Interview

Interview: Band of Mercy / Die Young – The animals called… They told me to tell you “FUCK YOU!

Q: I talked to a lot of people and showed them your music. They really like your style! But strangely enough not so many people know that Band of Mercy is a „side-project“ of Die Young[TX]. What was the reason behind Band of Mercy? Why was it necessary to start another band?

A: Band of Mercy didn’t really start as a side project. We broke Die Young up back in 2009, and the drummer back then–James–and I wanted to start a more punk or d-beat influenced band because we’d just been listening to a ton of Disfear and Motorhead, so in the beginning it was just me and James only. I played everything on the records that was not drums. The main reasons we had to start a new band were that we were exhausted of Die Young back then, we wanted to something different, and I always wanted to do a strictly vegan band since I never really get to explicitly talk about veganism in Die Young due to members changing a lot and not being all vegan. Band of Mercy was meant to be our main new band, not a side project, but of course we were in our late 20s by then, and didn’t have as much will to tour as we did in our early 20s, so we simply didn’t get out in front of people the way Die Young did by playing 200 shows a year. We actually couldn’t even play shows until more than half a year after the release of our first 7″ (Vegan Power) because we couldn’t find adequate enough vegan musicians who were into similar influences as us living in Texas. Eventually in early 2011, more than a year after recording our first demo, Eric (the original bassist of Die Young) moved back to Texas from Oregon and joined Band of Mercy. Then, in order to complete a lineup to play our first show and tour, we had to import an old activist friend from California (Tyler Lang).

Q: Oh okay, that is new for me, but good to know. So you always wanted to focus more on the vegan topic but were not able with Die Young. I am happy that you then started this new band and focused on this important issue. And I think we need to thank Disfear for their influence! Misanthrophic generation is still my all-time favorite record from Disfear!

So your first 7“ was only a two-men band? And afterwards you found other people who fit into your concept. Was it always clear for James and you, that you wanna go ahead with the band or was it really hard, because you were only a pair?

A: Yeh, it just me and James for a while. We figured we’d record a demo and 7-inch on our own, and then fill in the gaps as we went. We were burned out on touring because of Die Young, so we simply wanted to take our time writing music for fun. Back then writing with James was really natural. He toured in Die Young more than any drummer back in the day, from 2004 off and on until 2007 when we joined the band full-time to support our Graven Images Record, and then he and I wrote the Loss 7″ for Die Young together, and he recorded that one too. We had developed a good working relationship at that point, and we both come from a punk influenced background in hardcore, so writing a more punk-styled band came very easily and naturally to us.

Q: I think it is obviously to come from the punk scene before you dive into the hardcore scene. There was a pretty good quote from Roger Miret (Agnostic Front) who said: “Don’t trust a hardcore kid who never listened to punk“. What are your most influental punk bands for yourself and for Band of Mercy?

A: I agree that punk provides essential roots for hardcore, and that if someone gets into metallic hardcore without appreciating the evolution of punk ideologies, attitudes, and sounds that were precursors to it, then they are missing out on some great substantial works that could really make an impact on their life. Even the 90s bands that got me into hardcore like Earth Crisis, Snapcase, and others, were covering bands like Misfits and Dead Kennedys. And because of that I was interested to look back at the catalogs of those older bands and understand where they were coming from, and from there I could also understand where the newer bands I was listening to were coming from in terms of their inspiration. I have always been really interested in the evolution of music and ideas conveyed through music, and punk/hardcore provide such rich history to discover that can be mind-opening. For me, personally, I don’t think there is one band who has influenced my life, especially the punk song-writing part of it, more than Bad Religion. I love their rhythm guitar leads, their bluesy solos, and their ability to convey big, complex ideas in a catchy, anthemic way. If you listen to a Band of Mercy record, you will unmistakably hear a ton of Bad Religion rips tuned down to C standard. So for me, our songs are like Bad Religion meets Disfear or Tragedy musically–which is all Motorhead-worship when you break it down. Motorhead laid such an important foundation in rock music that punk bands have built off of for decades now. Everyone from Discharge, to Cro-Mags, to Tragedy, to the crustiest of the crusties ends up biting off of Motorhead, so in that sense Motorhead is extremely important to the Band of Mercy songwriting process. Another band that has really influenced Band of Mercy and my comedic approach to the lyric writing, believe it or not, is Peter Steele’s Carnivore. I always wanted to portray BOM as the Carnivore of veganism–hilarious, in your face, unapologetic, often offensive, masculine to the point of absurdity. It’s been a lot of fun for me to have a more entertainment-oriented band to write for, as Die Young is meant to be such a serious, necessary outlet for the expression of sadness and disappointment in the world, something cathartic that leaves little room for humor.

Q: Yea people nowadays often ignore or forgot where all these bands are coming from. About ten years ago, I listened a little bit to Bad Religion, so I really can’t remember their riffs and style of sound, but I definitely hear that punk vibe in your music! Thats strange, that you say, BOM is a more entertainment-oriented band with such important topics like animal exploitation and straight in your face lyrics with no compromise! Now with three 7“ released, would you see you „achieved“ everything with the band, or are there still some topics you never covered with your music? I think you made a big step on the right direction with Veganocracy and there is still some space for new stuff. Also because within the last couple of years the vegan(edge) movement in music is getting stronger and stronger and for me you are definitely one of the big player in that game!

A: I don’t want to confuse anybody–Band of Mercy is absolutely a serious band with a serious, motivational message, but the way we deliver it is meant to make people turn their heads and consider how or why we are saying what we are saying. A lot of people check the band out and are confused about whether a group of guys so intensely outspoken about veganism can actually be serious, and creating that aspect of humorous mystery is a major part of the fun of writing and performing in this band. It’s kind of like how Oscar Wilde said–to paraphrase–if you’re going to tell people the truth, make them laugh or they will kill you. I really pity people who don’t have enough humor in their bones to listen to Band of Mercy and not laugh. When I write these songs I am laughing–hysterically–because it usually means I have found the lines to outdo the outlandish, overtly aggressive things I said in previous songs. As a songwriter, I find it generally important to one-up myself every time I write. In my view, most vegan bands have an approach to delivering their message that is too serious, or not provocative enough to people who aren’t already vegan. Which is fine, because we all need bands, or writers, artists to help us reinforce our values and celebrate them, and to help us feel like part of a movement (those are vital aspects of building a culture), but I have found, oddly enough, that when I get on stage in BOM and talk my over-the-top shit about vegans dominating the world, plenty of people see the comedy in it, and then they think “These vegans are pretty funny.” I mean, who likes anybody who takes themselves 100% serious all the time? Over the years I have had quite a few people reach out to me about going veg after BOM shows, and many of them were very macho-type guys–military dudes, dudes in crews, and so on. In many cases they were the kinds of dudes you would not expect to be open to a compassionate lifestyle, but it goes to show, anyone can be open to it if it is pitched to them in a way they can relate to.

So yeh, after 3 records and 20+ songs that are all ENTIRELY about veganism and animal rights justice issues, I confess I think I covered nearly everything I’ve wanted to cover in Band of Mercy. I haven’t had any BOM song ideas since we did the Veganocracy record. A lot of that is just my personal life and adulthood responsibility getting in the way of my ability to devote time to a band that loses money, and usually when I do have time for band stuff now, I am almost entirely concentrated on Die Young.

Also for the record, it just so happens that everyone who has been most recently involved in BOM is vegan and straight edge, but that was not always the case with the original lineup. We never wanted to make the straight edge association or claim with this band, because from the start it was decided that it would be a band about promoting veganism only. I believe veganism is infinitely more important than straight edge as a lifestyle movement.

Q: Oh, I didn’t even knew that most of you were vegan and straightedge. I mean sometimes you can assume, that people in vegan hardcore bands are straight edge too, but thats not all the time the case. I also totally agree with your point, that veganism is much more important than straightedge is. I really do not care if someone sells out on straightedge, as long as he/she does not harm anyone with alcohol, drugs, etc. But when it comes to veganism, I really can’t tolerate it, when people break it. Thats just a punch in the face of every non-human animal which gets exploited and murdered just for the taste. I would go so far, that people who were vegan and then changed their mind, are even worse than omnivore people, as they already know a better world and eating habit is possible. Omnivore people mostly just don’t care or are too stupid to really understand what is going on, but vegans should die for their commitment.

I got your point with the humorous part of BOM and sometimes its needed, but I prefer your lyrics in a serious manner, because you really say what you think straight in our face. Especially when it comes to animal liberation topics, I am more a fan of saying what you think instead of to pussyfoot around. Because the animal slaughter industry does not show any signs of remorse, so why should we stay polite while we sho omnivores what industry they support.

You said you were able to impact quiet a few people with your message and „convert“ them to veganism. Would you also say, that BOM, changed you as a bandmember a little bit? Like how you see the world, other people, your environment? Or is it almost the same before and after BOM?

A: As the listener you can certainly take things in BOM however you want to. That is one of the joys to me of writing for the band–you can use it as an outlet for humor, or a real outlet for motivation and resistance to cruelty. When I talk about vegans dominating the world in our lyrics, I am 110% serious, but if someone gets a chuckle out of that too, I also think that is great, because I chuckle about it as well.

Keep in mind that BOM has probably only ever played 20-25 shows, and most of it was in 2011-2012. We did have people approaching us for advice on going vegan a lot in that time, or people writing us to say that we motivated them to embrace veganism or be more proud to be vegan, and that was really satisfying on my end, as I really wanted to give other vegans out there a rallying point with this band. I also wanted those pesky omnivores who maybe consider veganism at times, but have never had the confidence to make the leap, to see all the positive energy and POWER that veganism can inspire in others, and then help motivate them to come aboard with the winning team. It did happen sometimes, but as is the fate with so many independent punk and hardcore bands, it is hard to keep hitting the road regularly, get time off work as you get older, or even keep a steady lineup of band members, and so over time we definitely don’t have people reaching out to us like we used to, simply because we aren’t able to be an active band right now.

To answer the last part of the question, I don’t think BOM has changed me at all. It is the outlet for a type of voice and opinions I wanted to express that I couldn’t express with Die Young, so ultimately BOM is a manifestation of my vision for vegan world domination, laced with some jokes along the way.

Q: So you say, Band of Mercy just shows us what you think about omnivores and veganism straight in our face.

Haha, I guess I know why you wrote POWER in capital letters. I have seen you just competed with lots of other vegans in powerlifting? If I am right, the vocalist of This Time Tomorrow is also in the same group as you?! For me it is still inspiring how strong vegans can be and that we don’t need to harm any animal to get strong and powerful!

A: Yes, that is Sara, the little beast, from This Time Tomorrow. We compete together on the PlantBuilt team (www.plantbuilt.com). At our most recent competition all 8 of our vegan powerlifters placed in the top 3 of our weightclasses against 90 other lifters, who were almost entirely meat-eaters. Vegan Power is real, and we are taking over.

Q: You and many other people are the proof, that vegan people can be strong as fuck.

Are there any suggestions or hints you want to share with us, what vegans could eat to have a good foundation for a strong body? Tell us your secrets! haha.

A: For the most part it is as simple as eating well and training regularly. My profile on www.plantbuilt.com has some of my tips about how I train and eat, and what supplements I use. I also have a book coming out later this year called The Way of the Vegan Meathead which is all about how to eat for strength as a vegan. In it I show how simple it really is.

Q: Wow. Pretty cool! Will definitely check it out. I guess a lot of people could help that, how to manage their meal plan, as they are trying to make it too complicated.

I just recently have seen that Die Young is not coming to Europe this Summer. The whole tour got cancelled. Can you tell us more about that. Are there any plans to reschedule the tour, because we want to have more US bands over here on our stages!

A: We’ve had bad luck the last two years trying to come over to Europe. This time around we were going to do a package with our buddies in Hollow Earth which included a stop at Fluff Fest, but Hollow Earth got offered a tour with Every Time I Die in North America that they rightly opted to do instead. They only had time to do one tour or the other, and then the European tour kinda fell apart when it was us on our own. It wasn’t looking strong enough at that point for us to buy our plane tickets, at least, and as plane tickets became more expensive we had to decide against going too. Of course we hope to make it up next year. We definitely want to come back as soon as we can.

Q: That’s really sad to hear, but I am sure, you will make it hopefully next year to Europe. As Ugly & Proud Records released your latest records you still somehow “owe” us an EU tour, to scream along with you the songs!

Are there any bands you want to tour with, who should get in touch with you, as a support band for a tour? I heard Wake of Humanity said, they want to came back to Europe next year, but I am not sure, if that was a joke.

A: I know, I think we still owe you a few euro tours haha, but easier said than done. We will certainly make things happen if they can, either with DY, BOM, or both. Knowing our buds in Wake of Humanity, they likely were not joking around about their comments at all haha, unless it was Jeremy. He’s a real kidder. We love those guys, and heard they had an amazing time, so I’d expect them back for sure. I am not sure specifically about bands for us to tour with off the top of my head right now, but we’re always open to touring with bands who have a punk ethos and care about the messages they are conveying. Obviously a BOM tour would need to be with a band more of the punk/d-beat leaning than DY would need. BOM doesn’t do so well on shows with bands who have heavy breakdowns or beat-down style mosh parts. That’s such a different vibe than what BOM aspires to bring to a show. We like circle pitting like freed mink, fist-pumping and sing-alongs. To a more mainstream hardcore crowd these days, those things just are not “in-style,” unfortunately. But you know, whatever works.

Q: Yea I totally understand you. Sometimes it is pretty difficult to organize a show where all the bands fit together. Sometimes they share the same style but different messages and sometimes they want to spread the same words but are musically totally different. But I am sure, you will find a way to create an amazing tour, if possible.

Normally I would soon finish the interview as we already spoke about a few different topics and I don‘t want to lengthen the interview, but you posted the cover art of your next release with Die Young! Can you tell us already a little bit of that record?

A: I think the new Die Young digital EP titled “The God For Which We Suffer” will be out by November via Good Fight Music. It’s just 3 songs, but it is a solid 10+ minutes of music. I am really excited about it. We’re stepping out into a lot of new territory with it, and it’s been a great project to work on. The content is deeply personal–moreso than a lot of the previous records we’ve done.

Q: Any reason why you only a digital EP? Is this like a transition to your next physical release? Was that your intention to try out something new, or just a coincidence? Anything you can teaser, or do we have to wait until the end of 2017?

A: The new EP is only 3 songs, though it is about 10 minutes of music. Only a year ago we put out our most recent full length, No Illusions, on Good Fight Music, and there was a lot of investment from the label on that. We just want to put something out quick and easy this year to let people know we’re still kicking, and also let people hear what we’re working on now, as this new stuff goes in some new directions for us. We are hoping to make another full length in due time. We already have a little more material than what we are about to record, and our new guitarists, Allan and Rogelio, have a ton of riffs they are always coming up with, so I think there is more creativity going on in Die Young than ever before. That’s really exciting for me, since for most of the band’s existence I have been the lone songwriter. It takes a lot of weight and pressure off of me, and I can enjoy being creative with these guys instead of solely driving everything in the band like I did for so many years. The only teasers I can currently offer are snippets of pre-production tracks we’ve posted on our instagram and facebook, or clips from practices we’ve recently had. We also posted the cover art by Pig Hands, and he did a really great job for us.

Q: Ah yea, I have seen that. Your new material sounds heavy! I really like that, you are definitely moving on and I am sure not only I am excited to listen to it, when you finally release it. It is also good to hear, that with the new bandmembers you can go in new directions.

Is there anything that you want to share with us?

A: I’d just like to apologize to everyone who was looking forward to seeing us at Fluff Fest. We got announced by accident, and when it happened we had quite a few friends and longtime fans of the band write us to say they were so excited to see us in Europe this year, but then we had to cancel. We do hope to make it up as soon as possible. Maybe next year?

Q: No worries, sometimes unexpected things happen. We will definitely look forward and hope to see you guys sooner than later here in Europe.

Thanks Daniel for taking your time to give me an interview!


Links you should check out:

Die Young – Facebook

Die Young – bandcamp

Die Young – Instagram

Band of Mercy – Facebook

Band of Mercy – bandcamp

Sneek Peak of the new 7inch

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