November 2002

By Jim DeRogatis

You can call it “punk” or “metalcore,” “nü-hardcore” or plain old “hardcore.”

You can call it “heavy music” (though that doesn’t have much of a ring to it), or “emo” or “emocore” (though nobody much likes those names; they’ve come to lose most of their meaning, and the only bands that ever want to be called “emo” these days invariably suck dogs royally).

You can also call it “screamo,” which is the name that we favor around here at Guitar World, acknowledging the music’s roots in and similarities to emo, while hinting at the extra added kick that comes from its traces of thrash and metal.

Whatever you call it, there’s no denying that an aggressive new sound is rapidly emerging from the underground and quickly gaining an ever-widening audience among fans who are sick and tired of nü-metal at one end of the spectrum and pre-fabricated pop and hip-hop at the other extreme. And by any name, plenty of listeners, fans, and music-industry insiders are banking on it becoming the sound of 2003.

Everyone’s wanting to fucking put the nail in the coffin of nü-metal,” says Derek Miller, guitarist with the screamo band Poison the Well. “It’s not something that we think about, but I do recognize that it’s happening, and that the labels want something to happen and are signing up all these fucking bands. But we don’t have like ‘target audiences’ or any of that bullshit. We just play. Like, we just got off tour with Strung Out, which was just a punk tour, and it was awesome, it was fun, and now we’re on tour with Kittie, which is kind of a heavier tour. You’re playing loud, you’re playing fast, you’re playing heavy—whatever you call it, it doesn’t matter. That describes a thousand different genres, you know?”

“There’s definitely a movement,” adds Quinn Allman, guitarist for the Used. “Kids call it an ‘emolution,’ but it’s not emo. It’s a new wave, a new setting on your amp, a new rhythm, and a new dynamic inflection with your vocal. And it’s not even that—it’s just music, just a different way to say the same thing.”

To be sure, the screamo bands share many similarities with emo, in all of its countless (and often-disputed) permutations. Short for “emotional” music, one of the few things that fans generally accept regarding the genre is that its roots stretch all the way back to the Reagan era, specifically the first self-titled album by Rites of Spring on Washington D.C.’s influential Dischord label. After that, everything else is subject to debate, from whether some of the giants of the genre ever really played emo (Does Sunny Day Real Estate qualify? Does Fugazi?), to whether or not some of the most popular bands in recent years were expanding the music’s horizons or simply cashing in on the name (hello, Jimmy Eat World, the Get Up Kids, and the Promise Ring—to say nothing of Weezer, which is a whole other topic entirely).

What the screamo bands share with many of the groups that have been lumped under the little-loved “emo” banner are a dramatic use of contrasting loud and soft dynamics; smart, literate, heartfelt, and ultra-emotional/personal lyrics; a sensitivity toward and respect for others’ sexual and cultural differences (skeptics call it “politically correct,” while boosters say it’s in keeping with college-educated punks’ tradition of open-mindedness and progressive politics), and an ability to craft rousing, singalong melodies that are often propelled by beautiful, jangling guitars.

What the screamo bands add to all of the above are contrasting parts of their songs that are powered by rampaging, pile driver rhythms and deep, throaty vocals (there’s the screaming part) that have much more in common with thrash- and death-metal than with punk, emo, or indie-rock. And, most exciting to the folks in this office, the musicians inject a bounty of intricate, complex, and imaginative guitar work—whether it’s a single player weaving surprisingly technical lead lines throughout a song, or two guitarists whose parts intertwine like a couple of copulating eels, with little regard for traditional lead and rhythm roles.

Not surprisingly, the screamo bands are winning fans in both the punk and the metal worlds: Thursday, Thrice, and the Used earned some of the biggest raves on this year’s edition of the Vans Warped Tour, while Glassjaw consolidated its growing fan base and often stole the day while touring as a part of Ozzfest.

It’s also no surprise that the major labels, desperately searching for “the Next Big Thing,” have swooped down en masse to sign these bands up: After starting their careers in the indie ranks, Thursday and Thrice will be recording in the future for Island; Poison the Well has signed to Velvet Hammer/Atlantic; the Used record for Reprise, and Glassjaw is on Warner Bros.

The punk world has reacted to the latest feeding frenzy with some skepticism. “As sort of a move or whatever by the majors, well, they did so wonderfully with emo the last two times they tried, I guess this is just kind of their attempt to save face,” says Dan Sinker, editor of the long-running and well-respected fanzine Punk Planet, which has always had a love/hate relationship with emo. “I guess ‘screamo’ is a way of marketing a known commodity—you always know that something with a metal tinge will sell to some people, so this is kind of a way of going, ‘Well, we couldn’t sell the cute stuff, so let’s go back to the distortion pedal.’”

Sinker also notes that screamo is not a new term; he first heard it years ago to refer to bands like John Henry West on San Diego’s Gravity label. “To me, in the ‘emo’ or ‘screamo’ or ‘whatever the majors are digging up’ scene, it’s really starting to feel like 1996 again with punk in the wake of Green Day as far as, ‘Who are these bands? Where did they come from?’ The majors aren’t really picking from the cream of the crop in the underground anymore. They decided that strategy didn’t work, so now they’re going to start picking bands that are younger and earlier in their career so that they can be a little more aggressive in the marketing and not have to deal with a lot of preconceived notions of what these bands are.”

This may or may not be unjustly harsh and cynical. And in any event, who cares, so long as the bands deliver the goods? The screamo musicians are smart, ambitious, inventive, and far from naïve—all of the bands interviewed for this article are entering the major-label world with their eyes wide open, convinced that they’ve structured deals that will allow them to continue making the music they want to make, and they’re ready to return to the indies if that doesn’t happen.

To date, the music they’ve made has been pretty freaking great, as are the sounds that preceded them (notably At the Drive In and Boy Sets Fire) and the music of many of their peers (other scream contenders include At the Drive In offshoot Sparta, Taking Back Sunday, Open Hand, and Finch). So read on, listen for yourself, and you be the judge: You may just find that there’s something here worth screaming about.




Light and dark. Heavy but melodic. From its beginnings in the suburbs of Miami some five years ago, Poison the Well has worked hard to create music that’s a dramatic study in contrasts.

“I believe the original intent of the band was to be a ‘noisecore emo band,’” guitarist Derek Miller writes in the bio posted on the band’s web site. “Ha ha ha, whatever that is. That idea was something kind of new and fresh at the time, and since we were all fans of both heavy and melodic music, it seemed natural to incorporate both elements.”

The key word there is “natural”: The band never intended to make a formula out of its abrupt mood shifts. “We’re not trying to represent this whole fuckin’ opposites deal,” Miller insists during a break in soundcheck before a gig in Dallas. “It just happens. If we wrote just heavy riffs for a couple of months, then we’d probably have just heavy songs, or vice versa. It’s just whatever we’re doing at that time. It’s just natural—it just kind of goes right into the song.”

Indeed, while Poison the Well recently made the leap from New Jersey’s independent Trustkill Records to Velvet Hammer/Atlantic, its career has largely seemed like a mix of happy accidents, good luck, and dedicated perseverance. The band’s roots can be traced back to can be traced back to a band called An Acre Lost, which was formed by guitarist Ryan Primack (the band’s primary technical virtuoso) and original vocalist Aryeh Lehrer.

“It was the summer of 1997, and me and my friend Aryeh started playing music together,” Primack recalls. “I sort of fell into the whole thing. I was kind of focused right then on going to college, and then I started doing the whole band thing, and I don’t know, I got addicted.”

From the start, the goal was to craft a sound that was unique and multi-layered. “I wanted to kind of write songs that were really, really dynamic,” Primack says. “Like, my favorite band is Rush; don’t make fun of me—that band is so good! I sat down and I was like, ‘So much music is one-sided and one-dimensional and kind of formulaic.’ I was just like, ‘Let’s do something crazy,’ and it worked out.”

Over the many V.F.W. hall and D.I.Y. basement gigs that followed, the band (soon rechristened Poison the Well) gained a reputation for an ever-revolving cast of players—Lehrer quit to become a rapper, and other members dropped out to go to college. Primack, the sole constant, insists that that rep is somewhat overstated, and notes that the current lineup of Miller, singer Jeff Moreira, and drummer Chris Hornbrook has been intact for three and a half years now (though the bassist slot has continued to revolve; the current rhythm section is completed by Geoff Bergman, who recently replaced Nick Shuman).

With songs that abruptly shift from shredding metal grind to lulling acoustic interludes (and a full-blown acoustic track, “Horns and Tails” thrown in for good measure), some longtime fans consider the sophomore album Tear from the Red a radical departure from 1998’s debut E.P., Distance Only Makes the Heart Grow Fonder, and the 2000 album, The Opposite of December. But it’s actually a logical progression for the band, and an impressive accomplishment that stands as its finest moment to date.

After Moreira’s alternately sandpaper-rough and velvet-smooth vocals (think Slayer or Hatebreed), the most striking aspect of the disc is its nuanced two-guitar attack. Lead and rhythm roles are hard to define; it’s all about texture and tone. So, how do the two guitarists differentiate between their parts?

“Generally what we do is just sit around and practice,” Miller says. “Ryan and I will be jamming together and one of us will write a part. Let’s say I’ll show Ryan a riff, then he just fucking sits there for like 10 minutes and figures out something that sounds really good over it. In general, Ryan is a lead guitarist, I’m definitely a rhythm guitarist, but not in Poison the Well. Ryan’s just like shred-dude; he loves shredding. But neither of us has a defined role as far as lead and rhythm.”

“I would say big chords are what characterizes my sound,” Primack adds. “I like using as many notes in a chord as possible. I went to school for jazz, and I got really into really complex voicings, because they add so much color to a guitar part. A lot of bands just kind of stay within playing fifths all the time. For us, it was just like the Beatles: You can use just one chord and it can resolve like a whole progression in a way that makes things flow so much better by using like sevenths and minor thirds and major thirds, things like that. It adds a lot of flavor because it doesn’t just sound like the same thing over and over.”

Still, a little virtuosity can go a long way in rock, and Primack admits that he sometimes needs a reminder that his parts should kick ass first and impress the musos second. “Sometimes I get too friggin’ nerdy with this stuff and I sit there and over-analyze it and Derek’s like, ‘Why don’t just leave it the way it is? It sound fine!’” he says. “Someone needs to do that with me constantly—give me a little kick in the head.”

The six-string assault combines to create a powerful and moving backdrop for Moreira’s lyrics, which, in the great emo tradition, tend to emphasize personal experience and relationship woes. “For us, the lyrical thing is just to write something that comes from the heart, something that’s personal,” Primack says. “The cool thing about some of the bands that are half way between emo and metal is that they’re real, real, real interpretative. You can take things from them that maybe the person singing them didn’t mean, but if it means that to you, it’s awesome. Everybody’s had shitty things happen to them, but there’s got to be something deeper to say than that.”

Thoroughly stoked about its leap to the majors, the band is looking forward to recording again in January for another release next spring. “The dudes at Velvet Hammer are very cool,” Miller says. “There’s no creative control sacrificed or any of that shit. They really do feel like an independent label; they just have Atlantic’s checkbook.”


Miller: “Definitely Refused, The Shape of Punk to Come. That’s just sick—I can’t think of a more original record. It fucking blows me away literally every time I hear it, because I don’t know where the fuck those guys came up with that stuff. It’s fucking cra-zee. And Around the Fur by the Deftones, for sure, just because it’s simple and it’s thick and it’s heavy, but still really melodic, like a lot of the fundamentals that we have in our music. That’s kind of where I fell in love with the Deftones.”

Primack: “Rush, Hemispheres—without a doubt, that’s the album, their coup de grace. And I’d have to say the Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Inner Mounting Flame. I put on that record and it just makes me want to write 30 songs. Everyone in that band is just amazing, and John McLaughlin’s guitar parts are so well thought-out. The chord structures he uses are amazing. He’ll just make up a really weird voicing using like the two lowest strings and the two highest strings, but it will be a really close-voiced chord. It sounds atonal, but at the same time it’s not too hard on the ears.”


Miller: “Lately I’m getting really into very, very warm sounds; I just got an old JCM-800, and I fucking love it. It’s something that Ryan has always been a big fan of, and we were always A/B about it: I liked these crunchy, kind of razory sounds in the beginning and I’ve slowly started realizing how horrible that is and kind of moving toward a warmer, thicker just as heavy but cleaner sound, so it’s defined and you can hear every note. I play ESD’s or LTD’s. Ryan kind of jumps around, but I play those exclusively; I play this Jeff Carpenter model. It’s fucking bad-ass.”

Primack: “Right now I use Hamers. They’ve actually been hooking me up, and I’ve always loved their guitars. I use the double cutaway ones that are like old Les Paul, Jr.’s. I’m definitely like an older guitar-nerd kind of guy. I’m not into the thin, tooth-picky guitars, especially for this band. I like a guitar that weighs a lot, because it transfers into the sound. Like, Les Pauls sound really heavy because they’re friggin’ heavy! So I use the Hamers and I use a Marshall JCM-2000. We’re actually switching over from those Marshalls to Bogners; me and Derek have been fooling around with the Ecstasy head. That head’s amazing! It sounds like you mixed the great qualities of the heaviness of the 2000 with the warmth of the old 800s or the Mark II’s. That’s great, so we’re buying some, but they’re like $3,500.

“There are contradictions in what I want. I want something that’s really heavy but at the same time it’s got to be super-warm and round. Finding those two things together is rough.”


From “Lazarro” on Tear from the Red: “You say I need you/But how about the demons in my head/I’m sure you don't miss them/Cup my ears over and over when you speak/And I can’t believe that you are here/I hate your eyes.”




Hailed far and wide as “The Band Most Likely To Succeed” among the new crop of screamo groups, New Jersey’s Thursday didn’t set out to be the great hope of Island Records or a much-hailed buzz band on MTV2, which seized on and made a hit of its video for “Understanding In A Car Crash,” one of several standout tracks on the quintet’s second album, Full Collapse (Victory).

In fact, when the group first came together in 1998 around Rutgers University in sleepy New Brunswick, it deliberately chose a name that was mundane and low-key, as if it didn’t want to be noticed outside the scene at the Melody Bar and in friends’ basements. But Geoff Rickly’s striking whisper-to-a-scream vocal style, Steve Pedulla and Tom Keeley’s distinctive intertwined guitars, and the band’s overall intensity (the group is completed by the rhythm section of bassist Tim Payne and drummer Tucker Rule) soon made it impossible to ignore, and it became a regular opening act for other heralded bands such as Boy Sets Fire and the late, lamented At the Drive-In, with whom it shares some sonic similarities.

“Everybody went to school in New Brunswick except for me,” Pedulla says by phone from the midst of the Warped Tour, “and we always did pretty well there. The way the scene worked there, it was self-sufficient almost; everyone supported each other a lot, and it was less competitive than most places, I guess. They’d have shows where it would be all local bands instead of the touring band with like a local band.”

As far as the band’s musical goal, “We’ve always described ourselves as melodic hardcore,” Pedulla says. “That’s where we came from, and we certainly aren’t like a straight-up hardcore band. There aren’t many of those around today, actually. I love all that stuff: I grew up watching Sick Of It All play and going to see Quicksand or whoever. That’s kind of where we grew up in terms of a community, so that sensibility comes into our music. As far as the lyrics, it’s definitely more personal. We don’t want to be a political band; it’s personal politics. The way we look at it, if you start from the ground up, maybe you can make a difference, whereas if you’re taking on these huge issues and your foundation is crumbling, then where the hell are you gonna go?”

At this point, Thursday’s battle with Chicago-based Victory has become notorious; rare is the scenester who doesn’t have an opinion about the group’s move to a major label. The band signed to Victory after releasing its promising debut, 1999’s Waiting, on the small New York indie Eyeball Records. But in a much-circulated post on its web site, the musicians claim they never had Victory’s full support until they started generating a buzz, and at that point, they had to battle the label over silly promotional gimmicks (including a Thursday whoopee cushion) and its reluctance to print the lyrics for Full Collapse in the booklet (Victory claimed it was too expensive). When the label sold part of the company to MCA, Thursday figured that if it was going to be on a major label, it might as well do it on its own terms.

In the end, the inside-industry angle is irrelevant to the band’s music, which remains emotionally potent—“Understanding In A Car Crash” was inspired by a friend who died shortly after visiting Rickley—and musically gripping, thanks to those two guitars.

“It’s funny, because people ask us, ‘Who’s the lead guitarist?’” Keeley says. “We really both are. We both kind of cover both; we both do leads and we both do rhythm, but I find that when we go to write leads, Steve’s more of like the single-note player, whereas I play more like octave runs, more linear stuff. He does the really fast arpeggios and the really technical stuff, because—and I can’t believe I’m actually gonna say this—technically he’s a better player than I am.”

“But things are both up for grabs,” Pedulla adds. “We trade off a lot on that kind of stuff; we try to focus a lot on having a heavy contrast as much as possible. That’s kind of where our dynamic comes from.”

The band isn’t overly idealistic about its place in the music industry, and it isn’t naïve about Island. “We were definitely wary,” Pedulla says. “We wanted to make sure that we weren’t going to do something that would be potentially destructive.” But it is cautiously optimistic about its ability to expand its audience.

“I don’t know if it’s the next big mainstream thing or not,” Pedulla says. “But I can definitely see the punk-rock shows getting bigger. I can see more kids who are learning about it coming to the shows. I definitely would like to think that there are kids out there who don’t relate to the mainstream of things right now. There’s a lot of music out there that really alienates a lot of people, because every band is basically fronted by a 30-year-old dude singing about this weird stuff. I would like to think that kids or just people in general who feel alienated by that would feel kind of at home or connected to something like Poison the Well or Thrice or something that we’re saying. That’s what it was like for me when I started listening to hardcore music.”


Pedulla: “Especially recently—and I don’t think it really reflects our music—but John Frusciante’s playing on Blood Sugar Sex Magik. That record I really like; the guitar playing I’m really blown away by. And I’ve always been a Who fan. I grew up thinking Pete Townshend was it right there.”

Keeley: “Just musical inspiration in general—this wouldn’t be for guitar—but I’d say Miles Davis, Kind of Blue. They say it’s his most marketable album and his most successful and the tone of a lot of things I’ve read about it is that it kind of took away from the integrity of the music, but I think it’s an amazing record. I’ve been listening to it over and over for like five or six years now. Also the first two Ink & Dagger records—they were the first band that I listened to that wasn’t like straight-ahead youth crew hardcore. They were the first band that used flamenco beats and these crazy guitar lines; they’re like one of my all-time favorite bands.”


Pedulla: “I’m using S.G. Standards with a Mesa Boogie Nomad 100-watt amp. Tom uses a Les Paul Custom with a Marshall JCM-900. We’ve got some contrast right there, and that’s kind of been the thing from the get-go. He’ll have a more cut-through high-end sound, and I have a low-end kind of beefy tone going on.”

Keeley: “I was playing an S.G. Deluxe for a while, and everyone would always come up to me and go, ‘I can never hear you onstage!’ Now the main difference is that there’s a lot more volume and the higher end stuff cuts through a little bit more. It just kind of balances it out a little bit.”


From “I Am the Killer” on Full Collapse: “Tuesday wakes up silent/And there aren’t enough pills to sleep/And then it cuts out like miswired shortwave radio/It’s over/But nothing can change to ever make it right/When you live in a nightmare/It’s written all over your face.”




“There are chords in the hearts of the most restless which cannot be touched without emotion.” This quote from Edgar Allan Poe occupies a place of honor in the center of the CD booklet for The Illusion of Safety, the second album from Irvine, California’s Thrice. And hitting those chords is clearly the goal of guitarist Teppei Teranishi and his bandmates.

The band came together around Teranishi and singer Dustin Kensrue nearly four years ago. “Me and Dez went to high school together,” Teranishi says. “And Eddie [Breckinridge], the bassist, we knew each other just from skateboarding and stuff; we used to skate together all the time. Me and Dez wanted to start up the band, and I knew that Ed played a little bit of guitar, so I asked him if he wanted to play bass, and he said yeah. It just so happened that Riley, Eddie’s brother, played drums, so we had him kind of right there.”

The group released a D.I.Y. E.P., First Impressions, only three months after forming. An album, Identity Crisis, followed, initially on the tiny Green Flag label, later picked up for wider distribution by the Hopeless Records offshoot, Sub City. While the lyrics are as intensely personal as any of the other screamo groups’, Thrice has a more active political bent: Five percent of the proceeds from Identity Crisis were donated to Crittenton Services for Families and Children, while the same proportion of profits from the even stronger follow-up are earmarked for A Place Called Home, a non-profit organization that helps kids in South Central Los Angeles.

The band doesn’t expect to change its core values now that it’s signed to Island. “From our experience at Island so far, it almost feels like an indie label,” Teranishi says. “There’s not much of a difference that I see between them and an indie label as far as the way things work; it’s just very well organized and very efficient. I mean, the whole sell-out thing, it’s like, selling out to me is a really personal thing in a band. If there’s a compromise within the band of what they want to do musically or whatever, then they’re selling out. But if a band’s not changing what they’re doing, they’re being true to themselves and doing what they want to do, then what’s the issue?”

As far as being part of a trend, “We try to stay away from trying to put tag lines on our music,” Teranishi says. “I think when it’s such a personal thing, it’s hard to put a genre name on it, you know? Obviously, us, Thursday, and Poison the Well have been doing this kind of stuff for a while, and yeah, it’s definitely getting more recognized and more and more people are getting into it, and it’s cool. But emo, punk-rock, hardcore, whatever—it’s all kind of one thing to me. It’s definitely the stuff that I grew up on and I listen to and the music that I love.”

On striking songs such as “A Subtle Dagger” and “Trust,” Thrice shares several sonic similarities with its peers, including the mix of harsh and soft dynamics, thrash-metal vocals and more melodic passages, and complex guitar lines. Though here, Teranishi is clearly the star, while Kensrue adds only occasional rhythmic backing.

“I kind of realized the other day when I was listening to our record that I don’t think I play many chords,” Teranishi says. “Most of the record, I’m doing leads. I didn’t even really realize it until afterwards. There’s a lot of riffing.” Musically, the songs come together from jams, with Kensrue adding the lyrics later on. “Everybody comes with different chord progressions or riffs—they have these song ideas and we just kind of jam on it and try to put stuff together. The lyrics are mostly all Dustin, and he writes really personally. I think he likes for people to kind of just take it the way they would and make their own interpretation out of it.”

The group is planning to record its Island debut in early 2003, and it’s excited about being labelmates with Thursday. “We just met those guys during the Warped tour; they’re awesome dudes and an awesome band,” Teranishi says. “We’re really psyched to be sharing a label with them and kind of doing this together.”

As for as being a contender for the Next Big Thing, Thrice is happy simply to be where it’s at right now. “It’s a total blessing,” Teranishi says. “I can’t believe that we’ve gone this far. We never really expected it.”


Teranishi: “Definitely I would have to say Refused, The Shape of Punk to Come. I think that’s an amazing, amazing record—a punk-rock classic. And lately, the new Glassjaw. Have you heard that? Worship and Tribute. That’s awesome; I’ve been really smoked on that lately.”


Teranishi: “On the record and what I’m using right now are the Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier and a Les Paul. And I’ve been getting into pedals a lot lately—a delay modeler and a filter modeler. I want to try out some more weird vintage stuff.”


From “Where Idols Once Stood” on The Illusion of Safety: “Our idols lay in ruins/We’d have saved them if we could/But we still choose to worship/At the places where our idols stood/Still believing they can save us/I’ve lived this way too long to turn back now.”




Quinn Allman, guitarist and founder of the Utah Valley band the Used, is a little bit bummed out: The other day, he thought he’d found a copy of a favorite film from when he was a kid, 1986’s The Quest, at his local Blockbuster Video.

“I’m most musically inspired not by music; my ideas come from like Full House and The Wonder Years, The Goonies and The Explorers,” Allman says. “They come from TV and old movies. I can’t explain it; I hate movies, but I love kids’ movies. I’m not really the smartest dude, I just love kids movies, especially from the ’80s, like the ones I grew up with. You know the story line is going to be just completely crude and obvious. I don’t know what it is; maybe I just wish I could be a kid again. I grew up like in a creek in a river bottom, jumping off trees into the water, walking through the fields. Me and my brothers didn’t have shoes for a while, and I didn’t want to be at home because there was a lot of stuff going on. I’d just be out in the ditches, so that kind of shit really strikes a chord in me.”

Before he’d even watched it, Allman told the video store that he’d lost the tape so he could keep it. They charged him the $5 used cassette sale price, and he thought he’d scored. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the 1996 Jean-Claude Van Damme action flick, and not The Quest that Allman wanted. So he got even by destroying it. “I don’t do drugs, dude, so I don’t have much to live up to,” he says, laughing. “I guess destroying video tapes is my thing.”

Allman had been playing with the Used’s rhythm section, drummer Branden Steineckert and bassist Jeph Howard, for several years, crafting demos that they would regularly send to John Feldmann of ska-punks Goldfinger. “They were just terrible,” Allman says. “We had a different singer, and it wasn’t good. John would always tell us, ‘Get a new singer, shorten your songs, and do this shit,’ and we were like, ‘O.K.,’ but we never could; we were all just friends and we were just fucking playing and we had shows set up all over our home town and stuff like that. But we finally just said, ‘You know what? It’s not worth it any more, our songs aren’t really that good, and it’s not like we’re progressing at all.’ So we stopped and looked for a singer and went through about 50 until we found Bert [McCracken].”

Now, something clicked. “We had written a few newer songs, and it was like a hardcore thing,” Allman says. “We were all into hardcore music, but we were kind of just trying to keep something unique about it, and it started coming out really cool.” Within a year, the reconstituted Used was signed to Reprise, and Feldman was producing its self-titled debut, a striking mix of (you knew this was coming) loud and soft dynamics, grinding metallic riffs and beautiful, lulling pop passages, all of it distinguished by McCracken’s ultra-emotive crooning and Allman’s imaginative guitar colors.

“I think it’s punk-rock, but I don’t want to say goodbye to melody, and I don’t want to say goodbye to my voice,” Allman says. “I just want to sing and I want to be heard, and to do that, I don’t have to write big riffs; my music doesn’t have to be big and it doesn’t have to rock. When I want to write a song, the last thing I think about is how the crowd will move to it. I just think our music really comes from our heart. I can’t really tag myself as emo, but I’m not trying to be that guy who doesn’t want to be called emo, ’cause kids are gonna call us whatever they want to.”

Musically, Allman’s playing is all about tension and release. “I don’t even know what it’s called, but if you take like the B and the G strings and you make an octave, but then you bring the G string back a half step and then you bring that back a whole step and you create those harmonies by voicing it like that—I do that a lot. I guess it’s called a major second? I love playing around with major seconds.”

On the album, Allman played all of the electric and acoustic guitars himself, but on tour, he’s being joined by a friend, Greg Bester. It’s uncertain whether the Used will expand to become a quintet, or what the future may hold in store as far as success, but Allman and his mates are open to anything.

“I’m excited to see what happens,” he says. “So far what I’ve heard, the bands that I’m into, I don’t think they will be on the radio, but I do sense that there’s a movement out there. I think kids are just ready for something different. There’s so much mass pop bullshit, even in the rock genre—I’m sorry, but I think that shit is just so fucking farce. I listen to the radio, all the nü-metal crap, and I don’t want to drop names, but like [Drowning Pool’s] ‘Let the Bodies Hit the Floor,’ to destructure that song, there’s nothing there!”


Allman: “Hands down, the best album to me that I’ve ever heard is Face to Face, Ignorance Is Bliss. It has so much meaning to me, and I can’t say that enough. When I go to the store, I buy like four copies so that I can give it out to my friends, I love it so much. It’s their black sheep record; they used a lot of slower rhythms, a lot of half-time rhythms, and I heard it and it was about six months later that I graduated from high school and I spent that summer stealing everything I could, living out of my backpack, jumping in the river, and at the end of the day I remember just listening to those songs over and over and over. Now it’s such a big part of my life and the things that I went through, trying to find out what my next step is. Those songs painted such a clear picture of a moment in my life that I don’t even think they’re real, they’re like the soundtrack to my life.

“Another record is Goldfinger’s first self-titled album. At that time I was really into punk rock, this is before Face to Face, but there was always just something a little bit different about it. I’ve always been a Goldfinger fan, and John, he produced our album, but his songwriting is amazing. It seems true from the heart, and the songs took some time and some craft to put together. I’m not a mature songwriter, that’s something I want to achieve, so those records, they’ve impacted my life more than any others.”


Allman: “I’m not really a gear head. I’m endorsed by Schecter, but I also play Gibsons, and the guitar I have right now is a ’79 Les Paul Custom, but it’s like faded out of control—it’s all yellow and fucked. I never wash my guitars, I never clean them, so they just get all fucked. The other one is a Schecter 006. That’s pretty much all I have, plus just little backup guitars that I’ve had for years. Live, I use a Dual Rectifier and a ’78 JMP head; I mix those together, and I really like that. I just like to drive. I always put the gain at about four or five, and I just push the JMP head. I like to get a head to push itself more than to turn the gain up.”


From “The Taste of Ink” on The Used: “Is it worth it can you even hear me/Standing with your spotlight on me/Not enough to feed the hungry/I’m tired and I felt it for a while now/In this sea of lonely/The taste of ink is getting old/It’s four o’clock in the fucking morning/Each day gets more and more like the last day.”




Aside from the music (which shreds), the most striking things about Worship and Tribute, the second album by Long Island’s Glassjaw, is the cover art: a clear plastic sheet with a long tone arm that extends over the CD that’s visible inside. The disc is stamped to look like an old vinyl LP.

Clearly, this is a band that appreciates its musical history.

“That’s why our record is called Worship and Tribute,” says guitarist Todd N. Weinstock. “It’s us borrowing from everything, all our influences. Everything comes from somewhere, and I think it’s just maybe the right time for this whole thing, and people think it’s a new thing. A band like us growing up in New York, there was another band that no one knew outside of Long Island, Mind Over Matter, and they were doing all of this that’s going on right now like seven years ago, and it’s still relevant. If you listen to their album today, Automanipulation, it still blows you away—like, ‘Wow, this is where Thursday’s coming from!’”

Formed about four years ago by singer Daryl Palumbo and guitarist Justin Beck, Glassjaw made its recorded debut on metal-oriented Roadrunner Records with 2000’s Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence before graduating to Warner Bros. for its sophomore effort. There has always been as much metal as hardcore punk in the band’s sound, though the musicians argue that in their world, there isn’t really much of a difference.

“Before we were hardcore kids, we were metal kids, and hardcore these days—at least when we got into—was really metal-influenced,” Weinstock says. “It’s not the Youth of Today or Gorilla Biscuits days; it’s all metal, really. It’s just kids with gay clothes and sideways hats instead of motorcycle jackets.”

Of course, there is also considerably more depth in the lyrics than on your average Nickelback song. In general, Beck says that the songs come together musically (usually from one of his ideas) before Palumbo adds the typically intense and personal lyrics.

“I’ll come to the table with a basic drum, bass, and guitar song structure, and we build upon that. Sometimes the lyrics will inspire me to add something, but usually the songs are set. On the last album, there was one song that Daryl had that made reference to him spending time in the children’s ward in the hospital, and I was thinking of sounds like when you go in the hospital—those mobiles that hang over children’s beds. That was the only time I made like a pictoral soundscape. Other than that, Daryl brings in the vocals after the fact—he has a whole aresenal of lyrics and song ideas, and it’s a matter of which one he feels compliments each song. They’re kind of separate worlds, but the end product winds up being the entity which is Glassjaw, which has its own dynamics to it. Daryl will be in his little laboratory and I’ll be in my little laboratory, but when it comes together, it always has a certain consistency.

“I’m a musician,” Beck adds. “I just like listening to music, and the lyrics are kind of secondary. Only if it’s a band that really really pushes me to the next level will I pick up the lyric book and read it. I’m a melody guy; I feel like sometimes whether you know what the guy’s saying or not, you can get those emotions. Certain chord structures can evoke a certain feeling without words, and if you can make an emotion come out through a chord, I think that’s a million times more powerful than any lyrics. That’s insane.”

Glassjaw’s two-guitar attack is usually defined by Beck playing the more structured riffs and rhythms while Weinstock lays down broad washes of sound and white noise. “Justin is kind of ‘Mr. Extremely Tight’ and ‘Mr. Solo,’ and I’m kind of ‘Mr. Make A Lot of Noise and Play With A Lot of Pedals,’” Weinstock says. The two players regularly change lead and rhythm roles—an approach that, like the lyrics, they share with many of their screamo peers.

“A lot of those bands, there’s definitely similarities between all of us,” Weinstock says. “We’re all pretty much from the same place, as opposed to like a Korn kid or something. But I think any similarities, besides the hardcore thing, are just kind of coincidence, because we’re just trying to make music.”


Weinstock: “I’m using a Les Paul Classic right now, and I have a Les Paul Studio Light. I use a Bogner head, the Uberschall. I just got it about a month ago, and I dig it a lot. I’d been using a Mesa for the whole time before that, and I liked it, but I didn’t like it. I didn’t really know where else to go; everything I tried, it wasn’t really up to par. But the Bogner kicked my ass.”

Beck: “I use a Les Paul Classic and a Hughes & Kettner amp. Pedal-wise, I’m using a Line 6 delay modeler.”


Weinstock: “Unbelievably or not, Jeff Buckley, Grace. That’s one of my favorite records ever, for the guitar playing, and for everything. I’ll lay in my bunk and listen to that record over and over and over. And Radiohead, The Bends. I grew up on hardcore and post-hardcore, but I’m not really into those bands these days, because I feel like everything is rehashed.”

Beck: “It’s always flipping and flopping. Most recently the album I’ve been digging a lot is Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun. It’s fucking genius; I just think it’s amazing. I feel like anything from like Erykah Badu to Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, it’s just like you learn from your forefathers and people who’ve laid down the tracks before you. Someone like Stevie’s done it all, and whether it’s in his form of music or ours, someone like that is inspiring. My thing is I’ll listen to music if it’s good, and I don’t care if it’s hardcore or techno. I think recently in hardcore there haven’t been too many bands that are too impressive, so I find myself going to the older albums or albums of other genres for inspiration.”


From “Pink Roses” on Worship and Tribute: “You walk a tear in my heart through the fake knife broken/Youre asking “When do I stop?” When the murder’s ended/Blacker than my father’s soul/Drunk enough to raise a storm/Pink roses.”