Hardcore is at its best when it takes risks, and California's Twitching Tongues is that kind of hardcore band. Formed by the Young Brothers, Colin and Taylor (Nails, Disgrace) in 2009, the group pulls influnces from sludge metal to industral, and with their new record Disharmony, they've have found themselves on a warpath to make hardcore and their music as good as it can get. Their new song "Asylum Avenue" is the perfect thesis statement for what this band is about. The most stark feature is the piercing vocals of Colin Young as guitars snap around each other, building up into classic riffage that will strangle your brain. It's a climb upwards, until it ends up in a crushing breakdown. Listen to the track below, read our interview with Colin Young, and pre-order the record from Metal Blade right here.
Noisey: Dumb question: what’s the deal with Dr. Pepper? Have you always been down with that soda?
Colin Young: Aw fuck. [laughs] Nah, it’s just a joke that’s sort of spiraled out of control, but I’m rolling with it.
When did you start singing in general?
As a kid I did a couple of musicals and stuff. That didn’t really contribute at all to what ended up happening. I think that was when I realized I had any marginal sort of singing ability. And then I discovered I hated the entire world of theater and stuff. It wasn’t until I was eighteen or so when my brother and I decided to just kind of try out. Because it was something we had always wanted to do, but it was like “alright.” Start a band like Life of Agony, Type O Negative kind of thing. It was kind of an all or nothing type thing, either we do it or we don’t, and give it a shot. Spent a lot of time on the demo getting the vocals to sound the way they do, which is crazy because they don’t sound that good. And same with the first LP, it’s hard for me to listen to because of the singing mostly. But through touring and writing more music I think I got stronger and felt more natural and developed. And with this record, and the last one, I feel like I’ve finally figured it out.
Was your brother always trying to get you in bands and stuff?
No. At first, when I was younger around sixteen or so, the idea of us being in a band together was funny to him. He was like “no, why the fuck would I do that, get out of here.” And then a couple years later it was like “alright, let’s just do it.” So we did a couple bands before Twitching Tongues, and this took over as both of our main things.
So were you always into heavier music growing up too? I know he’s always been in tons of bands like Nails and stuff, were you into the same kind of shit too?
Definitely. As early as fourth or fifth grade, I can remember watching Biohazard music videos on MTV X in Connecticut and thinking it was so cool. And then my taste kind of spiraled, got into some weird stuff. Nu-metal was popular but we’re not gonna talk about that. [laughs] And then middle school, 7th or 8th grade I figured out my real taste. Type O Negative has been my favorite band since I was like 15 years old.
Yeah, I remember hearing Peter Steele’s voice for the first time on a track, and just thinking “holy shit.”
Yeah, “this is it.” It’s what I was looking for in all the music.
It’s weird, I remember when kids I knew would talk shit about that band a ton and now suddenly people have realized they’re great.
“I’ve been an idiot, this is actually the sickest fucking thing ever.” Every record is an entire spectrum of emotion that you didn’t know existed in music. You can hear sarcasm, and devastating things in the same song which is so cool.
How early on did you think of the band’s imagery and aesthetic value? With the new record on Metal Blade, it’s like all the shirts and such have been going for that old school death metal kinda vibe, and I love it.
I appreciate that. We wanted to come off the way it is from the start. I feel like our music finally matches the imagery, where in the beginning people would say shit like “oh their shirts are sick, but they fucking suck. But we’ve always had a cohesive idea to generally stick to. And now it feels like it’s finally there.
Yeah, speaking of shirts I remember seeing like a Twitching Tongues hockey jersey on eBay for like $200. People love to flip your merch.
Yeah, that was a hot item. [laughs] I mean I don’t mind, that doesn’t bother me.
Why do you think so few bands in hardcore use straight up singing?
If you look at us, we’re polarizing for that fact. People love it, or they fucking hate it. I think people are scared. And that’s fine, they should be scared. It’s hard. Playing a show I have to do a lot more than the average hardcore singer would. I gotta do warm ups, I gotta make sure I’m drinking the right kind of water. I can’t eat ice cream because I have a sweet tooth and think of ice cream 23 hours a day. What bums me out is when they do do it, and then they autotune it and shit. It’s like they’re clearly not trying hard enough to get it right, or let the flaws stay there. Like 2010-2012 was just, man why is this guy singing, this sucks. I feel like it’s made it easier for people not to question it. So I’m happy about that. But, I hope bands continue to be adventurous.
Do you think a lot about the crowd and how everything translates when you play it?
This time around, yes. The last time around it was just us writing some songs. We kept in mind the live environment the whole time, from start to finish. That’s an important aspect to this band, and crowd participation is what I thrive off of. I wanted to make sure that was intact and as alive as ever with the melodies and super heavy parts. That was definitely kept in mind.
The main thing that stood about the record, the fearlessness of Type O Negative and such is really instilled on the record. Like in the band’s fabric of music there can be a weird acoustic guitar part, a crushing breakdown and it all sound find.
Yeah. There’s a time in music where you say things like “oh, we probably shouldn’t do something like that, or you hold back. We threw caution to the wind this time around. There’s things we might not have done a couple years ago, or parts where we might’ve said “oh this is too much.” Didn’t have that mentality this time around. And we wanted to maintain a certain element of, like we didn’t want to have a single riff on the album that we weren’t happy with. And I think we achieved that which I’m happy about.
I know some hardcore bands don’t really put much focus into the lyrics, but it seems like it’s always a real focal point for your vocals, and the source of that strength.
They’re definitely really important to me. Especially this time around. I like to be very prepared for each bit of source material. Everything is about a situation that isn’t always explained but is usually pretty obvious. I’ll go into a song with a title first, and a general idea and I’ll narrow it down from there. With Twitching Tongues, the melodies and stuff is a lot of the song. It feels like the song is 50% complete until we track the vocals.
Is it tough a lot of the time to write some of the stuff?
Yeah, it is. It’s like I’ll go in and thing “well this will sound great in context,” but then it’s like, this is my life, you know? And it’s out in the public. Like “am I gonna fucking do this? Alright.” Generally when I do it, those are the songs people really get fucking close to.
What was the hardest song?
In general, probably "Preacher Man," because I knew my mom was going to have to hear it one day, and that was going to be rough. Which when she did, she was in tears. On this album, probably all of the relationship based lyrical content was tough to put on paper.
I imagine singing it live has to be a real exorcism of all of that. You always go hard as fuck at live shows.
It is. It’s unbelievably therapeutic. It’s the release of all the feelings and emotions. There’s certain songs where it’s me just thinking of killing a person. And then I don’t have to do it, I don’t have to think about it anymore, it’s been channeled into this piece of music.
How did the closer“Cruci-Fiction” come about?
Ah. It was originally going to be a two-part thing to close the album, and then we kind of found that no two songs blended in the right way that they could go together in a similar theme. So we decided to write this one big massive song to end the album. In the past few records we’ve done a couple songs about Christianity and stuff, and how it sucks. But this time I channeled everything into one which I think is more effective. You wait during the whole album, and you get to this big giant song where there’s no way people can walk away and not know what I was talking about. The last line is pretty apparent how I feel. I like that song a lot.
John Hill is going to break his stupid nose at their next show. Follow him on Twitter - @JohnXHill