Words by Ian Morales. Photos courtesy of the band.
The screamo movement has been going strong since the start of the millennium, thanks largely to the acceptance of the genre by festivals like Warped Tour and Taste of Chaos. Major magazines like Alt Press and Revolver feature many screamo-metalcore bands, since the genre takes pieces from each fan base. It has proved itself beyond a reasonable doubt that it is no passing trend.
The one thing about screamo is that now too many samesy, cookie-cutter looking and sounding bands are saturating the market. It’s difficult for good, new bands to stand out. The odds of standing out decrease if you are a DIY band with no label backing. With all that said, one band is looking like they are going to be the exception and beat those odds. That band is Ahimsa Sunrise, from the little Pennsylvania town of DuBois.
Perhaps you were in Austin this past March for South By Southwest and saw Ahimsa Sunrise at one of their many shows that week. If you read or subscribe to Alt Press, you have probably seen the advertisement in the last two issues. An unsigned band feature in a future issue is coming very soon, according to the band. On the eve of their big Alt Press feature and all their post-SXSW interviews, the band released a new EP titled Save It. Now that the EP is available, it’s time to meet who could very well could be the next big screamo band to hit the scene.
How did you guys come together as a band?
Seth: We’ve known each other forever. Us three (Seth, Patrick and Jarrod) have known each other since elementary and we met Brian in middle school.
So is this your first band? Or were you in different crappy high school bands before becoming Ahimsa Sunrise?
Jarrod: In junior high, we were all in a band together. I was in a different band and we played together. We were awful.
Seth: Yeah, we were pretty terrible.
Jarrod: It was around our senior year we started really playing together.
You guys were determined early. Was “We shall not suck” the mantra for you at the time?
Seth: Oh my God—I remember thinking we were good until we’d see videos of ourselves. We were terrible. What the fuck were we thinking?
I’m glad you guys were able to recognize that on your own, really early on, unlike most bands starting out of the gate.
Seth: I know after this whole experience that we are going to look back at what we’re doing now and go “What the fuck were we thinking?”
Maybe, but I’d bet not. You’ll be too busy to think I’m sure. Now as I understand it, after forming in 2004, there was just a lot of touring. There isn’t a lot of recent anything really, at least not yet. Kind of fill in the gaps for me a little bit between then and now.
Seth: There’s been some touring going on. More recently we’ve talked to a bunch of labels. We really just want to do things ourselves. We’re unsigned and we really want to go after it this year. We self-released our EP, which we got into Hot Topic.
What about the gaps between those isolated show and tour dates?
Seth: It was just a lot of time spent writing music. We really liked to take the time to make sure the songs are the best possible representation of us. We toured as much as possible.
Patrick: We fund everything ourselves, too. We have to work our shitty jobs to keep things going.
Seth: We are essentially our own label. This year has been really kickin’ for us.
What is it about this year that’s taking off for you?
Seth: We’re just sick of waiting. We have talked to labels. No one has really bit down yet. We have a big ad in AP and are going to be the Unsigned Band of The Month in May. A lot of things are going to happen this year.
So other than the obvious press, how do you guys stand out in this crowded screamo/metalcore, whatever-you-want-to-call-it genre?
Seth: A lot of bands just do breakdowns. They’ll have a couple of lead singers.
Jarrod: We have that spacey feel that makes us different. We’re not just metal-playing and then you are going to hear a breakdown. We’re trying to inject it with other things.
Seth: I know a lot of the bands now do more of the higher screams. I get comparisons to Lamb of God sometimes. I can really do some really brutal screams, but at the same time I can sing super high. For a band to have both, they usually have two singers. I think that’s cool and can set us apart. Sticking out is always tough though. Whether labels pick us up or not, we’ll continue to do it that way because we just want to be ourselves.
Typically, young bands in this realm are as angsty or as dark as the music. Sitting in front of you here, you don’t seem like a group of pissed-off dudes at all.
Jerrod: Yeah, we’re all pretty laid back.
Where does the angst and brutality I hear on Save It come from then?
Jerrod: It comes from being tired of waiting on things to happen. That’s what gets us pissed off.
Speaking of pissed off, let’s talk about your band name. How often do you get your name butchered? Has it gotten irritating yet?
Seth: It’s good that people ask what it means and how to say it. It means that people want to know about us, so it’s a good thing.
Jarrod: When we were searching for names, we wanted something that was going to stand out. We just didn’t know that we’d pick something this complicated, apparently. It’s funny to her people change their accents between the words “Ahimsa” and “Sunrise.”
With this lineup, were you known by any other name before going by Ahimsa Sunrise?
Seth: We were actually known as Destimona. We didn’t put anything out with that name though.
What made you change it?
Jerrod: Some other band already had it. It was like some Icelandic death metal band or something.
Patrick: Just to clear it up, Ahimsa means non-violence. Sunrise is new beginning or brand new day.
So what is coming up for the rest of 2010, besides pushing the album?
Brian: We’re looking for a booking agent.
Seth: With all the publicity this year, we’re hoping a label or booking agent can make something happen. If nothing else, we will try and continue to tour as much as possible.
So if things go slower than planned, what’s the plan B in terms of touring? Would you be doing small clubs or try to connect with a bigger touring act and open?
Jerrod: That was one of our biggest goals this year, to try and play out as much as possible. It’s hard to say what we’d do on our own because it’s hard booking your own stuff. Stuff falls through all the time or something happens.
Seth: We have a bus. In the past, we’d show up after driving for hours in a bus and the show would be canceled. When it starts dabbing in our pocket too much, we don’t play as many shows.
Help me and our readers understand what things are like for you as a band there in your neck of the woods. Is there a scene? Are there good venues to play or do you have to travel for all that?
Seth: In Dubois, there’s nothing there. We go to Cleveland, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, places like that.
Patrick: Pittsburgh is kind of weak. You need to get on a big show to do well there.
Seth: The scene is there; you just have to know the right people to get on a big show.
Jarrod: There is this club out there called Mr. Smalls. It’s a pretty nice place and we do alright there.
So how have people reacted to you guys when you were out on tour or opened for big bigger bands?
Jarrod: It was hit or miss. We’ve played shows where people are into it and moshing, and then some shows where they are trying to figure us out.
Seth: Sometimes, we’re too much for that particular crowd. I’ve seen looks come my way that say ‘Why is he doing that?” Overall, it was fun and we learned a lot.
Talk to me about the music video for “Save It.” It looks professional and certainly not like something a DIY band would put out.
Seth: The director’s name is Kennon Fleisher. He did an Attack Attack video. I just messaged him and got him to come up. As for a concept, we just said let’s just go there and give him some ideas of what we were looking for. The lyrics are about saving yourself from yourself. The girl in the video is fighting herself. There are two sides to her. There’s a nice side and the other side is kind of crazy. By the end, she finds herself and kind of faces her inner demons.
Who is the girl in the video?
Seth: [laughs] She’s a friend of ours.
Why as musicians did you decide to play this style of music? You could have played punk,thrash, whatever you wanted.
Seth: We all like all kinds of bands. When we were at Warped Tour in 2005, there were so many good bands that were playing there like Circa Survive, Chiodos, bands like that were pushing the envelope. I think that is where we got some of that influence from.
What about personal influences? Circa Survive and Chiodos kind of just came out nowhere recently in the last decade. What about all the music that came before that?
Jarrod: I listened to everything from classic rock. I like Zeppelin, Pink Floyd to ’90s music. I loved Niranva and Alice in Chains, stuff like that.
Seth: What we play now was underground for a long time.
Patrick: Glassjaw was a big influence for me in terms of heavy music.
Seth: You never know what is going to happen these days. We watched Attack Attack just sky rocket. They found something that connects with these kids and they love it, especially the younger ones.
So do you think you can continue to carry the torch for scream metal?
Seth: I think what we just wrote and then some new stuff will help us do that.
Patrick: We’re working on even newer stuff now.
That being said, what are looking to do different next time? I know that you hear something you could have done differently or didn’t get to try on Save It.
Patrick: Get to the point a little bit faster. We have so many different parts to our songs that sometimes it may be a hard listen until we get to that certain part that catches people. We want to get to those parts faster now.
Seth: We got a lot of criticism that said we were awesome, but they had to listen four minutes into the song to get to the best part. Now we put the best parts at the beginning. I think we did that with the new EP.
So after all the Alt Press buzz, how do you think your life is going to change?
Seth: I hope shit happens. We’ve been talking to labels for the last year and a half, labels like Metalblade, Roadrunner, Fearless and a few others. We’ve been bouncing back and forth for a while now. I think this is going to be the year something finally happens and someone gets serious.
What are these labels telling you that you’re missing?
Seth: One guy told us that we “need to find that one guy in your band and center the band around him.” That’s not who we are, you know. I think if we just keep doing what we do, put ourselves out there and have them read the AP thing, it will all happen. Hopefully they see us after and say “something’s definitely poppin’ with these guys.”
If you are accomplishing things yourselves and setting up for a big summer or fall, tell me again why you want to be on a label?
Seth: A label brings it all together. They will provide an agent. They know the bands, bands whom we may want to tour with. They bring the connections. People will talk to you or give you a chance if you’re on a label. As an unsigned, a lot of people won’t talk to you.
When is the next music video in the works?
Seth: We are actually going to start in May. It will be for one of the new songs not on the Save It EP. We don’t have a title for the song yet, but we’ll let you know. We take it a day at the time.
Ahimsa Sunrise is currently planning a summer West Coast tour. See when they’ll be near your city on MySpace.