Long Island, New York’s Take My Chances aren’t looking in front of or behind themselves. They’re staying in the moment. And, for a band who first played over a decade ago, that’s a good ethos.
Their first run as a band came on the heels of the members’ even older bands breaking up (re: Heads vs. Breakers, The Backup Plan, and On the Rise). Even then, there weren’t any clear expectations save one: play fast hardcore punk and have fun doing it. With the release of Fostex Fever, the band’s first EP in 12-plus years, Take My Chances find themselves back at it and ready to fulfill that singular expectation, again.
More than anything, the band started writing and recording as a way of finding their collective sweet spot. They already had enough older material to fit a set list, but writing allowed them to really figure out what made them so damn good years ago. “These songs are a mix of two of our oldest and two of our newest songs.
As far as the music, every band will say ‘we listen to all styles of music.’ But for a band like TMC, that has members that have been involved in punk/hardcore for over two decades, this is very true and factors into our writing process. Skate punk, '90s hardcore, grindcore, thrash metal, grunge, street punk, Oi!…you get the idea,” offers Ben, Take My Chances’s vocalist.
Nothing is off the table for them musically. However, what comes through in their latest songs is a hybrid of both their original sound and a turning on of the tenacity. Mind you, we’re talking about a Long Island hardcore band here. So, there will absolutely be that balance of melody and aggression. And Fostex Fever, despite its brevity, shows both growth and steadiness:
“(You Never Want to Break Down) In Downbeat City,” the EP’s closing track, is the clearest showcase of what at once made Take My Chances great back in the day and what makes them great now. The opening guitars ring with melody and a subtle ambience that give steadiness to Ben’s vocal patterns before transitioning into a more traditionally hardcore punk tempo a la Kid Dynamite.
Lyrically, the song offers insight and reflection without being particularly dense. Ben reflects, “I was outside one night, taking the garbage out and looked up to see the Orion’s Belt constellation. I ended up staring at it for a few minutes. I had the line ‘star like ghosts of the past’ saved in a file of lyrical fragments/one liners and looking at the constellation reminded me of that line. I think I stole it from a book about the origins of the universe, but who knows.
"I realized how long it had been since I just took the time to look up at the stars. Getting older and being a father definitely influenced this song. My oldest son is just getting to the age where I discovered punk and hardcore. So this song was me thinking about that time in my life, thinking about all the possibilities that I saw for myself.”
The honesty and introspection there is refreshing and gives the song even more dimension. Clocking in at just under two minutes, “…In Downbeat City” is the EP’s longest song, and even in that concision, the music is interesting and engaging. That Take My Chances manage to fit enough interesting musical layers into such short songs is testament to their musicianship. “…In Downbeat City” may very well be the best example of that on this new EP.
And the band is comfortable in that “shorter, faster, louder” style. They always have been. But it seems this new batch of songs has upped that comfort even more. As Hugo Fitzgerald, the band’s guitarist said, “I don’t think we’re reinventing any wheels. Between us, we listen to a lot of different stuff, so be it Minor Threat or CR or Beach Rats, a lot of the stuff I like just kind of seems to go that way. And sometimes you just don’t need to beat a riff into the ground. With this band, we play fast, we play short, we keep things fairly simple most of the time.”
That perspective could land most bands in trouble. It sounds limiting and opens bands up to monotony. But that’s not what we get with Take My Chances, and “Fostex Fever.” Case in point is the EP’s third track, “Sister Act 3,” which is both lyrically and musically powerful while offering all but 14 seconds in sonic power-violence. While I certainly wouldn’t want an entire album of songs that brief, there is something compelling about a band that can pull that off.
It’s about choosing the right spots and moments, and Take My Chances does just that on “Sister Act 3.” In fact, Ben argued, “I think ‘Sister Act 3’ probably has the deepest lyrics. Which is ironic for a song that I wrote the music for and that clocks in at less than 20 seconds. I was reading something about how our brains have evolved to see patterns that sometimes aren’t actually there.
Obviously, this is relevant and topical in the light of how conspiracy theories are running rampant. But on a bit of more personal level, it made me think about life and death. It made me think about how in order to try and make sense of our own mortality and the randomness of life humans have invented religion, the ideas of fate and luck.” All of that in fourteen second? Yes. Give the song a listen.
Beyond this new EP and the band’s plans to more steadily play and record, Take My Chances also wonders how they fit into an ever-evolving LIHC scene. It’s worth noting that these are people whose formative years in hardcore were back in the late nineties and early aughts.
“Where exactly we fit is a question we’re still trying to answer. I know that a band being around for 17 years at our level is a red flag. We definitely recognize that when we started playing consistently again last year, it’s a hard reset.
"For all practical purposes we’re a brand new band. And it’s sort of like being the kid who just moved to your town starting school, the people we came up with in this scene are at this point mostly moved on to other things, there’s a very busy younger scene and I dig on a lot of it,” reflected Hugo.
Of course there’s pressure and expectations, especially from musicians who’ve known a level of popularity at one point or another, but TMC is just taking it as it comes.
To some, they might as well be a new band as Hugo said. To others, they may very well be a gateway into understanding another moment in LIHC’s evolution. But the bigger point is that they’re here (again) and offering something both sonically and aesthetically that is original and refreshing.
There’s something honest about people who play hardcore music because they simply need to. No pretense. It’s just in their DNA. I really believe that. When asked what keeps them motivated to play hardcore music, Hugo simply offered, “What keeps a fish motivated to keep swimming?” He makes a good point. And Take My Chances’s new EP, Fostex Fever, is fun. It’s interesting. It’s serious without taking itself too seriously.
So head over to the Take My Chance's Bandcamp and give it a few listens. And while you’re there, listen to some of their older releases. All are worth your time.
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