transforming experience. I didn’t know a band could be so quiet in one moment and so loud in the next; so beautiful one second, dark and ugly the next. This idea of severely contrasting dynamics has been rooted in my brain ever since. I was so pulled into the moment that I didn’t catch many of the lyrics, but I did internalize a few lines, which I eventually learned were from the song “Dinosaur Act.”
When we got home that night, I asked my brother which album that song was from, and he burned me a copy of Things We Lost In The Fire. 14 years later, I love all of their records, yet Things... still holds a crucial place in my life. It was weird going to school the next day, where all of my friends were listening to blink-182 and Social Distortion on their Walkmans and I was listening to the eighth track “Whore.” Though Struckout sounds nothing like Low, I took many of the ideas they laid out over their discography into how I approach any music I’m a part of.
08.Fugazi - In On The Kill Taker (1993)
- Simply put, Fugazi is my favorite band of all time. Musically, ethically, aesthetically, visually - everything I’ve seen, heard, or read of theirs has had a profound effect on me. My favorite Fugazi record has changed throughout the years, but if you are looking to play aggressive yet intelligent guitar music, In On The Kill Taker is the ultimate study guide. The perfect mixture of intensity, abrasiveness, art, message, and catchiness is splayed out in this 12-song standard. Every member is running on all cylinders, making it extremely diverse in both sound and structure.
Since I hadn’t played with another guitarist in a band for years before joining Struckout, I have referred to this record regularly to really figure out how two guitars should operate together. Much like Low, this record also captures some of Fugazi’s finest moments in the use of dynamics. I could go on and on about this record, and I know it’s not new to most, but to me, this record is how a band should sound and what a band should do. It taught me that punk is not just a genre label, but an idea, a mindset, and a way to communicate.
09.Unwound - New Plastic Ideas (1994)
- When I recorded with my first serious band, my friend and engineer told me that we reminded him of Unwound. I had never heard of them, but I took note of the name and then kind of forgot about them. I eventually I remembered and found a copy of Fake Train. Within the first few seconds of “Dragnalus,” the opening track, I knew I had found what would become one of my biggest influences for years. Though I heard Fake Train first, New Plastic Ideas was the album that cemented this realization for me.
Fugazi was this tight, well-oiled freight train of an operation, but Unwound was the more abstract, looser and patient cousin from the Northwest. They captured that ferocious and intense sound that I am naturally drawn to, but what impressed me the most was how much atmosphere they could project as a three piece. The best example of this is “Abstraktions,” a 7-minute instrumental mood piece that keeps you on edge as the song quickly dips up and down in volume, creating a swirling sea of dissonant yet beautiful sound. To me, this album became an example that punk could be quiet, dark, artistic, and borderline pretty.
Enough is enough. “Don’t Translate; Adapt”!
Josue Quiquivix (guitar): 10.Boris - Pink (2005)
- This album shook me the first time I heard it. It’s super heavy, but also super sweet and sentimental in some places. It’s not the first Boris album I heard, but it was the first one to really make me rethink how to approach heavy music. On a more personal note, too, every time I hear Pink, it reminds me of a time in my life when I was with someone in the sweetest and most innocent way, but, at the same time, knowing it would come falling apart in the most brutal way.
11.John Coltrane - Interstellar Space (1974)
- Jesus, this is a wild record. I came across this while searching for what Nels Cline (of Wilco fame) pulls from when doing his crazy jazzy stuff. I always loved Giant Steps, but Interstellar Space really challenges you as a listener. I always pick up something new every time I hear it, and I will always pick up my guitar with excitement after every listen.
12.Mastodon - Blood Mountain (2006)
- I owe a lot to this record. It’s a wild mix of prog, stoner, and bluegrass riffs and licks. It mapped out all the dumb, crazy stuff I liked as a teen and mashed it into one insane album. It also helped get me through a tough moment when I didn’t want my life to continue. It brought me back, and forced me on my own trail - one to the top of my own blood mountain. I don’t think everyone will react the same way I did, but this album really stuck with me.
Upcoming Tour Dates:
07/20 - Upland, CA @ The Palisades (Record Release)
07/21 - Phoenix, AZ @ Trunk Space
07/27 - Los Angeles, CA @ Emerald House
07/29 - Santa Ana, CA @ Beatnik Bandito
08/07 - Long Beach, CA @ 4th Street Vine
08/08 - Fullerton, CA @ Programme SK