Fed by the deep roots of the New Jersey hardcore scene, self-proclaimed “ghoulie metalcore” band Old Wounds has crawled out of the swamp of obscurity to continue the legend of heavy music from the Northeast. Their latest album, From Where We Came Is Where We’ll Rest, played the dark horse in 2013, coming from out of nowhere and shredding expectations with its unique amalgam of styles and a raw brutality that makes other aggressive music sound like a chorus of fluffy kittens. They’ve been living on the road for the past few years, building up momentum behind their name (and surviving more bullshit transportation problems than the next five bands combined)—now they’re poised to infect the country with their dark and dirty sound. SLUG caught up with drummer Brandon Gallagher to see how the last year’s successes have treated the fearless foursome.
SLUG: So you guys are about a week into your national tour right? How’s it going so far?
Old Wounds: Yeah, we’re pretty much just starting and things have been good so far. We’re in Alabama—Birmingham—tonight. The first week was just getting out to Texas for South By Southwest, and [we will be] cruising through the southwest and the coast and finishing up that way. We’re pretty much covering the whole United States this time.
SLUG: How did you end up on the tour?
Old Wounds: We just joined a booking agency, State of Mind Touring, in December, after we did that Raindance tour and this was kind of like to test the waters working with them. We’ve only done three shows so far but everything leading up to it was super easy, [we enjoy] working with them and the shows have been good. We’re definitely stoked on that aspect.
SLUG: What does joining State of Mind Touring mean for you guys?
Old Wounds: I booked every show that we did up until the Raindance tour, and the difference between working with an agency as opposed to booking the shows yourself are that obviously they have connections you don’t have, but it’s just the principle of not really worrying about if the show is going to happen. They really lock it down for you and you’re able to go on tour and not worry about getting screwed. It’s pretty relaxing and they take care of a lot of stuff that’s not very easy. One thing we pretty much told them when we started was we want to keep [control over touring rosters] open, being able to do whatever we want. That’s what’s been working for us, and they were totally down for it. They’ll come to us and ask if we want to tour with bands and we have the option to say no or yes.
SLUG: You guys are crazy tour-hounds. How do you maintain that lifestyle for so long? Are you hoping it will slow down eventually or is it part of the appeal for you?
Old Wounds: Especially the last couple tours, things are starting to roll for us a bit and that’s hyped everyone up to continue doing this. Now, working with a booking agency, it’s financially easier to do it, so there’s not too much stress about going out on the road and being financially crippled. In that aspect it’s tight. We all pretty much have jobs that are super lenient on us being able to take off, so with both of those happening, it’s pretty easy. And we love doing it, we’re all pretty young so we’re going to keep rolling with it until we end up hating each other or it goes to the next level. A lot of bands we really like have been killing it for 15-20 years at this point, and we’re only in our early 20s and been doing it for three or four years, so I can only imagine being in my late 30s and having done this 20-plus years.
SLUG: You guys are awesome because you give off this very traditional, from-the-roots, dirt bag kind of hardcore vibe that just isn’t prevalent. Where does that come from, what inspires it?
Old Wounds: Definitely with New Jersey’s history of bands there’s a huge influence on us, not necessarily musically—there’s obviously some bands we really love, like the Misfits, The Banner, Deadguy—but being from New Jersey, bands have worked really hard in the non-musical aspect, like touring all the time. Especially being sandwiched between New York and Philly, there’s a million bands around here, and people everywhere from the Northeast are usually pretty stoked to see an out-of-state touring band. As we kept touring and doing that, we realized that maybe the big city scenes may not give you the time of day, but if you make an effort to get out of that bubble, there’s a lot of people everywhere else that are definitely super stoked to see new bands. We definitely stray from typical hardcore bands in a lot of different aspects, so I think, in that sense, people are stoked to see us.
SLUG: I have this feeling that your goals as musicians are not going to be the kind of typical, ubiquitous goals you usually hear. What does the top of the mountain look like for Old Wounds?
Old Wounds: It’s hard to say really, because as we keep touring and playing shows and putting out new music, different opportunities and different things come out of it. The stuff we do is always changing. I think that’s good because it’s easy to get burned out on hardcore and playing hardcore. Not saying that we’ll change style drastically, but every time we write new music, we’re trying to progress and tap into different styles and keep it fresh, and with that being said, the bands we’ll play with will always be changing. I think that’s good and important if you’re trying to do this for the long run. But as far as what would be the top achievement for us, it’s hard to say. We’re kind of just rolling with the flow and seeing what happens.
SLUG: How is the hardcore scene in New Jersey? Have you been impressed or surprised by any other scenes you’ve toured to?
Old Wounds: As of recently we’ve been getting support and respect in that aspect, but New Jersey is a pretty tough scene to really get it going, because everyone’s either older and kind of burnt out on hardcore or younger and have their own clique and they stick with it. They want to listen to what’s cool and not really go outside their bubble a little bit. So it’s definitely hard, but that goes for any New Jersey band. There’s so much going on, I don’t want to say “competition,” but there’s so many groups of people, it’s hard to get it going, but once you get those gears rolling and people see you’re putting in the effort to keeping New Jersey hardcore alive and going [you get support]. Because when we were younger in the late ‘90s/early 2000s, New Jersey was one of the biggest hardcore hubs—not saying that it still isn’t, but there’s just not as many bands coming out of New Jersey now. In that aspect, we try pretty hard to keep the New Jersey name going in hardcore, because it was huge.
One thing New Jersey doesn’t have is DIY venues. I guess because of how New Jersey is, to be able to rent out a spot to just have shows in is not very easy to do. In that aspect, when we go on tour and play DIY venues, it’s definitely very cool because we’re not used to that back home. There’s a million different spots we play [on tour] that we don’t have back in New Jersey, which is mainly house shows and a couple bigger venues you play sometimes.
SLUG: From Where We Came Is Where We’ll Rest seemed like it got a lot of well-deserved attention last year. How are you guys feeling about the reception?
Old Wounds: That LP was, collectively for all of us, the first time we put out a 12’’. Each of us has our own favorite, and we’ll play songs off the record and I still love them as much as I did recording them. It was definitely cool to see people stoked about it, because we’re not a band that’s very easy to get into on first listen. As we kept putting out new songs, to see people really starting to get into it was obviously awesome.
SLUG: Tell me about writing From Where We Came Is Where We’ll Rest and how it differed from the recording you guys just did before tour.
Old Wounds: I was playing drums in Old Wounds at that point for under a year. There were some songs that our old drummer played on, and not saying some were better than others, but the newer stuff … we’re definitely comfortable with the lineup we have because we’ve been touring and playing so much. So, when we started writing the stuff we just recorded, we were practicing every other day, we were working really hard on these songs. We’re just comfortable with how we play and what we’re trying to write. We weren’t really afraid if there was a ridiculous guitar riff or something abnormal with vocals, we weren’t afraid to pull the trigger on it. We were more comfortable with what we were doing.
SLUG: What can fans expect to see released from the session?
Old Wounds: One song will be off the split 7’’ with The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die—which is what I mean that it’s kind of unorthodox to do something with an indie emo band, but that’s the stuff we like to do. We like those guys a lot and they’ve come out to some of our shows and supported us along the way, so it’s cool—those are our friends and we want do a split with them even if it’s not a cohesive match. We wanted to get the recording done before tour so we could play a new song on tour and just in case someone showed interest, we can tell them we have new music releasing this year. We did record a small batch of songs so we have plans for more releases this year.
SLUG: How do you feel about the current state of heavy music?
Old Wounds: I will say that in the last couple years, some newer bands have been coming out that definitely have been pushing envelopes as far as not being straightforward with their music: Of Feather and Bone from Denver, Seizures from California … there’s some bands spread-out across the country that are doing some cool stuff. I feel like there’s always going to be bands that are typical formula but there will always be weirdo bands that fall under the radar or don’t do enough to really get exposure, but you have to really find them yourself.
Follow Old Wounds on Facebook for all their latest tour information, including their upcoming stop in Salt Lake on March 27!