The 50 Best American Hardcore Bands Right Now
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We premiere the post-hardcore band's latest single, and get into the mind of vocalist Christina Michelle.
Welcome to the latest installment of U.S.A.: The Underground Sounds of America, our series that shines a spotlight on the most underrated rock, metal, punk, and hardcore bands in the United States. Each week, we ask one band member to answer five unique questions so you can get to know them better. Because if you aren’t already a fan of the artist featured below…you should be.
We could simply refer to Fort Lauderdale, Florida’s Gouge Away as a hardcore band, as those keen on genre categorization are wont to do. But the inimitable outfit has matured into something far more complex and unique on their upcoming sophomore release, Burnt Sugar. And the band deserves a level of recognition equivalent to the leap they’ve taken on this exciting new release, due out this Friday, September 28 on Deathwish Records.
Whereas , Dies, the band’s debut, was an uncontrollable firehose-blast of rage and violence, Gouge Away’s follow-up is a more focused effort that harnesses intense feelings of sadness, anxiety, and alienation with an impressive level of restraint. Produced by Jeremy Bolm of Touché Amoré, and mixed and mastered by Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Oathbreaker), Burnt Sugar is an angular, brooding post-hardcore release that simmers with frustration and discontent without ever boiling over. Much like bands such as Cave In or Ceremony have, Gouge Away will surely alienate hardcore purists with this brave step forward, while picking up many more open-minded fans with a more reflective, nuanced, and melodic sound.
It’s for these reasons that Kerrang! is incredibly excited to present the exclusive premiere of the album’s newest single, Hey Mercy.
“Hey Mercy was one of the last songs written for the record, so the lyrics didn't come together until pretty last minute,” explains vocalist Christina Michelle. “I hate the pressure of writing on the spot, especially because I can't sit with it for a while. We didn't even get to hear it with vocals until it was time to record. But this ended up becoming one of my favorite songs we ever wrote.”
Check out the new track below:
While you’re jamming on that, here are five questions we asked Christina Michelle to find out a bit more about her and her band.
1) If you had to play one Gouge Away song as an introduction to someone unfamiliar with the band, which would you choose and why?
I think I might choose Dissociation. It’s the first song we wrote for Burnt Sugar and I think it’s a great example of our intentions with this record. A lot of songs and ideas got scrapped during the writing process and I think there’s a reason why it made it on the record despite being the oldest song.
2) There are some dark themes of paranoia and depression on the new album's opening track – and debut single – Only Friend. What inspired this song?
There wasn’t a specific moment that made me write Only Friend – just an overall feeling that I regularly deal with. When I moved from South Florida to Orlando, this anxiety about going out alone or meeting people started to surface more than it ever had before. It’s about having this relationship with anxiety that keeps you protected, but at the same time can go way too far and prevent you from living a normal life. I was really insecure about the lyrics just because they’re so straightforward, but I’ve had so many instances since writing them that kept them relevant, so I ended up deciding that they should stay.
3) What is the single best and worst thing about being from Fort Lauderdale?
The best thing is the vegan chilaquiles at Tequila Sunrise.
The worst is definitely the location. It’s so far from the rest of the country that friends of mine often feel suffocated and helpless. It takes so long just to get out of the state that traveling, and even seeing bands on tour, is pretty challenging.
4) Who would be on Gouge Away's dream tour?
We’ve already played with a ton of bands I never ever thought we would be able to, including bands we’ve liked forever like Thursday, Paint It Black, Touché Amoré, and Ceremony. We have a tour coming up with Culture Abuse, of which we’ve been dreaming.
In addition to all that, I would say any of the bands we’re influenced by, including Paramore, Chad Vangaalen, and Fingers Cut Megamachine, and The Weeknd. The Jesus Lizard, Jimmy Eat World, Foo Fighters, Torche, Turnstile, and Converge would be awesome. There’s too many to name! Also, Beyoncé.
5) What's the worst experience you've ever had on tour?
We played a show in Mobile, Alabama, with Touché Amoré and Ceremony that maybe 10 people went to. The venue had an apartment above it, and we all made food and had a good time, regardless of the headcount. The people at the venue said we could stay at the apartment overnight if we paid a fee, so we decided to do that to avoid the trouble of looking for a place to stay. We had no idea of the kind of night we had in store for us.
After falling asleep, we were woken up by the vibration of loud bass. We sent Tommy down to the venue to ask them to turn it down. He found that a few people were having a party, and he didn’t want them to have to stop – just make it a little easier on us to sleep. They willingly agreed, but by the time Tommy got back into bed, the music got even louder. He went downstairs again, and this time, the participants of the party hid in the corner, as if he couldn’t see them. They turned down the music again so he would leave.
We finally fell asleep again. But then we heard – louder than ever before – Africa by Toto, blasting on repeat at what was now 7am.
Tommy went back downstairs to talk to them, but this time he was gone for an uncomfortable amount of time. I went down to make sure he wasn’t being jumped, but the situation had clearly escalated. Multiple people were drunkenly yelling in his face an outpouring of personal problems. They were screaming all different stories (like about someone’s grandpa dying), while Tommy is pleading with them, ‘We just want to sleep!’
With the sun out, everyone finally went their separate ways. But by this point, it was time for us to leave, too.
We were new to touring with an agent and tour manager, so as much as we wanted to retaliate, we didn’t want to negatively affect the tour. But when we told the story to Jeremy [Bolm, Touché Amoré vocalist], he said, ‘I would’ve shit in their washing machine!’
You can pre-order Burnt Sugar here. And be sure to catch Gouge Away on tour throughout the U.S. and UK on the following dates:
4 Orlando, FL @ Will’s Pub (Record Release Show) *
6 Queens, NY @ Death Match *
7 Charleston, WV @ Bully Trap *
8 Richmond, VA @ Gallery 5 *
9 Philadelphia, PA @ Voltage Lounge *
10 Boston, MA @ Hardcore Stadium *
11 Baltimore, MD @ Wind Up Space *
12 Long Island, NY @ Amityville Music Hall *
13 Buffalo, NY @ Mohawk Place *
17 Southampton, UK @ Joiners *
18 Birmingham, UK @ Actress & Bishop *
19 Nottingham, UK @ Bodega *
20 Leeds, UK @ Key Club *
21 Brighton, UK @ Hope & Ruin *
22 Bristol, UK @ Exchange *
23 Glasgow, UK @ King Tuts *
24 Manchester, UK @ Star & Garter *
25 London, UK @ Boston Music Room *
27 Hasselt, BE @ Groezrock *
9 Phoenix, AZ @ Pub Rock Live ^
10 Anaheim, CA @ Chain Reaction ^
11 Berkeley, CA @ 924 Gilman ^
13 Seattle, WA @ Vera Project ^
14 Portland, OR @ Black Water ^
16 Denver, CO @ Hi Dive ^
18 Chicago, IL @ Cobra Lounge (Matinee) ^
19 Cleveland, OH @ Mahall’s ^
20 Pontiac, MI @ Pike Room ^
26 West Haven, CT @ The Cave %
27 Boston, MA @ Great Scott %
28 Brooklyn, NY @ Alphaville %
29 Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie %
30 Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter %
1 Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506 %
2 Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade %
3 Gainesville, FL @ Loosey’s %
4 Orlando, FL @ Will’s Pub %
* w/ Culture Abuse
^ w/ Drug Church, Heart Attack Man
% w/ Drug Church, Seattle’s New Gods
Featured photo: David Burns
Live photos: Spencer Chamberlain