Total Sham: Kansas City Band Channels Weird & Aggressive Hardcore on Self-Titled LP

Photo: Chon

Total Sham is a band from Kansas City, Missouri; another in a long line of perfectly executed hardcore punk bands from a city that can seemingly do no wrong.

Raw, unapologetic, snot-nosed weirdo aggression that could fit snugly on Grave Mistake or even Not Normal Tapes caroling without getting lost in the mix. A harkening back to what most would consider modern-era bands like Glue, Hoax, Lumpy & the Dumpers, etc.

Having recently arranged a deal with LA’s Under the Gun Records, I sat down with Total Sham bassist Lance Rutledge to discuss the new record, life in the Midwest, and more. 

How long has Total Sham been active, and how did you all come together?

We started playing together in the early spring of ‘21, under the name "DYE." We dropped two tapes under that before we changed the name to Total Sham in ‘22.

I had been in some earlier projects with Konrad. He met Dan and Tim through some of his friends and they had gotten together and pieced together a song or two before I hopped on bass. It was pretty instantaneous after that, we wrote the first demo in like a month before recording and putting it out there.

Do you find being in the dead center of the country to be challenging? 

I mean, we've all got jobs and bills and what not, so we've only done smaller extended weekend runs up to this point. It's nice in that sense because we can pick any direction and it's not too much of a drive to get out and back, but we can't really hit either coast like that so the distance is fersure a challenge when it comes to hitting some of the places we'd like to.

But being in the center means it's a hub for bands passing through so we get to see homies all the time.

What bands are some of Total Sham's influences? 

Gas Rag, Minor Threat, Necros, School Jerks, Blotter, No Class, Cülo, CCR, Electric Deads, Nosferatu, 80HD’s first demo, Ideation, Santana's debut record. Along with a lot of standard Midwest hardcore punk from over the years.

There's always been great shit here and we're always showing each other some old demo or record that none of us had heard of before.

The lyricism is scathing at times. Tell us about the subject matter for the new record. 

It's pretty relatable stuff. Not wanting to go to work. Getting caught up in existential loops in your head and going mental. Getting up to go to work anyway. Not wearing a seatbelt. There's a lot of things that can take you to a breaking point and Konrad expresses it in a truly awful way.

How did your relationship with Under the Gun Records come about? 

Jame from Dirtbag Distro is my roommate, they help us get tapes done for most everything we've ever put out. I think they had interacted with the homie from UTG before. Anyhow, they reached out to us through Jame and told us they'd like to do a record with us, so we went ahead wrote one. It's the first time any of us have had any of our music on vinyl, and it's been a great experience working with them.

If you’ve got your eye remotely close to Midwest punk and hardcore, it is no secret KCMO has had a notedly excellent scene for the last 10-15 years. How would you say the current era compares to the last decade? 

I've only been active in music here since around maybe late 2017, so I missed seeing a lot of bands that are legendary in my eyes, like No Class, Nuke Cult, Agent, Blind Dog… the list goes on and on. I really feel like I missed something special not being there at one of the myriad basements that were having shows back then. People packed in super tight, glass getting smashed, and fireworks going off was a regular occurrence at that time.

I started getting involved around the tail end of that era so I got to witness some of it. The main difference now post-COVID is there's not really any punk basements, although Total Sham is tryna to keep the glass and fireworks going whenever and wherever we can. Something that hasn't changed is the quality of bands of all different stripes of hardcore and punk. That and people still slam, which I doubt will ever change here, thankfully.

Photo found on Bandcamp

What are some bands from your area you’d recommend? 

Foil for the weirdo punks, Perfume USA for the alt rockers, Flooding for thee slowcore, Sarin Reaper for the metalheads. These bands are among the first wave of post-covid music in KCMO and they’re all excellent. Skuffed and Rats Ass if you wanna see what young blood is doing in KCMO. Mail Order Bomb also just dropped a sick one-off demo last year.

Any Total Sham touring plans? 

We recently wrapped up a 5-day run down to Texas, definitely planning on doing similar length tours here in the Midwest plus getting back out to Denver later on this year. West Coast as well hopefully before too long. 


The Total Sham LP is available on vinyl via Under the Gun Records.


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