It’s hard to say what a band has in mind for itself as it’s just beginning. What do we hope to come of those basement practices? Where do we want the road to lead, and to end, as a band makes it through conception and into reality? What does each member hope to accomplish as a cog in the larger collective machine of a band? Let’s be honest here, not many of us who’ve been in bands could be so astute or perceptive as to know the answers to those questions when bands first form. Sometimes we don’t know the answers even after the band has broken up, or left us behind. For Incendiary, one of hardcore’s strongest and most celebrated acts, those questions still loom. They’ve certainly written out an unusual history for themselves, even in the typically unusual hardcore underground. And as they continue to burn brighter, Incendiary refuse to let anyone cut into the path they’ve worked so hard to create.
The band released Thousand Mile Stare earlier this year on Closed Casket Activities, and the record was met with immediate popularity. The LP debuted at #163 on the Billboard Top 200. It debuted at #14 on Billboard’s Heatseekers, and made it to #8 on the ranking’s Hard Music albums. That’s an achievement for any band. But it’s a bit closer to surreal for a hardcore band on an independent label. Frontman Brendan Garrone reflects, “It’s been pretty unbelievable to say the least. Cost of Living really seems like it went over well so I think we all felt some pressure in trying to not only meet but exceed that record on Thousand Mile Stare. I think those numbers for us were more just a confirmation that it was resonating with some people.” Even in the face of major accomplishment, Garrone see the album’s success in terms of connection. Forget a top-200 debut on Billboard. He sees the success in the context of people and relationships. And that’s Incendiary. They seek discourse. They want to interact with those around them. They support their communities. They don’t hide away at their shows. They are forever present. And that isn’t some empty ego-stroking rhetoric. It’s simply true.
That desire for interaction is felt in the band’s lyrical content too. For Brendan, the personal is the political. “I straight up don’t know what it would be like to be in a hardcore band and not draw lyrical content from socio-political topics. To me, that is the very essence of punk and hardcore and the anger inherent in hardcore music should be felt by virtually everyone with what is going on nowadays,” says Garrone. So Incendiary is driven to confront their fans. This isn’t Brendan alone either. For the band as a unit, that’s just how it is. Guitarist Brian Audley offers, “As you get older, the people you choose to keep in your life are those who see the world through a similar, if not the same, lens you do. Brendan articulates values we all share. I’m proud to stand behind them and support their delivery.” It’s not about one member having a soapbox. It’s really not about a soapbox at all. As Brendan says, and what many of us already believe, hardcore and punk is about socio-political commentary. In fact, it’s one of the most distinguishable and admirable trademarks of the genre.
Like it or not, Incendiary confront many of the issues that inundate our news feeds these days. “No Purity,” the sixth track on Thousand Mile Stare, punches through the veneer of equality and opportunity that many of us hide behind. The song engages the listener to evaluate and maybe even reconsider perspective. There’s the new LP’s third song, “Front Toward Enemy,” too. The title as reference to explosives aside, the lyrical content takes on oppression, displacement, and engagement. It even offers a bit of history in alluding to Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rebellion. What we have on Thousand Mile Stare, and their previous releases, is music that is meant for more than mosh-happy adrenal hardcore kids. This is thoughtful music, written by people who are connected with the world around them.
Interestingly, the recording of Thousand Mile Stare found Incendiary feeling less tense than with 2013’s Cost of Living or 2009’s Crusade. “I think overall it was less stressful. Recording time is always going to be tight for us but I think we were really prepared this time around,” recalls Garrone. Having learned what works for them writing-wise and finding a very comfortable recording environment with Will Putney at Graphic Nature Audio, the band was able to take their music to a new level. Audley echoes the idea of preparedness as well. For him the writing process requires at least some structure. “Typically I’ll come in with a skeleton of a song or at least a few riffs and ideas that all work together to start the process. From there we build off of it and connect the parts together until we’ve gotten to a place we’re all happy with…We’ve found coming prepared with formal ideas and a vision has always produced the best results,” says Audley. This isn’t a surprise for a band whose blistering live show is consistently tight and precise. Preparation works for them. And it’s in that preparation that a record like Thousand Mile Stare can be born.
And yet, for all their acclaim and popularity, Incendiary has never been a full-time band. They’ve never hopped in the van and done a four-week U.S. tour. Their paradigm for playing out is pretty ingenuitive in a genre whose bands are often compelled to tour as often as possible. And this ingenuity is empowering for the band. Brendan considers, “Because we don’t do this band for a career, it allows us to do only what we want to do 100% of the time. We don’t have to worry about taking some lame tour because it may lead to a spot on Warped or something. We don’t have a horse in that race and it’s kind of a liberating feeling to be honest.” The pressure simply isn’t there for them. They do as they see fit. The five members of Incendiary understand that staying the course they’ve laid out is what’s best for them. And they stay that course together.
For Audley and Brendan, it’s about a collective. Both are quick to echo the balance within the band. Audley emphasizes, “Major decisions are, without exception, voted on by the five of us. Everyone has a clear voice on what they do and don’t want to do and it’s pretty collaborative between us overall.” So while Brendan might take the lead on booking and Audley might handle communication with their label and other media, nothing happens without the voices of Incendiary’s other members: Dan Lomeli, Matt McNally, and Rob Nobile. The band members, all Long Islanders, are very loyal to each other.
Growing up on Long Island, some forty miles east of New York City, certainly bears its influence on Incendiary as well. Like many suburban kids who found hardcore, Audley felt the disconnect between his experiences and those of the more celebrated streetwise NYC bands. He remembers, “Being from Long Island made it difficult for me to relate lyrically to a lot of the classic NYHC I was given access to. Sonically I loved what I heard, but it wasn’t until I found LI bands like Silent Majority and Vision of Disorder that I really connected with hardcore in the way that made the lasting impression I still have.” For Audley and the rest of Incendiary, growing up on Long Island laid the groundwork for a life in the underground. “I wouldn't point to specific experience so much as the general boredom and aggressive energy that builds up as an adolescent on Long Island. I was always attracted to heavy music, and was fortunate to live walking distance from a record store – None of the Above Records – that exposed me to all of the underground music happening around me,” recalls Brian. For anyone who’s grown up in similarly dull suburban circumstances, Audley’s recollection of boredom, pent up energy, and even the local record store probably rings very true.
As adults, Incendiary have found themselves mostly living in different areas of Brooklyn. But that doesn’t diminish their love for the island that so embraces them. Thinking back on their favorite venues, Audley remembers, “The Hungarian Hall in Ronkonkoma. It was a venue we all saw some of our first shows at, so there was always an added sense of pride in the shows we got to play there.” Incendiary has moved onto much bigger capacity venues these days, having just played sold-out shows for their record release at Brooklyn Bazaar and their ten-year anniversary at Revolution in Amityville, NY. That’s a testament to Incendiary’s steady and hard-earned growth as a band.
The future certainly burns bright for the Incendiary gents too. Brendan recently appeared alongside Code Orange at Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center to play a live version of their intro song for pro wrestler Aleister Black at this year’s WWE Summerslam. After headlining Back to School Jam in New Jersey, a fest they’ve play every year since its inception, Incendiary will head to Japan for a week of shows at the end of September. They’ll close out the year as they always do, by headlining a holiday show to benefit those in need. With all of this positive growth smoldering up for Incendiary, bassist Matt McNally recently asked me, “Is this real life?” I’m not sure. But it’s all certainly grown from the diligence and hard work of a band who persists and creates, no matter the circumstance.
Thousand Mile Stare is out now on Closed Casket Activities.