Vein: The Most Explosive Live Act In Hardcore Today
“Holy shit. This is like seeing Converge at the Karma Club in 2001.”
The dude was in his late 30s, and – judging by his self-assured tone and thick Bostonian accent – had seen his fair share of hardcore shows. He turned to his companion, jaw agape, and added, “This is fucking crazy.”
More succinctly, Vein’s performance at Irving Plaza in New York City — opening for Twitching Tongues and Code Orange on The New Reality Tour — was explosive. From the first guttural scream of the newly released track, Old Data In a Dead Machine, frenzied fans and newcomers alike seemed to become utterly possessed by the young hardcore band from Boston. With wild windmills, stagedives, floorpunches, and spinning kicks abound, the crowd cannibalized itself with such extraordinary violence that even the most hardened and experienced hardcore scenesters were in awe of the spectacle.
On the heels of three EPs and an explosive set at Philadelphia’s This Is Hardcore fest last year, Vein’s first full-length would become one of the most highly anticipated hardcore debuts of the decade. Fortunately, Errorzone (released June 22 on Closed Casket Activities) lived up to the hype. The intensely frenetic and heavy work walks a fine line between uncontrollable chaos and tightly calculated construction. Comparisons to mathy, metallic hardcore bands like Botch, Dillinger Escape Plan, Cave In, and (yup) Converge would follow.
We caught up with vocalist Anthony DiDio and guitarist Jeremy Martin in their van before that show in New York City, to talk about the tour, hardcore, and what the future holds for the band.
Last night was your first on the tour, playing at home in Boston. How did that go?
Anthony: It was really sick. It was the biggest show and venue we’ve ever played in Boston. To play in Boston the day the album came out was really special. We have a lot of friends back at home that support us, and we’re super appreciative of that because they all came out. But what was cool was that there were a lot of kids that I didn’t even recognize that were singing along and going insane. That was crazy.
What was your relationship with Code or Twitching Tongues prior to this tour?
Jeremy: We first started hanging out with Twitching on the Life and Death Tour last year [with No Warning, Terror, and Backtrack], in September. And Code Orange — we met Dom before he was in the band. He was in Resistance Wire [with Joe Goldman and Eric Balderose of Code Orange]. We slowly built a relationship with them, and eventually met the dudes in Code Orange, and they asked us to do the original Forever release tour with them back in February 2017. That was when we started to communicate with them more often.
A: There was a string of five shows that they needed a band to jump on, so they asked us. But this is our first real tour with Code Orange.
It seems that uniting the three main bands on this tour is that none of you seem to care about how a hardcore band ‘should’ sound. Supporting that theory is the fact that Soundcloud performer Wicca Phase Springs Eternal is sandwiched between Twitching Tongues and Code on the bill, which is a bold move. Is this tour representative of a larger movement?
A: With Wicca Phase playing, and Ghostmane [another Soundcloud rapper] playing tomorrow, Code Orange really wanted a mixed bill. But, all of this music translates the same way: kids want the same exact stuff from Soundcloud music that they can find in hardcore. It’s mixing cultures that can attach to one another.
As far as every band on the bill doing something totally different — I guess it’s more so about ‘hardcore’ in ethic: how you operate as band, what kind of shows you play, your mentality as a band, or where you came from and who you got your influences from growing up. But it’s definitely also sick to incorporate other styles of music into aggressive music. That’s something all of the bands are trying to do.
That’s been a tradition with hardcore bands like Meat Puppets or Minutemen who, after their initial releases, didn’t sound remotely hardcore. The drum and bass breakdown in the intro of your opening track on Errorzone is similarly unorthodox. Do you think about how incorporating non-hardcore influences will be perceived when you choose to include them?
A: I don’t think, ‘What are people going to think of this?’ It’s more like, ‘This is a really cool idea; we like this, let’s put it in our music.’ And if we’re fuckin’ excited about it, it’s almost like we’re our own audience.
Similarly, Code Orange self-promote to an almost farcical degree. Maybe what ties you three bands together is believing so passionately in what you’re doing — even if it’s different from everyone else.
J: Sure. Hardcore’s definitely more of a mentality. A lot of people might not consider Converge a hardcore band, but they were completely involved in the hardcore world, and would pair up with bands like Hatebreed. They sounded totally different, but it makes sense.
Yet there are critics who have been using ‘nu metal’ to describe your sound. How do you feel when people use that label?
A: I’ve actually been getting asked that a lot. I can definitely see why people think that – there are definitely elements of it littered throughout. But we didn’t sit down and listen to nu metal, and think, ‘Let’s be a Nu Metal band.’ People tend to use labels as a means of trying to understand something that they don’t understand. I can’t even be happy or mad about it because it’s just something that happens with everything.
It happened with emo.
A: Exactly. You can say something’s emo, but there are a billion interpretations of ‘emo,’ and a billion different types of ‘emo’ bands. There are bands that have fallen under the nu metal umbrella that — to me — are not even remotely nu metal. It’s just a fucking label people throw on things. We don’t really pay attention to that kind of stuff, it doesn’t bother us anymore.
Another thing that unites you with Code and Twitching Tongues is that you’re not afraid of melody, as evidenced on tracks like Errorzone and Untitled, which feature sung portions. Is this a direction you might continue to head in?
J: In 2016, we released a promo [recorded in 2015] with three songs on it…and one of those songs was the Untitled track. So melody is definitely something that we’ve always been working with…but it’s just been more in the background. It’s something we’ll always continue to incorporate into our music. And maybe even to a further extent — it all depends on how we’re feeling.
Yet, overall, the music is very clearly frenetic, chaotic, hardcore. Why is it that you choose to play this type of music? Does anxiety play a big part in your lives?
A: More chaotic, angry music has definitely always appealed to us. It’s a reflection of who we are as people: how we feel, and what we want to put into the world for other people to experience. Music should always be a direct reflection of who you are and how you feel. It shouldn’t be ‘going for a sound’. We had played in bands before this one, and when we finally started writing songs in this band, it was like something we had always been waiting to do but couldn’t figure out how to do before. Once we started writing songs like these, this was it. It felt right.
Were there any personal experiences in particular that made you gravitate towards hardcore?
J: I definitely had moments in my high school career where I just felt like I could see through the bullshit. You feel like maybe you don’t belong in some of these cliques, and you gravitate towards something else. I never wanted to play sports when I was younger. My family is very heavily music involved: my dad played in a hair metal band and loved Megadeth, so that was in the background.
A: It’s definitely a need. I need to put this out… it’s cathartic. It’s also to listen back to something that you put out into the world and feel psyched and proud about it. It’s something you’ve never heard before that you wanted to hear. But as far as growing up and shit, we were all attracted to… aggressive music on a bigger scale. Then you dig deeper into it…and in high school, I met kids that were going to local shows, and I was like ‘What the fuck is this? I didn’t even know this existed at this level.’ That was what I was looking for. And obviously when you’re younger, you’re pissed off and fucked up things happen to you, and make you need that kind of music even more.
ABOVE: Vein performing at This Is Hardcore in Philadelphia, PA, 2017
Finally, regarding your image: Obviously you’ve curated your Instagram account a certain way; the same goes for your merch. Is aesthetic something that you think about a lot?
A: Definitely. [Drummer] Matt [Wood] does the Instagram page — that’s like, his thing. I make a decent amount of the shirt designs, and layouts for the records and shit. I think…the music comes with a visual in mind — those things can influence each other so easily. It has to look how the music feels, and vice versa.
J: On Life and Death for instance, we had this shirt that had an infant child with blood and saws — it was gruesome. But then, we have a shirt right now that’s just a screen-shot from the video we put out for Virus://Vibrance. It’s this blue tone that’s a different type of vibe of the band. There are different aspects that need to be keyed into.
A: Certain releases put you in a vibe. On the full length, there are melodic moments. The split was disgusting, it was gross, so the shirts around that time have the vibe. Errorzone is bigger in scope, so the merch may look different.
The general feel theme of all this imagery seems to be ‘discomfort.’ And that harsh lighting on Errorzone’s artwork is intentionally unattractive, I assume, to make you feel uneasy.
J: Yeah, it’s definitely extreme. Everything’s pushed to the extreme at all times.
Is this representative of you guys as people: with such an intensity and inability to rest?
A: It kind of depends. Sometimes we’re lazy as shit; sometimes we’re way too hyper.
So, the intensity is just one facet of your personalities that you want to express through art, that then gets exponentially more intense via imagery and sound.
A: Right, exactly. And then you don’t have to be a fucked up person.
J: You got it out.
Which is what hardcore is for most people: an outlet. Speaking of that outlet, what are you most excited for this tour? You’ve got a lot of dates ahead of you.
A: I’m really looking forward to playing new songs. We’ve played a couple of them in the past, but nobody knew them. So it’ll be cool to see the response to the newer songs. This is the biggest tour we’ve ever done, so that’s also huge: Biggest rooms, biggest lineup, and it just feels good to be turning a page; entering a new era of the band, because we’ve been working on this fucking thing for so long, that finally to live it and make it real is so sick. That’s what I’m most excited for.
WORDS: Ethan Fixell
PHOTOS: Angela Owens
Purchase Errorzone here or stream it below!