Uriah Thomas (Dead End Path)

Proudly emerging from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, home of one of the most thriving hardcore scenes in the US, comes Dead End Path. Having recently released their debut full-length, in the form of Blind Faith, their refined New York sound, along with some of the most proficiently written lyrics, make them a clear standout in their genre. Punknews interviewer Faye Turnbull sat down with frontman Uriah Thomas, ahead of their show in London, covering: the new album, discrimination within hardcore, violence at their shows, and his hometown scene.

Is this Dead End Path’s first time overseas?
Yeah, this is our first time in Europe and the UK. Today’s the first date of the UK date of this tour in London. The city is incredible, seriously awesome. The tour’s been amazing; every night has been awesome. It’s really surreal, it hasn’t really set in yet that I’m sitting in Europe doing this. It’s cool. It seems like such an intense tour package, with Harm’s Way and Brutality Will Prevail.
Yeah, it’s very intense, but everyone is super chill and besides the drives being kind of crazy, the vibe is good and everyone is getting along. It’s a really cool experience and I’m really happy that we were finally able to come over.

Didn’t you do a weird tour with Title Fight, The Menzingers and Touche Amore last year?
Yeah! 2011 was the craziest year touring, we’ve toured non-stop, and every tour we’ve done has been with bands that don’t sound like us. We did that Title Fight, The Menzingers, and Touche Amore tour, and then we did the Bane, Defeater and Miles Away tour, and we sound like none of those bands, but it worked so perfectly. We got on with all of those guys really great. Touring with The Menzingers was really cool, we’re from the same town as them, so I’ve known them for a really, really long time, but I didn’t understand where they were coming from and they definitely didn’t understand where we were coming from, but it worked really well. Sometimes there were fights and stuff at the shows, and that’s not us at all. We’re not a violent band. We don’t support that shit at all, so it was kind of awkward telling people to chill out and that it wasn’t cool, but on the other hand, there were kids coming out to see Title Fight that had never heard of us, but thought we were cool, so it really worked to our advantage than to our disadvantage.

Are you in more of your comfort zone on line-ups like this?
Not really, I think it might be a little bit more of a headache and more hard to deal with, because you’re kind of competing, like who’s going to get the craziest reaction. When you’re touring with a band like Bane, who we sound nothing like, it’s more of you doing your own thing, coming into your own skin a little bit more.

You said you’re not about violence, is it a regular occurrence at your shows?
No, it hasn’t been like that here. Every night has been crazy and kids are going off, it’s more of a positive vibe. It doesn’t seem as violent as at home. There are kids at home that will come to the show just to start fights. They’ll see a band like Title Fight playing and some of their crowd is younger kids, so they bully the younger kids. But here, I guess that’s a positive about just being on a tour with hardcore bands, kids don’t really have that mindset. As far as violence goes - no, we’re not about that. We play heavy hardcore, but we’re not violent people and we don’t support violence. I don’t understand that mentality, I don’t get behind that at all.

You released your debut full-length, Blind Faith, a few months ago; it seems to be heavily themed around religion and death.
Everything I’ve ever written has been really heavily influenced by death. A friend of mine once told me that they only write lyrics about what they’re really afraid of, and I guess that sounds cheesy, but death is one thing that scares me so much. In every day life, I can’t face it, but I can kind of face it writing lyrics. I can write about it and come to terms with it, so that’s why I write about death a lot. The religious thing, I grew up going to a Catholic school, had that shit shoved down my throat every single fucking day of my life. I use the religious terminology and imagery as a catalyst, like I can use God as a reference for something else. A lot of people get the idea that we’re a Christian band or something, and that’s not the case at all. People can believe what they want, that’s personal.

Were you raised Catholic?
No, I went to Catholic school, but I was never Catholic. I wasn’t raised Catholic. I grew up in a very open household, like nothing was ever forced on me; I was never forced to believe in God. I didn’t do anything I didn’t want to do. That’s why I feel like I’m such a tolerant person. You listen to hardcore bands and they’re not typically talking about homophobia in the hardcore scene, and growing up my mom was always told me to be tolerant of everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, whatever. Nothing matters how you are as a person. I think it’s made me become very aware and open, but no, I wasn’t raised Catholic. That’s what was so weird, growing up in a very open household then going to a school where everyone’s saying, "Believe this or you’re going to hell." It’s crazy.

Would you say it’s a concept album?
Not necessarily, but faith is 100% the theme of the record. It has a theme. If you listen to the record and read the lyrics, faith is the constant theme in every song. But no, not a concept record. I guess it’s just faith in different aspects of life, like having faith in something and being let down by it, and having so much faith in something and wanting something to happen and really believing in it. Just everything in life having to do with faith, whether it being your personal life or the band, or questioning my faith in God, family, friends. I guess in a way, it’s a concept record.

I’ve watched a few live videos of you recently and before one song in particular, you said it’s about homophobia and sexism in the hardcore scene, do you feel those issues are still rife within hardcore?
The song’s "Never Have Heaven Ever" and that song’s about homophobia and sexism. At least where I come from, like I said, I’ve always been open-minded, but it really didn’t hit me hard until I found out that some of my closest friends were gay and hearing people get up on stage saying certain words, making my friends feel like outcasts and that’s so sad to me. That seriously makes me so sad. Like, look at me, people reading this obviously can’t see me, but I’m in no place to judge anyone. I’m nobody to judge and that’s why I got into hardcore, because nobody was judging me and I wasn’t judging anyone else. I feel like bands have a responsibility, when they get on stage, to either not say anything or be a positive role model or person to someone who might be on the fence about something. But if you’re on stage and you encourage people to say certain words then you’re doing way more bad than good. That is a problem in hardcore today; people overlook it or laugh it off or whatever. If you were to go to a show and you’re a girl, and someone says "Girls don’t fucking belong here." How would that make you feel? You’d feel awful. If someone got on stage and said, "Get that fucking fat dude out of here." How would that make me feel? I’d feel so awful. I’d never want that to happen just because of who I am or who you are or what might define us to some people.

What’s the story behind the more melodic parts on the record?
It’s just cool having a few different people be apart of it. On our demo, we had our friend Alex sing a part, and on our 7", we had our friends Dan and Bob sing. I just think of bands I like and I’m like, "I want that person to sing on our record." With our LP, Blacklisted is my favorite hardcore band of the last ten years, so I wanted George on the record. We got Hoodrack from War Hungry, who are an incredible band. It’s also cool, because it mixes up the record. I don’t want to say boring, but I guess it could get boring, but it kind of adds a new flavor. I’m a huge fan of Leeway, so Nick’s part on the last song was huge. I love George’s part, it reminds me of a Blacklisted song and I like Hoodrack’s part, it reminds me of a War Hungry song. It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do and something we’ll continue to do, always.

Dead End Path is obviously heavily influenced by New York hardcore, but your lyrics seem to have a lot more substance than your standard New York hardcore bands.
You can listen to a band, and if they’re heavy and have mosh parts, then that’s great, and I know I keep referencing Blacklisted, but George is an incredibly lyricist who makes me want to listen to the lyrics, and I wouldn’t say I’m anywhere near his league, but they really mean a lot to me and that’s just my way of contributing to the band, writing the lyrics. If people think they’re cool, then that’s awesome.

You’re from the Wilkes-Barre scene and there seems to be a lot of pride being apart of that.
Oh, yeah. 100%. It kind of sucks in a way, because a lot of people feel that we’re elitist or trying to outcast people, but that’s not it at all. We have a lot of pride in where we come from with a lot of really great bands. We’ve had a crazy hardcore scene for a really long time, even before my time, just going on forever. It’s just a small town that has a lot of pride in their hardcore scene. Everyone wants to identify with something, whether it be a sports team or you go to fucking Yale or Harvard, you want to identify that. It’s just cool having pride where you’re from.

I know a lot of people from that scene are straight edge, are you?
No, and this is a huge misconception. I get asked about it every single day of my life. No, I’m not straight edge, but some of the dudes in my band are. There’s actually more straight edge people in Dead End Path than none, but me and the guitar player aren’t. Most people assume that I’m straight edge, because of the bands I listen to, the way I dress and the people I hang out with. I listen to straight edge hardcore, it’s all I listen to. I hang out with straight edge kids, they’re all I hang out with, so that’s where I guess people get that idea.

Do you mostly just listen to hardcore?
Oh God, no. I love hardcore; it’s my life. Hardcore is life. I love it, it means so much to me, but it’s not the only thing I listen to. A lot of the times on tour, the last thing I want to listen to is hardcore. I mean, to me, hardcore is the energy of a show. You go to a show and you just feel the energy. A lot of bands write great records, you could listen to Bad Brains, close your eyes and just picture how crazy it is, or the Cro-Mags or Straight Ahead. You listen to those bands and I feel the energy through the record. I’ve listened to more hardcore this year than I ever have, Omegas, Soul Swallower, The Boston Strangler, all of these bands put out crazy good records last year, but so did M-83 and all of these other bands I’m into. Title Fight is my favorite band, ever.

Most of the bands emerging from Wilkes-Barres seem so young.
I’m 24, but most of the kids in Wilkes-Barre are now between the ages of 15 and 19. The band United Youth, for example, the singer is 16, some of those dudes are still in high school or fresh out of high school and just got into college, so it’s really cool. Wilkes-Barre hardcore was definitely at a low point, maybe 2-3 years ago, then we got a venue and all of these young kids started coming out. They go to every hardcore show and see every band that comes through, so it’s a really cool time to be from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

There seems to be a lot of ‘hype’ bands coming from there too, with people buying their merch on eBay for crazy prices - pretty similar to Brutality Will Prevail over here.
Yeah, Brutality are very aware that kids are into that shit. Us too back home, I see it with us, Stick Together, all of the Boston bands like Free Spirit, The Rival Mob, it’s crazy. I don’t know if it’s kids who don’t go to shows and just buy it on the Internet, I don’t know what it is, but it’s weird. With Brutality, I see their lines every night, kids just waiting by their merch, it’s kind of crazy.

I saw on your Twitter that you recorded a song for America’s Hardcore Compilation 2.
Yeah, like a week before we left for this tour, we recorded with a friend Will - he did our LP, the Title Fight LP, Blacklisted, Mother of Mercy, War Hungry. He recorded the song for the comp and it’s a lot different to anything we’ve done. I think our LP is different than our other shit, and I hate to keep bringing up Blacklisted, but if you look at Blacklisted from the start to finish, every single record is different. Every record got better and better, in my opinion. So, I’m not saying I want to sound like Blacklisted, but if we could keep progressing more and more with record. If you look at bands like Rise and Fall or Rhythm To The Madness or Justice, every single record was different. So, the song is different and everything we kind write from now on, is going to be a little bit different. But yeah, it’s for America’s Hardcore 2. It’ll probably be out by the summer. We have a 7" coming out on Back To Back this year and hopefully a 7" coming out on Lockin’ Out as well.

Do you have anything else to say before we finish?
I love hardcore. I love punk. I love The Stone Roses. I love Latterman. And I love London; the city is fucking amazing.