Knocked Loose Are Heavy Incarnate
It's hard to master extreme music. Countless bands follow up the success of a well-liked album by diluting their own formula with half-baked, showy ideas that only end up dragging down the product. In a sea of try-hards, it's refreshing to see a band focus solely on making their music ridiculously heavy.
Oldham County, Ky., hardcore outfit Knocked Loose do just that. Since their 2014 EP, Pop Culture, the band has been developing a sound that is unabashedly heavy — everything about their music is an all-out war to achieve the most psychotic riffing and breakdowns possible. Back in September, they put out their debut full-length, Laugh Tracks. Opener "Oblivions Peak" stomps like an entire fleet of tanks, while "No Thanks" is a collection of death metal-infused breakdowns, vocalist Bryan Garris committed to bleakness throughout. The music is bereft of bullshit, giving you the most ignorant, insane sounds you'll hear all year.
We spoke to Garris about the record, his hometown and the most important elements in any given Knocked Loose track.
When did you become a musician?
I wanted to be a guitar player. One year for Christmas I got a little amp, [an] Ibanez guitar, [a] couple pedals. But I had a friend who was in a band, and they needed a vocalist, so he was like, “Hey, why don’t you do this? It’s easy — you’re just screaming.” I gave it a try, and kept going. I think that was 2008, so I was a freshman in high school around [then].
Would you scream along to records you liked before or was it the first time you went for that?
I remember one day, my friend who was in that band was at my house. His name is Jared Baron — he’s in a band now called Concealer, and he was the vocalist for this band at that point. They were playing music really loud and screaming along to it, and I was goofing off and joined in. He was like, “You should be in this band with me,” and I kind of went from there.
What was your introduction to heavier music?
My introduction was my aunt Heidi. Because my mom [raised me] on hip-hop, and that was my main interest when it came to music. I always loved music, but it was always hip- hop. I’ve gotten music throughout my entire family: on my mom’s side; my pop, he played his whole life in jazz and blues bands; my cousins have been in metal bands; my grandma was a country singer; my uncle played drums. It’s always been in my family. I kind of missed it for a while. I was just into rap, and then I spent the summer with my aunt and she showed me your typical Korn and Slipknot and Metallica, and [I] fell in love immediately. Started watching Headbangers Ball and had a notebook in my lap and wrote down every band I liked, and it kind of blossomed from there.
I feel like you’re the only dude I’ve talked to that got into metal because of their aunt. That’s pretty fucking sweet.
Yeah, she still goes to shows. I saw her a couple weeks ago and she was like, “I saw Eyehategod last week.” Her son Eric played in metal bands my whole life. I remember before I got into heavy music, I went to his high school graduation and his metal band got to play. I thought it was kind of weird, but looking back, it’s pretty cool.
Does your aunt fuck with your band?
Yeah, she digs it. She keeps up online, shares all my stuff on Facebook, and I’ll get a call when we drop something cool and she’ll say she’s stoked for it.
So, what’s the Oldham County thing? Is it a big joke? Is there even music there?
There’s no music scene there, which is why we push it so hard — because we’re the only band from Oldham County. It was a joke when it started because we’re a Louisville band; Oldham County is 20 minutes outside of Louisville. If we want to go to shows, we have to drive 45 minutes to go to a venue. There used to be a venue in Oldham County called Twice Told, and I couldn’t convince my mom to take me in high school. There was one band, they really just wanted to be the Casualties so bad. They had giant mohawks and would come to school barefoot, and would play Twice Told every Friday. They were called Porn With a Plot. I would always beg my mom to go because it was only 10 minutes away and all my older friends would go. But she saw that band name and was like, “No, you’re not going.” And I never got to go. Once I was older and started playing music, they opened that venue up one night and my band got to play there, but that venue’s been closed since probably 2010. When we started Knocked Loose, we’re obviously not a traditional hardcore band and we’d look to the Louisville hardcore bands. We were like, “Oh, we don’t sound like them, so we’re Oldham County Hardcore.” When we started going on the road, it was just funny: “Let’s just say Oldham County instead of Louisville, because no one will know where that is.”
Kentucky seems like an interesting place. Everyone I know says it’s a super Christian, dry county sort of thing, and because of that, it’s easy to want to get into abrasive music and get mad.
Yeah, Oldham County was a dry county for a while. Now it’s a moist county, so restaurants can sell alcohol. Kentucky is a good source of heavy music because there are so many cool bands, so many bands people don’t know and probably will never know, which sucks. There are so many people in so many different bands. My guitar player Isaac [Hale] is in four different bands. The Louisville set of this tour, he’s playing three sets. We’ve got Midwest Blood Fest every February — they get a bunch of smaller bands that are about to explode and they give them the chance to play a fest with a lot of people. There were almost 500 at last year’s. They’ll pick a handful of local bands to play, and most bands don’t get to play for that many kids. Like, we don’t have venues that big. We book shows in 100-cap rooms and they’re packed out, and we have a really supportive scene in Louisville, but Midwest Blood Fest gives you that opportunity to play in front of that many people. There’s always one or two bands that play at the fest that blow up the next year. The first one Freedom played, and right after, they absolutely blew up and are giant now, touring with Turnstile.
Growing up, was there a really sweet show that came through that impacted you?
I’d say a couple. I know that the first show I ever went to, I got my mom to take me and she stayed the whole time because she didn’t want to drop me off, and it was the Faceless and Suicide Silence. It was at Headliners Music Hall and it was crazy, unlike anything I’d ever seen. And it was way more than I ever expected. I made my way to the front row for Suicide Silence; that was my goal. Funny story: The vocalist of the Faceless made everybody in the room chant “heavy fucking metal!” and I did, and my mom saw me and talked to me about it on the way home. [Laughs] When Suicide Silence played, Mitch Lucker came out, rest in peace, and was just going crazy. A phenomenal frontman and getting in everyone’s face; he was on the other side of the stage, came over and grabbed my face and yelled. It was a very sick moment for me. I thought it was the coolest moment in the world. I just had no idea what to expect going into the show. I was absolutely hooked on any show I could get my hands on.
I was looking at your lineups and that story brings to mind that there's never any worry about playing in a different scene. There's no fucks given, and you play anywhere.
That’s always been what we agreed on from the very beginning. I know a lot of the time I see people on the internet get in debates, and I don’t know why they’d spend time on it, but they debate what genre we are — whether it be hardcore or metalcore. And I, like, don’t care. [Laughs] I never started this band to be any genre. We never said, “Hey, let’s start a hardcore band,” or “Hey, let’s start a metalcore band." I think people focus too much on it. Half the underground hardcore bands today just sound like '90s metalcore bands, so none of us have ever thought too far into it. The only consistent theme behind our music is just, “How absolutely dumb heavy we can make it?” When we started the band, we agreed there wouldn’t be a show we’d turn down. In the span of two weeks at the beginning, we’d play a different show every two days at a local spot. We played a black metal show, which ... I didn’t even know we had a black metal scene in Louisville, but we do, and it’s really cool that doesn’t get any attention. But yeah, we played that, a pop-punk show, a metalcore show, a big hardcore show, and we’d accept anything because we wanted to make sure you couldn’t get on social media without seeing our flag. Like we’re playing a local show no matter what your demographic, and that kind of translated into touring. When we started this band, I never wanted to tour. I’d been in bands in the past, and was young and naive and thought our first band would make it, and when it didn’t, I was just like, “I’m gonna go to school now.”
So, I was in college when this band started, and it was like, “Sure, we could play some shows,” and then we were getting a bigger following locally than any of my other bands. And I was so happy — it was such a crazy feeling these people were liking our music. These people from other states were messaging on Facebook that they enjoy us. We started to get tour offers before it was even possible for us to tour. We were like, “No shit? Let’s see how far we can take this.” I stopped going to school, and our bassist dropped out of school. Our guitarist dropped out of high school. Both of our guitar players are 18. When we went into touring, our first real tour was with friends; we shared a van and they didn’t really sound like us. When we got our own van, we had that same mentality — we won’t turn anything down. It was like, we toured with Vice NY; two weeks later with Kingmaker, the metalcore band. I love it. I love being able to play the middle. We’ve had good shows on both sides. We’re very lucky to be accepted so well by both sides, so we will always do that as long as we’re a band.
Why’d you pick the title Laugh Tracks?
There’s a lot of different reasons, and I’ll try my best, but every time I’ve kind of blew it. So, bear with me. The phrase “laugh tracks” stuck out to me, and I’m not sure why, if I read it or heard it. Every now and then, I just have a list of words in my phone that I like. The same thing with "pop culture," "laugh tracks," just random words. The main theme behind it is, like, how you carry yourself on the outside versus how you carry yourself on the inside. I used the words "laugh tracks" because they’re telling you when to laugh at something. You might not even think something is funny. You hear a band like Knocked Loose, and think, “Oh, this band is heavy. Everyone else is moshing — I better mosh.” You’re not actually listening to what’s being said; you’re just moshing because everyone else is moshing. Does that make sense?
Yeah. Like a Pavlovian response.
Right. Like, more specifically, the title track is about how everyone in the world has an opinion, is trying to say something. Who do you pick when you decide who to listen to? People in bands obviously have a platform to speak on stage, and they can choose to say something completely dumb or something that means a lot to them. I take the opportunity to say things that mean a lot to me. You’re in a band, and you have the attention of a crowd — why should they listen to you? Why should they pick you? It’s really hard to talk about. It makes sense in my head and I’ve known to name it Laugh Tracks for a really long time. And I just can’t say it how I want to; it’s really frustrating to me. When we announced it, I knew I’d have to talk to people and figure out how I’d want to say it.
Interviews are weird — me asking super personal questions about abstract words is always kind of goofy to think about. I think there’s a lot of phrases I carry with me, and over time I forget exactly what they meant, even if I still have the feeling, which is frustrating.
Absolutely agree with you. I guess my main thing is, in Knocked Loose, I talk about things I’d never talk about in normal conversation. It’s 100 percent my outlet, and I don’t take that for granted. Laugh Tracks is just me making that statement. I’m not just going to pump out lyrics, or sell depression like a trend, or hope like I believe in it. I write lyrics for me, and if you can relate, then that’s a plus.
Do you feel like you’ve changed as a person since you put out Pop Culture?
Before Pop Culture, I had never really toured or anything, so I would say throughout the past two or three years of touring, I’d definitely changed as a person. I’ve definitely — a lot has changed. My mentality on things have changed. I’ve grown as a person when it comes to my thought process. I used to never think about the future beyond tomorrow. With Knocked Loose, we try to stay really busy. It causes me to think way far into the future, which has made me way better at managing my personal life. I’ve got a girlfriend, and we’ve been dating for going on five years; we were together since before the band started. So, I have to manage that social life along with being on the road as much as we physically can. We’re already talking about what we’re doing in March and April of next year, so I’ve talked to Taylor about what we’re going to do, which months I have off, and she has her own stuff going on, obviously. She’s really close to graduating and has the opportunity to study abroad, and is going to school in Spain for six months. That kind of helps with me touring — she-supports-me-as-long-as-I-support-her kind of thing. Obviously, it gets hard sometimes, but she’s very supportive. But she’s just one aspect of my home life I have to juggle. You get home and it’s like, I have to see this side of my family, and this family member, etc. I’d say Knocked Loose has helped manage things in my short-term future, and I’m sure there’s other things, but that’s just one example.
One last thing I was wondering: Is heaviness the most important thing for a Knocked Loose song?
Yeah, honestly. [Laughs] It’s the kind of music we all like. The bands I listen to that don’t have mosh parts, I can probably list on like one hand. And they’re all black metal or punk bands. We all just love heavy music. We had people telling us, “You guys are so heavy,” and so it was like, "All right, sick, let’s see exactly how heavy we can be." With the new record, it was like, "Let’s write actual songs and then make it heavy." I’d like to think we’re putting actual songs on the record with actual riffs. It’d be a joke, like, "Let’s tune to drop G," because that’d be stupid. And then let’s play real music.