WORDS: DEC SHERRY | PHOTOS: JOE CALIXTO | SAM ROBINSON
Calling Santa Cruz home, Drain are the latest of a long list of artists on the Revelation Records roster who are at the forefront of the contemporary hardcore scene.
We speak to Drain vocalist Sam hot off the release of their debut LP – California Cursed, a record as frustrated and venomous as it is fun and energetic. Released during the middle of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the band had to cancel shows that were initially meant to support the album. Speaking on dealing with these cancellations Sam says, “This might be a blessing in disguise you know? I think that once all of this is over I think there will be a refound appreciation for all these things you take for granted… I think everyones going to be home and have time to watch the music video and listen to this record and learn it all so that once we do play it’s gonna be like woah, let’s do it this is a big deal!” It’s not really something anyone from any industry was able to foresee, but people across the music industry have been hit hard by the current Coronavirus pandemic, so it’s refreshing to hear Sam’s calm and meditated answer. He goes on to say, “All things considered, some people have actual problems, my record coming out right now – that’s so miniscule so I can’t even complain about that. But it’s definitely interesting. It’s really giving an opportunity for bands to think outside of the box and think what’s something different that we can do, a lot of bands can do live streams and I think it’s really fascinating how it brings everyone back together.”
Sam speaks on how the band don’t just want to restrict themselves to the hardcore scene. “I never would like to pigeon-hole us and just say that we just do “this”, we just appeal to “this”. We’re a hardcore band, so if that’s not your cup of tea you probably won’t dig it but if you’re open to it, like anyone that’s remotely into loud music or just seeing crazy stuff I feel would enjoy it”. Hardcore has seen a resurgence of late with bands like Turnstile and Knocked Loose introducing swathes of people to the genre and Drain are definately strong enough to fly the flag for the scene on a large scale.
Sam tells us though that criticism of the band does come to his attention at times, “Honestly sometimes I get a little bit in my head and I’m like I think people just think we’re like a joke – we’ve got these boogie boards and whatever. Really we do spend a lot of time on the graft working hard practising and I do think sometimes it gets blown over it’s like “this band’s just fun” I’m glad we’re having fun but it’s not like the fun makes up for a lack of musicianship or intensity.” If you haven’t already, check out some of the footage from Drain’s live show, including their video for the title track from California Cursed; the band are fun and clearly revel in this but their beach ready look is far from a gimmick. Drain’s life and the world around them is projected into their music and their live set but Hardcore is a genre where you can inject as much fun and passion into your music especially in a live setting, and as Sam says musicianship isn’t sacrifised for fun. Drain have spent the last few years honing their craft and California Cursed is the product of hard work.
I’m glad we’re having fun but it’s not like the fun makes up for a lack of musicianship or intensity.”“
Speaking about coming from California Sam tells us “There’s just so many amazing bands out here.. I see my friends killing it, I wanna kill it! We feed off each other, we push off of that.” Sam also understands however that while there may be a strong scene in California this can also be a hindrance in its own way with Sam continuing, “There’s so many amazing bands from out here that you kinda have to do your own thing and carve your own path and just stand out. Whether that be sound, the way your shows look, your image whatever it is, I feel Drain’s killing our own thing just because we’ve been ourselves. We’ve made our own sound, look and feel, and I feel if you don’t have that it can be really easy to get lost in the mix”.
Sam says California Cursed itself was inspired by their experiences with Califonian life. The atmosphere of the environment around them leaves them at a duality of sorts, “It really is a curse, because we’re like dude I can’t wait to get out of town, I gotta go, I’m stoked to get on the road and get out of here. And then we leave for 5 minutes and I’m like holy shit we gotta go back home, this sucks. I just take it for granted, this is what life looks like elsewhere – how different it is from how our life looks…It’s a total culture shock, there’s a lot of downers but I feel like I’ve got this curse I can’t leave even if I want to leave I really don’t want to.” Again, this is something everyone experiences from time to time. Sure not everyone may live in a tourist trap that leaves them feeling displaced, but your surroundings can become suffocating and overwhelming at times, though when away from your home you become homesick, which is the dilemma that Sam and the rest of Drain experience.
While California Cursed is rooted in how the band struggles with some aspects of their environment, it doesn’t just reflect the negative aspects of California life. The fun and enjoyment shines through too and Drain have created something uniquely their own from this. Everyone deals with this and while not everyone can relate to California, there are themes present across the record that everyone can familiarise with.
California Cursed is out NOW via Revelation Records.