If you're a regular No Echo reader, there's a really high probability that you're an Incendiary fan.
Since forming in the second half of the 2000s, the Long Island mainstays have not only delivered dynamic, groove-powered hardcore, they've also penned the kind of intensive lyrics that question and inspire. Whether it's political or personal, Incendiary songs always offer food for thought.
Later this month, Incendiary will be releasing their fourth studio album, a powerful collection of songs called Change the Way You Think About Pain. I spoke with vocalist Brendan Garrone about the record, the political climate that partly inspired its material, and Long Island hardcore (naturally).
I’m curious about the album title. When I first saw it in the announcement that went out to the press, I took Change the Way You Think About Pain to mean transforming pain into something you get stronger and learn from. Am I being too literal?
Not at all, I think that is a big part of it. There is a general theme at play on the album around pain but more so pain avoidance and this can manifest in a lot of different ways. One is just watching people clearly make bad decisions over and over again in order to avoid dealing with the pain of fixing something, of facing a problem or obstacle head on. I have always struggled to come to terms with the notion of, “you can’t force someone to change, they have to be willing to change themselves”.
There are also some more introspective lyrics on the album that have to do with my personal experiences with mindfulness and Buddhist philosophy, directly relating to this idea of how we handle pain—physical or mental.
Another area that is perhaps less obvious is the current political climate. I think we’re witnessing the “sports-ification” of politics where people are choosing teams and blindly rooting for one side to win and one side to fail. So much of this is really just misdirected frustration and anger that gets channeled in these often unhealthy ways.
People nowadays are hurting, they are suffering, and they cannot seem to get to the root of that pain and face it. I just think it’s so obvious that this is driving so much of the hyper-partisan political climate we live in.
Something else that stood out to me from the press materials was the mention of "less familiar listeners likening them to a very heavy Rage Against the Machine.” How often have you heard that throughout the years? I know I have, so I’m intrigued with your thoughts on that.
We hear it a good amount, yeah. It’s likely less about the music and more about some of the similarities between Zack [de la Rocha] and mine’s vocals.
It’s a little hard for me to take that comparison too seriously when he is one of the most iconic frontman in history and without question an influence of mine and someone I look up to. That said, it is flattering.
There’s a verse on the new album in the song “Echo of Nothing” that is both beautifully written and brutally captures its point succinctly:
Militias stalking the coasts for blood
Indenturing captives in the desert sun
Traversing the open sea
To feel the sand’s opportunity
How tough is it to crystalize your thoughts into the span of a few verses and choruses in a song for subjects that deep and complicated? I can see it being overwhelming.
[Laughs] It is really, really difficult and for sure overwhelming, particularly when some of the themes and topics inspiring the song are sort of multi textured or complicated. I spent a significant amount of time on the lyrics for Change the Way You Think About Pain.
I’m not sure why but it just usually takes me a good amount of time to get every word and phrase exactly how I want it. I’m for sure a perfectionist but in general, having thoughts and feelings is easy, articulating them in a song is often hard.
What are your thoughts on the 24-hour news cycle? Do you find it overwhelming?I was speaking with someone the other day and we both complained that CNN is too American-focused in their coverage, and not enough about things happening around the rest of the world.
I think it’s directly related, but not solely responsible, for a lot of the hyper partisanship we see in today’s political climate. Unfortunately, outrage drives engagement and it’s good for business. I do think it’s hard to stay super engaged with the news, you can get burnt out on it.
What outlets do you go to find news?
I get a morning email blast from a company called 1440, it’s well curated and has a “just the facts” approach. I also read Wall Street Journal and like the BBC News as well.
Turning to the musical side of the new album, you mention getting back to your more aggressive roots in the sonic approach. Did you think Thousand Mile Stare was a bit too polished, or was that direction influenced by something else?
I’ll give a lot of credit here to [guitarist] Brian [Audley] who really had a vision for this album musically. We were all thrilled with how Thousand Mile Stare came out but I do think we were conscious of this being our 4th LP and perhaps many people expecting us to “go for it” in terms of getting even more polished sounding.
We were undoubtedly focused on continuing to refine our songwriting but keeping—and maybe even amplifying—some of the aggression of earlier material. We wanted it to feel a little darker and moodier and I feel like that’s reflected in the album.
I think it’s a great time for this album to come out because there’s been a huge influx of younger people who have discovered hardcore since Thousand Mile Stare. Incendiary lyrics have substance and inspire thought. What are some of the bands that did that for you when you were younger?
I’ve thought about that a lot recently as it’s been 6 years since Thousand Mile Stare and a lot has happened in that time, particularly with this rise in popularity we’re seeing of hardcore music as you’ve noted.
There were a lot of bands whose lyrics always stood out to me, going back to 108, Earth Crisis, Strife, Indecision, and Cro-Mags. Later on, I’ve always had a lot of respect for Jeff [Eaton] from Modern LIfe Is War and obviously Wes [Eisold] from American Nightmare, both great lyricists.
How committed is everyone in the band to promoting the album in terms of touring? I imagine there’s a lot of juggling that has to be done with work and family commitments at this point?
Candidly, it’s more difficult than ever but we are pretty excited with all of the album release shows we have planned for June. Past that, we’re going to continue to get to as many places as possible and are always working on plans for the future.
Silent Majority, Vision of Disorder, and Glassjaw are often cited as being important bands to come out of the Long Island hardcore scene. What are some other bands from there you think made a huge difference for the region?
Two of the bands from Long Island Ithat had a huge influence on me were Subterfuge and The Backup Plan. Subterfuge was the first hardcore show I went to and I saw The Backup Plan more than I can count. Jeff from The Backup Plan is also an incredible lyricist:
Crime in Stereo was another band that I’ve loved and have enjoyed following their progression as a band. Every album is great and, speaking of lyrics, another band with top tier lyrics.
Change the Way You Think About Pain will be out on May 26th via Closed Casket Activities (pre-order).