Interview with Kyle Oels (Vocals)
Introduction/Questions by Jim Walkley of Don’t Be Swindle zine
Live photos by Will Butler
Seattle, Washington’s Cynarae fuse the grueling, crust-endebted aural wreckage of bands such as Mörser or Systral with a weighty nod to ’90’s metallic hardcore as outlined by Catharsis and Unruh. Unlike vast numbers of modern “crust”-inspired acts, however, Cynarae are passionately political, outspoken in their ties to activist causes, and refreshingly D.I.Y. In short, don’t confuse them with “trend crust”; thankfully, Cynarae an actual hardcore band who are equally at home playing a word-of-mouth basement show or a more traditional, over-21 venue. Cynarae were selected to play New Directions Fest 2012 this past August in Olympia; the band also participated in a successful benefit for Queers Fucking Queers at legendary Seattle D.I.Y. venue The Morgue. Not to mention that they also had the great honor of playing the secret, second-to-last Undertow show at rad Seattle D.I.Y. space The Black Lodge. Cynarae opened for a reactivated Kiss It Goodbye here in Seattle this past June, and vocalist Kyle Oels generously took the better part of an hour for this interview, which follows in full.
Jim: Your Bandcamp page says that Cynarae are “____violence”. What would you put in that blank?
Kyle: I think that our drummer wrote that, and it was a play on all the separate genres; it’s “over-genre classification” … everyone wants to be “emo-violence”, or “grindcore-violence” …
Jim: “Powerviolence” …
Kyle: Everybody wants to be some sect of hardcore; so it was just, “fill in the blanks” – tell us what we are … we are whatever you say! We’ve been called so many different types of things.
Jim: It’s interesting, because when I saw you guys live … I know Dom Romeo (A389 Records label owner) wrote up that blurb about you guys, in which he likened Cynarae to “Mörser/Acme/Systral” with a “His Hero Is Gone/The Swarm” aspect to your sound. That seems to come out more on the demo … Acme and Systral were a bit more chaotic, but they were almost more “tech-y”, in a way … whereas Cynarae, especially live, sound much more like “metallic hardcore” of a sort, or even powerviolence. Do you think that’s a legit interpretation, or are you guys in fact going for a crustier, but more technical sound?
Kyle: I know that when we started out, we had a few bands in mind that we wanted to be in the same realm as, but I can definitely see a lot of what people compare us to – although that wasn’t our intention. In terms of Acme and Systral, yeah, the Systral Black Smoker record is awesome, and that’s a really crusty, heavy, destructive record. And Acme, of course, I grew up loving that, too; same kind of deal, really chaotic and destructive. However, from my viewpoint, we always wanted to be a bit more straightforward. In some of the newer stuff, there are some trickier riffs … but it still makes sense; it’s “accented”, in a sense …
Jim: That was the thing about that Black Smoker LP. The first few times I heard it – and it’s only recently that I’ve gotten beyond this – it almost sounded like different bands playing at once! Some riff will come in out of nowhere … I can’t remember how many guitarists they had in that band –
Kyle: – I know that Mörser had at least three. I don’t know how many Systral had, though. And Morser had … two bass players? It seems like it was something weird like that!
Jim: I can hear the Systral/Mörser influence in Cynarae’s guitar tone, and how you would be comparable to those bands, but at the same time … every time somebody compares something to “’90’s metallic hardcore”, it’s a loaded comparison –
Kyle: – Totally …
Jim: – because your band doesn‘t sound like that, in a sense, but I can see the band growing out of that in an organic way.
Kyle: We were talking about this earlier – the two bands that I wanted to capture the “feel” of were Unruh and Catharsis. Those are two bands that we all love. We thought those two bands had a really intelligent approach, but Unruh sonically is just destruction, at least to me. It just sounds like pure hatred! (Laughter) Hatred, for lack of a better term – because Unruh were so over-the-top, and angry. And that’s what I want. When we started this band … I wanted us to be the angriest that we could be; I wanted the slow parts to be crushing, and the fast parts to be blistering. I wanted to be every extreme that we possibly could be … that’s what we’re going for, in a sense. Catharsis and Unruh make sense from that point of view, but what you were saying about “metallic hardcore” – that can mean anything, you know? That can be Integrity, or that can be, you know … (Laughter)
Jim: … Kiss It Goodbye …
Kyle: Exactly. It can mean anything.
Jim: Fall Silent comes to mind, as well …
Kyle: And Fall Silent are the perfect example of a band that defies comparison, because they had so much punk influence, so much metal influence, and so much hardcore influence –
Jim: – And even a slight rap influence!
Kyle: Yeah – there was that “weird” element, too … I guess you could say that they were all over the map. And seeing them live, in the ’90’s, in Reno … those shows were insane, because everybody would come – punk kids, metal kids, hardcore kids …
Jim: Levi Watson (vocals) of Fall Silent described those shows to me. Were they ever dangerous, or fraught with tension?
Jim: I guess what was going on then was that there was some sort of feud between Fall Silent and some of the more “negative edge” members of the community.
Kyle: There was always tension.
Jim: Unconquered were always giving them trouble, for instance …
Kyle: It was mutual trouble, I would say! They probably gave Unconquered as much trouble as Unconquered gave them! (Laughter) That’s why it was always sort of funny for me, because I was stuck in the middle – I loved Fall Silent as a band, and I wasn’t a “fighter” … but I’ve been straight edge since I was about fifteen; I identified more with Fall Silent, but I was sort of in the middle. And I was never involved in any of that stuff; however, it was definitely around … and everybody knew about it.
Jim: And Fall Silent provoked it; for instance, the song where Levi says, “fuck your movement” and that “negative edge won’t last” … (Laughter)
Kyle: One of my favorite songs of all time! (Laughter) You know what I mean!? I love that song! But in talking to Levi in years past, I feel like he could have worded that sentiment a lot better … if he just hadn’t said that statement, or worded it in a different way, I felt that it would have been more successful. And wouldn’t have led to all the trouble that it created. However … he was probably 19 when he wrote that, or whatever. It’s simplistic: “fuck your movement”, I’m drawing a line …
Jim: Apparently, Levi had been one of those kids as well … calling people out, just saying shit to cause trouble.
Kyle: That’s really common in Reno, in general. Outside of straight edge, or even outside of the hardcore movement … it’s common in Reno for people to fight – all the time; there are always people “crewing up”, or starting drama and issues, in every sub-sect that you can think of, whether it’s skateboarding kids, or punk kids, or jocks. Those are typical classifications, but overall, it’s common in Reno. To get back to Levi … he was in a band called New Blood –
Jim: – Yeah …
Kyle: I don’t know if you’ve ever heard them, but they were a straight edge band, and Glenn from Unconquered was in that band. When New Blood broke up, they split into two camps: Fall Silent and Unconquered … there was always tension, always drama, always fights …
Jim: … because Fall Silent had non-straight edge members, as well …
Kyle: They were just about different stuff. Those two bands wanted to write about different things; Fall Silent didn’t want to be limited, which I always respected …
Jim: And Levi’s lyrics were awesome.
Kyle: Best lyrics! I loved his lyrics, as well as his approach, and his delivery … no one else could front that band! People sometimes said, “Ugh … I hate the sound of his voice”, and at first, I could see how people could say that … but to me, no one else could front that band. It’s also true that he could never front another band.
Jim: That’s an interesting concept, because according to some of the other members of Fall Silent, they hated Levi’s vocals in the band. They didn’t like his lyrics; didn’t like his vocals … for instance, Danny was more into death metal –
Kyle: – Danny became a really good friend of mine … but that’s what was so great about them, because they could seamlessly blend … some of Danny’s riffs could be off of an early Deicide record, or Morbid Angel record –
Jim: – And all of that palm-muting in the guitar riffs …
Kyle: Yeah, those half-step breakdowns … they were so flawless, but they could have been from an early Deicide record, whereas Levi’s vocals could have been from an early 7 Seconds record. But it just worked! Everything came together – hardcore kids loved them, metal kids loved them, punk kids loved them … and that’s why I felt like they were a band beyond definition.
(Deleted conversation about the band Gehenna, removed at the request of Kyle.)
Kyle: … I don’t know if it was just because I was younger, but shows in the ’90’s, in a broad sense, were scary. There was a sense of uneasiness. Never knowing what’s going to happen. Especially Reno, as compared to Seattle … a much different vibe.
(A further deleted conversation about Gehenna vocalist Mike Cheese.)
Kyle: I recently talked to Mike about playing some shows. I’ve known those guys for a very long time.
Jim: Gehenna played Gilman Street recently, I believe.
Kyle: Yes … they’re also playing a fest in Southern California; they’re very active, they definitely play more shows now. Anyway … a trip down memory lane …
Jim: Yeah, sorry … kind of a giant diversion there …
Jim: There’s another statement on your Bandcamp page: “See you in the dollar bin”. It seems that you could interpret that in a couple of different ways. First of all, it’s almost as if it’s a statement claiming, “We’ll see your band in the dollar bin” … but the more common interpretation would be that so much of this entire heavy music/aggressive music scene, as much cult status as it achieves … so much of it is ultimately forgotten. Years later, you’re looking for a Fall Silent CD, or whatever it is you’re looking for – and you find it in the dollar bin.
Kyle: Totally! This form of music that we do, this “niche” of music that we all do, is never going to be super-popular – which is good, in a lot of ways, at least coming from a punk mentality. I don’t want this stuff to be popular, because then it would become watered down … it would become stupid, in my opinion! The simple answer about that Bandcamp statement is that Jeffrey (drums) wrote that because he thought it was funny! (Laughter)
Jim: And it is funny! (Laughter)
Kyle: It is, and what I like about it is that it’s a recognition: we’re never going to be popular; this music itself will never be popular. I’d rather have it be genuine. Genuine anger; something that’s a threat to the status quo. People can draw any conclusions as to what that means, but I don’t want this music to ever be safe. I don’t want it to be something that’s approved by everybody. The reason that I’m angry is because of the society that we live in, and the things that I see and observe. That observation is where all of my lyrics come from. None of it is personal, in that sense; it’s an observation of the way things are around us. To me, punk and hardcore were meant to be a reaction to that society … I’m not saying, “If you have a job, then you’re not punk” – nothing like that, because there are ways that we have to assimilate into common society, but at the same time, this is how I deal with living in this society.
Jim: It’s your reaction to it.
Kyle: It’s what keeps me functioning, in a way. (Laughter) I don’t know what I would do without it.
Jim: Cynarae are now signed to A389, and that label does a lot of stuff with Scion-sponsored events. I happened to talk to your bassist at that Black Lodge show, and he was saying that he didn’t like Scion-related events … would your band ever play a show like that?
Kyle: I mean … I don’t know. I can’t say definitively; there’s not a stance that we have about that … whereas some of the other ideologies that we have, we have a very specific stance on it. We’d really rather play all ages shows, if we can; obviously, tonight’s show with Kiss It Goodbye is an exception, but it’s an exception we made because this is a really good opportunity. In general, however, we’d rather play all ages shows. We definitely would not play a show if there were certain ideologies that we disagree with – for instance, if there was any sort of racism/sexism/homophobia, we wouldn’t do it. Those problems are insidious, though, so there’s no real way to track that. But if it was something that was obvious, we wouldn’t do it. To get back to Scion, it’s not something that we’ve really talked about, but it’s also something that … I guess I don’t really care about it, personally. Scion puts on shows for free. Granted, you could make the argument that they’re leeching off of the punk and hardcore community, to a degree … but I doubt that hardcore kids are going out and buying Scion cars because of these shows! I don’t really understand what their “angle” is. If they’re trying to “market” to hardcore kids, I think it’s a lost cause … because hardcore kids are not going to run out and buy things like that.
Jim: What I’ve heard is that someone at Scion is supposedly a genuine fan of punk/hardcore/metal, and they’ve worked with a bunch of different bands – Bastard Noise, Integrity, Ringworm …
Kyle: Yeah, and that’s the thing: it would be really hard to say “no” to an Integrity and Ringworm show. You know? That was the last Scion thing, and those are two bands that I’ve loved forever … I don’t “get” why Scion’s involved, but at the same time, personally, I don’t care. I can’t speak for the band, though. If Ryan (bassist) had a huge problem with it, we wouldn’t play. To me, it doesn’t really matter – if they were charging tons of money and then keeping all that money, and bands weren’t being paid, then that would be a problem. Or something along those lines. But I don’t really see how it’s harmful. In general, people have such narrow definitions of what punk and hardcore should be. To me, I don’t care about that (narrow definitions). If it was Jagermeister, or an animal testing company, then I would have a real fuckin’ problem with that … (Laughter)
Jim: (Laughter) I agree. On your newer material – such as your upcoming split with Ancient Shores – does any of that material feature something like the “breakdown” section of your song “Peasants” from the demo? In the newer stuff that Cynarae’s doing, are you still working that element into the band? I thought that was a really awesome opening musical statement. The rest of the demo doesn’t quite sound like that, in a way, but one thing that I enjoyed about that demo so much was that each song shows a different side of the band. There’s that slower, more song-based track; the opening song has that breakdown part; other songs are more chaotic … is the newer material in the vein of “Peasants”? Or are you expanding on a different element of your sound?
Kyle: I don’t know … we never sit down and talk about what we want to sound like –
Jim: – I’m just asking about songs that you might have already recorded that haven’t been released yet.
Kyle: Right; there are definitely elements of “Peasants” (in the newer songs), and to get back to the demo, there’s even what I would consider a full-on breakdown on “Prostrate In Obeisance”, which occurs later on in the demo. That has a full breakdown … it’s actually moshable, if you wanted to! (Laughter) I don’t really see that happening at our shows, though. That element pops up here and there, but we’re probably not ever going to be a band that kids go out and mosh for –
Jim: – You’re not a “breakdown hardcore band” –
Kyle: – but I love heavy parts, whatever those end up being. And I’m a hardcore kid, so I love breakdowns … at least to a degree. But that’s not our goal. We just write what sounds good to us. Anyway, I’m kind of dancing around the question. As far as that breakdown element, there are a couple songs that are faster and more straight-forward, with a heavy aspect, and then we have … in the new stuff, we kind of experimented a little bit with what we were doing, to check out different aspects of our sound. For instance, there’s a new song that’s very long, with a clean guitar intro for a full minute or minute-and-a-half …
Jim: Which is something that Cynarae hadn’t done before.
Kyle: Yeah, we hadn’t done anything like that before. To me, experiments like that are fun, although it’s probably not a song we’d play live. But it’s interesting. We actually started working on that “clean intro” song as a collaboration track with Ancient Shores; we were going to write our parts, and then we were going to have them write parts on top of that, then have two drummers, four guitar players …
Jim: That would have been awesome.
Kyle: It would have been really cool, but when I envisioned it and we started writing for it, Geoff (one of Cynarae’s guitarists) had sort of a slower song … because, obviously, the song couldn’t be really fast; it would be really hard to keep it all together to do that. Geoff started writing that slower song, and he showed it to me, and I said, “This’d be perfect for that collaboration”, but ultimately, the logistical side of it didn’t work. They live in West Virginia and we live out here in the Seattle area, so in order to really effectively accomplish it, all ten of us would probably have to practice together –
Jim: – And that’s just not possible.
Kyle: It’s just not. We tried different things, such as posting stuff online and asking them to write parts for it, but it ended up … especially since we were recording at two different studios, the tones would have been all over the map, and it wouldn’t have sounded good. We’ve shelved that idea for awhile. Eventually, we’d like to see if Ancient Shores would do a whole record with us like that. We’ve talked about it … but I don’t know how likely it is. Who knows; it might come together organically.
Jim: That upcoming split is an interesting pairing of bands, because Ancient Shores have a much more “controlled” aspect to their sound; I don’t want to say “produced”, but they have a much more “together” sound, whereas your band is more grueling and chaotic. It makes for an interesting pairing of bands; why have two bands that are exactly the same?
Kyle: From the outset, we’ve talked about doing splits – and we have a couple other splits in the future that may or may not happen – but from the beginning, we wanted it to be … I don’t want to flip a record over and be like, “Which band is this again!?” The pairing with Ancient Shores came in particular because Geoff, one of our guitar players, is from West Virginia, and he grew up with those guys and has known them for a long time. It just so happened that we were going to be on A389, and they were already on that label; their side of the split was going to be with somebody else, but then they were like, “Hey, can we do this instead with Cynarae?” We said “yes” and it came together organically, because I really like doing things with friends, more than I care about “people will buy this record because such-and-such band is on the other side of the split”; I don’t really care about that. I want to put out a record with people that we’re somehow related to.
Jim: – And they do!
Kyle: Yeah, and even the newer stuff is heavy, and aggressive, but still has that feel to it. I love that style of hardcore. It just sort of “worked”; it just sort of happened. And, again, we could do a split with a band that sounds closer to us … but I don’t find that interesting. I would rather do a split with a punk band, or a noise band, or a band that sounds like, I don’t know, My Bloody Valentine, or something! (Laughter) I loved playing mixed bills, even though that doesn’t really happen anymore, but I grew up going to mixed bills. In fact, one of the first hardcore shows I saw was an accident. I went and saw Voodoo Glow Skulls, because I had a sort of ill-advised flirtation with ska when I was about 13 … but I went to see Voodoo Glow Skulls, and Strife was playing! And Strife in Reno, in the ’90’s, was insane, as you can imagine. It was like, “Oh my God – these giant men are killing each other; what is this band!?” And, of course, that was in the heyday of straight edge in Reno. It was blowing my mind! But that’s how I got into hardcore. And the first time that I saw Fall Silent, it was because I was going to see a Reno ska band called Suckapunch; then I saw Fall Silent, and it was similar to Strife. I didn’t see Fall Silent on purpose until I saw them play with Catharsis, Gehenna, and Unruh.
Jim: That would have been an amazing show.
Kyle: I didn’t even know what I was seeing, then. Now, I’m like, “Oh my God … that’s insane!” That was the first purposeful hardcore show that I ever went to … I also saw Fall Silent on the Times Of Grace tour that Neurosis did – which was around the same time as the show Fall Silent played with Converge and Today Is The Day.
Jim: We just talked about the Ancient Shores split. When will that be out?
Kyle: We’re not really sure. We’re finishing up mixing. We got what will probably be the final mix just today. We’re not working on layout and cover art this time. I’ve outsourced that now – thank God, because the last one took so long to get the finished product out; I did it myself, but I don’t really have any skill in that field, so … (Laughter)
Jim: You did the cover art on the demo?
Kyle: I designed it; Jeffrey (drums) did the brown painting that’s on the cover, then scratched our name into it with a pencil! The logo itself came from us taking a photo; he had another sheet on the pad, and it was rubbed in a little bit, so he traced over it and took a picture … and that’s the logo that we’re using now.
Jim: Sounds pretty punk!
Kyle: It’s pretty D.I.Y.! Which I love, of course … Jeffrey painted the cover on the demo; we used a couple of stock photos that I found, and then we used a photo from Jeff’s tattoo artist for the back cover. You’ll see it later tonight on the LP (which is the demo pressed to vinyl). It’s the photo of the smokestacks, which used to be on the inside of the cassette demo tape. The theme for the artwork on this LP is, basically, civilization crumbling or falling apart, a sort of urban decay … which I find really interesting. We had the idea that capitalism – and the way things are going in this country – that it’s pushing everything through the roof …
(Ryan, bassist of Cynarae, walks up to the table).
Ryan: Oh … is this a business meeting!?
Jim and Kyle: (Laughter)
Kyle: Yeah, we’re doing an interview! Talk to you in a minute, buddy! So, anyway, it’s the idea that capitalism and the “American way” is infallible, and will keep growing … and yet, time and time again, we see cities like Detroit, or other areas, that are falling apart and crumbling. It’s obvious that this American system is failing – in a lot of ways … at least in my opinion. To me, I find it a fascinating idea that it’s not definitive that we’ll keep progressing, or that progress will even be able to still happen …
Jim: On the subject of that, and politics in general, I personally find it so disappointing that – and without offending anyone who feels differently – but I find it so depressing that Mitt Romney and the Republicans have such a good chance of winning in November, because I feel like we just got over the Bush years … and that memory is still way too fresh to go down that road again! I’m not saying that Obama has been this perfect President – because, obviously, that’s not true – but at the same time … come on!
Kyle: Yes, I lost faith a long time ago in the political process … and I have to say that I don’t know what to do with all of that information, to be fair; I can’t say, “Don’t vote; it’s a waste of time” – I mean, it is, but it’s at least good to vote with local politics. There are people now in Seattle who could hopefully get married, and that makes a lot of difference; it’s a big deal. And there’s a lot of social justice issues, civil rights stuff, that’s being pushed through, as well as the opposite, such as the war on women that’s happening. For instance, North Carolina voting down gay marriage. It goes both ways …
Jim: I agree, though: how much can one person in Washington state really influence the entire national spectrum –
Kyle: – Exactly! It’s really easy to say, “Fuck that – don’t vote; it’s stupid”. And, I mean, in a lot of ways, I would agree with that! Yet, at the same time, people’s lives are being changed by local politics, or statewide politics; perhaps the electoral college is a joke – and I agree … maybe it is! (Laughter) And whoever becomes our President is a figurehead. The President is just enacting legislation being driven by giant corporations; that’s what he’s putting in …
Jim: Regardless of the party he’s in.
Kyle: Political party doesn’t matter anymore. It’s money. It’s class structure. It has nothing to do with “Democrats”, or any of that; I mean, Ron Paul is sketchy. All of it’s sketchy!
Jim: (Laughter) He is sketchy …
Kyle: He is extremely sketchy! I’m sorry, but if somebody was editing a journal with my name on it, I would check to make sure that none of it was racist! (Laughter)
Jim: It’s so head-scratching …
Kyle: One of the quotes that I heard about that whole Ron Paul thing was, “How come every time we pick up a white supremacist rock, Ron Paul’s under it!?”
Kyle: (Laughter) There’s something to that! There’s something to that … but, personally, I’ve lost a lot of faith in the way things are going. And I don’t what the answer is. That’s a lot of what I interpret in my lyrics.
Jim: And your lyrics are political, in that sense?
Kyle: They are. But they’re not political in the sense of, “vote for this party”, or “do this”, or whatever. Basically, to me, my lyrics are a documentation of horrible things that happen.
Jim: Is it at all related to that idea that the hardcore zine HeartattaCk put forth in the ’90’s, that “the personal is political”? Or is your conception different than that?
Kyle: I think one thing that I’ve had some trepidation with, or an issue with, or something that I’ve been fighting about, is that issue of being political in a personal way. The lyrics are political in the strict sense that I’m writing about a political topic. For instance, “Peasants”, the first track on the demo, is a song about “dead peasant insurance policies”, which is something that many people aren’t aware of, but those are insurance policies that big companies take out on people, on rank-and-file workers, without their knowledge. In effect, those companies are gambling on someone’s life. It’s a life insurance policy, so if that worker dies, the company is named as the beneficiary. For example, Wal-Mart would go in and take out a policy on a rank-and-file employee, and if or when that person dies, Wal-Mart’s named as the beneficiary.
Jim: And the employee’s family is not?
Kyle: The family is not. Yeah. It’s really, horribly evil.
Jim: That is incredibly bad …
Kyle: Horribly evil! But because of the confidentiality policies that insurance companies have, it’s nearly impossible to find out who took out an insurance policy – on you, on me, or whoever. You can’t even really say … they have examples of companies who’ve done it in the past, but it’s hard to say who’s doing it now.
Jim: Do you believe that Wal-Mart would be up to something like that?
Jim: They are a non-union store …
Kyle: Oh yeah; they hate unions –
Jim: – They’ve had some issues with properly paying overtime, for instance.
Kyle: And, of course, slave labor … child labor, and all of these horrific things that have been going on for many years. No, they haven’t cleaned up their act. I’d say that none of those corporations have. They’ll put on the pretense of cleaning up their act, but in reality, how can a major corporation ever have any good intentions … you know what I’m saying? Like, why would they ever? Because it costs them money to have good intentions – and, ultimately, the bottom line is what matters to them. But “Peasants” is an example of a political topic, or a sociological topic … but it’s more of an interest in, “How are these people able to do these things!? And sleep at night?” How they justify it. On the new record, there’s a song that deals with “the war on women” – which is a catch-all term – but dealing with the fact that it’s 2012, and women are still fighting for control over their bodies. It’s insane! This has been going on for so long … why shouldn’t women be able to decide what happens to their bodies? And that’s something that we as men will never have to deal with, or worry about –
Jim: – But men have to deal with issues such as whether they can get married in a same-sex relationship –
Kyle: – That’s true –
Jim: – But you’re right: those two things are totally different, in a way …
Kyle: Yes, and it goes into “straight male privilege” … which I could go on about for months!
Jim: We do experience that privilege …
Kyle: I’ll never know what it’s like to walk down the street and be afraid that there’s going to be an assault of some kind on me; I’ll never know what it’s like to be yelled at and made to feel that I’m less than somebody, just because I got hollered at on the street … These are things that women deal with on a day-to-day basis, that I’ll never have to deal with – just because I’m a man … It’s fucked up to think about. You know, you feel that your life is hard, and you’re pushing a rock up a hill; you’re fighting against whatever it is that’s keeping you down. And then imagine all that as a woman of color. Or a trans woman of color. I mean, people are still dying for the color of their fucking skin – that shit still happens, and it happens regularly … Things really haven’t gotten any better. Actually, part of me feels that things are becoming a lot worse … there’s a pretense of things getting better, but they don’t.
Jim: And the Conservative Right is still just as rabid on their side, and it seems that they’re impeding that progress –
Kyle: And I feel like they’re winning – because they’re able to fight dirty, whereas the left side won’t fight dirty, which I think is kind of a problem. (Laughter) You know? We need to attack them on their grounds! If there was ever a left-wing protest, and someone brought a gun, that person would still be in indefinite detention. Yet the Tea Party can have a protest – and everyone there can have a gun. And that’s fine?
Jim: A double standard.
Kyle: Totally! Anyway … I’m getting off-topic a little bit …
Jim: To bring it back to the music: you try to work that aspect into it, but not in a preachy way, or totally being obvious … a relation, without being spelled out. I guess it’s like you were saying earlier with Fall Silent, and how if Levi had been older, he might have phrased those words differently. And that’s what you’re attempting.
Kyle: You know, Levi is one of the best lyricists of all time … I love his lyrics, but at the same time, I want to be very careful about my words – because it lives on. Especially now that our demo has been pressed to vinyl, people will be able to pick it up and read it years from now – so I have to be careful about that. The thing, to me, that’s really interesting about it, is that anything I write comes from a personal perspective. Ultimately, you see the world through your own little keyhole. It’s your own impression – whatever you have to deal with is viewed through your own perspective. In that sense, everything I write is inherently personal – I would never say, “Do this”, or “Think this way” … I’m saying: Here’s something that’s happening … and this is my wish to understand what’s happening. Here’s my desire to see “why”.
Jim: On the LP – the demo pressed to vinyl – do you have song explanations?
Kyle: Yes. That’s a big thing.
Jim: So if people pick up that LP, a lot of this may become clearer to them …
Kyle: Totally, and that’s something that I hope to make part of every release; it’s something I’d really like to try to do … again, in the ’90’s, when I was just starting to go to shows, it was like, “Here’s what we’re singing about. Here’s why we’re pissed”. And I love that! That’s what I want. After all, you can’t understand what I’m saying when we’re playing; it’s loud, and nobody knows what the words are about … I sometimes try to clarify between songs. Even at that Black Lodge show, I was trying to talk a little bit about some issues … but the sound was kinda off, and I don’t think anybody could really hear what I was trying to say.
Jim: The sound really was off that night. I think it might have something to do with the concrete floors in that venue. There was a lot of feedback, as well …
Kyle: Yeah, there was a lot of feedback … I don’t know why it sounded like that on that night; in general, our sound at live shows is pretty good. At the same time, we play a lot at D.I.Y. venues. And they’re not always able to buy new sound systems.
Jim: And it was still a rad show.
Kyle: And to me, it’s more about that – how it feels, rather than whether you can understand what I’m saying. Because, to be honest, you can’t understand what I’m saying when I’m singing, anyway.
(Someone stops by the table to chat for a moment).
Jim: So is Cynarae going to play New Direction Fest this year?
Kyle: We are! We played last year, too. It was a cool experience. I love the idea of where the New Direction Fest is coming from, because I think it’s something that’s been divorced from hardcore and punk for so long – the reason why we do this: the political aspect … It’s not that every band has to be political, or anything like that, but I like bands that say something. Even if it’s something I disagree with, I would rather hear it …
Jim: For people who may not know about that fest, it’s more in the ’90’s sense – at least some of the better aspects of those ’90’s fests – where they’re going to have tabling, workshops … and the phrase of the fest is, “From Anger To Action”. It seems like a really cool thing to be involved with, so I’m glad you guys are doing that.
Kyle: And again, it’s our second time in a row – it’s been going on for two years, and we’ve played both years, which is great. A big part of what New Direction wants is people who are doing activism; rather than bands just singing about stuff, it’s about bands that actually go out and try to do stuff. And that’s the connection with us, because I’ve done a lot of activism, as well as the other members. Even something as simple as working at or helping to run a D.I.Y. venue; our drummer, Jeffrey, helps out at Fusion Cafe, which is a downtown D.I.Y. space …
Jim: And he’s also doing a zine, which ties into D.I.Y.
Kyle: Right, which is another aspect. I’m really interested to see it. He has a really cool perspective on things. He never likes doing inherently political things in hardcore – which is something that I love; but, honestly, both approaches are cool, and important. For me, I just feel that if I have a microphone, and I’m saying something … I have an obligation to write about something that fucking matters. At least, something that matters to me. I should say something that I find important.
Jim: To make the experience count for something.
Kyle: Yeah! Those are the bands that stuck out for me, the bands that said something – and it changed me. For instance, I’m vegan because I picked up a pamphlet at an Earth Crisis show. Those things made an impact on me. And not that I’m under any illusion that we’re in the same realm as a lot of those bands – as far as how hugely popular they were …
Jim: But you have the opportunity …
Kyle: You can talk about things, and trigger something in somebody. That’s great! Hardcore is what got me into radical politics; it’s what got me interested in animal rights activism, or something like the May Day Protests, and the West Coast Port Shutdowns … all of that comes out of (my being interested in) hardcore; that base point of hardcore. I think these things are important.
Jim: Do you feel like that aspect of hardcore is making a comeback, in a sense?
Kyle: I hope so. I’m hopeful about that.
Jim: I mean, look at the New Direction Fest; it’s only existed for two years, but just the fact that NDF could exist now … whereas things like that hadn’t been happening since the ’90’s.
Kyle: Like the More Than Music Fest; that was along similar lines … stuff like that was happening then. And I remember going to shows, and everyone had a table with literature – which is something that we try to do; every time we have a show, we try to have lit. Not everyone in the band agrees on everything, but we definitely agree on some things – such as consent, or sexual assault, that we can talk about (at shows) … we can all agree on feminism, to a degree, even though that term can have negative connotations. But we can all agree: Why are people still being sexually assaulted, and why do we still perpetuate the rape culture?
Jim: I saw another aspect of the band, too, that relates more to the physical aspect of hardcore – something that’s always existed in aggressive music … when you played at The Black Lodge, and that one guy tried to do a backflip – but hit his head on the concrete instead. And you guys stopped, and you asked him, specifically, “Are you okay?” Like, “Do you need medical attention?” Instead of barreling through: “just keep playing”, and the guy is going to die, or something! But you guys did make sure he was okay, and I thought it was really cool that you did that, because it kept it at a human level of concern.
Kyle: I don’t know that guy from Adam – he’s … “whatever” – but there are a lot of reasons why I didn’t want him to be injured. A). I just don’t want him to be injured. B). I don’t want him to be injured at The Black Lodge, which is an underground D.I.Y. space where if someone brought a lawsuit, they are finished. But, it’s dubious. A lot of people go so far to protect people that they insist that no one run around, or no one move, and everyone stays in their bubble … I think that’s taking it a little far. I don’t agree with that. I think there’s a way that we can go off, and have fun, bump into each other, and run around …
Jim: At every show I’ve been to at The Black Lodge, people are going off.
Kyle: And that’s a release! That’s a physical release; that’s why I do this, at least to some degree. Sometimes you just need to go off, and run around – and be pissed!
Jim: … in a relatively safe way.
Kyle: Sure. Yeah, I’m not saying …
Jim: – that you’re just going to beat on somebody, or something like that …
Kyle: Yeah, behavior like that doesn’t make any sense – but I also don’t like it when people are watching a band, standing there like this (crosses arms in front of his chest). Like, it’s angry music. You know, let’s see a little animation here! You can go off and be aggressive without being violent. There can be physical running into each other and physical contact without violence.
Jim: And that’s always existed in hardcore.
Kyle: I feel like people take it really far on the other side … and, to be fair, pretty far on both sides. There are definitely meatheads who go out and just want to fight people – and that’s bullshit, too. I think there’s a medium to be found … and I know that, actually, I smashed into you at that show … (Laughter)
Jim: (Laughter) Yeah, that’s right! That was fine, though; I even joked with your bassist, and said, “In a contest between Kyle and somebody else … Kyle is going to win!” (Laughter) What can I do!?
Kyle: (Laughter) And I didn’t even know who I ran into! To me, running into the crowd like that is a sort of physical manifestation of the anger going on.
Jim: The very first hardcore show I went to was like that … and the very last one I go to will probably be like that.
Kyle: It’s always been an element, but it’s about, like, doing it together … and if somebody doesn’t want to be involved in that, then recognizing that, and not going after them.
Jim: Right. There have always been people who’ve done it in sort of a conscious way; when I saw Narrows play at The Comet Tavern, Dave Verellen (vocals) made a speech, like, “For those people who don’t know, here are the rules of the pit. Somebody falls down, you help them up. And tie your shoes!” (Laughter). “Be careful out there – but have fun.” And Dave was in the crowd for basically the entire show.
Kyle: And I love that! I want that.
Jim: It makes for an awesome show.
Kyle: Yeah! And to get back to that Black Lodge show, people were getting me just as good as I was getting them … and, actually, even worse – some dude ran into me while my back was turned, and I sprained my ankle really bad. It’s still not doing well. But, you know … it’s just what happens. That’s what goes into it – and you know that going in. I’ve been to a million punk and hardcore shows, and every time, there’s that chance. I don’t know … it is what it is. (Laughter)
Jim: (Laughter) So … the Ancient Shores split will be out soon; you just have to finalize the artwork, and things like that …
Kyle: I imagine it’ll be out by mid-to-late Summer.
Jim: The LP is out now …
Kyle: Yeah, we just picked that up last Friday.
Jim: And you guys are going to be touring in the U.S. coming up soon?
Kyle: Yeah, we have plans for an East Coast tour in October. We’re going to do that. I really want to work in a West Coast tour “soon-ish” – I don’t really know what that means, because we all have jobs, or school … so we’ll have to figure it out. Definitely, touring is an aspect that I like about being in a band. We want to play to people who haven’t seen us before. Our first tour was really great; it was a great experience, and we met a lot of really cool people. To me, hardcore is a live experience. Not something you listen to on computer speakers! (Laughter)
Jim: And D.I.Y. touring seems like it’s never been stronger, in a sense. You can find shows and play with rad bands almost anywhere in the country – and you can do it almost instantly, with the Internet being what it is.
Kyle: Which I like – but there’s also a trade-off, too. At certain times, bands go out that shouldn’t be touring; they’re simply not ready yet … things have been over-saturated to the point where, if there’s a show in your town every night … and I hate to keep going back to this, but the way things were in the ’90’s, you wrote good songs first. (Laughter) You know what I mean!? You wrote good songs, you had something to say – and then you went out and brought it to people. I see a lot of bands that tour. I booked shows for a number of years in Reno – probably the better part of a decade – and so many people would hit me up for a show, and it was just like, “Why? I don’t understand. What are you bringing to the table? What are you offering here?” Like, you want people to show up and pay the cover … but, why? What are you saying in your songs … (shakes head) I don’t know. (Laughter)
Jim: It might be a brutal way to look at it, but at the same time, it’s reality. If you’re not ready to play live, or go on tour – don’t do it. You’ll leave a bad impression with everyone who sees you.
Kyle: Not only that – it over-saturates shows to the point that people don’t want to go out anymore. If five shows are happening in your town, and one of them is really good, it’ll be overshadowed by all the other ones.
Jim: And someone doesn’t really know which one will be the best, ahead of time.
Kyle: I guess that people think that touring is super-cool, which it is … but it’s a trade-off – it is a sacrifice, you know? However, I think that this over-saturation has died down a little bit … maybe four or five years ago, it was way worse. Every band was trying to tour, all the time. Now, very few bands are touring, which I think is kind of a good thing. And I don’t mean “package tours” and “big venues”, but D.I.Y. touring. Anyway, we’re doing the East Coast tour, and we’re talking about the West Coast, and possibly going to Europe – which I hope comes through in the next six months or so.
Jim: Now, Cynarae possibly have some splits lined up – and you don’t have to tell me who those bands are, because it’s theoretical – but would those come before a debut full-length that you guys would write? As in, you’d put out a full LP and do the splits later …
Kyle: I’m not really sure. I know that we have songs ready for a 7-inch, so that will probably happen first – before any splits. After that, we’ve been talking about three releases that we have down, so who the hell knows where we’re going to be at that point … I suppose someone could combine all those in a stand-alone release that would be an LP …
Jim: Like a discography LP.
Kyle: Yeah. I like the idea of an LP, but at the same time, it’s not really on my radar to do that right now. I would rather do splits and 7-inches.
Jim: That’s interesting; it would work well, because the 7-inch format is so brief and biting, and explosive … and if you could put that sort of energy into that format, then why do an LP? You’d just be diluting the effect of it.
Kyle: Totally – and I can see doing a live LP; that would be fun! I don’t know. I like different formats and different experiences. I’m not saying that we’ll never do an LP, because we probably will … but it’s a matter of figuring out the right time for that. We just got done getting this last split together, and as that was happening, I was re-formatting the design for the self-titled LP that we have out now … so, to me, talk about a full-length is a little ways out. I’d love to see it happen, but we’ll see when we get there.
Jim: Do you have any thoughts in closing? Anything to add? I think we definitely covered almost everything! (Laughter)
Kyle: Yeah, definitely! In closing, I’m just really excited to be in a band with people who are very capable musicians – but who are also really cool people. Our relationship with A389 has been great so far; they’re like a “musician’s label” – they get it, they’ve been great to work with. I feel good about what Cynarae has done … and I want to do more! I’m just excited about it.
Jim: Awesome! Thanks a lot for your time!