If you’re like us, you were introduced to Indiana’s Church Tongue when a video of the band setting their guitarist (Chris Sawicki) on fire went viral last year. The act was one of the most insane displays of punk we’ve ever seen, and now the band are here to deliver a new record to shake the hardcore scene. Church Tongue guitarist Nicko Calderon took some time to talk to us about the upcoming record, Heart Failure, and why they started setting people on fire in the first place.
Calderon is laughing, still somewhat in disbelief over how far the fire incident went. “The first time we did it it was at an outdoor festival,” he explains. “It [was] a local festival, but pretty much every band that plays it always does something wild and fun and just silly. We were like, what if we set something on fire? And we found a way to safely set somebody on fire. So we did it at the festival and it went out right away; the flames were really tiny. Sometime later we played the house show with Beartooth, Ghost Key and Vanna and our guitarist Chris at the time wasn’t even in the band, he was just filling in for that show, and he was the one we set on fire.
“It was really funny because we all went to Denny’s after the show and we were just hanging out with the Vanna and Beartooth guys and it was their first time ever seeing us and they were like, ‘Yeah, we fuckin’ loved your band and then you guys set your guitarist on fire, and we were like…’Holy shit! He’s on fire! This is actually happening right now!’ Nobody was afraid for their safety and everybody was just into it for some reason.”
Vanna’s Davey Muise (who appears on the band’s new track “Medicine Breath”) was so floored by the experience that he reportedly “wanted to make [them] viral overnight,” Calderon says, which is actually what ended up happening. The video clip ended up on virtually every rock website on the internet and then some.
“Nobody was afraid for their safety and everybody was just into it for some reason.”
Fast forward over a year and a half later and Church Tongue are on the verge of releasing their new record, Heart Failure, via Blood & Ink Records on October 21st. One of the most unique hardcore records of the year, Heart Failure is an album that every self-respecting hardcore kid should put on their list. It’s like a haunted house built atop a foundation of traditional hardcore.
“Lyric wise,” the guitarist explains, “we really wanted to push being a real person and actually acknowledging your emotions and the things that you go through. Musically, as far as bands I looked up to to get a sound, I looked up to a band called Hollow Earth. My Chemical Romance was a big influence for me — that’s kind of where I got the whole rock ‘n’ roll, spooky type feel — and there’s this old hardcore band called The Banner that I kind of looked up to, too. My favorite track probably has to be “Room In Your Chest” just because it’s the newest track that we wrote and I think it summarizes my band perfectly as far as sound and lyrics go.”
Church Tongue recorded the new record at Getaway Recording, a studio in Massachusetts that has seen the likes of Defeater, Title Fight, Bane and more. “It was a dream, honestly,” Calderon confesses, “going to Jay (Maas’s) studio in Haverhill, MA. Some of my favorite bands recorded there. I know they did Title Fight’s first record and The Carrier and just a bunch of cool bands that I looked up to growing up. Just knowing Jay and getting to meet him and getting to work with him was really awesome.”
Having the Vanna vocalist star on the banger “Medicine Breath” was also a dream come true for the CT guitarist. “Vanna, they were actually one of my very first shows I ever went to,” he says. “So when we met them at the house show and they dug us, it was surreal to me. It’s hard to put into words how stoked I am to be their friend and to know them and to know that a band I grew up watching likes my band and actually wanted to be on our record.”
The Indiana hardcore outfit are surprised to have gotten as far as signing with a label and recording a full-length with a beloved producer, but it looks like it’s just the beginning for the incendiary bunch. “We never really expected anything like this to ever happen,” Calderon admits. “We just always pushed and wanted to play rock ‘n’ roll music. We’re here now, and that’s awesome, and I’m really happy to be here. I could probably say I could die happy, but now that I’m here there’s so much more to explore.”
Oh, and since Church Tongue regularly play house shows and prefer the intimacy of that type of setting, it may not be out of the question to see them at a future HXC Magazine house show. Just keep that in mind…