Ice Nine Kills are a hard sell to most metalheads. When they first appeared in …
If there’s anything to take away from the aggressive, cacophonous hardcore of Knocked Loose, it’s a sense of sincerity.
In a scene that’s been commodified and appropriated by every spectrum of the ravenous music industry machine, it’s refreshing to hear a young band come out swinging with the truth. “I hope that if anything, people take away that I was being honest,” says vocalist and lyricist Bryan Garris over the phone. With the impending release of band’s crushing second full-length album, A Different Shade of Blue, Garris goes on to detail the thought process behind exorcising his inner demons and committing them to record. With heavy lyrical themes that interrogate the trappings of modern society, including alienation, anxiety and addiction, it’s clear that Garris harbours a deep personal connection to the band’s new album.
“It means a lot to me and I think that it means a lot to all of us individually. Lyrically, I put a lot into this record. I don’t think that I even knew that I needed to get it all off my chest,” admits the frontman. “It was a very therapeutic time period for me. I’m very excited for people to hear it. I think that it’s a clear progression from our earlier material and I hope that people feel the same.” Garris is referring to 2016’s Laugh Tracks, the group’s breakout debut album, which shot them out from their local Oldham County scene in Louisville, Kentucky and soon had the young quintet dominating stages worldwide. Alongside a coveted slot on the Pure Noise Records roster—home to both legacy acts and future up-comers like Terror, Chamber, Counterparts, Sanction and Stick To Your Guns—the group were also fortunate enough to garner the respect and mentorship of another well-loved and well-travelled hardcore staple, in the form of Buffalo, New York’s finest.
We had a lot more time on this record to really focus on fine-tuning it and turning it into the album that we wanted it to be.
[ Bryan Garris ]
“We toured with Every Time I Die a lot in 2017 and got fairly close with them as individuals,” say Garris, with a tinge of admiration. “It’s definitely a huge honour. Every Time I Die has been one of my favourite bands for a very long time. So, to kind of get the ‘co-sign’ from them was a big deal for us; it’s very humbling. You get put in situations with bands that you just never thought you would meet, let alone have them be fans of the stuff you’re creating.” Listening to A Different Shade of Blue, it comes as little surprise when, in true passing-the-torch fashion, ETID frontman Keith Buckley pops up to lend his trademark swagger and rebel yell to one of the album’s two guest features. “It was awesome to see what his approach would be, because I wrote the lyrics for the song [Forget Your Name] but I kept his part blank,” Garris explains. “It was very interesting to see how Keith chose to word it, because we have two completely different styles. But I think that for him to have his own approach behind his part, really helped to make it a ‘Keith Buckley feature,’ because it’s everything he would do if he was given the same part in his own band.”
Lyrically, I try to keep things pretty self-reflective. I never hold myself to any standard when it comes to writing music.
[ Bryan Garris ]
Talk then turns to the creative process itself and how Knocked Loose managed to craft the blistering extremes of hardcore/metal fusion found on A Different Shade of Blue. Where the bludgeoning heaviness of Laugh Tracks was about capturing the raw, frenetic energy of the band’s insane live shows, they wanted to be more methodical and calculated in their approach for LP#2. “We had a lot more time on this record to really focus on fine-tuning it and turning it into the album that we wanted it to be,” says Garris. “Having more time in the studio meant that we got to really over-analyse every little detail and work on it until we were completely happy of the product.” That aforementioned studio is none other than Graphic Nature Audio in Belleville, New Jersey, the sonic laboratory for engineer and producer Will Putney, known for his work with just about every notable heavy music act from the last decade (Body Count, Thy Art Is Murder, Northlane, The Amity Affliction; to name but a few). “Will was definitely a huge part in the pre-production for the record,” Garris explains, detailing how the writing experience for their second album was fundamentally different to Laugh Tracks. “We got to work with him a lot longer this time, so we got to really see everything he’s about when it comes to producing and he had a lot of ideas to help build the record. We ultimately wrote the songs, but he definitely helped and contributed a lot to the process.”
And yet for Garris, while outsider influence can certainly be helpful, it’s not a necessary condition of the artistic process. For a regular guy in his mid-20s, whose direct and confrontational lyrics have clearly resonated with thousands of dedicated fans across the globe, staying true to himself remains the number one goal for Knocked Loose. “Lyrically, I try to keep things pretty self-reflective. I never hold myself to any standard when it comes to writing music,” Garris declares. “I never hear a song and think like, ‘Okay, this is what kind of song this is supposed to be.’ The band pretty much gives me freedom to do whatever I want, as long it’s not bad and luckily they all like it.” As our conversation draws to a close, it’s clear that while A Different Shade of Blue has the potential to raise the band’s already solid profile even higher, Garris will still always be an Oldham County guy at heart. “It’s a very small scene, so it’s very self-sufficient and everybody kind of pitches in to make sure it exists. There’re a lot of really cool bands from here right now, that are doing a lot, getting out and touring on their own. And I think that that’s really important, because we’re from a place that nobody will really hear about, unless you get out there and find your own thing.”