Pop-punk has come a long way since the Descendents exploded on to the LA hardcore scene in the ‘80s, and these days, it has never felt more relevant. Now a far cry from irreverent humour, teenage angst, and, erm, fart jokes, pop-punk has grown up, and become more cathartic in the process.
“It’s just got really earnest, hasn’t it?” Gnarwolves’ Thom Weeks ponders. “I think the internet has made a huge different with people having a more sophisticated music taste,” he reasons, “because you can get hold of anything you want now. People are listening to Bad Brains age 14 instead of Papa Roach” It’s a fair point, but it doesn’t necessarily explain why so many bands have got a whole lot more serious. “Did people not just get bored of hearing fart jokes?” he laughs. “I’m pretty sure that’s what it was wasn’t it? I’ve got a feeling it’s going to come back around to fart jokes before long,” Thom jokes. “There’s going to be another fart band soon.”
With their audience growing up, bands too are shifting; larger-than-life teenage angst shifting into more universal, politically-charged upset. Gnarwolves’ new album is a prime example. Darker than previous releases, ‘Outsiders’ sees the band musing on familiar topics, but this time from a matured, cynical standpoint.
“Did people not just get bored of hearing fart jokes?”
“I used to have a rule where I wouldn’t write a song when I was actually feeling the feeling I wanted to write about,” says Thom, “This record I broke that, and I guess that’s why it’s darker. Some of the tracks weren’t written from a place of self-reflection. In all honesty,” he goes on, “I try to write songs that are sincere, and that’s how I get my shit out. That’s my outlet, because sometimes I just can’t talk about the things I need to talk about. They’re dark because I want to get that darkness out”.
Working within the mental health sector when not on tour with the band, Thom’s approach to the subject is both sensitive and informed, and he’s encouraged by current discussion around mental health. “It’s not just about punk and hardcore anymore. People are talking about mental health in various styles of music, and on TV and films, which is fantastic” Thom enthuses. “We do need to be having frank discussions about these things and maybe our generation is the generation to do that. People have been suffering similarly for as long as we’ve been records on the matter, but the difference now is people are starting to talk about these things openly. And that can only be a good thing.”
So how important is it for bands or artists to use their platform to talk about such subjects? “I think it’s people’s choice really,” he says. “You shouldn’t have to feel obliged to talk about those things, but if you’re comfortable doing it and you feel like you can say things that are going to help other people, then absolutely, you should be empowered to do it.”
“You have to be subtle with politics, because politics are society.”
With things becoming more personal, politics still figure. As the current global climate seems wracked with uncertainty, it seems that now more than ever, there’s a need for more politicised punk bands; just they’re tackling things differently now.
“I think there are still political punk bands,” Thom reckons, “but there is a lot of focus on personal issues too, which is great. People want to make art, and unless you’re very clever with the lyrics, it’s hard to write a political punk song that doesn’t sound really shit or on the nose. You have to be subtle with politics, because politics are society, aren’t they?”
“I think integrity is really important,” he goes on, “and it’s important to us to be able to do what we want and be able to maintain our integrity and always be able to feel like what we’re doing has a purpose”.
In having always done things their own way, in maintaining their integrity, Gnarwolves have embodied the very idea of being ‘Outsiders’, and in doing so, they’ve also found that purpose.
Gnarwolves’ new album ‘Outsiders’ is out on May 5th via Big Scary Monsters.