When you sit down to write lyrics what do want to accomplish with your words?
It’s not always the same. It usually depends on how I feel, how much time I have set aside, etc. But typically, I want to articulate something that is otherwise difficult for me to express outside o
f music. With the instrumentation, the lyrics, and the melodies all working together, we have a real opportunity to express something that I simply cannot convey as powerfully or with such emotional depth with words alone. I want our words to say something, but I want them to make the instrumental music itself say something more as well. Sometimes we write the lyrics first, sometimes last, but we always want the lyrics and the music to put forward something that articulates and releases what we constantly feel is bottled up inside of us. And we don’t leave the lyrics as just the solo responsibility of the singer; we involve other members in the process of creating and revising the lyrics as well.
The song "Rebel Fatigues" seems to address the ide
a of "cliche revolution" which disappears quickly while the problems persist. What does that term "revolution" mean to you?
Revolution is definitely a term that I think gets thrown around in the punk scene quite a bit, with little regard for what a revolution actually entails. I think that a lot of people fall in love with the political account of revolutions from leaders across the world: such-and-such revolution was glorious or what have you. But often (if not usually) in a revolution, lots of people die. And sadly, they often die for nothing because the revolution fails to take power or it just recreates the same problems as before. The song tried to portray the revolution through the eyes of a rural subsistence farmer who sees power change through multiple revolutions throughout her or his lifetime. This new revolution looks just like the last, and this poor worker remains helpless as the country goes through turmoil and the people pay the high price of regime change. This is the untold story of much of the world, and I wanted to tell this story for millions of powerless people who’ve been exploited or died in vain throughout history. I’m not saying that all revolutions are bad; there is a time when revolution is the only way forward and sometimes it works out well. But so many people use the term revolution in such a meaningless or misunderstood way that I feel overlooks the tragic stories of people who forfeited everything they had for nothing. Maybe it’s just that we welcome the idea of a revolution because it becomes so comfortable to believe that things can just be successfully turned on their head overnight and we don’t have to really change something about ourselves.
What inspired the song "Affidavit"?
My family’s separation, divorce and a decade of court battles that drove my family into financial hardship and pitted everyone against everyone. I used to think that I escaped those times unscathed, and that it only really scarred other people in my family. But while I was lucky to get through all that as well as I did, I’ve recently come to realize how much the divorce distorted my perception of love and love’s endurance through hard times. My Mom and Dad both loved me, more than anything. But I watched them lose control of love as if it were inevitable. They entered with all the best intentions, yet found themselves everywhere they never wanted to be. The song just deals with how the experience damaged my ability to understand, experience and trust in love the way other people appear to.
When you look at the concept our society has of what it means to be a man, woman, black, white etc. do you feel there is some way to change this need to define? Is it something on a personal/individual level or more of a governmental/law based one?
I think we get caught up in trying to narrowly categorize people and make them fit into certain rigid groups. Thankfully the punk/hardcore scene recognizes people as individuals, and through embracing individual creativity, perhaps the punk scene is at work breaking down barriers. I definitely agree that structural problems exist, and changing laws can potentially help if we’re talking about somewhere where the law favors one “group” over another (for example, heterosexual marriages over homosexual). But whether the problem is solved through government or elsewhere, the power starts with you.
What do you want for Hostage Calm as a band?
I want us to write meaningful and innovative material that says all the things about our lives that we might otherwise struggle to realize or articulate in any other way outside of music.
In what ways do current events or past events effect or influence the way you write about topics and the topics you address?
They always affect what we write, but rarely do we use one hot button issue as the sole topic of a certain song. That practice gets very cheesy and worn out in a hurry. We follow the news and study history in an effort to learn and understand such a confusing world. Including our ideas on the past, present and future in our lyrics just reflects how we currently feel.
You write that the first line of the chorus in "Ballot/Stones" came from a sign protesting the California proposition to ban gay marriage. Can you explain what you take away from that statement?
Proposition 8 allowed people the opportunity to vote in affirmation on something as hateful as the following lines:
“Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
That sentence makes me want to throw up! But this passed the democratic process! I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked. The movement that sprung up in opposition to gay marriage was so vile, and took the form of every other notorious anti-civil rights group who now find themselves on the dark pages of history. I think that voting on this measure, and on other gay marriage bills, has targeted a group and made an unequivocal statement that certain relationships are inferior and that ALL people do not have the right to choose. These people voted on a matter that they had no right to regulate in the first place, and that is whether or not their neighbors’ love is valid. The whole thing amounts to a stoning of a bunch of people who should have the same rights as anyone else.
"Young Professionals" seems to almost be a warning against the complacency that comes with a more comfortable situation in life. Is this essentially what you were trying to get across?
Warning is probably a good way of putting it. I was neither condemning nor praising the “young professional” in the song, but just trying to paint the picture of some twenty-four year-old person desperately trying to find success, love and direction. You see people like this coming out of work wearing a suit that fits on their body, but it sort of wears them. They are troubled, just like myself. And I constantly felt like that their reality was creeping up on me. Here I am at twenty-two, and I’m watching my teenage anxieties collide with this new, unsure maturity and it’s difficult. There’s nothing wrong with being a young professional, we just wanted to illustrate the torment of entering your twenties and not knowing how you to feel.
Can you explain the choice of the title "Whither on the Vine?"
So much human potential—be it creative, economic, ideational, whatever—lies dormant across the world due to mere circumstance, and this title referenced this enormous human potential that just withers on the vine, never fully ripening or seeing its full growth. I wrote that song about a village in Guatemala that had been evacuated to build a military base. Following the seizure of these people’s lands, the government then carried out numerous raids and disappearances across the countryside. A group I was with had been doing some renovations to a public library/education center called the Centro Explorativo, and it was there that I heard this story. I decided to model this song off of the situation during the Guatemalan Civil War, while also keeping it broad so that people could see how it related to a lot of places across the world in parallel scenarios.
Many Hostage Calm songs have a very social/political vibe to them but a song like "Victory Lap" seems to be a much more personal song. Why were the ideas presented in this song important for you to touch on?
Well, firstly our songs are always personal, and I don’t see being personal and socially conscious as mutually exclusive. In fact, social and political issues are very personal for us. We may not write each song in the first person, or fill it with trite, melodramatic stuff, but if you look at the song closely it’s always about something deeper that means something important to us. As for “Victory Lap,” it’s basically about the struggle between being far away on tour and being ho
me. Touring has its winners and losers for any band. While we’re going around the world having a blast, we miss certain people at home. Those people have to go on without us and keep up with the daily grind as we’re away having the time of our life. I felt this was important to touch on because this struggle between home and away has always played a big role in our lives, and it deserved some space on the record for sure.
Do you ever have trouble taking that leap of faith and opening up yourself and writing about very personal ideas?
No, and I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it’s because the music I’ve always listened to wasn’t afraid to reveal something about itself. I’m not a terribly public person, and am rather quiet in most social situations. But when it comes to music, I’ve always felt all right saying anything that I feel, without any sort of reservations.
Growing up in a smaller town like Wallingford, CT do find that the experience you had with music, bands and now with growing up is similar or different to the experiences of people from much different areas?
Definitely, I think where you grow up shapes you. Luckily I was close to a lot of shows when I was younger. Whether it was Wallingford, Meriden, Cromwell, or any of a bunch of other central CT towns, shows were ALWAYS happening and they were always readily available. I wonder if I ever would have been involved with punk music if I had been born somewhere where shows didn’t happen, or in a big city where there would have been other things for me to get involved with that could have led me down a different path.
What is it that you are missing that "the days have been stealing"?
When I was up at college, I constantly felt like I never got my fill of anything. I did the band, and I did some things that I thought were meaningful, but I never really felt happy. I always felt stressed. I felt like I was giving everything I had to give, and then when I would look for happiness where I expected it, I found something less. The days seemed to be taking everything from me, but not really giving me that much fulfillment. I was giving “the days” so much energy and focus, but felt like I wasn’t really getting much in return.
In "Gaslighting" you talk about "only under the shadow of our flag can you be human". How do you look at being American in a country ripe with so much hypocricy? When you look at modern life in America do you feel hopeful or more pessimistic?
There’s definitely a great deal of hope, because we will always have the ability to change whatever problems exist (note: there are MANY). I have never felt unconditionally proud to be an American. The U.S. has had many proud moments (Civil Rights movement, the enormous creativity within the US, etc.), but many shameful and often unspoken ones (genocide against the Native Americans, the scapegoating of immigrants). I feel that in popular American culture, everyone is so afraid to be ashamed of something America has done. They will “never apologize for America.” The hubris that drives someone to think that like is foreign to me. It’s the same sort of pompous attitude we carried with the war in Iraq while we constantly discussed AMERICAN interests and AMERICAN lives and AMERICAN dollars, instead of the death toll and interests of the people who we were “liberating.” We get too caught up with being American and not enough with being human.
Hostage Calm as a band does not seem to slide into that hateful, narrow sighted mindset that can easily come with awareness of all the suffering and pain in our world. How have you and the rest of the band been able to do this?
We know that we have an opportunity to speak and to change minds, and that’s what drives us forward. We love playing music, and even though the outside world can be discouraging, we can’t let that destroy what we can build together. No contribution has ever been made to anything of value by just packing it in and saying it’s not worth trying. We could give up and let the world change us, but we’d rather c
hange the world.
Check the LYRICS section for lyrics to the new Hostage Calm record!