From Pop Culture to Laugh Tracks: An Interview with Bryan Garris of Knocked Loose
Kentucky hardcore staple Knocked Loose are headlining their first tour since the release of their 2016 album, Laugh Tracks, this spring with Terror, Jesus Piece and Year of the Knife. Laugh Tracks was and continues to be a favorite among the hardcore scene and illustrates who Knocked Loose is as a whole. They pair late-’90s and early-2000s metalcore influences with the subtle deathcore tinge they debuted with in their demo, Pop Culture, creating a sound that evolves with what Knocked Loose is all about.
In anticipation of their Salt Lake City date, Bryan Garris discusses the Louisville hardcore scene, their uprising within the hardcore community, musical evolutions and tour life.
SLUG: How has the success of Laugh Tracks affected the dynamic of Knocked Loose?
Garris: It’s opened up a lot of doors for us that, beforehand, wouldn’t have been opened. It’s given us a lot of possibilities, a lot of experiences that we’ve never experienced before, and I think it’s helped us mature a lot. I think at this point, it’s been out long enough for us to say that we’ve analyzed it and know what we’d like to do next time.
SLUG: Why do you think so many people, from so many scenes reacted the way they did to it?
Garris: I’m not sure, really. I’d like to think that it’s good and that people just think that it’s good. I think a lot of it has to do with our work ethic. We’ve always been a band that has toured and stayed on tour as long as we can. That’s never really faltered. I think that a lot of it has to do with how busy we are. We give everybody that wants to and opportunity to see us.
SLUG: How were you introduced to hardcore? What drew you into it?
Garris: As an individual, I started listening to heavy music when I was really young. My aunt showed me bands here and there, and it kind of helped me transition from listening to rap. My mom and dad raised me on hip-hop, but once I found heavy music, I dove into it head-first. Back when I had Limewire, I would download all the bands, or I would go to FYE and buy CDs, and I would watch Headbanger’s Ball all the time. When I was around 13, I started screaming, and I was in bands that never left the basement.
With Knocked Loose, I think that all of us have different roots and interests when it comes to the heavy music that we listen to. I think it’s always interesting when we come together and write because we’re kind of pulling from every different branch from the giant tree that is heavy music, because of all the different labels and subgenres people want to put on it.
SLUG: What did the early stages of Knocked Loose look like?
Garris: When we first started, we were just a four-piece. Cole Crutchfield (second guitar player) wasn’t in the band, and it was just me, Kevin Otten, Isaac Hale and a different drummer, at the time. We went for a bunch of different sounds. We just took a really really long time writing, and we didn’t really focus on shows just yet, until we really decided on what we wanted to sound like. We started playing shows when we released our demo, Pop Culture.
We wrote all of it (Pop Culture) at Isaac’s house behind his computer and never really thought that anybody would hear it. We were just jamming for the hell of it, and there’s a lot of stuff on there that I would change if I knew that this many people would hear it. After that, we started to get touring opportunities. Our original drummer quit because he didn’t want to tour, so we got Pac Sun (Kevin Kaine), our current drummer, and then we added Cole to make us a five-piece.
SLUG: What goals did you have in the beginning, and did you anticipate the popularity and success you would eventually gain in the hardcore scene?
Garris: Oh, not at all. When we first started, I never wanted to tour. I was in college, and I told the guys that I had no interest in touring and that I just wanted to write music just for fun and maybe play some shows here and there. I was working full-time jobs and going to college full-time, and it wasn’t one of my priorities whatsoever—but then we started getting these opportunities, and I was like, “Fuck it, I’ll go on one summer tour because I’m not in school and I want to know what it’s like.” So, I went and I had so much fun, and other things started to pop up, so I dropped out of college and started taking it more seriously. Ever since I dropped out, we’ve been as full-time as we can possibly be.
SLUG: Whether they’re bands from your local scene or well-established bands, what bands helped support the formation of Knocked Loose? What bands now help to maintain Knocked Loose’s creativity and ongoing presence in hardcore?
Garris: I don’t know if I would say that there were any Louisville bands that influenced us directly. There was a hardcore band from Louisville that we looked up to a lot, but not because of they sounded, just but because of their ethics and the way that they carried themselves in the hardcore community. We were young and we looked up to them because they were doing what we wanted to to, but we don’t sound anything alike. We’re still friends with those guys and everything.
We just try to draw inspiration from anything and everything. Whether it’s heavy music or not heavy music, any creative outlets that might inspire us, we don’t turn it away, even if it’s not exactly what we’re going for.
SLUG: How does Oldham County’s scene differ from others? Does Oldham County or Kentucky in general have their own style of hardcore?
Garris: It’s funny—Oldham County doesn’t have a scene at all. That’s kind of something bad that we’ve done while repping Oldham County so hard. We’ve given people the impression that it’s its own place when it’s really just a part of Louisville, Kentucky. So, our hardcore scene is the Louisville hardcore scene; we all just live in the same county. It kind of started as a joke and it got taken way too far. Now we’re just seeing how far we can take it.
We have a very small, close-knit hardcore scene. I think that everybody involved is aware that if not everyone participates, it will all disappear.
SLUG: How has the success of Laugh Tracks influenced the hardcore scene in Louisville or Kentucky as a whole?
Garris: I’m not sure, really. I guess I’ve never really thought about that. We always are very much apart of the Louisville hardcore scene when we’re home. Isaac is in a bunch of other bands, I’ve played in different bands before, and we’re always going to shows and supporting. When we started as a band, we used to play Louisville multiple times a month, and then it kind of slowed down to about once a month, and now it’s to the point where things are a little bit bigger and we can’t play our hometown as much as we used to. Now, anytime we play it, it’s a bigger event, and it’s not all the same people that used to come out when we started.
SLUG: In Pop Culture, you had a unique sound that featured elements like tremolo-picking slams that were made famous by deathcore, and you were tuned down to drop A. Then later, in Laugh Tracks, there’s a tinge of late ’90s and early-2000s metalcore influence. How would you describe the evolution of your sound and material from Pop Culture to your split with Damaged Goods, to Laugh Tracks? What made you want to made those modifications in your sound?
Garris: I think it was more so just us wanting to try harder to write songs. I think that when we wrote Pop Culture, it was really fast and dramatically heavy, and it was kind of thrown together, in my personal opinion. For Laugh Tracks, we actually tuned down to drop D, and we’re now tuned down lower than we were when we released Pop Culture, but we all came to the agreement that we can tune down lower, but play higher. We’re trying to play actual riffs and have actual song structure. We were falling into the habit of keeping our songs in the first four frets and we didn’t want to be that kind of band because you can only do so much in the first four frets.
When we released Pop Culture, the reaction that we were getting was “Oh my god, this band is so heavy,” so we were like, “Ok, let’s be that heavy.” We wrote the split just trying to be heavy, and in my personal opinion, it seems very forced, it seems very slow and it seems [disingenuous], which is why usually we stray from playing those songs live. It was a detour on our way to what we really wanted to sound like.
I think that with Laugh Tracks, we found a good direction to go in, but I don’t think we’re where we want to be yet. I think with the writing process for the new record, it’s a lot of trial and error. We’re trying new things; we’re trying old things; and I’ve even had people tell me that it sounds like a mature Pop Culture, so we’ll see.
SLUG: Is this tour a precursor for a new record? If so, what can we expect to hear?
Garris: I wouldn’t go that far, yet. It’s being worked on. Like I said before, we try to stay really busy, and we are very very busy. Writing a record is definitely where our heads are at, but we always tour and we always will tour. So, it’s very, very hard to find a balance between touring and writing. When we’re on tour for a month, we only have two weeks home to spend time with our families, when we really should be writing a record then. We’ve been writing, but it’s been very slow, and I don’t think it’s been as fast as people have been anticipating.
It’s not that far along to where people can start really talking about it yet. I think we’re just going to take our time and do what we want. I think that people are still responding well to Laugh Tracks. On this tour, we did squeeze in a new song just to kind of feel it out, but I mean, with the way that Knocked Loose works, that song may be different by the time we record it.
SLUG: This tour is stacked with bands that are up-and-coming as well as well established in the hardcore scene. How has it been touring with Terror, Jesus Piece and Year of the Knife? What’s the dynamic between these bands who are in different stages of their careers?
Garris: It’s been amazing. I’m already having so much fun, and I don’t remember the last time I had this much fun being on tour. To be able to bring a band like Year of the Knife—who we believe in and enjoy so much on a tour like this, where they’ve never been on a tour this long or been to a lot of these States—feels really good.
Jesus Piece, obviously, has their own hype and their own attention right now. We think that they’re an awesome band, and it was a no-brainer for us. They’re like their own entity when they’re onstage, and there’s so much power behind it that it’s just been remarkable to watch.
Terror is Terror, so the fact that we’re at a position as a band where we can take Terror out is somewhere that I never thought we would be.
SLUG: “Deadringer” is the obvious banger from Laugh Tracks, as it’s No. 1 on your Spotify page, but what song(s) do you enjoy the most from the album or from your discography in general? What about these songs stand out from the others, and what makes them special to you?
Garris: “Deadringer,” “Billy No Mates” and “All My Friends.”
“All My Friends,” has been in the very beginning of our setlist for the past several years. It’s one of our oldest songs, it always gets the best reaction, and it’s always so fun to play. This is the first time in forever that we haven’t had “All My Friends” at the very beginning of our set. It’s usually a really good way to gauge the room.
“Billy No Mates,” I think, is just a perfect representation of what we want to be as a band. It’s very high-energy, fast-paced, and it’s got every single thing that Knocked Loose has to offer as far as heavy parts.
“Deadringer” is a very important song to me, personally. Fun fact, I hated it when we first wrote it. I would just always argue against playing it live. When we were in the studio recording it and I got to sit there and take my time with it, everything kind of fell into place, and I got so excited with the outcome that it became one of my favorite songs. It’s very much about my grandpa—I call him my pop—he played music his whole life, and I very much looked up to him in that aspect … a very simple way to put it is that song is about looking up to somebody cool, and the lyrics pretty much just fell into place.
Knocked Loose will be playing alongside Terror, Jesus Piece and Year of the Knife at In The Venue on Sunday, Mar. 11, at 6 p.m. Tickets are available at: ticketfly.com.