10 reasons why you need Candy in your life

With scalding second album Heaven Is Here, U.S. hardcore agitators Candy have proven to be one of the most daring outfits in extreme music. To help bring you up to speed, guitarist Michael Quick explains why the electro-infused firebrands won’t be softening up anytime soon…

10 reasons why you need Candy in your life
Sam Law
Ian Hurdle and Mason Mercer

When most heavy outfits announce they’ll be incorporating electronic elements into their sound, it’s the sign of a shift towards mainstream listenability. For Candy, it was anything but. From its nightmarish artwork to the glitching techno-terror of tracks like Hysteric Bliss and Fantasy/Greed, blistering second album Heaven Is Here was the sound of a band pushing at boundaries and plunging down rabbit-holes to reflect not just the modernity, but also the crippling anxiety of human existence in the here and now.

Enthusiastic, intelligent and endlessly likeable, guitarist and de-facto spokesman Michael Quick is not immediately the kind of artist you’d expect to be responsible for such tortured sounds. Unpicking his aims and thought processes, however, along with those of vocalist Zak Quiram, fellow six-stringer Drew Stark, bassist Kaleb Perdue and drummer Steve Digenio (a collective scattered across the United States when not in the studio or on tour) it’s clear that they see little option but to abrasively interrogate the shitshow around them and stir a response from their listeners, using any force that is required.

Here’s why they’re perfectly equipped to do just that…

1They’re the kind of sweet that’ll break your teeth

With their sugary band name and album titles Good To Feel and Heaven Is Here, one could assume Candy are all about the nice things in life. Instead, they’re masters in the art of the unexpected surprise…

Michael Quick (guitar): “I don’t know if we’re about contradiction as much as subversion. There’s a band I won’t name with a song called Candy Man, which sounds real pretty, but the lyrics are about a guy going on the run and killing cops. We thought that [juxtaposition] made sense for our music. The goal is for the listener to never know what they’re going to get. When I write, it’s from the place of being a total nerd – a fan – and it’s that sense of surprise that I really enjoy.”

2They’re hardened hardcore lifers

Having been involved in hardcore for half their lives and seen countless colleagues fall by the wayside, Candy’s line-up of battle-hardened scene survivors represent the pointy end of the stick…

Michael: “When you grow up in a subculture and stay involved as an adult, you watch so many people filtering out of the scene. That’s what happened with the other bands we were in: one person needs to get a job to survive; someone has a family; then the next person just isn’t a good enough musician. That keeps going until the only people left in your circle are the most dedicated, who have pushed other things out, who care the most, who’re the most talented, and who’ve put the work in to be the best that they can be. If you’re still making music and touring at our age, you need to have a real determination. It’s not the easiest route. It never is…”

3They’re reshaping hardcore from the inside-out

Although they’re amongst the foremost trailblazers driving heavy music’s brave new dawn, the core values of the scene from which they sprung are still integral to Candy…

Michael: “At this point, hardcore is very mercurial – very hard to define. For me, it’s all about the DIY ethos and sense of community. It’s about how the crowd reacts, about the lineage of what you’re influenced in, about the circuit of shows that you play, the route you took to get where you’re from to where you are now. It’s where we came from and, no matter how much our sound changes, it’s philosophically where we’ll remain. But I don’t wanna talk about genre anymore. On the next record, when people ask me about hardcore, we’re just not answering.”

4…But they’re unafraid to ground their process in a totally different place

Where so many contemporaries are happy to weld unfamiliar elements onto conventional riffs and breakdowns, Candy refer directly to the pioneers of extreme electronic music…

Michael: “What makes Candy stand apart? Well, there’s no other band on earth where you might hear an Aphex Twin and Minor Threat reference within the same 15 seconds. Our shit goes back to hardcore’s most traditional roots, but it also references acts like Squarepusher, Psychic TV and Atari Teenage Riot. As much as another band – like Harm’s Way, who I really love – might be trying to tap into the [developed] industrial sound, we try to look at it with the viewpoint of someone like Throbbing Gristle, who were putting pure noise right up beside powerpop and acid house, making aggressive, electronic-inflected music at a time when punk and metal were still in their infancy.”

5It’s about inclusivity via extremity

Pushing at those genre boundaries isn’t just important for unlocking new kinds of brutality. It’s also a matter of breaking open new pathways into this abrasive sound…

Michael: “Historically, underground and DIY electronic music communities – house, techno – have been far more diverse than hardcore. When I was a kid, it was very much that if you wanted to be really involved with the hardcore community, you couldn’t really be into anything else. I always had [eclectic] tastes, so it felt like I had to hide my other interests or have them be a totally separate thing. The further I’ve gone as a musician, the more I’ve been like, ‘Fuck that!’ When kids don’t have to hide those things when they come to a hardcore show, they’re more likely to come back. Plus, it just makes sense to bridge the between-genres gap. A lot of the insane raves in Detroit in the ’80s and ’90s were put on illegally, just like the punk shows!”

6Their politics are far more than surface level

While politics are integral to Candy’s message, they avoid pot-shots at easy targets in favour of a deeper message…

Michael: “I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationship between politics and this music recently. Sure, there are apolitical people who like hardcore, and who truly get something from it, but I believe there’s a responsibility in hardcore – a responsibility for musicians and artists with a platform – to try to have a positive influence. At the same time, we’re not trying to preach. We don’t have any songs that are specifically like ‘Fuck Republicans’ or ‘Fuck Trump’ – even if we do feel that way. It’s more that our music, right from an emotional level, is about how marginalised groups and people with less are mistreated in Western society.”

7Recreating anxiety sonically helps process it emotionally

As Candy have explored, high-tension music can release the stress inside…

Michael: “Heaven Is Here was our most personal record to date, one so severe that it reflected our feelings about what was happening in the world around us. It was a coping mechanism for anxiety and various other emotions. I was trying to write music that, after I’d left it for a couple of days and sat down to listen again, would make me go, ‘Urgh!’ and remind me of whatever had been stressing me out. All good music comes from that deeply emotional place with which others can connect.”

8They’re sexy and they know it

As a reflection of the human experience, Candy’s music doesn’t shy from heart/loin-stirring feelings of romance and sexuality. In fact, songs like Kinesthesia and Transcend To Wet revel in them…

Michael: “Hardcore is a lot more sexual than people think it is. Our [nudity-strewn] album artwork is actually supposed to be an insane reflection a hardcore show. People take their clothes off because they’re posturing. When you’re punching some kid in the face, that’s a mating call. Freud would have a lot to say. I’ve been involved long enough that you can’t convince me otherwise!”

9The live show is aggressively cutting edge

Translating the sonic maelstrom on record into the live arena is a colossal technical challenge. It’s one which Candy are meeting head-on…

Michael: “Our live shit is a nightmare right now, just trying to make sure everything works while expanding it on a technological level. We’ve already done so many tours with the same gear that everyone else uses, and so now we’re focusing on building our own really distinctive thing. We want to use gear that nobody else uses. We want to incorporate samples in a way that nobody else does it. We still use guitars and drums, but we want to engineer a space where you can see something that you haven’t before. We fail maybe 75 per cent of the time. But it’s very rewarding to try!”

10The future is unwritten

Having translated ultimate misery into scathing sound, Candy are now relishing the challenge of maintaining their sonic stranglehold on listeners from a (slightly) more positive place…

Michael: “Candy isn’t about pushing the extremity. It’s just about capturing how we feel at any given time, about serving the moment. The moment we’re living through right now isn’t as extreme as the one in which Heaven Is Here was written. That’s not to say the music won’t be as extreme, but the topics of conversation will be very different. Is it possible to make a ‘happy’ Candy record? One that’s as heavy as Heaven Is Here? That’s a good question, and one I probably won’t be able to answer for a little while…”

Heaven Is Here is out now via Relapse. Candy play Outbreak Fest this month. This article originally appeared in the spring issue of the magazine.

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