Dewie from ThisIsNotAScene caught up with latest Hardcore band to scream out of Philadelphia, Cop Problem. After having taken a listen and offered some very positive words on the bands release of their self titled EP, it was only natural to chase Cop Problem down and talk music and how it fits into their culture in the Northeast.
Congratulations on the new EP. Your demo and a single track “Endless War” have been made available for free download previously – is this new release a step towards a full album with the War Torn label?
Joshua: Thanks. We have around 10 songs written at the moment including what is online for free. We will be heading back in the studio this year but we have not settled on what we are laying down or in what format we will release the new material, other than more vinyl. We may do another EP or two, or possibly a split, full-length is also not off the table. We tracked all the demo songs at our practice space and with friends, so we may end up re-doing one or two in the studio, but we tend to finalize plans on the go, so we could go many directions at this point. As far as the current EP- “War Torn” has been great to us, along with Prejudice Me in the UK, we’d certainly consider working with them again and we may get some new entities on board.
You seem to have captured a very “live” sound on the EP – was that a conscious effort on your part?
Joshua: I think we really just wanted something that sounded good and thick and Will Yip at Studio 4 was more than capable of delivering. I think live sound is more spontaneous and raw and a recording should sound like a recording. Will certainly did a great job capturing our sound at that moment in time. He is truly a gifted engineer and we are lucky to have him so close to home. Deb and I have been fans of Lauryn Hill for years, so it was really cool getting to work with someone in her inner circle that has expertise with many styles of recording. Really can’t say enough good things about Will Yip, great fucking dude. We recorded that EP last July, so I feel we’ve progressed a lot since then and we are all excited to lay down some new material.
Randon: I definitely had no intention of going too far off the grid in terms of recording more than I could replicate in a live setting. So, in that respect, I would say it was a conscious effort. The only element I added, that we don’t do live, was the acoustic guitar layering at the end of ‘Blinded By Power’, and that was done in the interest of having a more interesting, textured sound for the clean interlude of that song.
Previous gigs with great bands such as Converge and now you’re supporting Reign Supreme on their upcoming tour – that’s a superb bill. Have you played with them before?
Joshua: Most of Reign Supreme live in the same neighborhood as us in South Philly, and they have been very kind to us as a new band. They’ve taken us on the road for short stints and we just did a record release date with them last week in Northeast PA, but no upcoming tour plans with them as of now. Their bassist Klint was actually the first guy to fill bass duties for us before his roommate and friend Donny took over. I personally love linking up with bands that have a different sonic approach than us, because I’ve always felt eclectic bills can be very fun. I love seeing hardcore, punk, grind, etc all thrown together.. And playing with Converge, Dropdead, and Trap Them together on their last tour was a great experience for all of us. It’s hard to play the style of music we do and say you have not been influenced by them in some way. Converge are one of the pioneers of the modern metallic punk approach and playing with them was epic. Hats off to local promoter Joe Hardcore of Philly Hardcore Shows promotion group, who also hosts the annual This is Hardcore Fest, he is constantly pairing up great local and national bands and does a ton for the local music scene.
Any plans to come to Europe in the future or is touring outside of the States a way off yet?
Joshua: We would love to come to Europe. It will really just be a matter of planning and finances but we certainly have it on the table and are looking into ways to make it happen, hopefully sooner than later. Europe has been great to us as far as supporting the EP and the merchandise we’ve sent to Fran at Prejudice Me Records and we really appreciate it.
Your lyrics seems very connected with the political and social issues of today. Do you try to write about issues affecting Philadelphia itself, or draw on matters that are more relevant nationally/globally?
Randon: I would say that much of my own lyrical contributions have been derived from personal experience, aspirations, or perceptions regarding the city. This is most apparent in the content of ‘Monuments’, which I felt inspired to write after delivering a package, on a particularly overcast day, to the top floor of a prominent skyscraper downtown; the kind of building whose shadow casts a reminder of the privilege and power that its inhabitants flaunt on the rest of us. Though Philadelphia boasts an affluent “Center City district”, many of its populated neighborhoods are economically depressed, with something like a third of the population using food stamps or other supplementary income initiatives to survive. The contrast of priding itself as a “birthplace of liberty” while having a rich (for lack of better term) history of police violence, and repression (as the only US city to drop a bomb on its own citizens; read: MOVE), creates an environment conducive to writing about things from a local level that still have impact in a more general sense. I also think it’s critical, within the writing process, to offer a reflection of what one knows or feels, in order to establish an emotional connection with whoever’s listening. With that in mind, I’d like our listeners to not only relate with the content of our lyrics, but also feel compelled to go from passive listener to active participant in the narrative of struggle, determination, and social justice, that’s not only embedded in our songs, but are a reality of modern life.
Deb: For me, I’d say both local and global. I’m often writing lyrics on a more global scale because to talk about the US government’s policies is to talk about global policy given the US government’s stance of policing the globe. On the same token, global capitalism also affects everyone from Philadelphia to the farthest reaches of the planet and has an overwhelming and crippling influence on local, national and global policies, as well as people’s personal choices and thought processes. Global issues are local issues, so that’s why I’d say both. But I also talk about my personal reactions to current social and political issues, and human behavior in general, so I think the lyrics are multi layered.
Philadelphia has an enormous and prestigious musical history from opera and gospel to soul and punk. Presumably you’re proud of your heritage?
Deb: Philly’s musical heritage is one of the things I love about Philly the most and one of the biggest reasons I wanted to live here after growing up on the western side of PA. We’re talking everything from Mario Lanza, to the Gamble and Huff Empire, Patti Labelle, Jill Scott to Turmoil, Paint it Black, Witch Hunt, etc. etc. etc. This is just barely grazing the surface with some of the more well-known artists. But past to present there is no lack of musical inspiration and output in every genre from soul, R&B, jazz, hip-hop to electronic music to hardcore and punk, all of the hybrids in between, above- and underground. It’s great being in a city that’s steeped in such a musical heritage, and it’s exciting to be witnessing and participating in the music and creativity that’s happening in Philly right now.
What bands did you grow up listening to and are there any current acts that excite you guys the way you seem to excite your fans?
Joshua: I think everyone will take a stab at this question, but for me, I’ve definitely had a continually evolving taste in music. Both Deb and I have parents that are very musically inclined. Our mother was a Steely Dan fanatic growing up, so I think hearing those records over and over again certainly had an impact on my timing and sense of music albeit the style is drastically different from what I choose to play. My Dad was also into mellow stuff like James Taylor, Boz Scaggs, and stuff like that, that opened the door for me musically. Being a musician himself, he also had the wherewithal to sit me in with a traditional jazz drummer who taught me my rudiments and I still listen to old jazz records today. But our parents allowed us to experiment with all kinds of music growing up so I went through phases starting in the 80s- being exposed to everything from the Doobie Brothers to The Clash and The Police, then got into rock and metal phases. That eventually opened me up to punk and more extreme forms of music like His Hero is Gone, Dropdead, Look Back and Laugh..which I’m into now. On a local level, I love what Less Life are doing both lyrically and musically. They are a brilliant three-piece with no need for a bass.. Bible Thumper is another great NJ band, two-piece d-beat punk with just drums, bass, and vocals, that is absolutely crushing as well. Combat Crisis is great Philly street punk band I’ve been into for years as well. As far as current larger bands that are still alive and kicking- I am looking forward to seeing what Wolfbrigade, Trap Them, Masakari, and Nails do next. Musically, I think they are all doing some interesting stuff.
Randon: In my early teens, I was mostly inspired by the music and lyrical content of a lot of the anarchopunk bands from the late 70s/early 80s; Crass, Penis Envy, Conflict’s The Ungovernable Force, Dirt’s Discography, and Chumbawamba‘s “Pictures of Starving Children Still Sell Records” were a few favorites. Shortly thereafter I discovered crust; with bands like Code 13, Nausea, Fleas and Lice, and Destroy; which had a more musically aggressive appeal while still offering the same anarcho/anti-authoritarian sentiments I enjoyed reading into.
Currently, From The Depths (ex Catharsis, Requiem, Crimethinc) is one group I’ve been stoked on for the last few years. Being consistent in one’s messaging and practice is, to me, an integral aspect of being a “political” band, and I feel FTD to be one of the rarities who really strive to embody what they scream about. Knowing that musicians are involved with projects relevant to their message reflects on the passion they have, and strengthens the legitimacy and sincerity of their words. We hear a lot of bands talk about “being true”, though it’s the ones who aren’t just talking about it, that I find most inspiring.
I deliberately avoided making any point about it when I reviewed your EP because I think the band absolutely stands on its merits alone, but have you found it a blessing or a curse in terms of gaining exposure (and acceptance in a very male-dominated scene) that you’re “a band with a girl singer”?
Deb: I honestly don’t think it is either a blessing or a curse in terms of exposure or otherwise. It is what it is. We can’t control how other people perceive or interpret the fact that I happen to be a female. I just do what I love to do. I try to write about things that I feel passionately about and make music that I would want to listen to, and I hope people connect with our music based on its musical merits alone.
Randon: I think the “curse” lies in the fact that its 2012, and our singer’s sex is a constant subject of inquiry for every interview we’ve had. Never mind exposure, what’s that say about our “scene”?
Joshua, you run BlowTheScene.com (great site by the way) and I see Deb contributes too. Does that take up a lot of your time compared with Cop Problem?
Thanks! BlowTheScene.com is one of my favorite pastimes for sure. It seems to be taking up more and more of my free time when I’m not practicing or working my day job. I really love being around music and artists, so the magazine gives me the opportunity to be fully consumed all the time. It also gives me a broader perspective on how other bands are running shop, which I find to be helpful in all of my music endeavors. Deb used to do a column called Old Soul that I loved! But she is super busy with work and her own personal endeavors, so we haven’t seen anything from her in a minute, despite me twisting her arm for more! Some people may not be aware, but Deb is actually an amazing jazz and soul vocalist, so she keeps up with a lot of current and past artists from those genres. But BlowTheScene.com is collection of talents and must give thanks to my photographers and writers, Dante, Anne, Bora, Adam, Andy and everyone who helped get it off the ground. Thanks for reading! And we’ve got some rad new features rolling out soon to keep an eye out for including a new art column by my friend Carl Auge of His Hero is Gone and Drain the Sky, I think people will be amped to get an inside look at his amazing artwork.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us and good luck with the EP and the tour! All the best, Dewie.
Joshua: Thank you for the interview, we really appreciate your interest and time