Out Live Death bring an endearing sound to today’s hardcore punk world. They aren’t a heavy mosh-laden hardcore band, nor are they cut from the uber-melodic punk fabric. Out Live Death exist somewhere between those sonic worlds because that in-between sound is what they connect with as musicians. They deftly navigate a sound that is at once angry and antagonistic, and just melodic enough to get heads bopping. They just released their first full-length, Has the Past Taught Us Nothing?, on State of Mind Recordings. It is, simply, a tour-de-force of social and political angst steadied by a sound cultivated from both the early New York and California hardcore scenes. Mike Musilli sat down with Paul, the singer, and Paulie, the drummer, on a cold snowy March afternoon to talk about the new record and more.
Give us a general history of the band because I know both of you had bands prior to Out Live Death. Paulie: I'll tell you how I came about. I was in Buying Time at the time and Paul messaged me saying they were looking for a drummer. I said, “I don’t know man. I can fill in, and we’ll see what happens.” But he said, “Why don’t you just join?” He bullies members. That's how we got Brandon too.
So how much time did you switch between two bands before Out Live Death became your sole project? Paulie: About a month and half, maybe two months. I couldn’t do both anymore, and this was more my speed.
So for you, Paul, this was another in the same line of bands that you’d been in prior? Paul: Yeah, so Lenny, Rich and I were in Live Fast, Die Fast. We were in that for the past five plus years, and when we when we ended that, us three knew that we still wanted to play together. So we joined up with the guys from Out of Step, AJ and Paulie Howe. And that's how the first incarnation of this band was. Then life got in the way. Paulie Howe and his wife were having a baby so he couldn't do it. AJ was in ten other bands, and it was too much for him.
So was this really your brain child from Live Fast, Die Fast? Paul: Maybe just more like the next incarnation because I know when people hear our music they just think it’s the same because it was same three guys writing. Now with some of the new stuff people are starting to hear that it does sound different now.
Staying with the sound, and listening to everything you guys have out, it seems that you are going for a truly hardcore punk sound. You're not doing a full on heavy uber-mosh breakdown. You're not doing this sort of less distortion punk sound. But really you’re doing a true hybrid. Paulie: Exactly. We want the perfect mix of punk and hardcore.
Paul: That's just what we grew up on. So it would be weird for me to try and play music that I’m not super familiar with. I grew up in the early 90s, going to shows at the PWAC, seeing H2O and AgnosticFront. Madball was actually the first hardcore tape I ever had. And I think the same thing goes for Lenny and Rich, when we’re writing stuff that’s just what they go back to.
What is the song-writing process like, considering you have a bunch of songs out and have only been around for three or four years? Paul: The truth is, you want to truth? Should we go there? Well when Lenny’s grandmother was alive, he would dip into her medicine cabinet, and you would know when he hit jackpot because he would come in with phenomenal stuff. Paulie: But also, for us if we weren’t prepping for a show, or prepping for a set, we were writing.
So is it a collaborative process then? Paulie: Lenny wrote a lot of the record, and then Rich added his parts. But yeah we all sat down and worked out parts.
What was the recording process like for this full-length?
Paulie: That I was a nervous wreck going into. It was eleven tracks, and I don’t think I ever recorded that many in one sitting. I banged them out in three hours, all eleven. From there I just sat there, but everyone pretty much will have your moments where you’re stressed out throwing your drumsticks or whatever. But I feel like Lenny had a few moments where I thought he was going to quit the band. But I feel like it went smooth enough and we didn’t go over the allotted time or anything like that.
Paul: I'm a horrible creature of habit. I’m very self-conscious about being in that vocal booth with people staring at me. And getting back to the creature of habit thing, if it sounds similar to what Live Fast… did it’s because it's been the same studio. We found Joe at Full Force, and I've never been more comfortable recording with somebody as I have with him. Joe just makes me very comfortable when I’m in there and I think the product speaks for itself. I think out of anything I’ve recorded, this was the first recording where I was actually proud of it. But going back to the creature of habit thing, that’s your voice. You can’t really play it differently. You can't you can't change it. So I liked my voice most with this recording, and I think being prepared-wise, I was good. Even working with Paulie, he gives good criticism. The same thing with Lenny. They’ll just say, “Hey try it like this.” And everything worked out.
In terms of the new record, you guys premiered that new video via In Effect for “We Will Not Rest.” The imagery in that video is pretty pointed and pretty clear. What was the choice in terms of making the video the way you did? Paulie: State of Mind asked for a video for promotion. Paul had a week or two to put it together. As far as the imagery, it speaks to the lyrics. We’re an antifascist band. We’re anti-Trump, obviously. But it’s sort of hard to explain all of this without seeing the video. Paul: In terms of the imagery, when we wrote that song I wanted to people to know that this is what’s going on in your world out there right now. And I didn't make anything up. I took real footage from real sources. It should be an eye-opener to people that this is the world your fucking living in. Either you’re going to do something about it, or you’re just going to let it take over. Now I have fucking kids that I brought into this world that I'm now ashamed of (the world). My wife and I just had twins in August. Now in the baby book you write who the president is when they’re born. My first two I was able to write President Obama. This guy, it kills me to write his fucking name in there.
It’s interesting the way you went about that, saying. “I got these images from real sources.” And you want this to be about what’s going on in the world. That isn’t necessarily a political message. Paul: I don't think we're a political band. But this is a political record.
Paulie: We’re a socially conscious band.
Paul: This is a political record just because of the time. This is something that I am passionate about.
Paulie: The first demo isn’t political at all. I think what I’m trying to say is that you guys didn’t start this band to be political.
Pauli: We didn’t start this band to be Anti-Flag. We started this band to play hardcore music, and write what came to us. Now when this asshole got elected, this thing almost wrote itself. I couldn’t write it fast enough.
To stay with that then, the cover art for the record is in a similar vein. So we're actually looking at Trump and the Axis Powers on the cover, plus Stalin. And the interpretation is that’s Mount Rushmore. So what is the message that you guys are sending with that cover art. Paulie: The name of the record is Has the Past Taught Us Nothing?. We have three people from history who were terrible people, and now we're heading right there again.
Paul: It blows my mind that there are still people out there that respect [Trump] and hold him in such high regard, seeing and knowing the damage that he’s causing. So those are four terrible people. Yet Mount Rushmore has four great presidents that people exalted, and now people are exalting this guy too.
So do you see a sense of hero worship with people that support the president? Paul: The first line of the record is “Your god emperor has won.” So right there, it says it all. I don't want to generalize but most of his supporters you can’t even talk to them. They don't want to hear anything. It’s tough. But you gotta drill it in, you know? You have to stand your ground, and drill it in.
Paul: I think that's what separates people like myself where I really try and see their point of view. Maybe I'm missing something. Let me try to see why you like this guy. I try to talk to them, and they're always just “Trump’s great.” They don’t bring any substance to the debate. Paulie: It’s always “Hillary’s a crook, or Obama-this, Obama-that.”
With the lyrical content, “Sail On” seemed to be the exception on this record. Talk a little bit about “Sail On.” Paul: So I lost a good friend Keith from Boston. He was a U.S. Navy veteran and we would talk two to three times a week just about anything. And then whenever we needed a show in Boston, he was the guy that that I went to because he was always super accommodating. He loved, loved, loved the hardcore scene. He was always at every show whether he put it on, or he was there supporting. When I talk to people from Boston, they still say that there's a void there since he passed away.
Paulie: And then like the same week Rob McAllister (Iron Chic/Capital) died. So Paul asked me to write the song with him. I didn’t write much of the lyrics but I helped here and there. I was close to Rob, and that was a tough one. He was a big part of the scene. Paul: It’s kind of eerie though when you when look at the lyrics, their lives sort of paralleled each other. They both had daughters. They both loved music. The way that they passed away was just sad.
Paul, you have kids. How has being a father affected your perspective on punk, hardcore, being in a band, etc.? Paul: I'm not sure it really affected me. My kids’ events now take precedence over us playing a show. If I have something to do for my kids that's going to be first, just because I know how hard it is to have somebody like your dad around. My first two are with my ex-wife, so I try to be around them as much as possible just to let them know I'm always there for them. They’ve been to a show. They came to Lenny’s last show. They listen to the music. They sing along to the words. I did not brainwash them into becoming anti-Trump people. They became that on their own. You know, my daughter she's a really smart kid. Now, I am not a Hillary supporter but I understood the importance of a little girl seeing the first woman president. So on election night, it was getting late and I told her go to bed and when she wins, I'll wake you up. I told her, “I want you to see this.” So she goes to bed, and the next morning she comes into my room and she goes, “Daddy, you didn’t wake me. And I said, “No I didn't.” She goes, “He won?!” And the next thing out of her mouth is what blows me away. She goes, “What's going to happen to all my Spanish friends?” So she's aware of what this guy’s trying to do. And she’s nine now.
Do you see, as a parent, this climate affecting your kids in terms of how they interact with the world? Paul: I don't want to put my kids up on a pedestal, but they’ve always been taught to be caring for other people. I think maybe more now they’re a little more aware of that. They do watch the news more, and not because I have it on. They genuinely care about the world around them.
How have you guys dealt with the lineup changes Out Live Death has gone through? Paulie: Replacing our bass player, Andrew, that recorded everything was kind of a seamless process. He told us he couldn’t do a show like the week before we were going away to do it. So Brandon, from Mutiny Abroad, filled in for us last minute. He learned eight songs in one practice, and went away with us two days later. And like I said, Paul sort of bullied Brandon into being in the band. He just said, “Alright, so you’re in the band now” after the show.
Paul: It was just like when we played with Paulie, you just know that something clicked. And the same with Brandon. We played Rhode Island and you take the fact that he learned eight songs in three days out of the equation. You put into the equation that it just felt right and he’s one of our good friends.
Paulie: And that's not taking anything away from Andrew though. He’s an amazing bass player but he had some stuff going on. We knew the record was coming and we wanted to move forward. But as far as replacing Lenny, we just did that last week pretty much. That put the big hurt on us.
Paul: Lenny wasn't just like part of the band, but he was one of my best friends. He was the best man in my wedding. So when his grandmother passed away, his mom wanted to move to North Carolina. Now when his dad passed away, he made a promise to his family that he would never leave her and that he’d always take care of her. A good Italian boy, doing the Italian thing. So he moved down there. So we’re looking for someone just like Brandon and Paulie. When you play you know it just feels right.
How did the whole deal with State of Mind Recordings come together? Paulie: So we did a two-song split that was supposed to come out on a label from the Netherlands. It never came out, but we got more recording under out belt. So I sent [Dave] that and nothing really came of it. But when we finished this record I gave it to him, and he loved it. Dave (State of Mind) came down to a show we had to drop off of last minute because Paul’s twins were born. But it was a handshake deal, and Dave said, “Let's do this.” So it's 100 LPs, limited edition and he’s never going to print it again. CDs he’ll do as it goes because they're pretty easy to get.
So you guys recorded this before you talked to Dave? This was going to see the light of day no matter what? Paulie: I didn’t want to put all this money into recording for nothing. This record I believe is the best thing any of us has ever done and I didn't want to just put it on Bandcamp for no one to listen to, or just download or whatever. I think Bandcamp is a great thing for demos. But I don’t think you should put your record up there. This is not about money. I just think a physical copy is a beautiful thing. So I just sat down one night and started emailing every label I could think of. And Dave said, “Let’s do it.”
All of you have jobs and can’t tour full-time. So what’s the plan in terms of supporting the record? Paul: Well if a European tour ever presented itself, then we can talk. I’ve got plenty of vacation time saved up for that.
Paulie: We do as many weekends as we can. Paul’s pretty good, even with four kids.
Paul: Yeah, my wife is just good like that. We try to do one weekend a month, and if we can't then we make it up somewhere else.
Paulie: Right now with the record, we’re trying to do full Friday to Sunday weekends and anything can we get.
Just some fun questions for you guys now. First show, whatever that means to you? Paulie: Kiss, my older brother Joey took me when I graduated elementary school. So I was going into sixth grade. No, actually, it was third grade when he took me.
Paul: Mine was Faith No More, Metallica, Guns ‘n’ Roses. My first hardcore show was Mind Over Matter’s last show at the PWAC.
Paulie: My first hardcore show was Indecision, Milhouse, and Shutdown at the Huntington VFW.
Most underrated Long Island band of all time? Any era. Paulie: Oh shit. I wish you’d have given us a heads up on this one. That’s tough. Actually Lamagna. Lamagna was great. I loved that seven-inch.
Paul: I’m going to go with Subterfuge. I just think they could’ve been so much more.
Favorite book you’ve ever read? Paulie: I love all of Chuck Palahniuk’s stuff. Fight Club is one of my all-time favorites. Survivor hands down is one of the best books I’ve ever read.
Paul: Oh my gosh. I mean, The Catcher in the Rye always stands out to me. I remember reading that in high school and thinking that this is the kid I identify with. So I'm gonna go that way.
Has the Past Taught Us Nothing? is out now on State of Mind Recordings.