Interview with Thomas of Strike Anywhere

Thomas, the lead singer of Strike Anywhere discusses the bands upcoming release, their affiliation with PETA and their desire to make a difference in the world.

Julia: I saw you guys back in June 2002 and I remember asking you when your new record was going to be coming out. Initially, you gave me a much earlier date than the current release date you have set, what made you push it back?

Thomas: Well, we ended up touring more than we thought we would and going to Europe again. After Europe, when we came back, we just took a lot of time writing the songs. I think us, and our label, and everybody involved didn’t want to rush out a record just to do it. So now we’ve been demoing and recording and we’ll have a new record out Sept. 30th, which actually, is exactly two years from when Change Is A Sound came out and back in the old days that was pretty soon for a punk band. Nowadays bands put out a record like once every eight months, it’s insane. We definitely can’t write like that, we don’t want to push ourselves to do that because we are afraid that it will affect our quality control and the sense of relevancy in our music, especially since the lyrics and the music have such a good relationship to each other and we need to reflect on how we’re feeling and what the present means to us. We didn’t want to make a record like Change Is A Sound again because we think that would be kind of shortsighted. There are all kinds of people that like us so we wanted to do something different.

Julia: So when you say something different do you mean in terms of sound or content?

Thomas: I’m not sure. Bands always think that they are making the most different, craziest shit ever, and then all the people that like their music say that it sounds just the same. So I think that it’s only different because it’s relevant to what’s happening now, and because of that fact the songs are darker, there’s more tension, and there’s a lot more aggression. But at the same time there’s also more hopefulness and more melody in some parts too. I’m not giving you a very good description, but I think that it will have a little more variety and address what’s happening now and where we’re at as people, as opposed to where we were in 2000 and 2001 when we wrote the songs on Change Is A Sound.

Julia: Regarding the state of the world at the moment, I pretty much feel that I know the answer to this question, but for the record, how do you feel about the situation in Iraq?

Thomas: We’re definitely not into it, and don’t feel that it represents the people at all. I think that even the people that are trying to back and support the effort, their resolve and their patriotism are being manipulated by George Bush and his cabinet. I’ve also noticed that some of the greatest slogans about ‘regime change starting at home’ and ‘peace being patriotic’ are really poignant and kind of show that ordinary, regular folks that weren’t even political people on the left or the right are realizing that this is about all the money moving upward from the people that produce it and all the resources being bled out of, not just this country, but any other country that we want to have an economic empire over. I think that everything in the headlines is just really disturbing and insane. Like the fact that even though Tony Blair, the British prime minister, who has been really supportive of the US despite the fact that he’s been kind of chastised by the world for how close he is to George Bush, has gently suggested that the UN have a strong presence in the rebuilding and reconstruction of Iraq and the peace process, George Bush has kind of just waved him away. And the idea that US corporations, particularly the ones that George Bush is allies with, will be able to just pick the bones of that country is insane! That’s what a lot of people, particularly radical peace activists, have been talking about for a long time and it’s actually starting to become an inevitable truth. I just think it’s really scary, these are really apocalyptic times and I think that older people, particularly the senior citizens who have seen war before, realize it. Like in Richmond, we had a peace march and a lot of these senior citizens and war veterans came out, I think that says so much that a lot of people don’t want to look at. A lot of people just want to stay isolated from having to have an opinion and that’s doing their own futures a disservice. That’s what a lot of our new songs are about and that’s how I feel about it.

Julia: Have you or other members of your band participated in any protests?

Thomas: We had one in Richmond on November 9th and we had a show the night before and a rally. We had a lot of speakers come and speak at the show, and a lot of kids at the show came to the march, even young folks from the suburbs who brought their parents. It was really intense. Richmond hasn’t had any kind of a march since like the civil rights marches, they might have had a small Vietnam march, but I’m not sure about that. There have been other really small marches like when George Bush (the first) and Bill Clinton had their presidential debate before the election, they came through Richmond and we had small marches, but not like a general strike of people from all walks of life. I mean, we had about 7,000 people at this protest, and that was incredible for Richmond. A lot of friends of ours have participated in marches in DC, and our drummer Eric has too in his home town, because we’re kind of all spread out up and down the East Coast. But it’s been amazing, we’ve just heard so much from people. I remember being up in Canada and hearing about the activism in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto and also seeing how understanding and cool everybody was up there instead of being completely angry at us for being Americans. It’s the same in Europe, and I think it’s kind of unprecedented that a lot of people understand, finally, that America and Americans are not just this united front of greed, selfishness and isolation. Part of this is because of the media, because there is so much coverage of these protests and because there is a lot of conflict, I’m sure the internet has a lot to do with it as well.

Julia: On the subject of Canada, I remember reading somewhere that your bass player is from Canada?

Thomas: He is actually

Julia: Apparently his Visa is expiring?

Thomas: It is expiring. Very soon actually, he needs to marry some American girl. He is a favorite though, so he’s got a lot of options. But seriously, I think he’s just going to reapply; he’s not really interested in American citizenship. His father is a Professor in Richmond so I think he’ll be able to get it. If not, maybe we’ll all move to Canada and be in Garth’s band, and we’ll only play Canadian shows or everywhere but the US.

Julia: No! You can’t do that!

Thomas: Yeah, I guess it would be a very strange thing.

Julia: Yeah, it would be. So how did your affiliation with PETA come about?

Thomas: Really, really naturally. The massive-mini head network of PETA, one of their primary locations is in Eastern Virginia, like Virginia Beach and Norfolk, and one of our good friends from the VA hardcore scene is their webmaster and one of their design directors. PETA has always been tabling at our shows and at punk shows in general. So I think they e-mailed us and said, "Hey, you’re touring, are you going to have booths?" because they would always allow us to take a lot of pamphlets and stuff with us and have a whole bin of free literature. So we said to them, "Well, we don’t have any literature right now, can you send us some literature?" and they just said, "Better yet, we’re just going to send a couple of people in every city to come and table at your shows." So we we’re like, "That’s great!" So all throughout the US and Canada we’ve had a PETA table strongly present at our shows. And in Richmond, and as well in DC and Philly, there’s other animal rights groups too that cooperate and share the space. There’s Vegan Action in Richmond, VA and there’s also The Fund for Animals in DC and Philly, and they do a lot of work. Like they’ll have videos and stuff like that, sometimes they’ll speak during the show. It’s really good and it’s something that we’ve all believed in for a really long time so it just feels really natural to have them with us.

Julia: So you do animal rights, and you obviously have an anti-war message, do you do anything on the environment?

Thomas: You know, it’s weird, because our band has definitely consumed our lives and we are just inspired by our friends who are more committed activists and have more time. Like a lot of times we’ll come home and people will tell us about the amazing shit that has happened and we’ll be like "Damn it, we were in Kansas!" You know? And it’s been like that for several years now. I only get a little bit of time now to work with the Coalition for the Living Wage that supports the rights of the working poor to have a living wage, in my hometown, Richmond, as well as the anti-war marches, and Food Not Bombs and things like that. The rest of my band-mates do what they can in their cities too, but at best we can just reflect the inspiration and maybe inspire others who are doing front lines work in the causes that we believe in. So as far as the environment, there was an Earth First group in Richmond like 12 years ago that I worked with, and some of the guys from Avail were in it too, it was really fun, but it kind of dissolved. On a more nationwide level, my wife is a conservation biologist and environmental educator so she is affiliated with a lot of different groups and does a lot of work. That’s kind of another reason why in our community we got involved with Animal Rescue because it’s sort of an extension of those groups. It’s an urban organization that promotes a respect for life and stray animals. There is a cycle that stems from children seeing how their families will abuse dogs or fight them for money, and then they’ll start to treat animals like that, and then treat each other like that. So we’ve done a lot of work with Animal Rescue, and we see that as kind of an animal rights issue, but also an environmental issue. Another thing that I guess kind of crosses over, but I’m not sure how you would classify this, is that we did a community garden in a blighted, urban area over the summer. We started it and then I went on tour for two months, and then we gave it to Food Not Bombs. It survived the drought that we had in the South and gave a lot of people some food, it also gave a lot of people some experience with putting their hands in the earth and getting out of the cycle of having to be so dependent on the shitty food that the working poor can only afford at urban ghetto grocery stores. This was like a way of having nutritious food, unfortunately it wasn’t organic because none of the abandoned lots in the city can be proved to be organic because of so many fires and things like that, but it was really good anyway. There were still some cabbages growing when I left for tour, right through the winter.

Strike Anywhere [I]Change is a Sound[/I] Review

Since the very beginning of hardcore, hardcore bands have been fueled by political and social issues. Anthemic songs lyrically striving for anarchy have also been long associated with hardcore music. Still, not since Against All Authority’s "Destroy What Destroys You" has a politically-fueled album found its way into my regular rotation. Many times I have found the lyrics rather shallow, often self-important and rarely well thought out. Most hardcore bands perform as if preaching, an act that can grow rather tiresome. "Change Is A Sound" breaks this unfulfilling cycle with a powerful and meaningful album full of important songs that in the very least will provoke otherwise stagnant minds. No band out there mixes melodic punk with hardcore as well as Strike Anywhere. The sound reminded me of Reach The Sky meets Against All Authority (minus the horns), while the vocals, at times, had an uncanny resemblance to those found on the Donuts N’ Glory album. When sung, the vocals come off as very strong and powerful and sound good over the tenacious guitars and powerful drumming. When screamed, on the other hand, the vocals portray the extreme anger of the lyrics while managing to remain very clear and understandable and maintain the level of emotion. There aren’t too many hardcore bands out there that you can sing along with these days but you will find yourself singing along with Strike Anywhere after only a few listens, and more importantly – you’ll find yourself singing songs with deep meanings and thoughtful lyrics. Strike Anywhere blow through this 11 track album in overdrive. Just over 29 minutes in length, "Change Is A Sound" is a bit on the short side. This doesn’t take away from the mastery and importance behind what is sure to be the best politically-fueled hardcore album in years. With important messages that need to be heard and rallied around, Strike Anywhere find a way to portray their beliefs on social and political issues without becoming overbearing. "Change Is A Sound" is a mighty LP that should be recognized for its lofty goals. There is no filler material here and each song packs a solid knockout punch. "Sunset On 32nd Street", "Riot Of Words", "Timebomb Generation" and "Three On A Match" stand out as the best on an album full of good songs. The delivery of the vocals, the amazing energy and passion behind the music and the well-written political lyrics make Strike Anywhere a force to be reckoned with.

Strike Anywhere [I]Change is a Sound[/I] Review

The protest music of Strike Anywhere goes beyond hardcore, beyond punk to something altogether more simple, honest and straightforward.

Certainly hardcore music followers will recognize the basic kernel of their sound — the hyper-backbeat percussive violence, the dominating guitars, the in-your-face attitude.

But while hardcore all-too-often is just plain brutal, this Richmond, Va., five-piece has managed to harness the chaos of hardcore and fuse it seamlessly with the right amount of rock sensibility to create the perfect noise of joyous dissent.

Their guitars are as influenced by AC/DC and Def Leppard as Avail and Boy Sets Fire. And while so much hardcore vocals is nothing more than a lead singer grunting three-word phrases directly into a firmly grasped, spit-covered microphone, Strike Anywhere vocalist Thomas Barnett actually sings. He understands melody and throws every ounce of emotion behind every note. The lyrics are not only a call to action, but an honest view of a world he knows all too well. In the end, it all comes together because you believe he really means what he’s saying. And by the time he gets to the end of the first song, you’re ready to join him in the trenches.  

"It’s an accumulation of the different experiences living in my community and seeing the culture of poverty unfold," Barnett said from the stained-glass studio where he works. "While four blocks south of me is a world of rich, white, wealthy entrepreneurs. It’s a neighborhood in transition."

Translated: Barnett lives in the cross-hairs of an impoverished area of Richmond rife with drugs on one end and undergoing gentrification on the other. His house sits smack on the lines between the upwardly mobile and the downtrodden poor. The constant struggle between the classes is captured crystal clear on one of the strongest songs from the band’s new full-length, Change Is a Sound. "Sunset on 32nd" tells the story of a family trying to survive in a virtual police state:

American justice American dream
Is this what ‘The other half’ means
Half of our lives dissolved in fear
Half of our rights they disappear
Is our apathy so corrosive
Where does the cycle start
Hear the sirens screaming out in the distance
Hold your family close to your heart

"That song is about police rounding up people in my area for bicycle infractions," Barnett said. "Things that they never pull kids over for in the affluent suburbs, such as no working breaks or no helmet. They started enforcing it as an abstract way of cracking down on the drug trade."

The cops were after "runners," Barnett said, though few of the children were involved in trafficking. One day his neighbor was riding his bike home from the store with a bag of diapers when the cops followed the man to his house, broke down the door and beat him in front of his family, dragging him out into the street. Barnett said they took the man to a hospital before throwing him in jail, only to release him the next day.

The song continues:

American justice American lies
A war of words that I despise
I wish the good cops if they exist (the very best)
And a bullet for all the…

The last word of the phrase is never sung. Barnett has an experienced attitude toward police. He says a number of his friends landed in jail because of their participation in the April 16, 2000, protest of the IMF and World Bank in Washington, D.C., where 1,300 people were arrested, mostly for parading in areas not permitted and crossing police lines. "Being a cop is a hard job," he admits, "and peace and order is in short supply when people don’t have access to a job."
 
When he sings "I will try everything / To kill the sleeping cop in me" on the title track to the band’s 6-song anthemic EP, Chorus of One, Barnett says he’s really saying that he’s trying to keep his eye on the real struggles around him and not get complacent. "It’s about examining yourself and about how comfortable a lot of us live our lives. Sometimes it’s really hard to stretch your mind and relate to those who are suffering."

Barnett’s sense of justice goes beyond humankind. During the phone interview, a dog barked gleefully in the background — an all-black pure chow named Pearl. "But we call her Blindie," Barnett said. "Someone chained her to a fence and forced her to produce puppies. She’s blind and three years old. We rescued her; we love her."

"We" is a local organization called SOS that actively seeks out and rescues animals trapped in abusive situations. So far this year, Barnett said, the organization has rescued 45 dogs. Many of them stay briefly at his house, where Barnett’s two dogs — Batu and Blue — act as social workers helping the recently liberated hounds understand that it’s okay to be loved. "They’re the go-betweens," Barnett said. "They tell these strays, which have no etiquette skills, that it’s okay to accept food. We invite the neighborhood kids over to play with them. They call my place ‘the dog house.’"

The only reason that Barnett is still "in the doghouse" when he and his band should be on the road is because of the terrorist acts that took place in New York last week. The band was scheduled to play a show in Kenilworth, New Jersey, Sept. 12. With the Commonwealth of Virginia still under a state of emergency, the band canceled the show. They planned to play in Philadelphia the following night, though the CMJ Jade Tree showcase scheduled for New York’s Irving Plaza Sept. 14 also was canceled.

"It was unbelievable," Barnett said of the terrorist strikes. "I was mostly worried about my friends in New York, all of whom are okay. I went right past the national concerns and straight to personal ones."

What will be the fall-out of Sept. 11 on radical protests such as the World Trade Organization demonstrations? Barnett said it was an apples and oranges issue.

"I don’t see it impacting the protests at the Sept. 30 World Bank/IMF meetings in Washington," he said. "I think radical movements that are trying to gain economic justice and clarity for people around the world have nothing in common with terrorist actions. Ours is more about educating instead of agitating. We want to put a face on the World Trade Organization. The main problem with those organizations is they aren’t democratic. They’re essentially cabals — a royal family without a blood link, where the blood is money."

And what about everyone else? What about me? A self-professed member of the corporate machine, I asked Barnett if his music meant that I should quit my job and take up the fight for economic injustice.

"I don’t think the lyrics are saying that we all have to quit our jobs," he said. "There’s a level of compliance in our society. There are choices we have to make; there are battles to choose and battles to lose. I think it’s more important to choose to do that thing that you love that’ll make a difference. Be fearless. Know that there are people behind you, whether they are the dead of generations past or your brother."

Strike Anywhere [I]Change is a Sound[/I] Review

I’m still plagued by two horrible habits when it comes to untested artists: I tend to judge bands after a few short listens, and I’m easily (and grossly) swayed by album artwork. So when Strike Anywhere’s latest Jade Tree release hit my CD player, it almost immediately fell victim to my impractical judgmental system. With no artwork (I received an advance copy) and an unusually angular hardcore sound, Change is a Sound was headed straight for the has-been hardcore bin.

And then, like some wild premonition, the album suddenly became the number one resident of my CD player. It’s still cloudy as to what caused this radical reversal and changed my take on Strike Anywhere from "washed out" to "ground-shaking". Perhaps it was an uncommonly bad day or a heated conversation with a tepid friend that triggered my need for rabid replaying of Change is a Sound. As if they were detonating a downtown office block, Strike Anywhere attacked my weaknesses and caused my self-critical walls to cave in to the band’s hardcore sound. Hundreds of plays later, Strike Anywhere has gone from its misconceived has-been state to the harbingers of new school hardcore.

Describing the opening track, "You’re Fired", is a delicate matter. Ears unfamiliar to hardcore may shrug this tune off as a noisy bit of spastic guitar work. Jumpy rhythms and galloping tempo changes don’t make this an easy 4/4 beat affair. However, a more alert listening will knock you off your feet, as this anti-workplace anthem is guaranteed to shake up your definition of thrilling music. Short, sweet and to the point, "You’re Fired" has just the right amount of melody to leave you raising your fist in anti-job sentiment.

Strike Anywhere equips itself with the speediness of Good Riddance and the political turmoil of early Avail, without sounding like the nauseating little brother of either band. "Riot of Words" scales through social grievances while refusing to become a hardcore blur of overly zealous instruments and indecipherable screams. "Laughter in a Police State" stings you with a punk soul and a dedicated passion, warming your auditory senses with melodic brilliance. Vocal hysterics rage on "My Design", encapsulating the band’s message of rebellion and personal humility in an explosive detonator, precariously balanced on the edge of old and new school hardcore. Few bands can rival this pointed marriage of politically charged fervor and vocal shellacking.

Change is a Sound triggers your taste for distorted mayhem, while playing favorites to the underdog of melodic magnificence. It’s a twofold punch of modern day musical understanding, applying the time-tested formulas of hardcore’s masters with brutal reverence.

Strike Anywhere [I]Change is a Sound[/I] Review

My friend Edwin has a favorite statistic, one he brings out whenever the subject of punk rock and authenticity comes up: The Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollucks Here’s the Sex Pistols did not go platinum until 1991. It wasn’t until college kids-lots of ‘em, and with money-started thinking punk was cool that its founding album sold. For those who may not remember, 1991 is also the year that Nirvana happened, and the year that Pavement released Slanted and Enchanted. Somewhere in that year Sebadoh released Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock. According to Rolling Stone and other, only slightly less dubious sources, 1991 is "the year that punk broke".

Those who are actually concerned with authenticity in the true, hardcore sense will note that none of the aforementioned bands, not even the Sex Pistols, comes close to what punk means today. Today’s punk (and yes, it is a marketing gambit, sorry) is just as likely to be vegan as straightedge, and the politics may be less indie or socially focused (a la Fugazi) and more directed towards multinational corporations or international human rights (a la Rage Against the Machine). Richmond, Virginia’s Strike Anywhere is an excellent example of how one might negotiate punk’s contradictions and absurdities in 2001. It may even be true that after a decade or so languishing in the delayed response to the Sex Pistols, punk has begun to reinvent itself.

While we’re on the subject of authenticity — and you pretty much can’t escape it, when talking about punk — I should add a few disclaimers of my own. I was less than a year old during the Sex Pistols’ nine-month heydey. I like Elvis Costello, punk’s most famous defector, better than Johnny Rotten. My "coming of age" music was mostly what they’d call postpunk — the kind of early ’90s stuff that I read Strike Anywhere kind of bashing in a number of online interviews — Husker Du and Pussy Galore and the Pixies and whatnot, probably even Nirvana.

I lived with a girl just after college who was really into the whole Virginia vegan punk scene, and once there was a concert and some 20 teenage vegans stayed on our floor that night. They were all really earnest, nervous kids who cleaned up after themselves and spent a long time in the bathroom. That’s about as close as I’ve come to having any direct participation in this very community-based music.

Most of the music my roommate liked was fast and boring. Of course, with punk the medium is the message — or rather, the message is the medium. Musicality and melody have never been part of this operation, whose original aesthetic was antithesis. Later, when bands like Minor Threat began channeling their rage into straightedge sermonizing and vaguely leftist politics, the aesthetic devolved into simplistic sloganeering over the traditional three-chord strum. But Strike Anywhere’s first full length album, Change is a Sound, is actually not boring or preachy at all, despite its obvious self-righteous rage and political alliance to veganism. (Sorry, I’m sort of fixated on the vegan thing. I just think it’s so odd they incorporated that particular piety into the ethos! Gives new meaning to the old Minor Threat adage, "don’t drink don’t smoke don’t fuck at least I can fucking think." I mean does animal fat addle the senses? If so, I’m really going to enjoy my next cheeseburger. What about honey? What about anorexic punk rock chicks? Aren’t they just getting the easy way out?)

So how did Strike Anywhere manage to make a record that both seethes with umbrage and hooks you in with melody and rhythm? Durned if I know, but they seem to be well read and intelligent boys, by the interviews. And they obviously don’t think it’s anti-punk to learn how to play, or even practice your instrument. That’s one thing I like about punk’s political arm; they always have this weird combination of belligerence and smarts, like they’re idiot savants or something. It reminds me of some of the more contemporary Christian movements, who seem always to be using the Devil’s enticements (rock music, television, eye makeup . . .) to make Christianity seem more fun. But punk rock is a more worthy cause as far as I’m concerned and intelligent but straightforward lyrics like "We are not the images we speak!" go a long way towards artfully capturing both punk’s nihilism and its idealism.

I particularly enjoyed "You’re Fired", and the last few cuts off the album, most of which showcase Strike Anywhere’s particular knack for melody and passion. "You’re Fired" is really interesting rhythmically, another unusual thing in a genre almost uniformly devoted to bash bash bash-style percussion. And, the rhythmic blurps and shudders always coincide with moments of purest melody, as if to unsettle any sense of sublimity. Thus form and content are beautifully merged on this album, which is why it may not be a keeper for those whose punk tastes are limited to that one Green Day ballad. Nor for the faint of heart.

Strike Anywhere [I]Change is a Sound[/I] Review

If you’re in the northeast,that might sound strange to you, but this smallish southern city has become to punk what Athens, GA was to college rock in the 80′s. And Strike Anywhere is yet another in a list of great punk bands that hail from there (Avail, Ann Beretta, Sixer), proving once again that you don’t have to be from Metro DC to rock it in Virginia.

After delivering an impressive debut EP, Chorus of One (Red Leader Records), and contributing a number of songs to the notable 7" of the Month Club, Strike Anywhere’s long-awaited debut on Jade Tree is here. A beautiful combination of politics and talent, Change is a Sound proves that this band has what it takes to become one of Jade Tree’s melodic hardcore staples.

Change is a Sound lays complex politics over familiar, but not tired, hardcore. The album has the bread and butter elements including tight rhythms, even mix of melody and power, and solid breakdowns. The album is an intense ride through all the emotions you’d expect from an well-built, skilled hardcore band. But that’s not even the best part. The band’s true strength lies in their belief in the power of the individual. That feeling of political dedication – that level of involvement – amplifies every song. It’s political punk at its best. Every song carries the statement that change IS a sound.

And that’s what takes this album from being an average political punk record to a collection of anthems. From the title and antifascist symbol on the cover alone, you know that you’re picking up a political record. But it’s the conviction behind these songs makes you believe in the band’s politics. This Operation Ivy-like quality goes missing from so many political bands – and that’s why most political bands never reach the community-at-large. It’s all about the convergence of music and politics.

But maybe you’ve had your fill of politics these days. Maybe you don’t want to hear "watch us grow up to war…" right now. If that’s the case, take this record at face value. Throw out the liner notes, close your eyes, and imagine that Strike Anywhere is singing about girls and heartache, about life like bad sitcoms. It won’t change a thing. The music will still bleed, and Change is a Sound will still sit at the top of your "Best Records of 2001" pile.

Strike Anywhere An interview with Thomas Barnett of Strike Anywhere: By Robb Roemershauser

I tried a few times doing an interview with Strike Anywhere before. The first time, I was in Richmond Virginia for an hour and found out that Avail, Anna Beretta and Strike Anywhere was playing a show the following day at Twisters. So, I decided to stick around Richmond for the night. I wrote some questions down to ask Strike Anywhere the night before the show, and then I fell asleep in someone’s backyard. Woke up, tape recorder was broken, and must of broke from me using the backpack as a pillow. I saw someone, I knew the following day that had an info shop in RVA and look around and slight see around the city and went to the show. Saw the bands, rock out and went falling a sleep in a portalet later on in the morning (It was a cold night for a short sleeve, no jacket kind of person.). Oh yeah, there was an reunion of a few songs that ex members of a band that called themselves Inquisition at one time played. Yes, I did know the words to those songs but not the title names. That was in April or May of 2000. So, I heard they were coming to play in New Orleans and a few months before the show at 3 am I wrote these questions. I wouldn’t have asked all these questions, because some are so dumb. But the thing was when they played here, there was a tropical storm passing through the city and they didn’t wanted to sit in the rain, I guess? Being the geek I am, I had these type questions & a self-address stamp envelope on me at the time. I wasn’t planning on using it for this, the interview, I guess. So, I ask him and a few months pass and I got these answers. It’s funny because when I was reading these questions it just dawn on me that I did do an interview with Thomas before. It was a few years ago when he was in another band. 150 to 170 interviews can do that too you with a short attention span. All I can say about this band, that I bought two records this year of 01’, one being Strike Anywhere, ‘Change is a Sound†and the other is the last Aus-Rotten record. Here Thomas, the voice of a social revolution. (I was being very much sarcastic about that comment and it was more of a funny joke. But, punk rock has never had a social revolution before and pro=
bably never will be one.
Thomas had this to say about my comment, “I am not remotely the voice of social revolution. I couldn’t win a political argument with one of my dogs and they’re all Libertarians or any other educated active person. Two qualities that which I don’t often posses. I have had the good fortune to meet many amazing and intelligent folks who’ve introduced me to great ideas hidden under the stale flesh of our mainstream culture. I’ve listened as intently as I could to dear friends and comrades who’ve created wonderful music and writings over the years, and lived through brutal, senseless events only to come out with more energy and positively than I could ever predict. I try not to forget these kindness, although I feel like I do constantly and maybe by being involved in this musical group with these talented individuals. I could if I was very lucky reflect out some of the energy and passion I was given throughout the course of my life and pay back the inspiration of others far more worthy of your complimentsâ€.
Robb Roemershauser: How did Strike Anywhere get there start, and you’ll only been around for around a year an haft now? Some of the members were in other bands at the time when the band came together.
Thomas Barnett: Strike Anywhere started when the five of us agree on the name and played our played our first show, two years ago this month. Previous to that and Matt Smith started writing 6 songs with words I’d written in the interim period between Inquisition and Strike Anywhere. Matt Smith then helped us find
Garth, our bass player and Eric – our drummer who was in the Exploder not at the same time as Matt Smith, but a year before. Garth is still in CountXMeXOut (has one full-length record on Indecision records) and Matt Smith is now in a new band called the Liar’s Academy (they will have a full-length record coming out on Equal Vision in November) which includes members of Cross My Heart. We played out ‘Change Is A Sound’ record release shows of the past two weekends with both bands – it was a family thing for all the bands.
Robb: Did it have something to do with that Thomas wanted to sing again, and want to go back to what his old band sound like? Strike Anywhere does resemble Inquisition a little bit, but not that much. Because those other members went, form Anna Beretta, Sixer, to Clash for a run and another band River City High.
Thomas: I don’t think that I consciously ever thought I’d be in another band. Matt Sherwood and I were hanging around each other. Writing songs and then other haft-interested souls started to gather – Matt Smith, Garth & Eric helped inspire and put together the sound and idea’s equally with us. I think that Strike Anywhere’s influences and roots may be similar to my old bands. Oddly enough, the Inquisition song ‘Strike Anywhere’, maybe the closest sonic cousin to our music – structurally and lyrically. But we are doing our best to push the sound forward. I’ve heard a theory recently that was amusing – if you mix Sixer, Ann Beretta, and River City High with Strike Anywhere you get Inquisition! (?).
Robb: You do use the circle three arrows as Inquisition did previous that means liberty, equality and solidarity. Which means fighting against fascism of course.
Thomas: The anti-fascist circle has been around for a long time. We broke it out to emphasize the need for imagery in the underground, which would resonate with the resurgence of anti-corporate globalization activism present in the world. Fascism takes on many faces and we feel that keeping up the culture of resistance ideas and adding our small voice to it is a part of this hardcore punk rock than fuck the IMF, and the G-8.
Robb: I understand. Your first record if I am not mistaking was it the demo or the comp. with a few songs of other Virginia area bands that also had a few Anna Beretta songs on it?
Thomas: Our first release was the demo recorded at the BWE house in Charlottesville, VA and the two songs on the Richmond Roulette’ comp. were taken from the same session. For a full, detailed catalog of our releases, please check out our website: www.strikeanywhere.org
Robb: “Chorus of One†the EP have taking great leaps for Strike Anywhere. Of, course the live aspect has something to do with it. I remember I was helping someone out a few years ago not sure why with a record he put out by Dillinger Escape Plan. It took me a few years to see them live after hearing about them way too much and then understand why people like them a lot. Anyway, is that somewhat the same reaction you have gotten from the record, be overwhelmed from the reaction from people?
Thomas: We have been delighted and honored by people’s attention and exuberance at our shows. We get excited when people sing along, and it fuels our energy. I’m not sure how that relates to the sales of our record. I know we’ve toured a whole bunch and that a lot of the times when folks have bought the ‘Chorus of One’ ep it was at one of our shows. We totally believe in the punk rock tradition of everybody band and audience – blurring. Then smashing the .lines of separation and just having a big sing-a-long party.
Robb: “Chorus of One†not to sound like a kiss up or something. I was total broke for a four years paying a bank a loan from being sued from this fanzine and only 6 months with a job in that time. I thought last year it wasn’t worth it anymore punk rock for me after fourteen years being a supporter of it that left me with nothing. Going to shows was out of the question from the result of it. The only two things I look forward in life were taking from me. I thought the state of punk/ hardcore was being taking over by corporations (okay, I was being asked many times by corporations to do stuff in the name of the fanzine, that I wasn’t interested in doing.) and not too many sincerity, passion bands where playing these days. I thought lots bands were being feeblest and stuff. I thought in the city I lived metal was taking over punk rock and it was about dead. The only record I bought in a span of two and haft years was “Chorus of One†because it was cheap and I like Inquisition. Every time I heard the EP, it inspired me to get off my feet not on a musical level more on a lyrical standpoint. To overcome being sued and being taken advanced. It uplifted and inspired deeply and I thank you. If it weren’t for music, I probably would have gone insane. Have people told stories of being effect so deeply within Strike Anywhere, that you came close to crying from hearing a compelling story, not the one from me?
Thomas: Thank you for listening to us and for being a part of this movement for the 14 years you have. Sometimes it gets hard justifying the time spent on punk .and the selling of its spirit to the commodified world. We have met some fantastic, inspiring people in our short band life span. You are certainly one of them, Robb for, overcoming the senseless aggression of greedy people and keepin’ on with your ways and your vision. We’ve shared stores with many people, and once had the privilege to invite a young man in Pensacola, FL to sing with us as a tribute and memorial to a deceased friend. He sang our song, “Antidote†with is, and the world room got to help him grieve.
Robb: Has Richmond, VA been an influence in your music? I know its your environment you live in, and take in and breath, because Richmond, VA seems to have a deep rooted history all the way to the Civil War and the Confederated Flag. Your band seems to be proud of where you live and don’t seem to be embarrassed of where you come from. Because RVA, does have a long deep history of great bands that came from that town.
Thomas: Richmond is a city filled with contradictions of culture and purpose. Poverty has a grid on many and apathy over almost all. Its got unique qualities to it, but like many southern cities are torn apart by the magnetism of civil war history and the controversy of its upkeep. We have been very sporadically involved with the Coalition for the Living Wage. An organization devoted to agitating legislation to establish policy for all state and city workers to receive a living wage of $8.50/ hour on all contracted and subcontracted jobs. The intensity of out tour schedule over the past two years has lifted us away from the day to day sub-politics of the radical activist cleaves, but we try to use our influences as an entertainment commodity to expose the ideas and purpose behind our songs. Many animal rights groups, anarchy isis of many flavors and general Richmond radical culture architects use our shows to table, speak and teach. We have spent great times with our fellow Richmond punks – great, inspiring bands and colorful, uncompromising people. For example, in October of this year, we hope to play and acoustic show with Adam Against’s Folk band ‘Tear Gas Rock’ to benefit a women’s shelter in RVA. Oh yeah…There will not be an acoustic Strike Anywhere presence at the Tear Gas Rock plus Denali, and eight other groups. Hanover Women’s Shelter Benefit on Oct. 20th. Perhaps maybe in early December it might happen. If everything goes well in Europe we may play an All Ages show at Alley Katz and invite Tear Gas Rock to play with us. Described to me by Marty Violence as ‘sorta like the Young Pioneers but with more Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions to it ‘.
Robb: Your first tour you went around the United States with As Friends Rust. Then Hot Water Music, Alkaline Trio for awhile. Hot Water Music, Avail tour must have given you a lot of exposure to a lot of people that never heard the band before. You just tour the south a bit with Avail, Anna Beretta, not to long ago. Was it something when Strike Anywhere got together and you decided to tour, you want to be a support group with other well-know, more albums release bands. To have a bigger crowd or something, instead of working from the bottom up with you only touring. Is that something you wanted to do with the band at first was to tour with well-know bands to get more exposure than Strike Anywhere, touring by themselves with not to many people at the shows, or something?
Thomas: Hmmm…I would have to say that our decisions about touring were not crafted by any short of ambitions band strategy. We toured first down south with our Friends Violence takes Refuge in Virtue (now R.I.P), and later spent June/ July of 2000 with As Friends Rust, by their gracious invention, for first U.S. tour. We’ve played many, many basements and house shows since and have no plans to stop. We have friendships with Hot Water Music and Avail, and through our connections with them, we came, to play ten days each of their ‘Never Ender and ‘One Wrench’ tours. These were fun, friendly times, but since them we’ve toured by ourselves or with similar sized bands of friends and enjoyed it all very much. We don’t have any intention of abandoning the independent ethic, and our travels will continue with all kinds of other bands, both established and newborn.
Robb: I know your playing some weekend shows on the upper part of the east coast now with Count me Out with a member that’s in Strike Anywhere. I guess it feels good to get out on the weekend, from working or going to school all week and look forward to doing something, you enjoy a lot more. When I saw you in Richmond, you pretty much blew the other bands after words out the building.
Thomas: We traveled up to Eastern Canada with CountxMexOut; it was an awesome time – our bassist did double-duty as CountxMexOut’s guitar player. It’s always interesting and a little scary going to Canada – the borders its unpredictable, but once you get in – we were also grateful and stoked that CountxMexOut came! (Laughing) Also got to see the lovely, progressive cities of London, Ottawa, and Montreal. Yes, its certainly more meaningful to each of us to play our songs and travel than to work back in Richmond, but we also miss our loved ones a great deal while on tour.
Robb: I want to ask if you a question if don’t mind answer it. I guess a lot of labels saw dollar signs in their pockets before the band priorities were. It must of gotten bad at some point and I can just imaging how many labels wanted to release your first full length album. Was it getting somewhat bad at a point, record labels wanted to release your first record and who else were interested in releasing your first full-length record? If you don’t mind saying?
Thomas: We spoke with several friends in other labels, and in other bands before deciding to work with Jade Tree. The particular climate at the time in the independent music scene seemed frantic and although we hadn’t toured in anyway. The attention of fat wreck chords was captured from having our songs up on our friend Pablos Pheer.com website. They asked us to participate in the singles of the month club. We are content with the relationship we have, and especially grateful to No Idea records for distributing our LP so thoroughly. Essentially our decision to work with Jade Tree stemmed from their friendships, no pressure independence and their relationship as individuals to each of us.
Robb: Yeah, Jade Tree records where you went, I was talking to the singer of Zero Zero and ex- singer of Lifetime a few weeks ago on a train. He was sitting next to me on my right side and he can’t wait for his band full length to come out on Jade Tree records. (Funny thing is, I saw that record for sale in his store and posters on the wall after it came out, a few months ago.) Did Jade Tree foresee the mission of Strike Anywhere with good vision?
Thomas: Yes, we are very excited to soon be playing Plea for Peace shows with Zero Zero. I think that Jade Tree’s proximity to our home and the goals they have are far as diversity and autonomy for their bands resonate strongly with us. We are pleased with how through they are and that their vision of what is passionate, underground, radical music isn’t limited to one sound that sells well. People should look back to the earliest sonic and lyrical periods of punk to reconnect with the depth, diversity, and potential of music – at once pinpricks of intensity in the face of status quo’s staleness, and also vulnerable and soul filled poems of the ‘common people’ reflected in uncommon lights. I personally feel that only a handful of labels or artists in punk culture today understand this, and we have been privileged to work with some of them. Now our up coming tour with the Asian Man/ Sub City/ Plea for Peace/ Take Action collective of bands, labels, and mental health activists will further our goals to add our voice to the inspiring, positive evolving underground which has saved each of our lives at different times. More than music!
Robb: Are you sure when you might be recording your first full length and when it might be out? I know people are looking forward to hearing the record a lot and are your going the same direction as “Chorus the One “ EP musically and are your pretty much finish with nailing down all the songs are done yet?
Thomas: ‘Change is a Sound’ has been out for a month now, and I hope that folks enjoy it. It is the product of a lot of hard work and fun and it’s the best we can give y’all. I think it’s a bit more diverse in sound than the ep, we got a chance to pull together a few more challenging songs and also ones which further our ideas relating personal struggles to social imbalances and cultural contradictions.
Robb: Would you mind saying what are a few of the titles of the new record going to be?
Thomas: You’re Fired, Refusal, Sunset on 32ND, Chalkline, Laughter in a Police State, S.S.T., (For the motto of the Common Earth of Virginia ‘sic semper tyrannis’ = ‘thus always to tyrants’ the irony is rich!), and other titles as well!
Robb: I don’t know if this came out yet, I don’t belong to the Fat records single club. But, anyway, what are the names of the songs that appear on the 7†and which month do you know of it will come out? Are those two songs (?) going to be use on the full length or is it just exclusive to the Fat club singles?
Thomas: The two songs we put on the Fat single of the month (July.2001) Were newly recorded versions of ‘Asleep’ and ‘Antidote’ which were on our demo, and many, many compilations. We don’t know if we will re-recorded them for a future release. Although the demo version of ‘Antidote’ will appear on an upcoming European seven-inch on Scene Police records, out of Germany. The demo’s of ‘Chorus of One’, ‘Sunspotting’, and ‘Antidote’ will be pressed on a record, proceeds of which will go in part to the relief for imprisoned activists and victims of the G-8 World Bank police riots.
Robb: If you never find out about punk rock music, what would you see yourself doing with your life if punk rock never leak in your body?
Thomas: Its hard to theorize about this, ‘cause punk’s initial influence in each of our lives was probably multifaceted and intensely individual. The self-esteem battery of punk and its inspiration are threads in our current lives of music-making and travelling, no doubt, but good friendships, honest communication, and courage in thought and speech can give anybody’s life the shot in the arm of hope and energy that punk provides us with. The struggle for meaning in one’s life & the fight for faith and uplifting without repressing the voices of others are each not the exclusive property of our subculture. As you know, I’d probably be into more art, history, hip-hop, and going camping or something. More often- I think punk and hardcore can give us the tools to sort out our place in the urban or city-dependent commodified world- the natural world has its own circuitry – infinitely more inspiring and varied than the confines of our western society and culture. It not that each of us would pursue the arts a little harder in punk rock’s absence, searching for a language of love & liberation.
Robb: Is Strike Anywhere planning on sticking around for awhile is you in it for the long run? Of course you never know what can be in stored the following week?
Thomas: I hope we can still enjoy writing and playing our songs for many years. But, I know that we will strive to end it with grace and on time if the bands natural lifespan comes to an end. We hope to keep it rollin’ for a bit longer, certainly.
Robb: Is there anything else you would like to mention that’s going on with Strike Anywhere that I don’t know of at this point of time? Thank you so much for taking so much time answering these questions. Take care and I hope you have a good week or did.
Thomas: Ladies and gentlemen, punks, mods and skins, Robb Roemershauser. an amazing man of intense commitment from New Orleans, who did in fact stand out in , not just the rain, but a tropical storm, and try to interview us as we watched the streets flood quickly and without remorse. I’m shocked and amazed that we made it out of the Big Easy without gills that night. On the news the next day, they said that the rain brought missing dead bodies out of their hiding places. Hallowe’en style. Thank you for your time Robb! Good luck with everything in New Orleans and the uncertain future ahead. We hope to still go to Europe in October. We will be there until December 6th and we will be playing songs all over the old-world and we won’t be taking it to Spain, Baltics, Hungary, France, Romania, Ireland, Greece, and Russia. So it’s gonna be Scandinavia, The UK, some Low Countries, Switzerland, Italy, and a whole lot of Germany. Get motherfuckin’ ready. Get As Friends Rust’s new LP ‘WON’ on Doghouse Records, it will blow your mind and change the way you see your own face/life. Oh yes! After that, who knows? You may see us in January w/ Anna Beretta. , But we will be playing everything by ear. Take Care, and be safe!

Strike Anywhere [I]Change is a Sound[/I] Review

After building up expectations with their excellent debut EP, A Chorus Of One, Strike Anywhere return with Change is a Sound and pick up right where they left off. It has taken the vegan punk five-piece from Richmond, Va. less than two years to establish themselves as one of the top-notch acts of their genre.

The band blends the forceful beats and rhythms of hardcore with the choruses and guitar work of classic punk. There is a little more melody now than on Chorus Of One, most evident on tracks like "Sunset On 32nd," which may just be one of the best punk songs I have heard in quite some time. They may know how to make the most of melody, but you won’t hear them singing about any of the subjects that are popular among lesser pop-punk acts these days, opting instead for the heavier subject matter of police brutality, job cuts, lack of activism, social and political inequality, hypocrisy, greed, and so on.

The rhythm section is unrelenting, and the guitar work is tight, while the vocals vary nicely between clear and melodic to scratchy and growling. One of the band’s greatest talents as a group is their ability to play around with timing changes and pull off some interesting start and stop maneuvers. The guys obviously aren’t too punk to take the time to learn how to play their instruments well. It always seems like the more socially conscious and politically oriented punk acts are the most musically talented. And Strike Anywhere do have an agenda. They are quite serious for such a young group of guys, and the lyrics show it. It is not a terribly complex sound they are producing, but they do the little things well, and it pays off. The album is so raw, it sounds like it could have been done years ago. In the end, this is the perfect soundtrack to driving down the road, pounding on the steering wheel, pumping your fists in the air, and shouting along.

Right from the beginning, you get barreled over, with the guitar feedback and start-and-stop, off-kilter rhythm that flows through "You’re Fired," making you pause for a second, realizing that this isn’t just another "thump-whack-thud" hardcore record. Things explode into a furious, breakneck pace from there and don’t stop for one minute until it is all over. "Timebomb Generation" and "Laughter in a Police State" begin the non-stop potential for sing-alongs, with "Oi, oi, oi" chants and heavy "Whoooaaaa" choruses, while "Refusal" separates the two and is one of the standout numbers. "Sunset On 32nd" follows as more melodic number, but it still refuses to let you catch your breath. The urgency of songs like "Detonation" makes you wonder if the music can keep up with what is being said. Then "Riot Of Words," "S.S.T," "Chalkline," and "Three on a Match" are by no means slow, but are a little less breakneck than previous tracks. Things close with "My Design," a furious rampage that could create a mosh pit in virtually any social situation.

There are slight touches of repetitiveness and cliché here, with a plethora of sing-along choruses, and music that could be misconstrued as repetitive and unremarkable. The lyrics, though thoughtful and provocative, could be misinterpreted as predictable. However, it is the group’s unrelenting determination that makes all of these things fade into the background. Political hardcore may not be anything new, but these guys sure as hell make it interesting.