Monster Energy OUTBREAK TOUR presents: DRAIN Drug Church, Magnitude, Gel, Combust
“Straight up, no one is having more fun than me when we’re up there!” beams DRAIN frontman Sammy Ciaramitaro, whose face is perpetually glued in a grin. For anyone that’s seen the Santa Cruz hardcore firebrands live, there’s no mistaking that fact. Drain isn’t just a good time as Sammy presides over the chaos of stagediving bodies and mic-grabbing frontline; it’s a party—and everyone is invited. (Dolphin shorts and boogie boards are optional but encouraged.) “The vibe of it is, enthusiastic, hectic,” says the vocalist. “Five people deep singing and stagediving, then kids going berserk behind that. It’s a great vibe and I think people pick up on that.”
That, in a nutshell is DRAIN. The quartet inject a serious dose of relatability—not to mention catchiness—into hardcore’s penchant for toughness and brutality on their Epitaph debut Living Proof. Ciaramitaro’s desperate, snotty howl rides roughshod over thrash-leaning riffage as rhythms bounce in a big way. If you’re picturing the Pacific Ocean waves that rise and fall along the coastal town, occasionally violently so, you’re not far off.
Produced by longtime friend and multi-instrumentalist Taylor Young (God’s Hate, Suicide Silence), then mixed by Jon Markson (Drug Church, Koyo), this is hardcore for everybody. “As the band gets bigger, I try and keep that feeling alive,” says the smiling singer. “Every night I set up the merch and run it until it’s time to play. I want to be the guy that everyone says hello to. I want to thank every single kid that comes out for being there.”
From opener “Run Your Luck” to the closing title track, between surefire pit-pleaser “Imposter” to solo-charged anthem “Weight of the World,” Living Proof is a surefire spark-to-flame for a band that can’t help but be anything but themselves. “It’s very authentic, which is why kids can relate,” says Ciaramitaro. “I’m not a super deep, poetic lyricist. I want to feel like I’m having a conversation, very down to earth. I’m not going to front, I grew up middle-class; I grew up in a house, a suburban home. I’m not from the streets and I’m not going to front like I am. Lyrically, the things I write about are things I can personally attest to.”
DRAIN came together in the sleepy, oceanside NorCal climes of Santa Cruz in 2014 when Ciaramitaro met up with guitarist Cody Chavez and drummer Tim Flegal while attending college. “We had no idea or gameplan of what we were trying to do,” says Sammy. “It was more like, ‘Hey, you have a metal band T-shirt, and I got a Downpresser shirt on, and someone likes Municipal Waste. We should all play together.’” While nearby scenes like San Jose and Oakland (known for the legendary Gilman Street venue) had local heat, Drain had to pull up their bootstraps to ignite their own. “We made our own scene in Santa Cruz,” reveals the DIY vocalist proudly; he began booking shows at Café Pergolesi, a local coffee shop that became the town’s hardcore hub.
“When people come to Santa Cruz, they’re like, ‘Oh, I get it, DRAIN looks like what this town looks like. We also sound like what you expect Santa Cruz to sound like,” says the frontman, touching on their home’s penchant for surfing and skating. The quartet all grew up in California and proudly embrace its hardcore history. Ciaramitaro hails from the South Bay’s San Pedro, which birthed Black Flag and The Minutemen, a far cry from DRAIN’s sound but with an intensity and honesty they undeniably channel.
It’s the same kind of spirit that allowed them to build a Santa Cruz homebase and the same kind of spirit that would allow them to wave its flag across the nation on the back of two EPs: Over Thinking (2016) and Time Enough at Last (2017). It earned them pockets of fans across the United States, but it was with 2018’s promo single that DRAIN’s California cool started boiling over. The two songs (“Army of One” and “California Cursed”) were, simply put, AWESOME and these Beach Sharks shredded a blistering set at 2019’s Los Angeles’ Sound and Fury fest and rode the wave straight to a deal with Revelation Records.
Their debut for the label took its name, California Cursed, a little too literally when it launched at the dawn of Covid-19 and the resultant worldwide lockdown. Well, sort of—the smiley singer even found a blessing in that curse.
“Kids fell in love with music but didn’t have the chance for two years to see it live,” states Sammy. “Now that it’s come back, the feeling is, ‘I want to see it live. I want to go to every show. I want to experience it.” DRAIN didn’t merely jump back onto stages across North American, they exploded onto them. The brunt of that force was felt at San Jose’s REAL BAY SHIT! show, a guerilla-styled seven-band assault at an industrial park on the outskirts of the town that had rapidly risen to become the epicenter of hardcore. DRAIN played direct support to Gulch, the metallic group in which Ciaramitaro also played drums before their refreshingly planned demise. Other sets came courtesy of Sunami, Xibalba, Scowl and more, resulting in the June 19, 2021 date going down in history for the over 2,000 show-starved attendees—nay, hardcore at large.
Despite its large turnout, the landmark show’s origins were much more modest. “It doesn’t get more DIY than that, just a handful of us,” beams Sammy, who was one of the day’s organizers. “We built the stage ourselves. No promoters or big business. Just us on our social media sharing a flyer – it was a turning point for us.”
Around the corner was a litany of good things for DRAIN, including the announcement of their signing with Epitaph Records. The process had begun much earlier, however, with the SoCal label getting in touch with the NorCal band a mere five days after California Cursed dropped. They inked a deal with the understanding that the signees would tour their recent release before even thinking about a follow-up album. And tour they would, hopping on the road for headline and one supporting Terror, as fans of the surging hardcore scene clamored for the Santa Cruz quartet’s brand of good, friendly violent fun.
After hitting the studio to record Living Proof and then, making their live European debut, DRAIN headlined the first night of 2022’s landmark Sound and Fury festival playing to 6,000 kids keyed up to welcome the next generation of hardcore royalty.
“We didn’t know we were headlining,” laughs Ciaramitaro, who also played the second night for Gulch’s fiery final show. “It was wild, totally surreal. It felt not real. We’ve kind of been the underdogs from day one: overlooked, too goofy, whatever. Flash forward six years, hey we’re headlining Sound and Fury. We really did this our own way which is crazy.”
Living Proof is just that. It’s a testament to the hard work and heartfelt ethos that’s at the center of DRAIN’s good-time psyche. There are a couple surprises on the album. Rapper Shakewell appears on the track, “Intermission”. “He’s a hardcore dude. He used to play in that band Betrayal,” reveals Ciaramitaro. There’s also a cover of “Good, Good Things,” a nearly four-decade old melodic punk carol by the Descendents: slam-pit forebearers to DRAIN if there ever were any. “It’s crazy because the song’s been out like forty years, but lyrically it’s a DRAIN song!” exclaims Sam. “It just hits on everything that I love, that I’m about.”
What Sammy’s about is plenty wholesome. “I hope with this record that when someone hears it it gives them hope,” Ciaramitaro beams. “If we were able to get through the tough times, anyone can. I can’t wait to play these songs and hear a room full of people singing back to us. We’re what the title says, the Living Proof.”
Drug Church is a band without fear. For the past ten years, the Albany and Los Angeles-based five-piece have been staunchly creating their own singular path in making distinctly outsider music that’s somehow at once welcoming and instantly satisfying. The band’s songs revel in sonic contradictions, seamlessly combining crushing aggression with bulletproof hooks, while the lyrics unflinchingly explore life’s darkness and discomfort with sardonic wit—and without judgement. On Hygiene, their impending fourth full-length, Drug Church is as uncompromising as ever, and it has resulted in their boldest set of songs to date. Drug Church are still demanding that the listener comes to them, not the other way around, and with Hygiene, they just might.
With each successive release Drug Church—vocalist Patrick Kindlon, guitarists Nick Cogan and Cory Galusha, bassist Pat Wynne, and drummer Chris Villeneuve—have been pushing the seemingly intractable elements of their sound further and further. Where their critically acclaimed 2018 album, Cheer, brought more melody into the band’s combustible music, Hygiene doubles down without losing an ounce of bite in the execution. “Sometimes I say we make radio music that can’t be played on the radio,” Kindlon laughs. “I think it’s likeable but it’s also just not designed for mass appeal.”
Hygiene is in fact an incredibly appealing album despite being difficult to categorize—or perhaps because of it. Recorded with producer/engineer Jon Markson and clocking in at a lean 26 minutes, the record makes it abundantly clear that Drug Church aren’t content to rest on their laurels. Across ten strikingly dynamic songs, Cogan and Galusha alternate between massive riffs and some of the most unexpectedly melodic guitar playing that has ever touched Drug Church’s music, while Villeneuve and Wynne’s rhythm section unflaggingly shakes the ground. The band’s foundation in hardcore still provides plenty of stagedive-inspiring energy, but even Kindlon’s signature roar has taken a tuneful turn with layered vocals, raw harmonies, and cadences hooky enough to have listeners shouting along after one listen.
While Hygiene is an undeniable leap forward for Drug Church, it’s not one made by some grand design. In fact, band’s writing process is refreshingly mystique-free: the instrumentalists simply hone the songs until they’re ready to show them to Kindlon, who offers “intentionally unhelpful notes” before writing most of his lyrics under the gun in the studio. “The beauty that happens here is accidental,” he explains. “It’s not that musicians have some insight into the world, it’s just that by doing something in art you can trip over these transcendent moments—but you can’t endeavour to make them.”
It’s a fitting approach that’s also reflected in Kindlon’s lyrics, many of which deal with the relationship between art and the people consuming it. There’s a blunt-yet-affecting quality that appears throughout Hygiene, as he walks a tightrope between observation, honesty, absurdity, frustration, and humor—all with a willingness to question the messier parts of modern life that many would prefer to simply ignore. “Whatever milieu we’re living in right now is not one I was intended for,” he says. “The conversation is not asking us to personally challenge ourselves or try to better ourselves. It’s a push to be in other people’s business and judge each other all the time. And I have no interest in judging strangers.”
Hygiene’s opening salvo of “Fun’s Over,” a sub-two minute blast of stomping punk, and “Super Saturated,” a towering rock song led by one of the album’s most jaw-dropping riffs, finds Kindlon cautioning against the lure of compromising one’s art for the sake of success, but then prodding at the very idea of art made by a perfect person. On “Piss & Quiet,” he is quick to reject the role of the artist themselves as any kind of meaningful spokesperson. “You can get a lot out of a song, you can get a lot out of music, but you can’t go to music for the answers in life,” he says, and while this might suggest some kind of remove, it wouldn’t be a Drug Church record without more nuance than that. This is evident
on “Detective Lieutenant,” a mid-album standout that finds Kindlon examining the unbreakable connection between art and the person it has moved. “My relationship with a song is the song, period,” he explains. “For me, if I look at a piece of art, and it’s enriched me, it’s hard for me to care about anything else.” It’s perhaps the most downright pretty sounding song that Drug Church has ever written, with interwoven shimmering guitars that build to Kindlon’s explosive refrain of “we don’t toss away what we love.”
While there’s a clear point of view running throughout Hygiene, Drug Church is here to move you, not to lecture you. On “Premium Offer,” Kindlon directly rebuffs the desire to dictate anyone else’s life (with help from guest vocalist Carina Zachary of Husbandry). “It’s a pointless endeavor to let people into your life who do nothing but tell you how to conduct yours,” he says. “A lot of people would tell you how to live but they don’t actually care if you live or not.” Instead Kindlon seems occupied by the finite time we have and how best to spend it. Tracks like “Plucked,” “Tiresome,” or colossal highlight “Million Miles of Fun” mark a refusal to get wrapped up in inherently broken political constructs, self-pity, or the endless deluge of useless information coming at us at all times. “As you get older you realize you wasted a lot of time,” he says. “You cared about dumb shit and by the time you realize this, you have less time.”
Hygiene feels less like it’s kicking against the clock and more like it’s embracing the reality of it. “At some point you have to admit to yourself that all your plans and goals are subject to the randomness of life,” Kindlon says. “But on the flipside, if you don’t have goals, how do you know where you’re going?” On closing track “Athlete on Bench,” Kindlon sings “I’m living between shrinking margins,” turning an acknowledgement of niche passions into an anthemic finale. That’s the quiet aspiration in Drug Church’s uncompromising nature:it’s ambition on their own terms, a desire to simply be the absolute best at what they do. “There’s value in trying to be exceptional, at least in your own mind,” Kindlon says. “I’m exceptional at virtually nothing, but striving for it has given my life some purpose. Or at least it’s led me to this hotel room in Denver on tour.”
Magnitude is a straight edge hardcore band formed early 2017 in Charlotte, NC. While the band represents the straight edge lifestyle they also cover a range of topics such as self empowerment, animal rights, systemic oppression, unjust violence, and various other topics. In 2019 the band released their debut LP “To Whatever Fateful End” on Triple B Records and has since brought their message all over the world with their energetic and interactive live show. They are set to release their highly anticipated follow up LP on Triple B Records later this year.
Hardcore for freaks