As we’ve ditched the east side to discover, the West Coast is reviving a serious DIY punk vibe that’s bringing back graffiti stalls, house show chaos and sense of unity that’s entirely comforting. Sacramento’s TRASH TALK are at the center of it all as the four-piece are bringing community to a sound allowing major debuts like 119 to scratch a few chart-starved singles in favour of a record that dials up some serious creative expression. The night of their first ever show in Toronto, we talked with frontman Lee Spielman about the industry’s infatuation with anarchy and how core aesthetics separate a band with a purpose from a cookie-cutter punk group who just want their Coldplay moment.
Does being in charge of your own music add a certain aesthetic to it?
Yeah, I definitely feel like there’s no pressure to please anyone else or make anyone happy, we can just write whatever the fuck we want and not have to worry about what someone else will say, or if someone is going to put it out because we’re doing it ourselves with the help of our friends. It takes the stress of having a label off your shoulders. You can do whatever the fuck you want because there’s no one checking it before it goes out. What you see in our albums is what we wanted to do.
Undoubtedly the way you guys write music at 119 has impacted your sound. How would your music be different if you didn’t completely immerse yourselves as you do?
It’s cool because everyone wakes up at the same house and lives and breathes it everyday. Instead of having to fucking find out where our guitar player is or where our drummer and bass player are, I can just yell across the warehouse and they’re right there. We can make things happen on the spot instead of setting a time and a place — and the best shit happens on the fly. If I have an idea, I can walk into the room and tell them about it instead of waiting until I see them, it just makes things more hands-on.
In what ways are music and lifestyle closely related?
Fuck, I hope kids skate to our record! When I grew up I would skate, paint graffiti, listen to punk rock and I hope our music somehow ties into that. I hope kids can put their headphones on and find something they like. I definitely feel 100% that music is an aesthetic that goes along with a lifestyle, for Odd Future fans and for Trash Talk fans. There are some artists, and it’s not that they don’t have values, they just don’t have… core aesthetics; they’re almost a cookie-cutter punk rock band. Underground punk and underground hip-hop has a lot of feeling to it, and it’s like you’re part of something when you listen to it, you know?
And that would explain the idea of a collective?
Yeah, that’s why we started the Trash Talk Collective, to not have to listen to anybody. Same with Odd Future Records, we did it together because we’re all friends. It worked out perfectly because it provides a certain aesthetic – we want to do this, and we want to do it now. Like I said earlier, if we have an idea we just get together and hash it out and it’s a collective effort.
Even veterans like Bad Religion are writing in relation to how punk can give us hope in dark times. Do you think that type of emotion is what gives songwriting its essence?
I feel like a lot of bands are realizing they can’t just write some bullshit and have it work. You’ve got to actually put some effort into it. The bands that I grew up with, that we all grew up with, had more meaning behind their words and their music. Not even just their words and their music, they had meaning behind their band. You see a fucking million bands now who just say “we want to play Warped Tour, and see as many kids as we can and get on a fucking bus.” But as far as punk and hardcore goes, there’s definitely a lot more to it than that. It’s not about playing to as many kids as you can – I’d rather play to the same 10 kids that care than 4,000 kids who are just there to be there.
Relevant to stating what you have to say, artists like Black Flag have been dropped by their labels in the past because their music was controversial. Has the industry today adapted to its previous fear of “anarchy”?
I feel like labels are trying to buy that now and they want a band that’s going to give the middle finger to everyone else. Music has changed a lot – you don’t need someone with a lot of money or even a label to build a following because you can do it from the ground up. You’ve got the Internet, you can book shows easily and you don’t need anyone to do it for you. Labels are trying to buy into rebellion, they want this person who doesn’t give a fuck and just gives the middle finger because that’s “cool”. They do that to get noticed because now you can make a cool video on YouTube and 5,000 people will see it before tomorrow. It kind of took away from the grind of shit.
Overnight fame makes it difficult to separate the bands that worked hard from the ones who didn’t.
There’s a longevity that comes from putting work in. Some bands will be remembered, others will be gone in a flash. In 20 years, no one will know those bands that got famous overnight, but the ones who had to fucking fight will be the ones everyone’s talking about.
Given the current state of the music industry, how important is a strong live performance to a band’s success?
It’s so important, because if you’re not into playing live then why the fuck should anyone be there? People pay money to come see your band. I remember having records that I loved as a kid, and if those bands didn’t go hard live, I’d lose interest. I do feel like it’s almost 50/50 though for sure because the music comes first but live performances are a big deal. As far as hardcore goes, we play a gnarly style of music, and when we go in we can flip a room regardless of what they like. If you have a strong performance you can transcend to any world – and you may not like punk or hardcore – but if you see a band going all out, you’re going to say to yourself “holy shit!” Whether or not you like the music, what you saw will be stuck in your head for days.
What’s your impression of Canada so far?
I love it, I had poutine yesterday. We’ve only been to Vancouver, so this is our first time on this side of Canada. We hadn’t been able to get over the border for a while, and now we’re here. It’s been long overdue.
With the excitement, how does an energetic show affect you guys mentally?
If people are really getting into it, that makes you more excited. I feel like the crowd feeds off the band just as much as the band feeds off the crowd and in our case, if the crowd is hyped, we’re going to go hard.
Do accomplishments like touring and a major release affect your goals for the future?
Nah, we’re just going to keep doing us and whatever happens, happens. I’m definitely content about where we are because we’ve built our shit from the ground up and we’re doing pretty well. I’m just having a good time with my friends, traveling the world, eating poutine and meeting interesting people.
I’m only 24 and I could be in an office, so this world is a lot better than that!