In early 2017, Knuckle Puck entered the studio to record the follow-up to Copacetic—their 2015 breakthrough that debuted in the Top 10 of five different Billboard charts, earned a nomination for Album of the Year at the 2016 Alternative Press Music Awards and launched them from the Chicago suburbs to a place among the most beloved acts of the modern pop-punk genre.
But midway through the process, the band (vocalist Joe Taylor, guitarists Nick Casasanto and Kevin Maida, bassist Ryan Rumchaks and drummer John Siorek) realized they were on the wrong path. They weren’t only making the wrong album for Knuckle Puck—they were making the wrong album for themselves. They knew they had no choice but to start from scratch.
“Having such a struggle and being so disconnected in the recording process felt wrong,” Casasanto explains. “It felt so wrong, and we were all afraid to talk about it. There was some denial when we realized what was unfolding.”
Discouraged but undefeated, the band changed producers, eventually landing back with Copacetic producer Seth Henderson, and began rebuilding the songs they’d written from the ground up. Knuckle Puck’s first attempt would have produced a fine album, but their second created the right one.
The result is Shapeshifter, due October 13 on Rise Records. Despite its title, the album isn’t a reinvention for the band; rather, it’s the sound of Knuckle Puck taking their best qualities and honing them to make them even sharper. The songwriting became tighter and more deliberate, the lyrics more introspective and urgent—without losing an ounce of the sweat-soaked authenticity and passion that made Copacetic so captivating. Above all, it’s an album that proves the band are unflinchingly unwilling to compromise when it comes to their art. That’s a sentiment reinforced throughout Shapeshifter’s main lyrical theme—the importance of identity—which was only magnified during their first studio session.
“When you reach early adulthood and start to see your life take shape, it’s also important to shape your identity and break yourself free from anything that might be holding you down,” Casasanto says. “That was a glaring parallel between what was going on with the record and what we were writing about at the time. Although it was tumultuous, I truly think we wouldn’t have written the same record without going through what we did.”
Throughout their struggle, Knuckle Puck grew stronger and more confident in themselves, something the band ultimately want listeners to take from Shapeshifter.
“I hope the album instills a little bit of hope in people,” Casasanto says. “You look at politics and how fast the world is now, everything the internet is bringing to the world. It’s difficult to form an identity when there’s so much in your face. I hope people realize they should consume the things that really speak to them. Through that, I feel like it’s the most satisfying way to be who you want to be.” XX
Blackpool’s Boston Manor formed in 2013 and, in two short years, worked their way to signing with renowned US indie label Pure Noise Records, worldwide. They released their debut album ‘Be Nothing’ in 2016 to widespread acclaim and the band have continued to tour the world since then, whipping up a frenzy in the US as support to Moose Blood and completing their first full headline tour of the UK, with many a sold out room. They’ll also be embarking on a full summer performing as a part of the Vans Warped Tour in the USA this year, as well as playing Slam Dunk Festivals for the second year running and making their first appearance at Reading & Leeds Festivals.
Building a name for themselves with their modern day emotive punk anthems from the off, Boston Manor previously self-released their debut EP ‘Here/Now’ in 2013 as well as a Split EP with Throwing Stuff. In 2014 they released their second EP ‘Driftwood’ via Failure By Design Records. The band are heavily involved in the production of their own music videos and vocalist Henry Cox often works with other bands to produce visual content too. Boston Manor have had videos played on Kerrang! TV and Scuzz TV and singles have also picked up plays on Kerrang! Radio and the BBC Radio 1 Rock Show with significant coverage coming from the likes of Rock Sound, Upset & Kerrang! too.
It’s been nearly three years since Nashville quintet Free Throw released their breakthrough debut LP Those Days Are Gone. Since then, they have been touring nearly nonstop, allowing the record — which was recorded over five days in a basement for $500 and a case of beer — to see its acclaim, and thus the band’s fan base, grow exponentially, yet organically. For Free Throw, the best way to describe their sophomore LP Bear Your Mind is to contrast it to its predecessor.
Similar to most other emo records, Those Days Are Gone was a record about a relationship and about a girl. On the other hand, Bear Your Mind sees guitarist/vocalist Cory Castro looking further inward to examine his demons, continuing the story from the first record, while also showing his more vulnerable side. In terms of the difference between the two albums, the production value and lyrical content is the biggest standout, comparable to the evolution of Taking Back Sunday between their 2002 debut Tell All Your Friends and its 2004 follow-up Where You Want To Be.
Bear Your Mind tells the story of the search for redemption, and coming to terms with personal mental implications in the aftermath of a crushing relationship. It’s a record recognizing your own issues, your own flaws, the things that are bringing you down, and being able to tackle them, or at the very least realizing you’re not alone on these issues. That’s all Castro wanted with Bear Your Mind: to write about issues that he knew he had so that other people can relate to it and feel better about themselves. The result is a collection eleven songs that are incredibly relatable for any individual dealing with body image issues, mental health issues, and rough beginnings.
Where These Days Are Gone was written and recorded faster than the band would have liked, Bear Your Mind was written over the course of almost a full year and the band was able to take the necessary time to create a product with which they could be happy, one that they felt represented the nuances and energy of their raucous live show. The band spent two weeks living and recording at Hopatcong, New Jersey’s Barbershop Studios with I Am The Avalanche/The Movielife member Brett Romnus, experimenting with new guitar tones to add an extra dimension to their songs. Live, Free Throw is pretty loud and has a lot of energy; Bear Your Mind is intended to capture that energy where These Days Are Gone might have fallen a little flat.
Michigan’s upper peninsula is trapped under what seems like permafrost
for most of the year. This chilling effect makes the landmass more
comfortable with stationary lives rather than lives spent outside its natural
sprawl. Hot Mulligan may have been born in this green giant, but they
escaped its clutches shortly after high school to beat pavement and their
own neuroses-at the same time.
Since 2014, the five-piece has gained ground for their earnest approach to
songwriting, melding together the ferocious riffs of pop punk’s latest wave
with the tenacious vulnerability of indie rock. The marriage is one shared by
many bands, but on Opportunities - their latest EP earning a re-release via
No Sleep Records - the courtship entangles itself in new territories, mostly
in those characterized by cavernous percussion, hooks so buoyant they
bob up and down, and guitar and synth interplay that belong to a much
older, bolder band.
The future is full of other excuses to keep moving, and for Hot Mulligan,
they’re easily jumping at the chance to speed up.