Tough Cuffs: Pittsburgh Band Brings '90s Post-Hardcore Spirit on All Dogs Go to Heaven

Photo: Anthony Brandy

There's a certain nostalgia to the Tough Cuffs sound and songwriting style. Formed in 2020, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania quartet favors a propulsive sound that drives forward with guitarist/vocalist Max Kraning's gruff yet tuneful delivery coasting on top. It brings to mind everything from the days when Doghouse Records and Jade Tree were still releasing bangers, the more melodic side of post-hardcore and modern hardcore, and whatever you call what Helmet does.

"When I first joined, we were mainly punk with some garage rock mixed in but now I would say we are a hardcore band," guitarist Jay Molinaro opines. Rounding out Tough Cuffs are drummer Aidan Briggs and bassist Gino LaGamba, and everyone in the group cut their teeth in the Pittsburgh/Ohio DIY punk and hardcore scenes. 

Tuff Cuffs' recently released the All Dogs Go to Heaven EP, their follow-up to 2023 Bliss Point EP. Drummer Briggs describes the music on that one: "Though Bliss Point is heavy post-hardcore, you can find some shoegaze-ish elements tagged in, which was an influence from then bassist, Evan Rubin. Evan’s other project, Surface Broadcast, is a fantastic indie punk/shoegaze band that is out of this world."

Shifting the conversation back to All Dogs Go to Heaven, Kraning offers, "There’s a good amount of diversity amongst the four tracks, but as a whole, it’s really an idea of who we are/our sound."

"All Dogs Go to Heaven was recorded over 5 days in Columbus, Ohio, by Graham Richie," continues Kraning. "Graham has recorded a good amount of our stuff in the past and is a very close friend of ours as well as many others in the Pittsburgh music scene.

"'All Dogs Go to Heaven' is mostly a callback to what it feels like to grow up, and what it feels like looking back on it from an adult perspective. The EP attempts to tap into the universal emotions of nostalgia, fear, doubt, hate, and loss of innocence."

Tough Cuffs bassist Gino LaGamba big ups his vocalist/guitarist: "All I can say is Max recorded a hardcore album with the flu, whilst we recorded bass twice, and double tracked nearly every note Jay played, and Aidan had to make something out of pretty much nothing. I’ve never recorded anything more than a demo so being in a studio - a real studio - was probably one of the coolest things. We all tried our hardest, slept the least, and drank the most. Dark souls helped."

How about some other bands in Tough Cuffs' Pittsburgh backyard? "The scene here is alright," says Max. "It’s cliquey, but solid. Check out Kill Enemy Records. Tough-ass hardcore punk. Speedplans, Illiterates, and God Plutonium are some of my favorites from there. This band Snarling Dogs is also great, they kinda sound like The Gun Club."

Drummer Aidan gets in on the action: "From a humble drummer’s opinion, the local scene has been on a downswing for a little while, DIY specifically. Perhaps this has to do with many of our peers graduating from school, bands surrounding us moving towards tours/professional venues. I’ve also noticed that there aren’t as many DIY spots popping up in the Pittsburgh area, specifically the Oakland/University of Pittsburgh scene where we thrived.

"Some bands from our area that you need to check out: Princess (hardcore, motherfucker), Giovanni Orsini and the Inebriators (two drummers, fun times rock and roll with a punk cherry on top), and Sorry Face (look out for these rippers in 2024)."

All Dogs Go to Heaven is available now across all streaming digital outlets. Hit the Tough Cuffs Linktree to find their social media pages.

Tough Cuffs tour dates:
April 4th - Brooklyn - Alphaville
April 5th - Philadelphia - Over Yonder
April 6th - Baltimore - Holy Frijoles
April 9th - Columbus - Half Baked Brew
April 10th - Indianapolis - Healer
April 12th - Milwaukee - High Dive
April 13th - Chicago - Susan’s Apple Hole
April 14th - Detroit - Gatekeepers Games
April 16th - Kent - Bar Lucci
April 17th - Akron - Kling Thing
April 27th - Pittsburgh - Smiling Moose w/ Princess, Eyewash, Slice, Spiral

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