Final Backward Glance: An Interview with Bane's Aaron Bedard and Aaron Dalbec
The hardcore veterans plot a course for life after Bane.
Photos courtesy of Todd Pollock
A year and a half has passed since news broke that New England hardcore veterans Bane were recording their final album, Don’t Wait Up, which dropped in 2014. Every day since the announcement, the band inches closer to the last time they will take stage together. The set will conclude two decades of fast-paced, heartfelt and high-energy hardcore. Although the date has yet to be set, it freezes vocalist Aaron Bedard to his core. It’s no longer an abstract idea but an ever-approaching reality inducing recurring, uncomfortable nightmares. Bane gifted him self-worth. They’ll probably fall apart when that final show comes to fruition.
That doesn’t mean that Bedard and guitarist Aaron Dalbec won’t stay strong until the end. Since the last record dropped, they have toured the United States, Asia and Australia. They insist that this summer will feature the most bonkers Bane set the world will ever see at the band’s final This Is Hardcore Festival appearance in Philadelphia. Sure, the guys have aged since the days when Dalbec was juggling his then side-project Bane with shredding on Converge cult-favorite Jane Doe. But the members of Bane have always maintained the same mission statement.
Aaron Bedard’s goal has always been to stay true to himself. When a member of Crippled Youth (who later became Bold) taught him about Cro-Mags, Underdog, and Youth of Today, he knew instantly what he wanted to commit his life to. While some would argue that our nation's problems are vastly different now than they were in the 1980s, many of youth crew hardcore's principles still apply. Equality, justice and a healthy lifestyle are still Bane's core values, and the band hopes to pass them onto the next generation, who'll do the same in due time.
While Dalbec says he was always too self-conscious to approach bands as a kid, Bedard attributes much of his inspiration to his time spent hanging in parking lots with the members of Youth of Today. And while he just feels like a regular dude, he’s finally starting to come to terms with stepping into the shoes of the guys he once idolized. We spoke to both of Bane’s Aarons about the upcoming This Is Hardcore Festival, aging off the stage, and the mushy inner workings of supposed tough-guys.
What’s your history with This Is Hardcore?
Aaron Bedard: It’s a big deal to us. Joe, who runs it, is a close friend of the band, and he’s been supporting Bane since our earliest releases, since our earliest trips through Philly. It’s the biggest fest that’s basically in our backyard. We’ve always been real proud to be a part of it, and for whatever reason that town just responds real strongly to Bane. We’ve never had even an average set at This Is Hardcore. It’s always been bonkers. It was definitely on the bucket list of things we wanted to do one last time before we break up.
What about the lineup?
Bedard: The lineup is ill. This Is Hardcore never does anything but come a hundred percent with the lineup. I never thought I was going to get to see the fucking Exploited in my life.
Aaron Dalbec: It’s all hardcore kids. No bullshit, just everyone having fun.
Bedard: It has this authentic grassroots feel to it, and I’ve seen it grow. You step back and see that there’s literally 2,000 hardcore kids packed in a room. It’s a pretty amazing thing to see hardcore at that level. When that many kids from all over the globe get psyched about this one style of music, this one attitude that we hold in our hearts.
So after this fest you’re out with Terror, Turnstile, and Backtrack. Is that your final tour?
Bedard: Nope, we’ve got a little left to go. The plan when Don’t Wait Up came out was to stay busy and tour for the entirety of 2015. Now it’s spilling into 2016, the way it’s looking is we’ll do this festival, The Life and Death Tour, then go to Japan in September, then our final European tour will be November/December. I think in December we’ll do our 20th anniversary party in Worcester, MA, at the Palladium. The next thing will be the final US tour, and that will be in the spring of next year. When it’s gonna be the last Bane tour ever it’s going to be pushed that way, you won’t be confused.
You’ve got the 20 years coming up and you’re looking to celebrate. Did you guys ever think that this would last or you’d commit this long?
Dalbec: Not at all. When Bane started, I thought if we could do a US tour, then we’ve done everything. If Bane lasted five years, in reality five years for a hardcore band is like a lifetime…
Bedard: I’d never been in a band that lasted two years, left Massachusetts or made an actual record before. I had no idea what was waiting for us. Aaron was in Converge. Bane was clearly gonna be a side project. We never would’ve imagined that this could’ve happened. The craziest part is that it went by so fast. It’s ridiculous to even hear the number 20. I still feel giddy inside that I get to be in this band.
Dalbec: When you say 20 years it seems insane, because it still feels like five years ago.
Where do you think you guys would be had Bane never happened?
Bedard: God, that question haunts me in the dark moments man. I don’t know what I would’ve done, how I would’ve found an outlet for all my aggression and anger and confusion and this need to be heard and understood. I was 25, pretty late in the game and feeling pretty panicked about my prospects for life. I knew I wasn’t cut out for the nine-to-five. I don’t know how I would’ve made it. I was pretty fucking angsty. I got this opportunity, and I suddenly felt like I belonged.
Dalbec: I don’t know what I’d be doing either. I was still in Converge for the next five or six years after Bane started, but I can almost guarantee I wouldn’t still be in that band even if Bane didn’t exist.
Did you think about that when you were younger? The notion that this had an expiration date and you needed a back-up plan.
Dalbec: My wife and I were having this conversation, because I obviously think about what’s gonna happen when Bane is done. She asked, “Well, what did you want to do when you were younger?” I’m like, “I wanted to be in a band and tour.” Now what?
Bedard: I had a good long stretch of panic, once I got a look at what this life is. Realizing how much I liked it, it was what I had always been waiting for. There were years that would go by that I would be so scared of what was gonna happen when it ended. Now I feel ready to deal with that question. Years ago, I did whatever I could to patch up any rips in the seams, to keep us moving and from completely crumbling.
In the past this wasn’t something you were able to deal with. You’ve addressed how you’re getting older and facing the physicality issue now, where you feel like you may not always be able to give the crowd the level of intensity they deserve. What was it like to finally sift through those feelings and grapple with the fact that this was coming to an end?
Bedard: To be brutally honest, it’s still a work in progress. There’s still a lot of ebbs and flows to those feelings, there are times where I’m like, “What the fuck are we doing? What am I gonna do next? This is the only thing that I love!” Then there are more rational times where my knees are just completely screaming at me. I feel myself getting winded more readily. This is a young man’s game and I want to be able to respect that. I don’t want to be embarrassing what’s expected of a hardcore band when they hit the stage. When we decided that we were gonna make one more record and give it our all for one more year, that felt like as good of a compromise as I could ask. Guys in the band are having families. I needed to be understanding of that. But on my day-to-day I’m not walking around head held high feeling completely great that I’m leaving the thing in my life that I’ve loved the most. It has given me the greatest return on my investment.
Dalbec: We’ve made the decisions that we wanted to in order to end the band.
Bedard: It’s literally writing our own final chapter. We’re steering this ship. Nothing is happening because of outside forces. There aren’t a lot of bands that get that luxury.
You've expressed in the past that you didn’t want to be that dude that you saw on stage that looked past his prime, shaking your head in disapproval like they should’ve thrown in the towel years ago.
Bedard: “I remember when they were good…”
You never want to feel insecure in your presence?
Bedard: Yeah. I think that speaks a lot about me and my insecurities. Maybe it’s a foolish thing to be as pre-occupied with as I have been. But it never goes away, the bands that I hold in highest regard and closest to my heart just brought it live. It’s always been in my head that I can feel myself losing the step, it makes me crazy, [laughs], I hate that the forces of fucking gravity get to win this fucking battle.
Does that scare you? Being a cautionary tale?
Dalbec: Unfortunately, I feel like if you’re in a hardcore band, and you’re in your late 40s or 50s, in a weird way you can’t stop. You can’t really go and do anything else because you’ve been doing it for so long.
Bedard: We maybe don’t need to be breaking up right now. I just don’t want to pass that line. You don’t see the line when you get there, you just one day watch a Youtube video. “Oh my fucking god, is that we look like now?” I don’t want to have that day.
How has your interaction with young hardcore kids changed?
Bedard: For me, it has changed in some strange way that I can’t quite even articulate properly. There was a time when we would tour when all we wanted to do was just hang with the crowd, we would make friends with the kids. We didn’t know them before the show started and afterwards we would be out getting tacos and friendships were made. That happens for us less and less these days, and I know that part of the blame falls on us. Maybe part of the blame falls on that younger kids can tell that we’re older. It saddens me.
Maybe it isn’t that they don’t want to interact, but it’s because you have been doing it for so long and reached this higher status. They don’t just see you guys as the kids from Massachusetts…
Bedard: Or we’re just old guys…
Bedard: When I was younger going to shows, I would feel weird going up to the old dudes who just got out of the van. You don’t know how cranky they are. I completely understand that hesitance. That’s a really nice way to think about it, that they’re thinking “Whoa those are the guys from Bane!” But anytime anyone tries to come at us with that attitude we try to break right through that.
Have you come to terms with the fact that you have made such an impression?
Dalbec: It’s pretty hard to see, for me personally.
Bedard: I don’t want to be too foolish and make it seem like we’re not aware that we’ve had an impact on kids. We’ve done more here than we’ve ever intended to. I’m not gonna pretend that hasn’t dawned on us. But at the same time, you don’t want to get too caught up in that. We’re still a band. We’re still active and we’re still hungry. I don’t want to spend too much time weighing out the legacy of Bane or how much we’ve meant on the grand scheme of things. I do believe that there will be a time where I’ll be able to look back and be like, “Fuck man, we really did it…” and really assess from afar but it’s hard to do it now. But yes, to be completely candid with you, I am aware that we have been very lucky that there are kids that really fucking care about our band. And it’s not lost on any of us.
Your songwriting is a way to get out aggression and send your message to the world. Are you afraid that you're going to lose that outlet to express yourself when Bane ends?
Bedard: I am afraid of losing that. I felt that I was pretty good at. It has challenged me mentally and made me dig inside myself creatively. I don't think I'm gonna lose that? I think it's ingrained in me and that I'm always going to have to find a way to express myself? I have this need to be heard and to create. Bane made that really easy. It just fucking dulled all those feelings that I'm never gonna matter, that I'm never gonna do anything special. It took that away. I don't know what next year is gonna look like when I have to ask myself, "What’s next? How are you gonna get your voice out there? Is it still as important to you as it used to be?"
You said you've been learning a lot about yourself in this past year and you wouldn't have been able to without making this last record. I'm curious, what have you learned about yourself?
Bedard: I had real demons in my closet, real sick family stuff that I had gone through as a kid and had just buried away and never talked about. I thought that I could survive just by being strong, even though I saw that it had a very different impact on the other members of my family who went through the same thing. Outside of Bane, I don't want to say I'm a mess, but emotionally and my relationships, there's a lot of stuff that's pretty fuckin' sloppy in my life. Bane has allowed me to stay moving. When it was time to write Don't Wait Up and say the last things I was ever going to say in the band I decided I was gonna touch that stuff. Look at what I'd been through as a kid and how it had affected me. It led me down a pretty bumpy road but it also led me into getting a therapist and really being honest with myself and looking at how it has affected every area of my life and realizing, "God damn, this has it's fucking claws in everything!" It's been difficult, but it's been wonderful too.
In "Final Backwards Glance" you say, "I've never been much good at saying goodbye." You haven't really wanted to talk to anyone much about legacy, but what do you really want to be remembered for?
Bedard: The only thing I care about is that we're hardcore kids who stayed honest and just fuckin' stayed ourselves. We never got ahead of ourselves. We never forget where we came from. We never forgot the bands that we loved and that they were the reason that we were in a band ourselves. Obviously we grew and matured, and life did what life does to us, but in our hearts, we're still kids who fucking love hardcore and that's why Bane never broke up or jumped to a major label or went through a major sound change. We just got back from touring Australia, and every time we walked into a venue there were barriers and we knew that kids weren't gonna be able to stagedive. We felt the same disappointment that we would've felt in the first six months. If there's any legacy, I'd like that to be it.
Bane kept it real.
Bedard: [laughs] Yeah, I guess I could've said it in four words.
Derek Scancarelli remembers buying The Note at Mr. Cheapo Records a decade ago. He’s on Twitter.