Saint Louis’s Time and Pressure are a hardcore band focused on contemplation and earnestness. While those concepts aren’t all that foreign to the genre, Time and Pressure bring a depth to their song-writing that is at once refreshing and encouraging. For those who like their hardcore punk a bit more complex than brawny breakdowns and mundane lyrics, Time and Pressure is a welcome band. The band’s debut full-length, The Gateway City Sound, offers the listener eleven well-written tracks that capture the aggressive energy of hardcore while also offering some subtly potent lyrical content. Pumknews' Mike Musilli sat down with drummer Travis and vocalist Drew to talk the new record and Saint Louis hardcore.
The band has been rather prolific given the short time you’ve been together. How does the writing process unfold for Time and Pressure? Drew: I have a book full of ideas and lyrics that I’ve written from over the years, and I often pull from those when I’ve got an issue that’s pressing in my mind. But sometimes I’ll hear a riff that the band is working on and decide that I don’t have anything that fits with the tone of the music, so I’ll write something new based on the way it makes me feel. The record was a good mix of both approaches. A good portion of the lyrics were originally written for another band that James and I were in together, and they either never got used or the songs were never released, so I repurposed them for Time and Pressure, and they ended up fitting much better. There’s a song on the record called “No Strings Attached,” and when the band first started writing it, I had no lyrics that would fit. I ended up writing the lyrics on my phone in the van on the way to the recording studio because I couldn’t find the right words to match that song.
Travis: In the beginning James (guitarist) wrote the majority of the 2018 Demo because he wanted to start a fast hardcore band that borrowed from Carry On and Count Me Out. I think the opening track on the 2018 Demo/Side B of the new record clearly represent that sound; almost too similar, if you ask me – hahahaha! When I joined we almost immediately started working on new songs, and it’s very much a collective effort now. Our guitarists will usually have an idea for a riff or a song that they’ll bring to practice, and from there I like to help piece it together. My claim to fame when it comes to writing is: I am usually the one responsible for coming up with the 2 step parts and breakdowns in our songs (cool story, bro). I try to write for a live setting… Like, I always ask, “Will this make people move, or nod their head?” The last step in our song writing formula is Drew. He has a shit ton of words, and he’s got to make those fit.
The Gateway City Sound is at once a cohesive full-length and an artifact of the band’s development. What was behind the decision to include the demo songs on side B? Drew: That pretty much came directly from Burt who runs Safe Inside Records. If I remember correctly, we were certain we were going to be doing a 7”, but Travis had previously mentioned to Burt the possibility of doing a single-sided 12” EP. He passed on that idea, but a few weeks later proposed the idea of putting the demo on the B-side. He essentially told us that he really believed in the demo songs and felt they deserved a wider release than just a short cassette run. It was fine with me because I still really like those songs a lot, and I was happy to see them get on vinyl.
I think having them on the B-side is cool because you get to hear the evolution of the band over the course of a single year when you flip the record. It’s a little jarring on the streaming sites because they’re so different sonically, but I don’t let that bother me. I only wish we would have labeled them in the titles to indicate they’re demo songs, but I don’t think any of us thought of that until later!
Travis: Honestly, we just wanted to release a 1 sided 12” EP with only the songs that are currently on Side A. For whatever reason, Safe Inside Records did not want to do that. They suggested we re-master the 2018 Demo and make it Side B, which kind of creates the look/feel of a full length LP. Personally, I didn’t want to include the Demo songs – I didn’t want to confuse people. Plus, I am a way bigger fan of the songs on Side A. It worked out for the best, I think though.
How was the recording process at Bricktop for the new songs on The Gateway City Sound? Was there a conscious decision to find a new recording studio for the record? Travis: The recording process with Andy Nelson (Weekend Nachos guitarist) was the best. He wanted us to track drums in a live setting without a click track, and his patience was appreciated! I’m used to the complete opposite. We recorded/completed all 6 songs in about 2 days (the studio is 5 hours away in Chicago), and although our time was limited, Andy knocked it out of the park. When we discussed recording I knew exactly who I wanted to work with, and I suggested it to the guys. Once they saw Andy’s pedigree (Harm’s Way, Foundation, Jesus Piece, True Love, etc.) they were all in. I’ve always liked the drum tone on all of the records Andy has worked on, and because we’re not a heavy band, I knew Andy would add some needed power (sonically) to the songs.
Drew: I absolutely hate recording. I have to sit and wait forever while the band does all their parts, and when I finally get to do mine, I just have to scream over and over again, and that takes a physical toll on my body and gives me migraines. However, Bricktop was the easiest and (quite literally) the most painless experience with recording I’ve ever had. Andy, who engineered the record, was easy-going and quick to make suggestions while also being receptive of our own ideas, and I think that comes through in the recordings. I’ve had issues in the past where I become hypercritical of myself after hearing finished songs months later--I’ll think that I’m too monotone or robotic sounding, stuff like that. But Andy made the process so much more comfortable that I think my performance especially benefited from that.
As for how we decided to go to Bricktop, that began with a discussion of, like, where would we go if we didn’t have to worry about money? James, Travis and Dave all pretty much agreed on Andy because of his resume, so we decided to shoot him an email just to get an idea of cost. We honestly didn’t think he’d even reply; there was no way he would be open to working with a no-name band like us. But, no, he got back to us quickly, and when we realized we could swing it, we booked the time. When you look at the albums he’s helped make (Foundation’s Turncoat, all the Weekend Nachos music, the True Love LPs, the Jesus Piece record, just to name a few), it makes sense that we’d want to work with him.
How did the relationship with Safe Inside Records come together? Travis: Drew and James were internet friends with the owner of Safe Inside, Burt, because of their old band, Perfect People. I believe Burt bought one of their records once, and they kind of just kept in touch. I came in contact with Burt through my other band, Better Days. I basically cold e-mailed him about releasing something for that band, and even though he wasn’t in a spot to put our record out, he stayed in touch with me. From what I was told, multiple people told Burt he needed to check us out, and after he did he asked to put out the Demo on cassette for us. Luckily, the cassette sold out fairly quickly, and it became clear to Burt that he should probably look into releasing something for us on vinyl. Fun fact: The owners of SIR (Burt and Aaron) used to be in a band called Built to Last in the 90s – very much Biohazard worship. Aaron, the co-owner of SIR was also in Over My Dead Body (when I found that out, I was so hyped up). Those two would make for a sick interview, FYI.
Drew, your lyrical content has a lot of layers to it. Songs like “Lost Boys” and “Hiroshima Lovers” seems highly personal while “No. 75” and “Crimson Pig” seem more socio-political. Do you consciously seek to balance your lyrics? Do you have particular thematic content that you stick with? Drew: I got into punk specifically because of political bands. The Midwest isn’t exactly synonymous with progressive politics, so hearing bands like Anti-Flag or Dead Kennedys was like opening this whole new side of discussion that I’d never heard before. And the fact that their side of the discussion was angry, abrasive, and upsetting to everything that I’d heard before then only piqued my interest even more. So when I started writing lyrics for punk bands at 14, I focused heavily on politics and almost scoffed at the idea of writing about personal feelings. The problem, though, is that I can’t write interesting political lyrics to save my life. As I got older, I became a bit more introspective, and I started to use writing as a way to work through my own issues.
I try to balance it because I almost feel guilty when I don’t write about political topics often enough. I just feel like punk and hardcore are inherently political, so I’m wasting my time if I’m not addressing these bigger, worldly issues. At the same time, I think there’s a little bit of a political foundation to a lot of the things that I do write, even if the focus is individualized. I mean, I was in my mid-20s when the recession really hit, and that was supposed to be when my life was actually beginning, so some of those sentiments are inevitably going to creep into the subtext of the words. And I’m very inspired by bands who’ve been able to balance that. There’s a great post-hardcore band from St. Louis called Blight Future who does it wonderfully. Ruiner, my favorite band, had several songs that detailed a singular experience with growing up working class, kind of modern blue-collar anthems at times. Last Lights’ Dominic Mallory wrote these great songs about the personal effects of living in a corporate-controlled country. Hell, your old band, Crime in Stereo, wrote a record called The Troubled Stateside that I think is one of the best snapshots of American life during the Bush years. It’s definitely something I think about often when I’m writing, but, in the end, I just like writing songs that make me feel better about whatever is bothering me at the time.
Travis, you also play in Better Days, another St. Louis hardcore band. How do you balance the two bands? Is there ever a conflict of interest there? Travis: In the beginning of Time and Pressure, Better Days was pretty active and we would do small regional runs just to get the hell out of STL. At this point, there’s no conflict of interest. I’ve been doing Better Days for almost 10 years now, and honestly, that band has achieved everything I wanted it to – for the most part. I think the other guys feel the same way, so we kind of took a little step back and Better Days is pretty much an active local STL band now, so T&P takes priority. The guys in Better Days are super understanding, also, T&P’s guitarist Dave is in Better Days with me – so, that makes it a little easier.
Time and Pressure have been playing some bigger shows lately. How did the dates with Defeater come about? Are there plans to tour more consistently? Drew: We got the shows with Defeater in a strange way. The promoter for the St. Louis show asked if we’d want to play, and then submitted us to the booking agent for approval. (A lot of times, bigger bands’ agents have to approve the locals on any stop of their tour.) A few weeks went by, and we never heard anything back. Every time we checked in with that promoter, he said he still hadn’t heard anything. After about a month, we just assumed we weren’t approved, but then James, who handles all of our booking, got an email from the Chicago promoter asking if we’d play that show. He told us that Defeater had requested we play all three shows of the weekend: St. Louis on Friday, Milwaukee on Saturday, and Chicago on Sunday. We literally went from assuming we weren’t going to be on our hometown show to planning for all three in a matter of about 20 minutes. I love Defeater, so I’m stoked on them.
Yes, we plan to tour as much and for as long as our personal lives allow. I basically use up all of my vacation days at work on touring, which is fine - for now. Drew is a High School teacher, so we try to tour around his school schedule. When he goes on school breaks, it allows us to tour longer than a weekend - we do a lot of 3 day runs in between his breaks. This band hit the ground running, and immediately starting playing out of town. In fact, I can confidently say we've played out of town way more than we've play locally. We've got a couple little bangers coming up, one including a link up with our brothers in Chemical Fix (Philadelphia, PA - holy shit, you have to check them out) at the end of the year . We're currently planning our longer West Coast run in the Spring. There's a bunch of other shit, like LDB Fest's Pre-Show and Murderfest in Tulsa. We love to get in the van as much as our lives allow, so promoters/fest organizers holler at us!
Also, we've got an interesting group of guys in our band as far as outside of hardcore: Drew teaches High School (I think, English), I am a Marketing Manager for an Automotive Group, David is a pilot, James is a Stay at Home Dad, but he also books shows and works at venues part-time. Blake is 20 years old, he lives with his parents still. Enough said there, hahaha. Travis: The Defeater dates literally came out of left field. Some of us have a real soft spot for those early Defeater releases, and we saw they were coming through town…. We figured it’d be cool to hit up the promoter to see if they’d like local support. Weeks went by and we heard nothing… Then randomly, a promoter from Chicago hit us up about opening the Defeater date there. We thought that was odd, considering we’re not a local Chicago band. We decided to take the Chicago show, because it’s only about 5 hours away… Then an hour or so later, the St. Louis promoter for that show hit us up to tell us we’re good to go on his date… About a day later another promoter from the Milwaukee area got a hold of us about opening Defeater’s date there… So that gave us a nice little weekend run with a band we fully respect and admire. We literally had no discussion with the band or their management, it was all 3rd party. Either way, we’re incredibly excited, and the new Defeater record slaps hard. Field Mouse (Top Shelf) is on those gigs too, and it’s a cool collection of styles.
Drew, does being a teacher in any way inform your presence in the band? Does it provide any particular perspective for your vision with Time & Pressure? Drew: I think my job opens me up to a lot of new perspectives, and that inspires my writing. I teach English and literature at an inner city school about ten minutes from Downtown St. Louis, and my students’ lives are wildly different from my own. The population is predominantly African-American and international kids, and our curriculum is designed to appeal to them, so I get to spend my entire day learning about things that I’d never be exposed to otherwise. For example, I’m currently reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X with my senior classes, and even though I did read that in my mostly white school, I only read it from the perspective of a white kid whose only experiences with racism came from punk rock bands denouncing it. And, now, I spend every single day with kids whose families are being directly affected by the current political administration, whether it be through threats of deportation of their families to the bolstering of the institutions that have, historically, disenfranchised them. If anything, it keeps me angry at the world around me, and if that isn’t necessary to stay relevant in a hardcore band, I don’t know what is.
The LP layout has a great “Listen To” section of both present and past bands. Why did you all decide to include that? Travis: I’m not 100%, but I want to say that was something I really pushed for in the record. I can say with certainty that it was a very important gesture in my eyes to add that section in there. As the elder member of the group, I remember hardcore bands used to do stuff like that all the time back in my day (I’m 33). When I was coming up, I would scan through those sections and write down band names to check out. I’d say that’s how I found out about 75% of bands I liked at that time. My thinking was, man, I know a lot of sick bands that most people probably haven’t listened to. Let’s show some love. If a kid or a grown ass adult pick our record up and start listening to Chemical Fix or Lift or any of the bands we listed off – I’d say we did our duty as hardcore punks.
A Saint Louis band that more people should be listening to? Drew: Brute Force just put out an EP on Dog Years Records, and it’s stupid good. It’s like a mix of Turnstile’s riffs, No Warning’s rhythms, and Spine’s vocals. It’s a buffet of hardcore where people can just pick what they want to take away and focus on that. Each of their members comes from a different punk background, and it just works so well. I love watching them play.
Travis: Easy. Blight fucking Future. That band is mad creative, and way ahead of what most other punk adjacent bands in our city are doing. These people are straight up MUSICIANS. Like, I can shred a fast punk song, but I couldn’t begin to read sheet music, or even play some of those weirdo jazz-rhythms. Blight Future can play the fuck out of their instruments. The drummer was in The Bled for a bit, so yeah. They remind me of The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, At the Drive-In, and the more aggressive Fugazi material. EVRYONE should be checking them out. Look their name up on any streaming platform.
One book that everyone should read? Drew: My favorite book of all time is The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. I know that it’s technically a series of books, but, in my head, it’s all one long story broken up into 10 chapters. Comics have this way of being able to blend genres that other literary media just can’t, and the way that it mixes elements of horror, fantasy, drama and philosophy into one neat, cohesive package is truly the mark of a masterpiece. I recommend it to every single person who will listen, always at great length because it turns me into a babbling idiot.
Travis: I like this question… Normally I read a lot of Non-Fiction and Biographies on crazy ass people. But, I also adore Charles Bukowski and Chuck Palahniuk. So, I‘ll go for a Fictional story to recommend. I don’t think this book is for everyone, but, I love it: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. If you’re easily offended or grossed out – not for you. If you love an insane story that couples as a period piece, read it. Way better than the movie, although Christian Bale nailed the role of Patrick Bateman… Honorable mention would be Hyena by Jude Angelini.