Invocation: New California Band Brings '90s-Styled Krishnacore on Clarion Call EP

Photo: Natasha de Valois

Crucial Measures was a collaboration of students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, formed in 2017. In their two years together, they travelled up and down the West Coast forming friendships and spreading a message that was focused on self-discovery and a compassionate lifestyle.

In the summer of 2019, they decided to hang it up once all of their college careers wrapped and their members set out on their next steps in life. Their frontman and songwriter, Krishna das, returned to his hometown, Fairfield, California after graduation and was filled with a burning desire to channel his devotion to Vaishnavism and straight edge into a tangible outlet and continue the work he started in Crucial Measures in a new endeavor he now calls Invocation.

Check out my chat with Krishna about Invocation and their debut EP, Clarion Call.

Please introduce the members of Invocation.

Invocation is a Krishna Conscious Hardcore band comprised of myself (Krishna das) on vocals, Aria on bass, Alessandro on guitar, and Bhakta Sean on drums. We’re based in Northern California and the Central Valley.

You and I met in 2017 when Dying For It and Crucial Measures played together in Sacramento. Our paths crossed several times after that and it was great to see the progression that you all made as musicians and people.

I felt that Crucial Measures were sincerely underrated and really captured the spirit of youth/young adulthood in hardcore. Why did Crucial Measures end?

Thank you. That really means a lot coming from you. Crucial Measures mainly ended because three of the four of us were about to graduate from college and were planning on moving further away from San Luis Obispo. Our drummer relocated to Los Angeles, I moved back to the Bay Area, and our guitarist had moved even further north a few months before the rest of us.

It just felt like that era of our lives was coming to an end with everyone moving so far away from each other and whatnot. After graduation that June, we embarked on a two-week West Coast tour with Reclaim, and played our final show at our old house/venue, the Chlorophyll Cave, and I can still say that was one of the most cathartic experiences of my entire life.

What are the main differences between Invocation and Crucial Measures (musically, lyrically, songwriting process)?

Musically, I’d say the biggest differences would be the influences of the two bands. Crucial Measures was more influenced by Inside Out, The Age of Quarrel-era Cro-Mags, and Youth Crew stuff, whereas Invocation is a bit heavier, taking more influence from 108 and '90s-style metallic hardcore bands. 

Lyrically, Crucial Measures was a bit more “posi” and akin to Youth Crew, while Invocation is a lot more overtly spiritual, serious, and thematically heavier. There was a bit of stylistic crossover between the two towards the end of Crucial Measures as I was getting more into Krishna Bhakti, which led to the later Crucial Measures lyrics being more spiritually-inspired. I’d probably summarize the differences as being analogous to the differences between Inside Out and 108. 

The songwriting process between the two bands was entirely different. With Crucial Measures, I was living with most of the band at the time so writing was a lot more collaborative and that was reflected in the songs having much more of an even balance of influences from all of us. With Invocation, I pretty much wrote all of the music and lyrics by myself throughout 2020 and 2021.

Being isolated, the writing process was a lot slower since it wasn’t as easy to bounce ideas off of others in the band. Actually, for most of that time, we didn’t even have a solid lineup, but with my friends Aria and Bhakta Sean joining on bass and drums, respectively, we were able to slowly get some practices going and they gave the necessary input to put the finishing touches on the songs. 

From what I understand, it seems like it took some time for you to put Invocation together. Sometimes it can be a challenge to get enough people who are interested in hardcore to get together in the first place, especially in an isolated place like Northern California. You live in Fairfield, California (which is somewhere in between Sacramento and San Francisco, for those who are unfamiliar).

A lot of people don’t realize that not everywhere in Northern California is like the Bay Area or Santa Cruz, which have traditionally had sprawling hardcore scenes. How did this band come together?

Yeah, getting this band together was definitely a challenge. It’s hard enough finding people to do specific kinds of hardcore bands sometimes, what to speak of doing a hardcore band predicated on Krishna Bhakti. I remember growing up in Fairfield, I could barely find anyone else who was also into Hardcore, but then it became apparent that most folks were gravitating towards the scenes in more populated areas like the Bay Area and Sacramento.

The idea for Invocation originally started with one friend I knew from going to shows back in 2019 who was also into Krishna Bhakti at the time. I knew from the very beginning that finding people for this band would be difficult and that I’d probably need to look beyond Northern California and the Bay Area for people interested in joining.

By the spring of 2020, a few others from various parts of California got involved, including Aria, who I had known from going to shows in Fresno / the Central Valley for a few years. However, for various reasons, pretty much everyone except Aria wasn’t able to do the band anymore. 

For quite a few months, it almost seemed like the idea of the band wasn’t viable, but I just kept writing songs because it was such an important outlet for me both emotionally and spiritually, especially given the various personal difficulties that I had to deal with throughout 2020.

Thankfully, Bhakta Sean, who I had first met while I was distributing Krishna books at an Earth Crisis show in February 2020, was willing to join on drums and this revitalized the band and enabled us to start having in-person practices at the beginning of 2021. This sped up the writing process a lot and allowed the songs to slowly but surely get finished by the middle of this year.

We were without a guitarist for a long time until recently when my friend Alessandro, who I’ve played in several bands with over the years and known for the majority of my life, joined and completed the lineup. 

Photo: Natasha de Valois

What are your main influences for this band?

The main influences for this band musically are 108, Strain, Magnitude, Prema, Bad Seed, and Cro-Mags. Vocally, I took a lot of inspiration from Rasaraja from 108, Kassandra from xElegyx, Zack from Inside Out, and Charlie from Guidance.

Lyrically, our songs are pretty thoroughly influenced by 108, Prema, and the other Krishnacore bands of the '90s, which are ultimately inspired by Gaudiya Vaishnava (Krishna Bhakti) philosophy as well as the writings and bhajans (devotional hymns) of our disciplic succession of gurus and other devotees. 

Photo: Natasha de Valois

Where did you get the name Invocation?

The name “Invocation” is actually inspired by a 108 song of the same name. The lyrics of that song always felt really inspiring and powerful to me and I think that name really summarizes what this band is about: an attempt to call upon the mercy and strength of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu (the most recent avatar of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna) to rise above the trap of material life and attain Krishna Prema (Divine Love) as well as inspire others to do the same. 

What does the EP’s title, Clarion Call, mean to you?

The EP title is actually a reference to the title of a magazine that my guru, Srila Bhaktivedanta Tripurari Swami, used to publish titled Clarion Call. My great-great-great-grandfather guru, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, also wrote a bhajan titled “Jiv Jago,” which means “wake up, sleeping soul,” and I felt that had a similar vibe to the phrase “Clarion Call” and gave me more inspiration to use that phrase and include a bit of that bhajan on the last song of the EP.

Tell me about the cover art for Clarion Call.

The artwork shows an early-modern depiction of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu dancing in kirtan (congregational devotional chanting) of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra contrasted with a flame-like void background. There’s another bhajan from several centuries ago (you might have heard it in the beginning of Shelter’s song “Shelter”) that describes the material world as a forest fire, so I felt that was a good choice for a background.

The image of the kirtan in the center is meant to appear as a window of hope and mercy to see beyond the material world, as one of my grandfather-gurus was known to describe depictions of Sri Krishna and His avatars as “windows to the spiritual world.”

Let’s dig into the lyrics to the second song on the EP, “Rebirth."

“Rebirth” is the first full track on the EP and I wrote it very much with the perspective of it being an introductory song. The lyrics mainly deal with how every living entity has been transmigrating through countless lifetimes of materially-based identities, experiences, and temporary attempts to become fulfilled, but coming to the realization that none of these things can really ultimately satisfy us and that there must be a real alternative to material life. This realization is the beginning of spiritual life and I figured it would be a fitting first song that would naturally precede the topics that would be talked about in the lyrics to the next songs.  

It was really inspired by my own personal experiences and thoughts leading up to my taking up the path of Krishna Bhakti and how the teachings answer the question of how we can ultimately become happy and in harmony with existence. 

“Living in a dream of pain and loss where I never could own a thing
Enslaved by illusions in hopes to enjoy what never belonged to me
Momentum of endless birth and death, relentless onslaught of time
Bowed down to idols of my own design for countless lives

Rebirth, for the last time
Arise, awaken to real life

Posed in the center of a world of lies and pleasure sought in vain
Drowning in an ocean of fatal relief and masks to hide the pain
Passionate dance of never-ending grasping to furnish this false me
Impermanence rules this land of loss, only love can set me free

Rebirth, to real life”

The first and second verses mainly touch on how this material world is intertwined with suffering, illusion, and impermanence. Pain and loss are inherent parts of this world as everything here is ultimately illusory due to its temporary and relative nature. All the so-called happiness we derive from materialistic pleasure is just a band-aid attempt to temporarily alleviate and cover up the disease of selfish desire.

As that one lyric in Shelter’s song “Saranagati” goes: “this so-called pleasure is just cessation of pain.” We so often allow ourselves to become attached to objects, experiences, and circumstances that never live up to our expectations, will slip through our hands with the sands of time, and only add fuel to the fire of addiction and attachment. In this way, nothing ultimately belongs to us, yet so often we try to make the world and other people conform to our ego-centric will so that we may attempt to be the enjoyer, the center, and lord over everything.

We become slaves to this false idea of ourselves as the primary enjoyer, to our desires, to our bodies, to the nonsense that our minds are constantly indoctrinated with by the materialistic society of this age. One phase of trying to enjoy something comes and then goes only to be replaced by another attempt; another mask and costume to wear is born only to die and get replaced by another mask and costume, and the momentum of this cycle will continue for eternity until we sincerely try to seek something real, substantial, and permanent.

We’ve bowed down to these idols of material ego that we’ve constructed for ourselves for so long, putting so much effort into vain attempts at happiness. 

The chorus speaks to the soul’s (the true, eternal self beyond material aggregates like the body and mind) awakening to the reality of its predicament in the wheel of birth and death and its yearning to be reborn for the last time, in its true, eternal spiritual nature beyond the false ego.

To become a giver more than a taker, to interact with the world not under the influence of lust and exploitation, but with pure love and devotion, to live a life more substantial and real than anything else. 

Do you have any parting words?

Never stop searching for the truth. Never stop striving to do what is right for yourself and those around you. Have practical and well-reasoned compassion for other living entities. Be honest. Be sincere. Chant Hare Krishna. Change your heart. Change the world. All glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga. 

Photo: Natasha de Valois

Contraband Goods will be releasing Clarion Call on cassette in Spring 2022.

Invocation on social media: Instagram | Bandcamp


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