Every so often a band comes along that reminds me why I cherish punk and hardcore music and makes me appreciate all that I’ve taken from the genres. Many people often reach back into time to grab their inspiration, whether it’s MINOR THREAT, BAD RELIGION, or GORILLA BISCUITS, and discredit the current face of music. TRIAL BY FIRE is here and ready to correct those visions of a “greater past.” Brandishing a sound that couldn’t be any more soulful as ferocious, TRIAL BY FIRE pack the requisite “bite” that elevates them into an elite level of musical entities. Simply put, these guys shred and they carry enough lyrical integrity to feed a social conscious for a lifetime. In all honestly, you’d be a fool to not check this band out. Interview conducted by email with vocalist, Jason Yawn in late April 2002.
pastepunk: Congrats on the release of your debut full-length, “Ringing In the Dawn.” How long did it take to put the album together and was there a certain atmosphere that you wanted to create before going into the recording stage?
Jason: We wrote the songs over a nine month period while playing as many shows as we could…we didn’t take a long period of time to “write” except for about a month or a month and a half before recording. We then went in to Salad Days and banged out the record, mixing and all in ten days. It was hard to get it done in that amount of time, but we are very proud of the results.
pastepunk: Having the fortunate opportunities to see you guys play locally in the DC/MD area in the past year or so, I feel like i’m ahead of the learning curve about TRIAL BY FIRE. For those who are unfamiliar with the band, how would you describe the goals of the band and its approach to music.
Jason: We’re a punk band. The goal is to be a part of the resurgence of Washington DC’s punk scene, and for the DC area to be known for what’s happening here now as opposed to what happened twenty years ago. Those bands back then inspired us to do what we do, but we want the current scene to be what people talk about. Lyrically, I write about social issues that I feel affect us all, meaning people everywhere. The ills that plague each community are interconnected and realizing that common problems are everywhere is the first step in fighting them. We want people to know us just as much for what we talk about as they know us for our sound.
pastepunk: Much of the lyrics on “Ringing In The Dawn” are critical (in a positive way) of the maladies that plague the weaknesses of our hardcore scenes – what are some ways that you think any change can happen? Can change happen?
Jason: Change is completely possible. The idea is just to put a mirror in front of people to show that a lot of the bullshit that divides the punk and hardcore community is exactly what divides mainstream society. The conclusion that is apparent in that truth is that punk has, in many ways, become a microcosm of mainstream society and not a vital alternative. The idea is to open our minds enough to reevaluate what punk means and how we can revive the “rebellious spirit” that many jaded people in the scene call cliche. I think what they call cliche is badly needed in the punk community.
pastepunk: Although this is old news, it still bothers me every day. Losing the St. Andrew’s Church in College Park for shows I think has been brutal to bands touring through the area – as you had played there and attended shows there, do you have thoughts on the matter?
Jason: I think that situation was awful for the scene. I know some of the people involved in that fiasco, and the only thing I can say is that was the worst way anyone could have dealt with the problems they had with the promoter. I think the people responsible for it realize that as well. It was a great venue and great venues are non existent here right now.
pastepunk: It seemed only natural that you guys recorded the new album with Brian McTernan, can you please go over how recording went – did Brian make you guys cry?
Jason: Brian did not make anyone cry. he did however put a gag order on Mike, our drummer. Mike has a knack for vocalizing with no filter from brain to mouth. The result is bad jokes. Brian had enough of this after a while and repeatedly instructed me to shut him up, but to no avail. On a serious note, it was a relatively painless process. All of us including Brain were on the same wavelength from the beginning as far as how we wanted the record to sound – we wanted it to be a punk record that sounded like it was recorded with good equipment. We didn’t want it to sound slick, we left in some mistakes and some cracking vocals because we felt it added character to it – we let the edges show.
pastepunk: As a still a relatively young band, what are your upcoming touring plans? I’ve noticed some dates with STRIKE ANYWHERE – those shows should be amazing.
Jason: We just got off tour with STRIKE ANYWHERE. it was awesome. They’ve been good friends, and we finally got to do some shows with them. We plan on doing a lot of touring this summer. Most of it is still pending as far as who we will be going with. We can say for sure that we are heading to Europe in August. We’re all very excited about that.
pastepunk: How did the band get hooked up with Jade Tree? What are some of the benefits of being on a label with such a generous hardcore history?
Jason: We got hooked up with Tim and Darren (owners of Jade Tree) after we recorded our demo with Brian in December of 2000. We went in on Brian’s day off, and did these four songs. He said it was strong and wanted to send it to labels. When he asked who we wanted to send it to, we all almost in unison said “Jade Tree.” Brian is old friends with Tim and so it immediately made it to his stereo. They loved it and came to five out of our first ten shows. We played about 6 months worth of shows and then signed in september of 2001. As far as benefits go, the main benefit is working in an environment that is like a family. They are our friends, that’s how it works. There is a great deal of trust because they view punk music in very much the same way we do. They don’t like all of the business bullshit that goes along with it, so they strip everything down. It’s very minimalist.
pastepunk: From what I can translate, “Steps of St. Johns” talks about the growing homeless problem in many urban centers (I imagine that would include DC) – is there anything that you expect from your audiences in response to this song? Do you feel there is still an activist culture in punk and hardcore?
Jason: The song is about a church that is across the street from the White House where a good amount of homeless sleep everynight. It’s literally a hundred yards away, maybe 20 yards from the grounds. That image just shows the gap of power between the two situations. I hope there is an activist spirit ready to be tapped in the punk community – i think the fact that there is even a question of that spirit shows exactly the direction punk has taken, for the worse in my opinion. I think punk can be more of a threat, in a social context, now more than it ever has been, just because the problems humanity faces are evident in every town in the country. Whether it be gentrification in urban areas, to family farmers being forced out of
business in rural areas, or factories closing and moving south in industrial towns, it’s all connected. They affect everyone. They all have to do with very wealthy and very powerful people using people as pawns for their ends. I think an acitivist spirit returning to punk seems like it would be a natural occurence in the face of these truths, but then again there are a lot of jaded people out there that will still call it cliche.
pastepunk: What are a few bands that you feel are underrated – either new or long-time veterans? What was the last band you saw that made you go, “damn, I wish there was more people here to check this group out?”
Jason: KILL YOUR IDOLS is a band that I think has worked harder than any band I’ve ever seen, and in my opinion they haven’t gotten their just recognition. They fucking tear it up everytime I see them. There are newer bands like THE CURSE, and a band from the West Coast that we got to play some shows with this past december is F-MINUS – they blew me away.
pastepunk: Are there any issues that might keep the band back from touring full-time? Anyone currently involved with education? Other bands? Careers?
Jason: Kevin, our bassist is also in MAJORITY RULE, but that won’t present much of a problem because we are all friends and can book around each other pretty easily. Everybody in the band is ready to go.
pastepunk: Any final comments?
Jason: Thanks so much for the interest in our band, and the opportunity to speak with you.