Even if you’re apolitical, it’s essentially impossible to stay out of this year’s presidential election. The 2016 candidates have been causing the biggest stir in recent history, taking the frustrations of Americans to extremes and even inciting physical violence. The airwaves are constantly muddied with the latest “shocking” phrases spewing from politicians’ mouths like some sinister version of a reality TV show, and people, like New York hardcore band REPS, are pissed off.
“Beyond politics, it’s racism, homophobia, sexism. This is stuff that I can’t believe still is an issue.”
Their song “Patsy (ft. Cory Diaz of The Weight We Carry)” asserts, “Some politicians are just villains in a two-piece suit.” When I ask drummer Steve Koch about these kind of sentiments on the band’s new record, Poisoned Youth, he delivers an immediate sense of sadness and disbelief about the current state of our culture.
“It’s like no matter how many times in history mankind has pretty much had a lesson shoved in their face,” Koch gripes, “–like look, this is fucked up that you’ve been this way, this is how we should be–we’ve had every chance to progress and move forward, and it seems like every time we do we take two steps back.”
GET THE FREE DOWNLOAD OF REPS SINGLE “RUST” HERE
For Koch (and many others would agree), the problem reaches far beyond politics, however. It comes down to basic human values, and that’s what motivated the writing of Poisoned Youth. “I hear people at my job talking about politics all the time and getting really heated,” he says, “but for me it’s just I hate where the state of our society is that we all treat each other so poorly.”
“Even with this election,” he continues, “people literally hate each other depending on who they’re voting for. Which, I mean obviously I think there are better choices than others, but it’s not necessarily my job to tell someone who they should think is going to fix everything. Because realistically I don’t think one person could fix everything. I think our system and our society is so far gone it would take a complete restructuring of things. But the stuff that I deal with day to day is just people treating each other terribly. Beyond politics, it’s racism, homophobia, sexism. This is stuff that I can’t believe still is an issue. People treat each other so horribly depending on their different beliefs and that was a huge part of the inspiration behind writing this record.”
So what positive outcome can we find in all this? What beacon of hope is left for us in the midst of all this hate? For the REPS drummer, that’s where music comes in.
“Writing music to begin with is such an inward process,” Koch explains, “and you’ve really got to dig into what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling, and what’s going on the world is impossible to ignore at this point. So it’s not surprising that [social commentary has] become so prevalent in music. But I think it’s good because when I was younger, the way I became so passionate about certain things was whatever bands I was listening to at the time were passionate about.”
He cites bands like Alkaline Trio and Rise Against, going so far as to say that their work with PETA inspired him to become a vegan. Koch insists that this is the power of music: To provoke transformation. “Music is so influential,” he pushes, “and I think artists should be writing about things like that and trying to get those viewpoints and those ideas out there to inspire the next generation of artists.”
Luckily for REPS, their home base of Rochester, NY is, Koch says, a fertile ground for hardcore right now.
“There’s a pretty healthy amount of hardcore bands around here that we can play with and have a camaraderie with,” he admits. “We kind of fell into the hardcore scene because those were our friends. When people ask what music we play we’re like, ‘Well it’s kind of hardcore, but it’s kind of also just rock, and some of it’s just punk.’ But if I had to identify with one scene or pick a scene, I’d pick the hardcore scene, because I feel like the shows are very passionate, very intimate with the crowd, and that’s what makes it fun.”
Pick up REPS’s new record Poisoned Youth here.
FUN FACTS ABOUT POISONED YOUTH:
- “Rust” is actually a break up song.
- “Face To Face” was inspired by Star Wars and written from the viewpoint of Anakin Skywalker.
- The work-in-progress title for “Face To Face” was “Salacious B. Crumb,” after what Koch says is “the most insignificant character in Star Wars ever.”
- The album artwork was done by vocalist Colton Bockes brother, and is meant to represent “the different vices of our generation”.