In several documentaries that you can find on YouTube such as N.Y.H.C. and In Effect '91, several instrumental figures of New York City's hardcore scene of the early '90s repeatedly emphasize that the genre has an obligation to report on reality. Their reality is usually a romantic one full of struggle and camaraderie in the face of the harshness of urban life.
Decades later and farther up the Hudson, Albany's Drug Church takes notes on a different kind of reality, one full of banality, disappointment, unfulfilled dreams, missed opportunities, and escapism through heavy music and substances.
In what may be one of the best pieces of label copy in recent memory, the No Sleep Records website describes the band as "the sound of 'some college' and a delivery job. It's what happens when you strip any pretense from music and are left with a room full of dudes with weird bodies and tenuous futures."
Recently, Up on the Sun spoke with singer Patrick Kindlon about the band's history and simultaneously bleak and liberatory outlook.
How did Drug Church start and what was the original intent of the project?
It started when some dudes I knew from back home, who were a couple of years younger than me but I knew from along the way, called me up while I was out with my other band, Self Defense Family, and said "Hey, we just wrote a bunch of songs that sound nothing like our band. Would you like to sing on them? We'll put out a demo and maybe play a couple of local shows." And I said "Yeah, that sounds like a lot of fun."
So, they had written new songs that sounded somewhere between something like Seaweed or Snapcase, somewhere between those two bands, and I really liked that material and I was really excited to sing on it. But the idea was that it would go nowhere and that it was just a fun thing for these strange songs that they didn't know where they came from.
But we put out a demo and people liked it. None of us has had been in a band that people liked right away. Like, my other band, it's taken us 10 years for anyone to even give the most remote of a shit. We didn't know how to respond to that, so we said "I guess now we're going to put out a 7-inch, and then people really liked that. This is the easiest being in a band has ever been for me, for the other guys too, actually. It's been this very funny "okay, well, we did that; now what do we do next? Oh, okay, someone offered to put out an LP. Someone offered to put out another 7-inch. We got a tour offer."
The whole band has gotten more serious by virtue of the fact that I guess that's what we're doing and those are the opportunities provided for us, which we never would have anticipated. So it was very, very accidental in that there was really no intention of being a real band until opportunities -- opportunities that were good -- came up and we felt like actual assholes if we didn't take them. That's where it came from. And there was no goal. There's zero planning or goals involved in this.
The main thing I get out of listening to Drug Church is a real scummy vibe. Like, I imagine the subjects of the songs are all small-town 20-year-olds for whom life is always disappointing. Like, inescapably disappointing.
Yeah, the area that we all grew up in is a shithole. It's very dull and offers very little culture. It's snowy for a good portion of the year. There's no sort of industry that's interesting, but it's the state capital, so there's always jobs, but they are of the incredibly dull state worker type. Our whole background as a band is low expectations and sort of a shitty existence. The material is scumbag music. There's no denying it.
My favorite song on the LP is probably "Deconstructing Snapcase." The thing that I like about it is that there is that group-vocal thing, where all of you are saying, "Crush ambition!" That just throws me for a loop because, you know, in hardcore when people are calling for the destruction of things, it's usually bad things, like oppressive systems or enemies or obstacles or whatever. Ambition is a good thing. What does it mean to crush ambition in the context of a Drug Church song or growing up in upstate New York?
This one could be viewed to be ironic or not, depending on our mood that night. But, you know, it's something we've seen a lot in all of our bands; we've been in different bands for years. It's like there's always this dude who's a real go-getter in the most tasteless, idiotic way you can imagine. He wants things, he's striving hard, he's gonna go get it. But it's at the expense of all taste. It's at the expense of being an actual human being and instead looking like a corny dipshit. So, you know, the guy, he's ambitious. He wants to feed himself off of music. And to do that, he has to be just the tackiest, least tasteful human being that's ever lived. So that's a good reason to crush ambition, if you have that sort of ambition.
But the song is really about, I guess you could say, where we came from. That sort of "normal" hardcore attitude of, like you said, "crush opposition!" or strive for this or fight for that -- that is not our background at all. Our background is that there's no future. So, honestly, that whole "go for it!" bullshit is not terribly applicable. Our background is a little bit more dire than all that. A little bit more bleak.
But at the same time, we're not like one of those bands that are wholly negative. I'm not even all that negative of a person. So it's not like we're talking about hating anybody or any of that bullshit. It's just a simple fact that most of what people want in life isn't going to happen.
I'm glad you mentioned that because whenever I've told people about Drug Church, I've had a hard time explaining that it's a band called "Drug Church," but it's not celebratory of self-destruction or anything. It's not like one of those bands -- I can't think of anything off the top of my head -- maybe one of those mysterious-guy bands or something where they talk about dropping acid or something and it being cool or whatever.
Here's a thing I can say with confidence about our music: It glorifies nothing. It doesn't glorify doing drugs; it doesn't glorify not doing drugs. It takes the same attitude toward everything. It is even-handed in the respect that we're not sure if there's any fucking good thing on this planet. So why be a cornball and sing about . . . I don't know, let's say our name was Drug Church and we were singing about weed all day. That is just some tacky-ass bullshit, you know what I mean? Like, who above the age of 14 thinks weed is the greatest thing that ever happened?
Listen, everything sucks. Like, universally, across the board, everything is just okay to "maybe it sucks." That's the reality. That's what our songs are about. Our songs are about simple shit. Like, truly about normal human being things. That's the other thing. I mean, my background is in hardcore music. How many hardcore bands have I seen in my life that have been talking about "fighting the enemy" and shit? Like, who are you even talking about? Like, do you want to be specific at all? What's being discussed? Our songs are about specific things and none of our lives are that exciting. We're just band dudes. It's not like we're Indiana Jones. It's not like we're singing about adventure archeology. We're singing about things that we see.
In that song that I mentioned, "Deconstructing Snapcase," you talk about advice for "climbers." What advice would you give for the climbers in life?
I guess I would go with what I've been saying forever: Go about your business, get excited about things, pursue whatever your passions are, but just understand that no living person gives a shit. By all means, follow your muse off a cliff. Do things that excite you. Be excited. But understand that truly no other human being -- maybe your mom, definitely not your boyfriend or girlfriend -- like nobody truly gives a shit. So it's like, if you're gonna do it, you've gotta do it simply because it's something you find personally fulfilling, because there is literally no other reason to try to get anything else in life. Except for money, maybe. But even with money, if you can't give it to people, they don't care if you have money.
Nobody cares. I guess that's the attitude. Nobody gives a fuck. Like, people might be nice to you, people might pretend to care, but nobody actually cares.
So nobody caring can be empowering in itself?
I think so. I mean, for me personally, like once I let go of the fact that truly nobody is ever going to give me an award for me being sad or happy or trying really hard. Nobody is ever going to approach me and give me an award for being the most anything. Or if they do, what am I going to do with that award? Can I get on the subway with that? Or do I still need $2.50? I think I probably still need the $2.50.
Drug Church is scheduled to perform on Saturday, February 15, at the Nile Theater in Mesa with Touche Amore, mewithoutYou, and Seahaven.
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