So we’re into the beginning of 2021, and we can say last year was a trainwreck and this one seems like a pretty rocky road as well, but hopefully better. 2020 tested everyone to different degrees and forced many of us to shift our way of life and take a look at things with both negative and positive outcomes.
2020 took a big shit on live music but that’s only a piece of the music community as a whole; in particular hardcore.
2020 seemed to be a big growth year for many bands in hardcore and hardcore in general; or at least to me, and with how everything went down, and is still so up in the air, I’ve wondered, what have folks been up to?
Hardcore took a major back seat to life at large last year; in my opinion or at least on my timeline. I’ve wondered how folks stayed engaged in hardcore in 2020? Did they pick up new hobbies? That sort of thing.
A lot of convo in 2020 seemed to be very optimistic towards this year, and now that we’re here...the road ahead is still very blurry, but the end seems to be in sight, so that opens it up to what happens with hardcore in 2021?
I’ve decided it would be a fun exercise to interview friends, acquaintances, and total strangers regarding their 2020 experience, and what they hope/think will happen with 2021. I hope to make this an interview series with folks from many different demographics related to hardcore.
First up is one with my buddy Jeff Yambra from Portland, Oregon.
Introduce yourself to the readers and your affiliation to hardcore.
What’s up my name’s Jeff Yambra and I play drums in the band Dying Wish.
How was your 2020 going prior to the pandemic hitting? Did you attend or play any cool shows worth mentioning?
My 2020 was amazing to start out, Dying Wish had just done a week on the Sanction 'Broken in Refraction Tour' which was one of my favorite tours we’ve done; specifically the show at Chain Reaction was one of the top shows I’ve/we’ve played as a band.
The energy and reaction to us were amazing and Bryan Garris was there to do his part in the song “Enemies," which popped off. It was a very very good night.
I remember when COVID cases first started appearing in the US, I don’t know if anyone thought it would spread as fast as it did, or maybe we knew but didn’t want to admit it, either way, do you remember how you were feeling/what you were thinking when everything went into lock down?
I know the Northwest seemed to be one of the first places a bit harder, so how was Portland?
I was pretty shocked, I still kind of am that this even happened. There’s been virus “scares” before and they’ve blown over and nothing ever came of them, so I’m sure that’s what everyone was thinking.
After seeing so many tours cancelled midway through and others being cancelled before they started, it made me realize just how shitty this was gonna be.
Portland was no different from anywhere else, everything was shut down. Masks were made mandatory pretty soon after too. I think there were some places that were more crazy than Oregon, we just get a bad rap here.
Once lockdown was in place and after, it seemed like bands either used that time to write new music or took a full pause on things. How’d Dying Wish handle this lockdown time?
At first, we didn’t really know what to do. We’d gone at least 4 months without practicing, we were doing literally nothing, it was very weird. Soon after that was around when we’d gotten signed and needed to start writing new songs and fine tuning others so we’d be as prepared as possible before we went into the studio.
Since then, it’s been pretty much business as usual; we practice every week just like we would if we had a show coming up.
Despite the inability to tour, we still saw a ton of awesome records come out in 2020, what were some of your personal favorites and why?
One that comes to mind immediately is the newest Year of the Knife record, Internal Incarceration. They’ve been one of my favorite bands since they started. They’re super aggressive, super mean, and just heavy all the way through and everything I hope for.
I also loved A Dying Truth by Kruelty from Japan. I love death metal, and I especially love death metal with hardcore influence and they do it so well. Every song on that album is insanely heavy and kept me interested the whole time without boring me, which I feel can happen a lot with that style.
I found myself using 2020 to rediscover or connect with older releases/bands that either hadn’t clicked for me before, or just hadn’t given myself a real chance to really sit with. Did you find yourself diving into any older bands/albums or perhaps a new appreciation or fondness?
Yeah, I always love trying to find new or new to me bands, I did this often even before the pandemic. I’ll go down a wormhole on Apple Music looking at related artists/bands I already liked. Just like how you’d go into a record store and pick out bands based on their name or crazy album art. I did that then and continue to now, just on my phone.
Some of the recent bands I’ve discovered are Redline from New Jersey. Their album, A Portrait of a Mirror Image, is so sick, I was obsessed with them as soon as I heard it.
Another band I never really took the time to sit and listen to was Undying. I’d heard their name since my involvement in hardcore/metal but just never took the time to listen to them until recently. The album The Whispered Lies of Angels is amazing and it’s so obvious why they were so big and became this legendary band.
I also have no shame loving old deathardcoreore bands. That’s what I grew up listening to all through middle school and part of high school, and some of them still hold up to this day. Allegiance by As Blood Runs Black, and the first two Carnifex records are a couple of my favorites.
2020 was a huge year in terms of human rights with the upswing in Black Lives Matter movement, the election year, and the pandemic in general; how it’s highlighted and put more focus on problems facing the United States.
Being in Portland, which seemed to be one of the more focal points in 2020 or at least through the media, did you find yourself getting more involved? How would you say it was there vs how the news and conservative media outlets wanted to paint the picture of it? Anything you’d like to share.
Honestly, I hate politics. I hate everything, even remotely related politics. I never paid attention before, and still don’t to some degree. However, referring to the George Floyd situation, that was nothing short of horrific, that has nothing to do with politics, and has everything to do with being a decent human being and wanting equal, basic human rights for everyone.
I’m not gonna sit here and say I was on the front lines of protests, or out handing out water or anything like that because I wasn’t and that’s just not something I was comfortable doing.
What the [George Floyd] situation did for me, with the help of my girlfriend as well, was force me to look at it from a different perspective. It helped me realize that this isn’t political, this is a civil rights issue.
I need to care and pay attention to what's going on around me rather than me having this “out of sight out of mind” mentality. Using my band's platform to raise money, raise awareness and things like that is what I chose to do and will continue to do whenever I/we get the chance.
I know y’all did a collab w/ Knocked Loose to raise a shit ton of money to the Portland Freedom Fund and the Louisville Community Bail fund. How’d that come about?
We were all definitely wanting to do a shirt to raise money and had been talking about it for a few days, trying to come up with designs and stuff but nothing really got us that excited.
Our manager, Tom Williams, brought up the idea of hitting up the guys in Knocked Loose about doing a collab shirt since we both had songs featuring our singers, so it was kind of a no brainer to do another collaboration.
With their album, A Different Shade of Blue, and our song, “Enemies in Red,” it just created an amazing play on words and was a perfect way to raise money and do something sick to benefit both of our communities.
With the live experience being such a critical and important aspect of hardcore for people, did you find yourself feeling more or less connected in 2020? How did you deal with that?
I’d definitely say I felt less connected. Just like you said that live experience is critical and pretty much the most important thing to hardcore and pretty much any genre. So losing that sucked a lot.
Even before the pandemic I made it a point to always listen to new bands, new EPs or demos and not just be that dude who only listens to strictly old bands. I just continued doing that when that was the only thing we could do without shows. Following and talking about something you actually care about is the easy part of it.
I found myself consuming way more media than before; movies, tv, books, comics, news articles, etc. in 2020. Anything worth mentioning you enjoyed?
Yeah, absolutely, I mean that's pretty much all anyone could do with their time. For me it wasn’t anything too crazy aside from classic binge shows like The Office, which is one of the best shows of all time. I did recently start watching The Sopranos, which I’ve never seen before and am loving it so far.
Have you been able to stay working during the pandemic? How’s that been?
Yes, I have been, very much so. I guess you could say I was lucky that I was able to keep the job I had been at before everything happened. Being able to work during the pandemic hasn’t been the worst thing in the world all things considered.
It seemed like pandemic enabled folks to pick up new hobbies or activities to keep busy/sane. Did you find yourself in that boat?
The pandemic obviously gave me way more free time, and I was able to get back into skateboarding. I’ve been skating since elementary school, and always loved it. It had turned into being more on and off the last few years just because of being busy with other things.
Since the pandemic hit I was able to get back into it and reconnect with it which was super awesome. Even if it was as simple as pushing down the street it was definitely something that helped me keep busy and not go completely crazy.
Circling back to Dying Wish, y’all did the Sanction tour and landed the record deal with SharpTone Records and recorded a new album. Honestly, I was unfamiliar with that label but after looking at the roaster, it definitely has some big metalcore bands. Can you talk about how that happened and anything about the new album without giving anything away?
We’d also never heard of SharpTone, like at all. We had been talking about trying to get signed with smaller, more DIY type of record labels and had talked to a few people about signing and stuff like that.
We came very very close to signing with one of them but ultimately passed in the hopes of getting something bigger, and luckily that happened.
Our manager, Tom Williams, was the main reason we got signed with them. After seeing some of the huge bands on the roaster; mainly Bleeding Through, we were pretty much sold on SharpTone and ready to go with them. This was all super new to us.
Writing a whole record isn’t something I’ve ever done before and I was nervous/excited to through the whole process. It was an amazing experience and without giving too much away, our album is every good part of your favorite '00s metal/metalcore band(s). It won’t disappoint.
Do you think the pandemic has forced hardcore to not take itself for granted? Between venues closing and potentially more, I imagine whenever things come back, getting tours booked is going to be much harder, on top of the uncertainty of turnouts and the ability to successfully route a tour.
Do you think this is going to force the community to become even more collaborative? More DIY? Put pressure on folks to come out and support bands/shows/creative outlets etc?
I feel like it won’t be hard at all to get people to come out for shows honestly. We've all seen it with the restaurants being shut down, whenever they would open back up people would flood in there. People are starving for social interaction and are more than ready for any kind of green light to go to any kind of event when it’s safe enough to do so.
The whole venue thing, on the other hand, might be more tricky, but even then, a good show promoter is extremely creative with that kind of stuff. Venues can get changed on the day of, and all it takes is that promotor and bands tweeting about it.
I think we’ll probably see way more house shows but even then, the atmosphere of a house show can be even better than having it at a venue.
From what I’m hearing, it seems like shows in 2021 are pretty unlikely; maybe I’m wrong, but at least not at a national level, perhaps in some regional areas though. With the vax rollout not going as well as hoped, and in general with how everything is being handled, what do you see hardcore doing in 2021?
More live-streams? More merch? Saying fuck it and releasing new music that might have been held off prior to in hopes of touring to support it?
I'd love to see more streams. I think that’s gonna be the closest thing to live shows we’re gonna have for a bit, and I’d love Dying Wish to do one. Live streams definitely seem to take a lot of effort and energy to pull off but it really seems worth it.
I also love seeing more merch drops and stuff, I think that’s a great way to keep your band relevant in a sense, just getting your name out there, reminding people you’re still active and stuff. It’s cool seeing that bands are putting in an effort to make cool shit and not just be completely silent without shows to do the work.
Since release schedules seem so up in the air with pressing plants being really busy this year, what are some bands/records that you hope are released in 2021?
One of the albums I’m most excited for is the new God’s Hate record. I loved the last one; their style and everything so I’m very excited to hear another one.
The new Wristmeetrazor album. The tour we did with them was really fun. They’re extremely good musicians and have all become really good friends of ours so I’m very excited to hear more music from them.
I’d love to hear a full-length album from Heavens Die. They've been pretty quiet recently, so I’m not expecting anything, but I just love that band and would love to hear a full album from them.
Since you’re a drummer, what advice would you give to anyone thinking about picking up drums? Any insight or tips?
I think the main thing I’d say, as corny as it sounds, is just don’t give up. Don’t just quit if it’s hard. Drums definitely aren’t the easiest instrument to learn but with learning anything new the best thing you can do is just keep at it even though you think you suck.
Something that helped me a lot is simply just drumming along and learning other songs. Listening to your favorite band, or favorite songs and drumming along to it on your knees and just getting rhythms and timing down helps a ton.
Just picking up a pair of sticks and sitting down at a kit and trying to learn from scratch can be pretty daunting, so learning songs and simple techniques beforehand goes a long way.
Whenever things go back to “normal” or whatever sense of normalcy that it may be, what are some of the first things you plan on doing?
I mean going to a show is the obvious answer, and just socializing in general, whether it be going to a restaurant or just hanging out at friends houses or a restaurant without having to worry about anything. That’s the thing I miss the most so I can’t wait to do that again
We’re gonna go with some off the cuff, rapid fire fun stuff to end this.
Top 5 foods:
Any kind of seafood, 7/11 taquitos, rice, chicken fettuccine, and any kind of Mexican food.
Favorite Throwdown record?
The purist in me goes with You Don’t Have to be Blood to be Family, but I’m also not ashamed to say Haymaker is tied for first place.
Favorite pair of sneakers?
Any OG colorway of the Jordan 4. The black and White versions of the Undefeated Air Max 97s.
Top 5 metalcore records?
I can’t possibly rank these so in particular order:
Killswitch Engage, The End of Heartache
It Dies Today, Forever Scorned
Both Martyr A.D. LPs because I can’t choose between the two
Prayer for Cleansing, The Rain in Endless Fall
Black My Heart, Before the Devil
Favorite current hardcore bands?
Sanction, Foreign Hands, Three Knee Deep, Serration, Revolve, Vicious Embrace, and Never Ending Game, to name a few
Hot or Iced Coffee?
Neither, Baja Blast.
Jesse or Howard in Killswitch?
I love Jesse but Howard Jones 100%
Best show you’ve been to?
One that I’ll always remember was seeing No Warning’s reunion show in LA with Like It or Not, King Nine, Alpha and Omega, Xibalba, Incendiary, Lights Out, and Violation. Insanely stacked show and one of my all-time favorites.
Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me Jeff, I know you’re a busy fella so def appreciate it. Any parting thoughts, shout outs, words of wisdom, anything worth mentioning?
Just want to say thank you so much for asking me to do this, it was super fun! Shout out Colter, the 6th member of Dying Wish. And we can’t wait for everyone to finally hear what we’ve been working on.
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