As RVIVR vocalist Matt Canino knows, sometimes a lie can tell the truth… but most of the time it doesn't. Canino jumped into public punk consciousness by fronting the equally gruff and soulful Latterman, a band that earned accolades for its heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics and energetic performances. But, when the group broke up, Canino seemed to be disaffected with the audience, stating "I felt like a broken record going on tour and talking about sexism in punk rock every night and then some fucking bro-dudes coming up to me and saying some fucked up shit."
Now, Canino fronts RVIVR with Erica Freas, an arguably more political band, and one that definitely garners a more polarizing reaction through its intense, but thoughtful lyrics which often concern the treatment of minorities on both a micro-punk and macro-global scale. Likely because of this, Canino has been portrayed as a true defender of equality and promoter of gender-safe, queer positive spaces, while other times, he has been derided as a scene-cop or even as a miserly curmudgeon.
To get the real scoop, Punknews staff writer John Gentile glued down his caps lock key and then phoned up Canino to talk about RVIVR's goals, the rumors that dog the band, and why people are so obsessed with hair in punk rock.
When you had to get a new bass player, you stated that you were specifically looking for a female. Was this an aesthetic choice, or was it a reaction to sexism in the punk scene?
I would say that it was neither. Itâs more of a band decision. We really wanted someone who could bring feminine energy to the band. It was the way the band worked previously. It worked really well. We wanted to keep it that way. It was my, Kevin and Ericaâs decision to try to find someone with more feminine energy. Itâs not a reaction to anyone.
Do you think that gender influences the makeup of a band… or is gender irrelevant in the creation of a bands identity?
I would say gender influences everything. Just the way someone who is male socializing is told that you should be in a band and you can be a rock and roll star. Just like the boys you see on TV. A lot of people who socialized as women…there is hostility towards woman in bands. Audiences wonât take someone identified as a woman seriously. Itâs just harder.
It seems harder to exist in a punk scene that is very male dominated and male centered. Gender affects how your being in band, how you are being perceived. Ideally, we would be able to look beyond those things, which I think is true in some areas, there are a lot of power dynamics and predetermined roles that you get into based on your gender.
Why do you think the punk scene is male dominated?
I certainly donât know. I donât know that anything else is any different from punk. I think itâs that way… itâs just because the world is that way. We live in a patriarchal society and the government is dominated by men. People in power, the systems of power are dominated and run by men. That informs everything in the country from your school, to your friends to the punk scene. We like to believe that weâre different and that weâre underground and radical, but we live in the world which is socialized by these systems, and we exist just as a reflection of greater mainstream society. If you look back through history, there are a lot of different histories of punk… specific types of punk is very specifically male focused and violent, and full of moshing. Itâs crazy how in hardcore there are all these shirtless boys and violent dancing. It was a way things were set up. There doesn't seem to be any representation by people that werenât men in that version of history.
When Latterman broke up, you commented on how "bro-dudes were coming up to me and saying fucked up shit." Do you still feel as though the audience is missing your message?
No, not really. You canât control who likes your likes your band. With Latterman, when we started that band I was 16. There wasnât a lot of intention around. The politics that went into it, that happened as the band was going, and being a political band that talked about sexism and homophobia… I felt that was getting lost in translation. We were attracting a broad audience of bro-dudes who didnât analyze. I felt that because the intention wasnât there, maybe I tried to bring it back and say we are political band and maybe that wasnât there.
With RVIVR, there is a lot more intention. "We are gonna be a band that play for the true weirdos and freaks and the queers, and not the mainstream bro-dudes that mosh." We are more intentional about the shows we play, about who we play with, about how we represent ourselves, and basically the decisions that we make. Thatâs not to say thatâs a good thing or bad thing. I loved Latterman and the people in that band… but now Iâm older.
But if you are committed to your message, arenât "Bro-dudes" the very audience to which you should be broadcasting your message?
You know, it just depends. I donât feel like I or anyone has to be a, like a preacher trying to convert the masses. I do think that it is important, and talking about male privilege is important. Iâm a socialized male growing up, people will take my opinion more seriously and I have access to more resources cause Iâm a man. Iâll just leave it at that…
Itâs important for me to use my privilege if I want to be an ally to feminism. Itâs important for me to use that privilege to call out fucked up behavior. Instead of just feeling guilty about it, I think itâs important to take that thought and fight against sexism. Because Iâm a man people will listen to me. If youâre talking about making a safe space… there are a lot of people who donât feel comfortable in a male dominated place… myself included.
Guys violently dancing or violently fighting- thatâs not the space I want to be in, or that the band wants to be in, or a lot of the people who like this band want to be in. Itâs important to talk to people and get the word out there to fight against sexism, homophobia, but itâs important to create a space thatâs safe for people and if you having a macho atmosphere people wonât feel safe there… Queer people might not feel safe there… or people who identify as womenâ¦ itâs about creating a safe place for everyone.
You stated that people are more listen to you because youâre a man. But, Iâm not sure thatâs true. Certainly, bands such as Crass wouldnât have been as influential if they didnât have Eve Libertine and Joy De Vivire in the group.
When I say that, Iâm thinking about people talking who are not in a band, but in a more conversational setting. The male voice is just heard and taken seriously where a voice that isnât male is often questioned or not taken seriously the world. There was an experience after a show, Erica had a really long conversation with a guy and I watched them and it was clear he wasnât listening. Then, I had the exact same conversation and he listened to me. Iâm talking more like on a conversational level.
There are a number of rumors surrounding RVIVR. The most prevalent one is that after a 14 year old stage dived, you made him cry by berating him and kicked him out. Is that true?
Itâs funny about that. That guy was 19. He staged dived. We didnât kick him out. We stopped playing and were like, "what the fuck!" and watched him kick someone in the face during the stage dive. It was way too small of a place to do that. Maybe in some situations stage diving is safe, or in a reasonable place. But, in some situations itâs not okay. It was much too crowded and it was not a safe situation, and watching someone get kicked in the face! That guy left because he felt bad.
We didnât kick him out. Afterwards we had a really good conversation with him, and he apologized and knew it wasnât the best decision to make, and we just talked about it, and he was like, "I probably shouldn't have done it." No big deal. When we talked about things for along time. I felt like it was a really positive experience- me calling someone out and him coming to me about he could have acted better and how I could have acted better or handled the situation better. It wasnât like a fight, it was him saying why he thought it was not the best thing to do. Itâs funny how rumors fly. Itâs funny how these little tweaks come around.
Alright then, Fact or Fiction! RVIVR demands that promotors include multi-gendered and queer bands to be openers for shows that you play?
Thatâs not true. We have been asking promoters if they would try to find bands with queers and women in bands. Thatâs who we are and those are the bands weâd like to play with. Us asking for this is a reaction to the punk scene. Women and queers have been seriously underrepresented. If we donât ask for that, itâs like saying "can you book us with bands with straight boys?" because those are bands weâd get booked with all the time.
Sometimes, Erica and Tammy are the only women identified performers out of five bands. Thatâs crazy and itâs reproducing the patriarchal model. Thatâs us reinforcing and not a comfortable situation, so we started asking for bands with queers and women because that part of population will be represented so queers and women wills see this and say, "Oh, I can do this!" We asked promoters to do that. Also, I think the idea of opening bands is weird. Weâre just going on tour. Weâre just trying to give people a chance to see people who are often not given a chance to be seen and heard.
Your label, Rumbletowne Records, gives away RVIVRâs music for free. Do you feel that the concept of copyright is antiquated?
Yeah, Iâve never been someone to care about copyright at all. The general concept of intellectual property is a bit strange. It doesnât really affect me or matter to me. If someone was playing exact versions of songs I wrote, that would be weird. I donât see that happening. The world is very different then it was 10 years ago.
RVIVR is often compared to Latterman. Do you feel that RVIVR is an extension of your work in Latterman, or is it own separate thing?
Itâs definitely its own thing. Latterman was its own thing. It was kind of crazy, especially between the ages of 16-23 when you change a lot. I can say that Rvivir is the band Iâve always wanted to be in. Iâve been aiming towards being in a band like this for a long time. I was lucky to find the other people in the band. Itâs funny, they never even heard of Latterman, they only know Latterman as my old band. Obviously, being in that band informed my experience, but this band is totally different. The two donât have much to do with each other.
You guys used kickstarter to finance your european tour. Do you think kickstarer will be the primary profit vehicle for bands in the future? How do you think bands will continue to be self sufficient?
I feel like the way bands make a living have changed. I donât know how kickstarter is going to go. We have a lot of fun packages to send out. It seems to work. It seems to be a way for bands to make money in a reasonable way. Youâre not forcing anyone to do anything. You donât make that much money on tour.
Why do you think it has been so hard for bands to make money on tour? From my perspective, tickets are too cheap. Tickets are nearly the same price they were in 1984.
I feel like it really comes down to that thereâs not a lot of money to go around. People donât have the money to be spending on shows. There are so many shows and so many bands, I feel like it has people not wanting to spend a lot on one band, because there are so many to see.
So, you think the demand for bands has gone down, while the supply of money is the same?
Think about how few bands there were in 1980. If you watch the Minutemen documentary, Mike Watt was like "I didnât even know what a bass was or where to get one." now there are Guitar Centers everywhere. There werenât all these people playing music. There are so many more bands, which is cool… but there are so many more bands going on tour. Itâs so much easier, and more accessible to go on the internet. Thereâs more stuff.
Itâs very strange how things work and how money works. In realty, weâre all part of these radical communities and people are fighting over the small piece of pie and its just destructive capitalism. People canât even afford gas or tickets for shows cause people have to buy beer cause their lives are so fucked up cause they hate their shitty jobs. Itâs the destructive cycle of capitlism.
Members of your band have been known to rock the "Business in the front, party in the back" hairstyle. Is this an aesthetic choice, or a practical one?
Before I called you, I said to my roommate, "Iâm not gonna answer if he asks about my hair! People are always asking about it. First of all, my haircut is not that weird. All of my friends have weird haircuts. People at RVIVR shows have weird haircuts. I donât know why Iâm the one who has a haircut people talk about. Anyway, anymore, I donât really have a mullet… itâs more of side pony tail.