Hostage Calm Fresh off of a tour with Less than Jake and gearing up for Riot Fest and a seven week jaunt with Saves the Day, Connecticut's Hostage Calm doesn't seem to slow down. With three full-lengths under their belt, they've spanned genres from hardcore to pop. Punknews interviewer Stephanie Thornton talked to vocalist Chris "Cmar" Martin about comparisons that can be drawn to upcoming tourmates Saves the Day, socio-political activism and perhaps why punk bands aren't more vocal about political issues these days, youth crew hardcore within the US and abroad, and not to mention how great Crime in Stereo's The Troubled Stateside is.


How was the tour you just finished up with Less Than Jake?

It was pretty sweet. We played some places we'd never played before and some pretty atypical places. We played the Outer Banks in NC and just towns in FL we'd never heard of, and they're just really nice guys. We did it with Pentimento too, and they're really nice as well. It was a generally great vibe and we had some really good shows – cool people

I noticed you guys play some really atypical places. Are there any kind of hidden gems – small towns bands don't usually get around to but probably should check out?

That's a great question. We have played some wild places for sure, like squats, and unknown towns in England or like we played SS, former Nazi SS barracks in Germany one time…we slept there as well. We didn't know this community center was former Nazi SS barracks but when we were laying in bed someone came in who worked there and told us and we were like [laughs] okay well…

Wow

I turned to Fred, our former drummer, and I was like "Dude, where we're laying…people used to get up from here and carry out some deeply objectionable shit"…that was a weird little connection. In the States I'm not really sure where was the weirdest. We played in Frankenmoose in Michigan, which is a Christmas town. It's like a Bavarian Christmas town, that was pretty fuckin' wild... The truth is out there I guess!

That sounds fun! Are there any places you haven't toured yet that you're hoping to get around to?

Immediately New Orleans pops into mind. For some reason we just haven't been able to get around there, and I feel like we should've. Maybe it's because, you know, our band started in post-Katrina New Orleans, so I don't know if that destroyed the music scene from that end or what and then we just never happened to go there, but we've been longing to go there just because of the rich musical history.

What about abroad?

We haven't played Russia yet and that's something I'd really love to do. I've always been intrigued by Russian history and soviet history. I'd like to see what Russia looks like and I'd really like to go to China at some point if that becomes possible because I think China is in a situation where if we see it now, and then I'm able to go back 20 years later as a layman, it'll be the type of thing where I'd be able to see an incredible difference for better or for worse and I'd like to be able to have that documentation to see what'd it be like, as it rapidly changes.

Who are you most stoked to play alongside or see at Riot Fest this year?

The lineup is pretty good obviously. Obviously Blink-182, a starting point for all of us. The Replacements …I don't know, I'm stoked for some of this wilder shit like Blondie. I'd like to see that. It's one of those fests where I'd be able to see bands I'd never go see. Some of those legendary bands like Joan Jett.

It should be cool, I wish I could go. Have you ever toured with Saves the Day before?

No and that's something we've been wanting to do for a long time. The fact that it has come together is definitely a dream come true for us. We played a fest or two with them but never the type of thing where we were able to dig in and hang out for seven weeks straight like we're about to do.

Awesome, so you're looking forward to that then?
Yeah I'd say they're pretty good. They're definitely one of those bands that, all jokes aside, really inspired a lot of the underground music that's coming out right now. And has been coming out for the past however many years. They're definitely the type of band that's foundational to this scene that we're a part of. And definitely foundational to bands that have done something along the lines of punk, but have branched out and tried to incorporate more musicality and more technicality and pushed the boundaries of what people expected for them so I think they're the type of band that proved that you can make good records without simply replicating the same sound LP after LP.


Sounds kind of similar to Hostage Calm then.

Yeah in that regard I think there's a huge parallel to Hostage Calm and I think we are probably from the same school of thought whether conscious or not, of trying to kind of fuck the system and put out something that isn't safe. We never wanted to put out safe records and records that pander, stuff like that. I always respected Saves The Day for not trying to do that either. They just put out what ended up being epically musical records and let the cards fall where they may.

Right. It seems like the most recent album, Please Remain Calm got a lot of praise from most people, but a lot of people seem to think – it took them a while to get into it. What is your take on those listeners?

I can't speak to how long it took them to get into it but it's definitely – I think it's an album that doesn't have the gloss that people are accustomed to today. It doesn't sound…phony. It doesn't sound like what in 2013, like what 2013 computer OS can create, you know? It sounds like music being played to tape so in that respect maybe that's what's challenging to the average person, to listen to a band that's playing live music captured on tape. I can't speak to what the process is like getting into Hostage Calm, but I'm just glad people have and I'm glad people have connected with what we're saying.

How do you feel personally about the progression in sound from Lens until today?

I'm obviously really proud of it. I think a lot of people look back on their band and they have a mindset of 'well, right now we're doing what we want and fuck all those old records – that sucks' or 'that's embarrassing' or whatever. I have no sense of that whatsoever. I can look back on Hostage Calm's entire catalogue thus far and be proud of each individual release and the stories that these play as one total timeline. It's a narrative of people coming into their own as musicians and I think, as far as we're concerned, executing our musical wishes of each time. It documents who we were at age 21, 23 etc. So I'm very proud of it.

I read you were living in Guatemala during the writing of St?

Yeah during the recording of self titled I was living in Guatemala and worked there. That was, that probably seeped into the lyrical content. And was just generally a major experience in my life so that definitely influenced the lyrics for sure.

What were you doing there if that's okay to ask?

I was on the run from the American government.

Oh really?

Kidding. [laughs] I was doing these poverty reduction development programs, in what they call micro finance. Trying to develop - in the developing world there is not a lot of capital for the average person. and credit, things like that, are not available or are available at a prohibitively high price. For instance: taking out a loan with a 50% interest rate. So the organization I worked for tried to make financing more available to people in more rural communities in Guatemala and try to use the financing to help finance everything from health products, water sanitization, and things like that. It was a general…sort of economic development.

By the way are there any Central American musicians that you'd like to recommend?

I did go to a hardcore show in Guatemala City which was a really cool experience because I generally worked out in like the small… Aldeas . I did go to Guatemala City a few times against the recommendation of every Guatemalan I lived with. There was this band Venganza I really liked. I got their demo. There's a lot of quality youth crew straight edge hardcore. It was cool to see how that counter culture fits into Guatemala City and the sort of drug violence and how that pertains to daily life in central America. It was cool to see that counter cultural connection between my childhood and even now being straight edge and see these people who I'd never met before in another continent being so devoted to the same music and principles that I'd always been.

That's cool. The Youth Crew scene in Barcelona is pretty big too. I was just living there for a while. It's really cool to see how that works out.

I've heard. That's awesome. I've heard that Spain has multiple really great straight edge hardcore cities.

As far as lyrics, you guys are pretty insightful. As a self-proclaimed political band, what current issues do you find inspiring lyrically?

Lyrically…I think that the stagnant economic situation in the US and the particular economic problems of people approaching college age or trade school age into mid-to-late 20s. I think that narrowing future that this generation is facing is definitely a huge lyrical inspiration. It was on Please Remain Calm and it remains a big one for myself. I think there are things that haven't gotten the deserved air time in modern punk music despite the fact that it's such a monumental happening and is so defining to all of our lives. It doesn't even seem like many people who aren't affected by the prospect of it being very difficult to find a job or blowing tens of tens of thousands of dollars accruing debt for college that doesn't seem to be paying off. These sort of people on your street moving out of their house because it foreclosed. It's a real thing that's happening around all of us and I can't believe that punk hasn't been more of a mouthpiece for that dispossession and repossession. For me that's a driving lyrical theme. Just because it doesn't seem like a political theme. It just seems like hurt. And hurt and song go together as long as anything.

Why do you think political and social issues don't get talked about too much within the punk scene?

I can't speak for anyone other than us but …I don't know. On the commercial end for very big bands, I don't know if it's a type of thing that will make them sell records. Whereas if you're wearing a shirt – and I've seen shirts that say this – "Bitch, I fucking hate you" in huge letters, it's like that does sell records. So at least on that end amongst the more established bands, it's not their money making bag. Within the scene – I can't speak to…I'm sure there are plenty of bands that are talking about politics out there. I know that bands like the Menzingers will have songs that are steep in the soci-economic, political context. Of course there are bigger bands we've toured with like Anti-Flag who have been inspirational in how outspoken they are. I can't really speak for anybody but ourselves as far as the reasons why.

What current bands do you admire for their involvement and insight as far as political issues?

Anti-Flag is a huge one and we've gotten to see that up close because we were on tour with them in Europe and in America for their 20 year anniversary tour. They were always an inspirational band to us. They were a big inspiration to us growing up and we've been sort of lifelong fans. So watching them constantly stick their neck out and constantly make the ethical stance of the band a centerpiece and a discussion point for the scene that follows them: that's what punk is as far as I'm concerned, to be challenging like that. They spoke to us about – this was just dropping knowledge on some young kids, but they spoke to us about what it was like to be Anti-Flag in post 9/11 America and having black lists going around saying "you can't play Anti-flag on the radio" and "you can't - places aren't going to book Anti-flag," and "you gotta change your name," etcetera. And that's a huge deal in the history of punk in that sort of fragile time of chaotic, fear-mongering, post 9/11 America. You could do just about anything to fit in or to buy into the reactionary agenda that was being pushed forward by the Bush administration. So they will always be the type of band I look as and think that band really stood for something unequivocally

You give credit to Crime in Stereo on the song "Impossible" for the term "troubled states." I was wondering if Crime in Stereo has been a pretty big influence on you guys or if it was just that one term you really liked?

No we reference that because that's – everybody in the band – that's one of their favorite albums actually. That's probably…I don't know if there's one album that has more of a common thread with Hostage Calms' personal, individual music taste than Crime in Stereo's The Troubled Stateside. Maybe even more than London Calling or The Beatles or something. It's definitely one of those albums that spoke to what it was to be a teenager in Bush America. How disillusioning it was and how lonely of a place that was. To look around and see this world that was becoming so obsessed with things you despised and to feel like you were the only one who saw through it. And that was a very disillusioning and lonely time. So I think that Crime in Stereo captured that perfectly. When we reference the sort of youth disaffection that's going on across the world from the Arab Spring to the EU to Occupy Wall St, etc, I think that disaffection has really grown tenfold since then and Crime in Stereo was ahead of their time, so we just wanted to reference a band that was an inspiration to us.

In your last punknews interview you stated that you thought that hardcore seems to be heavily influenced by trends and you thought there is definitely less meaningful hardcore right now than there was a couple of years ago. Do you still stand by that statement?

Well I don't know that that is unique to hardcore. I think that person was asking me about hardcore at that time but just for the sake of – I think that trends are a huge part of underground music. Punk started as a trend in the late 70s. It was a late 70s, UK, teeny bopper, fashion trend so trends are an undeniable part of music history. Do I think that there were more bands that were more thoughtful and outspoken in the mid 2000s than there were towards the 2009/ 2010 era? Yeah I'd say so, I'd say that was the trend at the time. To be – that relates to living in Bush America, to the Iraq war, to a lot of things that helped to nourish that political punk movement. Right now there are some great hardcore bands. I really like Mindset, I think they're one of the best bands out right now. I really like Turnstile from Baltimore.

Yeah, Maryland hardcore!

Yeah I used to live in Baltimore and a lot of those guys are good friends of mine. I was certainly inspired living in Baltimore by how great a lot of those bands were and how vibrant that scene was and just seeing people in their 20s who are still straight edge. That was a weird thing to me when I lived in Connecticut, but there was a whole community like that in Baltimore. There definitely have been severe droughts in hardcore history and punk history of thoughtful music. I kind of feel like maybe it's on the up and up right now.

Yeah I kind of get that feeling too. I was at This is Hardcore this past weekend and I really enjoyed most of the bands that were playing .

Yeah I saw that lineup. I had some obligations that weekend for my family, but I saw that lineup and I was really impressed with it and there were a lot of cool bands that I do think have turned a tide on putting some more meaningful and passionate hardcore in there.

Yeah, I'm really glad that Modern Life is War is back together and I was really glad to see Paint it Black again.

Yeah, certainly hardcore is a big part of my life and is something that has always excited me and even if those expectations fell short of reality at a couple points in my life. It's definitely one of those things that continues to shape me and will continue to shape me no matter if I see a fucking Minor Threat t-shirt at Urban Outfitters or whatever.

Yeah. [Laughs] Well. I was going to ask one thing about the marriage equality thing. You obviously care a lot about it, but there have been some sad incidents recently surrounding your marriage equality t-shirt. Did you foresee anything like that happening when you first released the shirt?

I don't know that we really understood how,for lack of a better term, iconic, the shirt has been from the standpoint of like, it has been the type of shirt where if you went to a show in the past couple years you would've seen multiple of them and that proud proclamation of supporting at least one LGBT issue, I don't think that was something we could've foreseen as being such a warm embrace of. While I always thought that punk music and hardcore music at its heart was full of people who are thoughtful and if given an opportunity will act for the sake of something positive. I think people are trying to disillusion and disenfranchise who don't know of a way to positively plug in to something that doesn't add up to change. From that respect I didn't even know that this T-shirt would end up being the force that it is. As for the violence that has gone on against it, it is obviously deeply disappointing to us. The shirt was made to start a conversation more than it was to start a confrontation. So I am disappointed that people have acted like that towards what I think is such an important statement on the back of that shirt, but I am just happy that no one has - I'm proud of people who wear the shirt and try to contribute to a civil rights issue…that is of central importance to our generation so I definitely…while I'm disappointed by something like that I'm not discouraged whatsoever. I'm proud of people who go out there on a daily basis and fight the fight, and I think that these incidents speak more to the importance of the shirt and to the insanity of those who oppose LGBT rights in general more than anything else.

That's pretty much it, but what's next for Hostage Calm after your tour with Saves the Days and Into it. Over it?

I'm not really sure. I think this is the longest tour we've ever done coming up so we have a single focus on that. But I'm sure there'll be more to announce once we get near to the end of the tour. But as for right now we're just focused on playing music and being the most compelling live band we can be.