In this latest entry to his ongoing Pandemic Profile interview series, Devin Boudreaux chats with FAIM vocalist Kat Lanzillo. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did. -Carlos Ramirez (No Echo)
Introduce yourself to the readers, what you do for a living; since it will be relevant to the discussion, and your affiliation to hardcore.
Hello hello! I am Kat,the vocalist of Denver-based hardcore band FAIM. I currently live in Tacoma, WA, where I am an instructional coach at a K-5 public school.
How was your 2020 going prior to the pandemic hitting excluding any FAIM-related happenings. Did you attend any cool shows? What were they?
2020 started out pretty awesome, actually. In the 10 days before everything shut down in Washington, we were lucky enough to go to 4 shows: American Nightmare/Ceremony, Supercrush/Dead Soft (my favorite band in the world right now), Big Bite/Dreamdecay, and Curl Up and Die.
That Curl Up and Die show was insane and amazing and probably the perfect show to see before everything shut down.
Switching to FAIM, correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t y’all record your new album, Hollow Hope, early in 2020? Y’all recorded it with Jack Shirley, correct?
Yeah, we recorded the album mid-February in Oakland with Jack Shirley at Atomic Garden East. We flew down to Oakland a day early and were lucky enough to play a show with Clueless, so we got one show in before everything shut down.
Recording with Jack was an awesome experience. He is super personable and kind. He would offer constructive feedback in a really supportive way. I would love to record with him again one day, and I highly recommend him to anyone looking to record.
We somehow got the record done in two days, with just a few finishing touches once we all returned home.
So you had a new 12 inch recorded and then the pandemic hit; Washington seemed to be hit quite harder initially than many other areas in the states as well. Do you recall what was going through your head when cases kept going up and the inevitable lockdown was approaching?
With Washington being the original “ground zero” (as they called it) for COVID-19, I think we were very worried about how it could spread. Being an educator, we were feeling even a bit more nervous with all our students being in close quarters. However, I don’t think we fully understood how it would spread at that point, so the naivety to the situation probably helped me not freak out more.
Once they closed schools, I knew everything was going to be different. I knew we weren’t going to be back at school before summer break, and I was extremely worried about students not having a support system like schools.
I work in a district that has a large portion of free and reduced lunch students who rely on school for food, safety, routine, etc. Knowing we were not prepared to move all students online (many students did not have a computer at home), I was nervous about us losing contact with students for a long period of time.
Continuing the conversation on you being an educator in Tacoma, and the stress of that in general, let alone in a pandemic, did it get more manageable, how did you pivot? What was the experience like?
Since students were my focus at the beginning of the pandemic and still are…..once we knew we were coming back to school remotely, it was a continued frustration from the spring. It took way too long to get all our kids laptops and internet access.
Distance learning is completely inequitable in every way, and at first it felt like we were supposed to be teaching like we normally do, which you can’t. As a brand new Instructional Coach, my role became a lot of different things. I became a tech expert, a family liaison, an administrator, but not an instructional coach….which I think a lot of teachers actually needed a lot of coaching on. Teaching online was pretty much a brand new thing, and you don’t know what you don’t know.
Once things settled down a bit, I finally got to do my job, visit teachers rooms virtually, and help them with improving their instruction. Now that we have students coming back in person, it’s been a much better experience. I’m able to co-teach with teachers who need the help, and provide resources for others. I get to visit rooms and see teachers do what they love, teaching in person.
I know a lot of people don’t want to go back to school, and they have every right to feel that way. Everyone deserves to feel safe. I do see, though, how being in person is helping our students who struggled with access school virtually. We have a lot of precautions in place, and so far, it feels very safe. Plus, the kids are so happy to be in school!
Circling back to your previous remarks about access to technology and everyone learning differently, how have you/your team of educators dealt with and if you have any advice or thoughts you’d like to share feel free as well.
The biggest thing you have to do is be flexible. Things are constantly changing, and for someone who doesn’t like change, I have learned to chill out a bit. Also, you cannot treat this school year like any other school year. If you do, you are teaching to privilege.
The core of what we need to be concerned about right now is not grades or turned in assignments. It is the trauma students will be dealing with from this pandemic. The mental health of students should be the priority over any standard or skill.
The idea of students being “behind” is completely ludicrous. They are “behind” according to the US educational system that has been built on white supremacy.
Shifting back to music, like many bands in 2020, they had to adjust or deviate their plans. Shows were cancelled, practicing either stopped happening or it was more limited. Writing music and how bands would write changed.
Did it feel good knowing you had your album finished nothing left open-ended in that sense? Even though your members are spread out, has it been strange not practicing or seeing each other at really any capacity?
I think having Hollow Hope come out in 2020 was helpful for us because we had a lot of momentum around a release. We didn’t have to stress about practicing and writing. I don’t think we practiced at all until December, and when I say “we” I mean everyone else in the band.
The record took a lot out of us, and while we would have loved to tour last year on it, I think we needed the break. Now, we are ready to tour as soon as possible, and we are even writing new music.
Hollow Hope came out in late August of 2020, did you want to hold off releasing the album or was it more like "FUCK IT WE ARE PROUD OF THIS AND WANT TO SHARE IT WITH EVERYONE" and whatever happens happens?
Well, we did hold off about 2 and ½ months. We planned to release in mid June, but when the pandemic hit, everyone involved decided it was best to wait to see how the pandemic would financially affect others.
Also, after the murder of George Floyd and the mass protests worldwide, we wanted to support those who have been marginalized by our government.
Hollow Hope is a protest record though. We knew a lot of the lyrics would hit listeners in a particular way in 2020, so we knew we wanted to release it when the timing felt better. Thus, we waited until the end of August.
It felt like in 2020 I saw a lot of cool releases move through folks timelines and interest come and go really fast, but Hollow Hope seemed to actually keep a lot of momentum and I saw folks talking about it for more than a weekend.
How did/does it feel to have a hardcore album stand out amongst the quick cycle of 2020 releases? In general, how was the reception of the album?
I was pretty surprised by the reaction. I have never been more proud of a release, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to hit since I do think it is a different record than a lot of hardcore being made right now. Having so much consistent support is totally amazing, and I feel so lucky that people love this record.
It is a record that I think people can connect with, and I know that is what made some hardcore records stand out more to me. My favorite hardcore records are all records where the lyrics are vulnerable and relatable. That could be why it withstood the quick cycle of 2020.
A lot of bands have had to pivot in how they keep up momentum or energy around their band, including live streams, which y’all did. How was that whole experience compared to playing live?
I mean...I would want to play live over really anything else in the world. I miss shows so much and having people sing along and mosh and smile and have fun. Playing a live stream was a pretty good consolation prize to the real deal.
It was nice to be able to play with my band and talk about the songs and support an extremely important DIY spot in Denver, 7th Circle.
Switching gears from FAIM, let’s discuss something I know you care a lot about, politics/human rights, and 2020 was a pretty big year for that. You had the George Floyd murder and the upswing in the Black Lives Matter movement, it was an election year, and the way the pandemic impacted everything, it shined a bright line on many inequalities and problems in the United States.
I can’t help but think given the circumstances of the pandemic and an election year, it was a “perfect” storm in a sense. People were on their phones more, paying attention, angry, frustrated, and it all just kinda exploded. The problems and issues people were discussing, organizing and standing up for weren’t anything new but it felt like it was reaching people in a way that felt new in a sense.
Plus, it seemed like Washington was a focal point of the media. From the protests and news coverage, to the whole “CHOP” part of Capitol Hill. With all of that being said, along with you being an educator, someone who’s been involved and politically minded for a long time, how was the whole experience? Did you find yourself getting more involved? Was everything as wild and lawless as conservative media wanted to paint it?
In general, how did you navigate the “political” landscape of 2020 and what did you take away from it? Basically share any/all thoughts on the subject.
The “CHOP” was not “wild and lawless.” I mean it was lawless in the sense that it was meant to be true anarchy, there was no one in charge, etc. There were definitely people trying to be in charge, and there were definitely a bunch of bootlickers sneaking their way in.
I visited the “CHOP” and the concept was really quite beautiful. The conversations people were having, the empathy and compassion towards people, and the community were ideal at first. However, it did not succeed in the end, and that was not because it was every negative thing the media said.
Honestly, it wasn’t just conservative media. Mainstream liberal media is centrist at best. They don’t even understand what it really means to be a leftist.
When it comes to this “perfect” storm of the pandemic hitting at the same time as continued police brutality, I do think it made a lot of people slow down and take the time to learn more about how this country is built on white supremacy.
As an educator who has become an educator because of social justice, I felt like I was finally able to have discussions with co-workers about race and racial justice. We were able to have difficult conversations about white privilege and systemic racism.
Teachers (for the most part) were willing to own up to their past mistakes and their implicit bias and learn to change how they view education instead of trying to make their BIPOC students fit into a Eurocentric education.
We all still have a lot of work to do to be anti-racist in what we do as educators, but I think having the pandemic hit at the same time as mass protests allowed for time for more learning.
To add onto that….something I want to point out is the fact that we live in a capitalistic society which works the regular adult to a point of exhaustion that it’s hard for them to put forth the effort into anything but earning money to live. I think part of why everything was so much bigger last summer with all the BLM protests is because regular adults, working-class adults, were finally able to see how capitalism only benefits the elite.
I think of Fred Hampton when I think about last summer, or Martin Luther King Jr. Both men were assassinated when they started not just working for racial justice but economic and social justice. Both men were quite the socialists and were strongly against capitalism.
You started a new podcast in 2020 called Double Dare Ya with Sarah discussing hardcore and politics/social issues with an emphasis on it not being a boys club. Did you find starting this podcast helped you stay connected to hardcore since the live/touring aspect of it is obsolete right now?
There were a couple reasons to start the podcast. First, I wanted to be able to talk with one of my best friends more often since she lives in England. Also, I was so tired of only hearing men talk about hardcore with other men.
The biggest reason was that I felt like I needed a creative outlet and connection to hardcore since being an active band was on hold. It definitely has helped me feel more connected to hardcore, but more so, I feel more connected to other non-cis men in hardcore.
I love hearing about all the activism each person is doing in one way or another. I have learned so much from our guests. The goal is to make sure this podcast is diverse in race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. However, we are trying to hear from those who are not cis-men.
The podcast is going well. We hit it really hard to start, but then Sarah and I both had a lot going on in our personal lives so we took a brief hiatus. We are starting up again soon.
Switching back to FAIM and being creative, I know a good chunk of the lyrics deal with mental health and what not. The pandemic has been devastating and causing a lot of pain for folks. It’s forced many of us to find new hobbies or focus energy into things that we can do safely to bring us joy, whether that is big or small.
If you don’t mind sharing, what are some things you did to keep a positive attitude and keep healthy?
I wrote a lot about mental health and desperation and hopelessness. At the time, I was struggling a lot with depression. When the pandemic hit, it definitely got worse, so I started therapy and antidepressants. Both have worked wonders on me, and I at least recommend everyone to go to therapy….really everyone...especially men.
Outside of therapy and medication, I have been really good about staying active. I work out 5 days a week, nothing long, but enough to make me feel healthy and have energy. When the weather is nice, I do a lot of hiking. I think last summer I went on about 20 hikes. Hiking is definitely my happy place, so obviously summertime is usually the best time for me when it comes to my mental health.
Plus, hiking is one of those things you can do with loved ones. We also set up an outdoor movie screen at our house, so we did a bunch of outdoor movie nights. I look forward to starting that again soon.
So a lot happened in 2020 and it seemed like many people/bands and the hardcore community became more politically and socially active, do you see this trend carrying into 2021 or perhaps dwindling down and many going back to “business as usual?”
[Laughs] This is something that I might not have a popular opinion on. I struggled a lot with the fact that every band made a shirt in the month of June to support BLM protests and organizations. Then…..they all disappeared.
If you choose to be political, be fucking political. Don’t use politics as a marketing scheme for your band. Yes, I get that almost everyone donated the proceeds, but did your band name really need to be on the shirt?
Instead try sharing resources, mutual aid donation websites, bands, artists, small businesses, anything you can that supports the BIPOC community. And don’t stop just because things start to go back to normal. Every day BIPOC people are dealing with what was happening during the protests last summer. Every fucking day. White people have an obligation to continue our anti-racist work, even when it isn’t #trending anymore.
One thing I always appreciate about your online presence is your recommendations related to political or social issues whether it be articles, documentaries, books, etc. Was there anything in 2020 that stuck out to you that you urge everyone to check out?
It might not be anything specific to 2020, but I highly recommend:
Books: The New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander), If Beale Street Could Talk (James Baldwin)….really anything James Baldwin; Between the World and Me (Ta’Nehisi Coates)
Documentaries/Movies: When They See Us, The 13th, I Am Not Your Negro, Fruitvale Station, Judas and the Black Messiah.
With 2021 having some hardcore fests announced and bands dropping records, bands getting more in the swing of practicing/being creative, and in general a sense of “normalcy” on the horizon, does FAIM have any plans for the future?
Yes! We have plans for sure! We are hoping to play by the end of the year. 2022 will be a big touring year for us (as long as it’s possible). We plan to go back to Europe, as well as hit the East Coast and probably the Midwest. We have plans for a re-release of old stuff, a split 7 inch, and an EP with new material. We will be ready to go as soon as shows can happen again!
It seems at least to me, that regardless of how the pandemic has killed many aspects of hardcore, we’re still seeing new bands pop up and more folks wanting to create music. We all know the term “female fronted hardcore” is real cringe and goofy, but it does seem like more bands are popping up that aren’t all dudes.
You’ve sang in FAIM for awhile, and in my opinion you’re a great vocalist and front person. Do you have any advice for these new singers/front persons for when shows come back?
I appreciate the kind words! Thank you! Yeah, I think my biggest piece of advice is to not give a fuck about how someone might react to what you have to say. Be confident. Look people in the eye. Let them know you mean it.
Okay, I like the end of the interviews to be a bit more fun/rapid fire kind of stuff so let’s blast off:
Favorite 90’s alt.rock albums?
This is a slightly unfair question, because I could name like a million amazing '90s alt.rock albums….so I’ll just do my Top 10 in no particular order and it’s mainstream stuff...I won’t even get into the actual emo, punk, and hardcore I love from the '90s (and I will probably forget something super important:
- Bush, Sixteen Stone
- Weezer, ("Blue Album")
- Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream
- Nirvana, Nevermind
- Rage Against the Machine, Rage Against the Machine
- Archers of Loaf, Icky Mettle
- Counting Crows, Recovering the Satellites
- Jawbreaker, Dear You
- Silverchair, Freak Show
- Third Eye Blind, Blue
That was so difficult and I could have just kept going, and I know I forgot something super important!
Favorite show(s) you’ve been to since moving to Tacoma?
We had an amazing fest here last January called Just Another Gig that featured a whole bunch of West Coast bands. It was so fun seeing kids just go off and have a great time at a show. Basement also played right when we moved to Washington, and they are really such an amazing live band.
Dead Soft played with Supercrush last February. I had never heard of them and fell in love immediately. They have a very '90s sound to them, and I highly recommend everyone checks out the album Big Blue.
Desert Island meal?
The Moonlight Sampler from Moonlight Cafe in Seattle
You get 24 hours where covid disappears. What are you going to do?
Go to a show! Book a show! Hug my friends for the whole 24 hours!
Most underrated hardcore bands?
NØ MAN, Entry, Spine
Biggest influences on you; vocally, lyrically, etc.
Vocally….maybe Alison from Fast Times. Her vocals are sick and raspy and I love it. Lyrically….Modern Life Is War, Suicide File, and a lot of authors like Salinger, Orwell, Bradbury, to name a few.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today Kat. You rock and I always appreciate our conversations. Is there any parting shout outs, words of wisdom, things to keep in mind, anything you wanna close with?
Shout out to Safe Inside Records, Version City Blues, and Convulse Records. All three labels are amazing and run by fantastic people who understand that hardcore is more than a bunch of white cis-men! Peace!
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