Though best known for his work with the pop-punk group Fall Out Boy, drummer Andy Hurley has a long history in hardcore. For Hurley, it all started with Earth Crisis. After hearing their debut LP, Destroy the Machines, in 1995, Hurley quickly found himself drawn not only deeper into hardcore, but also into that band’s famous vegan, straight-edge lifestyle. Over 20 years later, Hurley still cites that lifestyle as the core of his beliefs.

In that time, he’s drummed for quite a few projects, including Racetraitor, the Damned Things and the (somewhat) controversial Vegan Reich. Hurley’s latest project, SECT, a vegan, straight-edge supergroup, just self-released their debut LP (distributed, in part, by Deathwish). It features Chris Colohan (Cursed, Left for Dead) and James Chang (Catharsis), as well as Scott Crouse and Ian Edwards (Earth Crisis). In light of the release, we talked to Hurley about navigating his politics while staying active in both mainstream and underground projects, as well as what it means to be a role model to Fall Out Boy’s young fanbase.

sect album

What led you to pick up drums for the first time?
Getting into the Big Four. You know: Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth. I guess Dave Lombardo and Lars Ulrich pretty much sealed the deal that that was all I really wanted to do with my life.

Did you have any other musical inclination prior to hearing those records?
I was 4 or 5, so I don’t remember much before that. I remember getting Ride the Lighting on vinyl around the time that it came out. I went to a Tower Records with my sister and I got that and the first Van Halen.

So, you just started playing along with those records? I imagine that it would be quite difficult to try and learn to Slayer.
I was just playing on pots and pans from an early age. I remember using a C-clamp to set up a block of wood on a bookshelf, and I would use that as a hi-hat, and then a bucket as a snare. I don’t remember how old I was then, but drums was always the thing I was going to do. I would just listen to these records and dream about playing in a band one day.

When did that dream start taking shape?
In freshman year of high school, I met this kid named Leroy, this hesher kid with long hair and a leather jacket with ... I don’t remember what band spray-painted across the back. He was the first person I did a band with.

Were you guys any good?
[Laughs] I have no way of remembering, but I am sure it was pretty bad.

How did you find hardcore, then, coming out of a metal scene?
I think Helmet and Biohazard were the gateway for me and hardcore. And I remember seeing ads for Agnostic Front records in Metal Maniacs, which I never got into and still don’t. They obviously have a lot of weird politics, in hindsight. I didn’t really get into hardcore until I got into pop-punk. Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph stuff — NOFX and Rancid and whatever — and, from there, I started get into Minor Threat and the first wave of Youth Crew bands. But Earth Crisis’ Destroy the Machines was the first hardcore record I remember hearing that I thought was the heaviest thing. It was like a metal record. That was it. Fast forward to going vegan and going straight-edge and all that stuff.

What was it like transitioning out of the whole hesher, metalhead scene and into the very political vegan straight-edge hardcore scene? They are remarkably different worlds. Were you always drawn to those stances and finally found the outlet in bands like Earth Crisis?
It was a gradual thing. I was always into a lot of different music. So, yeah, the first records that I would buy were metal, and that is what I really liked, but I also heard the radio and liked New Kids on the Block while they were big. And I liked [laughs] C+C Music Factory or whatever. So, I was getting into hip-hop and rap, and as I got deeper into it — Public Enemy, N.W.A., DJ Quik — I started getting into the politics. This was all happening parallel to getting into punk music. The first wave of Youth Crew bands made straight-edge this counterculture “cool thing,” and not D.A.R.E.

People often compare the politics of the '90s scene with today. What's your opinion on the main differences?
I kind of lost interest in the 2000s as hardcore branched out into violence, crew stuff, or fashion. It was like an attempt to strip a lot of the meaning and turning it in in an attempt to try and be bigger — and I am not making a judgement on bands that did that, but what I loved about hardcore as a kid was that it was always about something. I don’t know a lot of bands that are really saying a lot right now, on any real level — besides bands that did and are doing stuff again, like Crudos or Refused. I feel like it is just not as much a part of it, or it's a part of it in such a simplistic way. Which is fine, especially bands that fans of my band might get into; because if there is a simple message, that’s great, because it is a starting point. I’m doing Racetraitor again, but, I think at the time, Racetraitor was ahead of its time in that it was talking about white privilege, the white power structure and the realities of racism beyond being words you shouldn’t use: racism as an institutional problem. I don’t really know what is happening politically, but something is clearly happening if a lot of people got angry with what CIV said — even if it was a little misplaced — but if you are doing stuff now, it’s on you to familiarize yourself with things that are happening now.

Don’t you think people could level the same criticism against you? That you joined Fall Out Boy and got big?
I can totally see that, but I don’t think Fall Out Boy ever lost our personal politics. When we started Fall Out Boy, it was not a political band. We were all doing hardcore bands, and the scene we were a part of was becoming kind of negative and self-absorbed in ways that didn’t reflect the politics we were about. It just seemed like nobody cared anyway, so Fall Out Boy was kind of this departure for us. The whole point was just to do a band for fun. Something that wasn’t necessarily as heavy. The point of Fall Out Boy wasn’t to get big; it just sort of happened and became this thing and became our jobs.

In a way, Fall Out Boy have also given you a bigger platform to spread your beliefs than you could have ever had with bands like Racetraitor.
Totally. I’d imagine that at least a few people have thought about or become vegan because of me, or straight-edge. I think that that is really important. I don’t want to say more important. Any legacy I have that is important to me is that I affected kids that are a fan of what I do to think about veganism, straight-edge, imperialism, colonialism, white privilege or even fitness and how that can change your life — because I am really into CrossFit. That’s what is important to me, and it’s all a stepping stone. The fan base of Fall Out Boy is really young, and we have a lot of younger fans that are politicized in a lot of ways. We have a lot of young fans on both sides — that love anything we do or hate anything we do — and call us out on weird [stuff] that I don’t quite understand why it was problematic, but nonetheless, I’ll listen and try to take something away from it. I was there, too. I was the kid pissed off at everything and calling everyone out.

Do you think that having a younger audience means that you have a certain responsibility in how you deliver a message?
Yeah, I think so. We are this huge thing in a lot of these kids’ lives, in a way that is really intense. It’s sometimes scary to see their perception of us or My Chemical Romance. When My Chem teased they might be coming back, I had tons of people hitting me up. I also direct messages on Instagram with kids that say they are going to kill themselves, and it gets crazy — but whether I like it or not, there is a responsibility that the things we do, say, believe in and portray publicly have a huge effect. I remember the bands that were that for me. I’m not the message-maker for Fall Out Boy — that’s Pete [Wentz] — and his primary goal is understanding that we are a band that can inspire our fanbase. The thing he repeats at shows is, "We are a bunch of nobodies who are up on a stage now. You guys are the next generation that is going to do that, so don’t give up on your dreams." And that’s pretty simple, but hopefully that affects kids in a good way.

Did the transformation from a band for fun to a band that's a job have an effect on your ability to enjoy playing with Fall Out Boy?
No, I’ve always been able to disconnect in a weird way and always have fun. When we are in a grueling part of a record cycle and we are touring nonstop, it becomes a job, but we’ve been off it for a little bit. I also am always trying to do other bands when I have the time. Lately, it's been SECT and Racetraitor, which kind of happened out of nowhere, and the Damned Things is doing some songs and stuff. I think I am always able to stay busy with music in a way that keeps it fun, creative and inspiring.

When did the conversation around SECT begin?
On one of the Earth Crisis tours, I had talked to Scott about doing a project, and it kind of morphed in different ways. It was finally when Jimmy became a part of it and was co-writing a lot of stuff with Scott that it became the band that it is, which is the perfect iteration. The stuff that Scott was writing before was way more Earth Crisis-y, but it was really cool when Jimmy came on, because he pushed him to write in a totally different way than I’ve ever heard Scott write.

At what point did Chris Colohan join?
We were kind of figuring out who would sing for it, and we went through a few different ideas for who. And I did a tour with a band that was on tour with Black Breath and Burning Love — with Chris — and talked with him about doing a vegan straight-edge project. So, both ideas kind of happened in parallel. When SECT started, I didn’t even think of Chris for some reason until we tried like two or three people out, and it was like, "Oh, obviously." Chris is my favorite singer in hardcore. He is an amazing lyricist and brilliant writer, and just has such an awesome quality and reality to his voice.

So, when you do these hardcore bands, does it ever bother you when the inevitable Fall Out Boy joke or kid snubbing their nose to you comes along?
I’m pretty over it. I don’t really care. I think we’ve been lucky enough to maintain a big fanbase within hardcore. Obviously, there are kids we are not cool to, but I either don’t pay attention, don’t notice or don’t care. I feel like doing other projects — like I am — is the way that I stay grounded and keep providing my addition to the story thread.