Sick Minds are like the Jay and Silent Bob of Boston hardcore, they’re entertaining in how dumb they are. In all seriousness the quintet is an insanely skilled, entertaining and scorching band to see live. They’ve developed this energy and antics playing shows over the years throughout New England and have even toured the East Coast reaching as far as the Carolina’s.
While their personalities may not match their dark, depressing lyrical content and the brooding sound their records boast, Sick Minds never crossed the line into bad taste. As the years have gone on since forming in 2016, they’re records have gotten even more blistering, lyrically focused, and the sound has gotten heavier and harder.
I’ve gotten to know them a lot over the last year and consider them all good friends now, but even before I knew them on a personal level, I knew Sick Minds were a key band in the Boston hardcore community.
Bursting onto the scene with a fairly melodic sound that was heavily influenced by early Comeback Kid and Paint It Black, the band’s style from their 2016 demo to their recent singles displays a group pushing their sound further past the threshold and ensuring crowds will be smashing their heads and putting their body’s at risk whenever they play live.
Sick Minds' debut album, Too Dumb to Die, is a testament to both the bands self-awareness and the musical direction they intend to take themselves in. Just from the title alone and the singles leading up to its release, it’s clear that their sound has gotten even heavier, hoping to tap into the meathead nature of the scene in their own, absurd way.
Vocalist Travis LeSaffre has taken his lyrical content and made it more personally disheartening as well as more damning of American society. Backed by his bandmates who sound tighter than ever the record sounds like the most complete and focused they have ever been.
I recently was able to interview four of the five band members through Zoom, Travis, Garrett Gordon (bass), Jimmy Hanlon (lead guitar), and Zac Rossetto (guitar) to talk to them about the new album and their hopes for the future of Sick Minds.
So what’s the worst thing about your new album?
Garrett: The sound of it.
Travis: The worst thing? I’d say the fact that you can’t hear enough of the police sirens in one of the songs.
Zac: There were no gun sounds.
Garrett: No, not enough gun sounds.
Travis: Yeah, there weren’t any gun sounds recorded and it really fucked it up.
Garrett: I would say that the best thing is probably the album artwork. The concept of this whole thing was to make a super dumb, heavy album. When Jimmy and I were writing songs we were like “It’s not dumb enough, we need to dumb it down even further.” And that concept has gone all the way to the point where the album’s called Too Dumb To Die. And we randomly came up with this stupid album art concept…
Jimmy: Out of nowhere.
Garrett: There was no revisions, we just said “Yup that’s good.”
Travis: Danny Clark crushed it, he absolutely captured the idea. We just shipped it.
What was the recording process like?
Garrett: We originally wanted to go to Dead Air out in Western Mass because we recorded a couple songs with him and he immediately got what we were going for but we were writing the songs pre-COVID and then when we finished the songs COVID hit. So, then Jimmy and I had gone to record with Zac Weeks up in God City and after kicking around the idea of a couple other places we settled on there again. We set up dates to go in and record everything, I think we had like 7 days, a lot of time booked.
Right before we went in, like we had already given him a deposit and everything, Tommy got COVID and that basically killed everything and then as a band we all kinda decided to wait to record when things seemed safer. So, we waited another 6 months I think and then we went in and Tommy crushed the drums in like 3 days.
I was on vacation out in Western Mass and I got a call saying, “If you want to come back and record bass you can.” Then he gave us this DI box so we could record all the guitars at home so Jimmy and Zac got together and I was present, really I was just drinking beers and offering very little feedback.
Jimmy: Lots of middle fingers.
Garrett: Yeah, so then we went back to the studio and revamped all the guitars and then we just had miscellaneous days where we did vocals. It was different in the fact that everything was so broken up and I get that some bands might not like recording like that, they prefer the chemistry of playing together and stuff but it worked out pretty well I think. I’m pretty sure everyone was trying to record around that time so God City was pretty booked.
Zac: It was without a doubt the most COVID way to record.
In your past recordings had you done any of them separately?
Travis: No. When we’ve recorded in the past, everything was done in a weekend or so and we were all together, all the time. This was the first time we did anything separately and that pretty much hits what Zac said about being the most COVID way to record. The thing that was really interesting to me was Jimmy spent a lot of time really knocking out the pre-production files, so we knew what we were going for which was a great benefit but then to have someone like Zac Weeks on it who literally took our statement of “We want this to sound dumb” and brought it to where it is when it’s gonna be released.
He really understood what we meant by that so the amount of times where whoever was there that day would be sitting in the room and he’d say “Oh I know this is gonna suck” and then he would set up some pedals and do some highlights and such. It’s just perfectly stupid.
Garrett: Yeah, we were recording once and he was like “That sounds horrible, we’re keeping it in.”
Who’s more tech savvy when it comes to the recording process?
Garrett: Jimmy’s definitely more tech savvy than I am. I did some recording engineering in college but I don’t really do the whole keystroke stuff.
That’s the impression I was getting since you guys have had the more technical answers when it came to talking about the recording process.
Garrett: I think it’s mostly just because he and I are really interested in that aspect and so it’ll be just us nerding out about the process of how songs are made.
Travis: Definitely. I would see Garrett as sort of the tone and direction corraler, Jimmy’s the tech mastermind who can crank out riffs real fast but then Garrett can kind of define those riffs into a song that is more cohesive and he helps fill out the things that we were missing in songs beforehand. More defined and clear breakdowns, you know the sort of standardized expectation of what an average hardcore child wants.
Hardcore for Michael Bay movie fans?
Garrett: It just basically boiled down to how hard we would want to mosh to these songs. In previous times we tried doing some more melodic and technical stuff because Jimmy is a great guitar player and he can play a lot of interesting stuff… but we didn’t do any of that on this record.
You just wanted to make music that was all about getting people moving and participating rather than the melodic approach you had before?
Garrett: I think simple and more accessible would be a better way to put it.
Travis: I would say music for people that chew with their mouth open.
How long did you guys have these songs brewing before you went in to record them?
Jimmy: I feel like we started right after we got done recording with Will.
Garrett: That’s sort of how we are, we’ll release something and be like “Ugh thank god that’s done” then I’ll send Jimmy a riff and be like, “Hmm?” And he’ll be like, “Ah fuck this again.”
Travis: Yeah, by the time we finish recording something we already don’t wanna play it ever again. So, we’ve been playing songs off the new album for a little while now and kind of seeing how they go and how people are reacting to them. We’re not always gonna have the best reactions straight out the gate but we can tell pretty immediately like that one’s not hitting so there’s always that live feedback that I think is really important.
Zac: I might be wrong about this but we didn’t really have an album release for the split that we did but the first show we played with the vinyl I believe we were playing like two or three songs from the full length.
Travis: We might’ve even had four by then.
Garrett: That was at the Death Before Dishonor show in Manchester, right?
Garrett: I remember playing new ones at that show and being like, “Let’s see how this goes.”
Jimmy: I think they hit pretty hard at that show. I think another thing is that we’ve been a band since 2016 and we’re just kinda sick of the older stuff at this point which is why we’re in a completely different direction right now.
Garrett: I think the thing about the older stuff is like, we used to play a lot with Years Apart and Crafter and more melodic hardcore bands. All of us love melodic hardcore but it just wasn’t something we were interested in pursuing with this project.
Jimmy: We wanted it more dumb.
What were some of the main influences you drew from going into this album, musically and aesthetically?
Garrett: Jimmy does a lot of our visual content so he’ll just tell us one day, “Hey, I’m doing this now.” And we all just have to deal with it because none of us can do it. I also think he enjoys some of the designing shit on new merch and album art. So, musically…
Jimmy: It’s kinda all over the place.
Garrett: Yeah, it really is. When we started this band I was playing in a band called Kimachi and we played with Rat Trap a few times and they had just ended. Travis posted something somewhere saying “I wanna start a new band” and I was like, “Well, I don’t have a band anymore either so yeah I’ll do that.” Then Travis found Tommy and he was like, “We should start a band like old Comeback Kid.” And that’s been the only thing we’ve ever agreed on since.
Travis: Zac didn’t agree on that, though.
Garrett: No, Zac didn’t like it.
Zac: I can compromise on Comeback Kid
Travis: Zac’s in like, not love, with Comeback Kid.
Zac: We’re in a feeling out phase.
Garrett: Yeah, we wanted to sound like them. We also love Death Before Dishonor as well, some of the older bands are really what we dig but I also remember seeing Drain at Sound & Fury and being completely blown away by them.
Zac: Backtrack is another one!
Garrett: Yup, Backtrack even though they’re no longer together. There’s just so many new bands that are killing it like Inclination, Incendiary isn’t a new band but that was my first time seeing them and I was blown away.
Jimmy: I feel like we went pretty wacky with some of our influences on this record. Like we took a little bit from Korn and Limp Bizkit also Advent, I really like Advent which is leaning on the heavier side of things.
This one’s for Travis... What would you say are some of your lyrical and vocal influences?
Travis: Honestly, that’s the only sound I can make so that’s where my vocal influences lie. I was really into the bands Swamp Thing and Kids Like Us and I thought, “Hey, I can kinda do something similar to that and not destroy what’s left of my vocal cords.” So that’s where that came from. From a lyrical perspective a lot of it is just brewing on things personally and kinda letting those sit. Not dealing with any issues that I have until we’re all able to sit down and just take that feeling to its full potential conclusion of negativity.
My goal is to say, “That sounds pretty mean, let's put that on a record.” So, you know, not good stuff.
Jimmy: I figured your influences were just suicide notes.
Travis: Yeah… yeah, pretty much.
Garrett: Hating yourself and hating cops.
Travis: Yeah, hating things is pretty up there on the list. I’d say from bands that I listen to, that I pull a lot of stuff from when thinking about lyrical structure and those influences, bands like Expire come to mind.
The older Expire albums were very dark and spoke to me for quite awhile as well as bands like Terror. The way Scott Vogel lays out his vocal patterns is unbelievable. There was a lot of just wacky stuff I tried just to push myself and do things that I hadn’t done before.
Swamp Thing is a band that not a lot of people might remember but kids who went to those Brockton shows back in the day absolutely would. It's cool that you brought them up as an influence.
Travis: There’s a lot of really good forgotten hardcore bands that I think we unintentionally pull quite a bit of influence from. It’s one of the most attractive things about hardcore to me that there is just such a wide breadth of everything that you can pull from it’s not all just the same. I mean if you do like the more generic styles you can find those aplenty but you can also find some real wonky, weird shit amongst that pile.
Garrett: At our recent show in Hingham with DARE there was this band called Climb that played that night and that was one of the first bands I’d listened to in awhile that made me think “I have never heard anything like this.” I love that even now in hardcore, which is already a niche genre, there’s still people who are doing weird shit. You may not like it but that’s not really the point.
We’re definitely not pushing the envelope ourselves in terms of sound but I love when bands really can do that and inspire the next band to go do even weirder shit with their sound.
Are you guys fairly democratic when it comes to everybody’s input on songs and recording?
Garrett: I feel like when we record or are writing if even one of us says that something sucks then we just do away with it and never touch upon it ever again. We’re pretty agreeable in the fact that we don’t agree on anything so none of us really get in each other's ways, we know someones gonna hate it so we prepare to get rid of it. Sometimes we’re surprised, though. One of our favorite pastimes, especially with Zac and I is…
Garrett: Well that but also just like, “What makes hardcore? What is hardcore.” So, I’ll come to him after some local band dropped something new and be like, “Oh, this is sick because of X, Y, and Z and he’ll just be like no they suck because of those things.
Zac: That’s actually really funny because when Garrett and I first met we were like “Oh wow we both really like hardcore, this is sick!” And we don’t like any of the same fucking bands.
Jimmy: Remember Comeback Kid.
Zac, since you seem to be the differential one when it comes to bands, who is it that you look to for influences?
Zac: I’m pretty old school with it, honestly. My favorites have always been like Agnostic Front, Blood For Blood, and Wisdom In Chains is the best band, period. But then I also like a lot of the Oi! stuff like Cock Sparrer and Cockney Rejects, stuff like that. And this is a good debate between Garrett and I; he’ll be talking about bands and stuff and he’ll just say, “They go hard live” as a valid answer.
Like, for example, he’ll say that about Turnstile and I’ve always said their albums are meh but seeing their energy live that’s something completely different. That’s definitely the kind of energy I like, you just feel it.
I think live hardcore albums get the feeling across moreso than the actual albums the bands record. Like the Agnostic Front Live At CBGB is one of the best live albums ever. I don’t think hardcore can be fucked with in a studio… and when I say that I don’t mean fixing my shitty guitar playing in the studio, that you can fuck with.
Travis: Yeah, Zac is basically disabled with the size of his fingers being gorilla hands. The fact that he can even hold a guitar properly is a miracle.
Jimmy: He’s used to just punching things so he usually would punch his guitar.
Zac: I make noise.
I haven’t seen him fail at a live show.
Travis: Because we turn him off, usually.
You guys have always had a very dark and depressing lyrical content yet you counter it with a deranged sense of humor that somehow makes both things work. How do you balance that level of seriousness and comedy to the point where it’s not in poor taste?
Travis: I am almost certain people would say it’s in poor taste.
It is but somehow because it’s you guys it just works.
Travis: I think it’s just all of us play this music because we enjoy it and we’re just trying to have fun doing it and none of us take ourselves too seriously which allows us to be as dumb as we want to be.
Zac: Also, I think first and foremost we’re just five friends. That’s just what friends do when they get together; they give each other a hard time, they bust balls, they have fun, they make fun of each other and that’s just what we do. Shows are hanging out for us, practice is hanging out for us, this interview is hanging out for us.
Garrett: Also no one would take us seriously if we tried to act tough. We’re like the most not tough band in Boston hardcore.
Travis: I think that us recognizing that, as Garrett said we’re soft as baby shit, has been a lot more fun as opposed to being the scary vocalist and scary band. As serious as my lyrics are, it's really just me expelling all that stuff because afterwards I’m just like, “Well, thank God I don’t feel that way anymore.” There’s bands out there that live it and keep feeling that same way all the time and I couldn’t imagine carrying that with me all the time.
Garrett: But we all love like negative, tough ass hardcore and so it’s what we wanted to make but we’re just not gonna fight anyone so we have to make people laugh.
What are your plans to promote the record?
Travis: We’re working on putting together a show with our friends in Ghost Fame for the New Year so 2022 will likely be our next show because December is a hard month for music and with the raising of the “Omicron variant,” which is the coolest COVID ever…
Jimmy: That’s an Autobot, right?
Travis: I think it’s actually the giant planet Transformer. So, we don’t want that so we’re gonna see how that rips and dips and then hopefully in 2022 we’ll also be doing a tour of some of the Midwest and a little bit south of that. Merchwise, tapes will be out through Standstill Records. There’s a 13-month turnaround for vinyl so we didn’t want to wait that long, we wanted to get this out now so we decided to do it on tapes for right now.
We’re all proud of it and we want to at least have something to give everyone. We are gonna also try to do a bit of advertising for it because I am genuinely proud of how this all came out so we want to get a bit more eyes on it. Unlike some of the stuff we’ve put out in the past where it was like “Hey check this out and tell us what you think” I really believe there isn’t a band track off this album.
Who did the artwork for the cover?
Zac: Danny Clark at Hobo Tattoos, super funny guy. I got a tattoo from him and it was the funnest experience ever. He also plays in the local band Taxi Driver. I’ll never say this in front of Tommy but Taxi Driver is probably one of my favorite local bands right now.
Travis: You can’t tell him that. He can’t know.
Just make sure he doesn’t read the article.
Zac: Tommy can’t read.
Travis: Yeah he’s like a picture guy.
Jimmy: He’s on about the same reading level as Zac so no worries.
Garrett: Zac told us, “Oh, I can’t do the interview because I don’t have Excel on my computer.
Travis: That’s a real message we got from him. Also, at the start of this Zoom call I heard him yell “Babe how do I get more than one camera on the screen at the same time?” as he runs to his wife holding his phone in her face.
Zac: I’m more of a math guy.
Jimmy: Don’t lie Zac, your math isn’t much better either.
Anybody you want to shout out at the end of this?
Jimmy: Zach Weeks! Audiosiege, Brad Boatwright.
Garrett: My buddy’s band, Discourage. Shout out to Psychic Weight, Death Before Dishonor.
Zac: Neighborhood Shit. Reason to Fight!
Garrett: Yup them for sure. Zach Weeks, Danny Clark.
Travis: Big on Danny Clark because of that amazing artwork. Chris Cesarini because he’s been such a great supporter, big fat baby loving to him.
Jimmy: Audiosiege's Brad Boatwright.
Travis: And then just put “And all the little people.”
Garrett: Also Brandon from The Confrontation/Black My Heart, On Broken Wings because he does really good tile work. Oh, also Fire & Flood, Gunnar.
Jimmy: Nutty from Years Apart for no reason.
Travis: Alright, I think that’s everybody who tolerates us.
Too Dumb to Die is out now on Bandcamp, and all other streaming platforms.
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Tagged: sick minds