Rising through the ranks of heavy music, there is a community of bands who are striving more for creative freedom than stardom. Building up their collective resumés through sheer determination and talent, here is a set of bands who are inspiring a generation of hardcore fans to shake themselves out of the previously accepted version of the genre, and open their eyes to a new level of integrity within music. And somewhere along the way, people started to call it ‘The Wave’.
Now, granted, anything with a moniker instantly becomes more insatiable, more accessible, and thus, it’s unsurprising to learn that these bands have begun to turn heads, but even before we fully approach the subject, we learn quickly that those words have become more of a curse than a blessing.
“That whole thing is the utmost joke,” begins James Carroll, of Make Do And Mend, when we call him in his home of West Hartford, Connecticut. “It came about with us sitting in Touché Amoré’s van, just joking around. It was something funny that we came up with, and even ran with for a little bit. For a month or so we joked about it, but once we realised that people had started to pick up on it and use it as a ranking system, we very quickly stopped talking about it. We created a monster in a certain sense, but what can you do?” “It was more of a huge joke on Twitter,” emphasises Brad Vander Lugt of La Dispute. “Then, people just ran with it and some kids took it really seriously, like we were trying to create some kind of collective, which it wasn’t at all. But we are really good friends with all of those bands. They’re like brothers to us and I think, in that way, it is a collective.”
The remarkable part of this collective though, lies in the bands themselves, and their relationships with one another. With ‘The Wave’ first being pinned as just five select groups – Make Do And Mend and La Dispute are joined by Defeater, Pianos Become The Teeth and Touché Amoré – the stigma of the title lies more simply in limitation. However, the community itself holds a much larger sphere of influence.
“Balance And Composure, to potentially Seahaven,” lists Defeater guitarist Jay Maas, when we ask who else he would consider to be a part of the movement. “All Teeth, Former Thieves, Comadre, Living With Lions… It’s just anybody who is putting the gimmick stuff aside. It’s not even a sound. It’s just, put the gimmick aside and know that things are what they are, enjoy what you can and be honest with what you make.”
“It was more of a huge joke on Twitter. Then, people just ran with it and some kids took it really seriously.”
Brad Vander Lugt, La Dispute
What’s more impressive is how closely knit this group has become, despite geography getting in the way. The acts alone name some of their hometowns as Grand Rapids in Michigan, Los Angeles in California and Baltimore in Maryland. It’s simply through touring, and the support systems they themselves have put in place, that their relationships have solidified more so. “With Touché,” says Vander Lugt, when speaking of his labelmates, “we started playing shows about four years ago when both our bands had just started out. They’d book us a show in California when we were out that way, we’d get them a show when they were in Michigan. I guess we grew up together even though we were on opposite sides of the country.”
In fact, as it turns out, only two of the “Wave” bands grew up anywhere near each other; Defeater and Make Do And Mend are both Massachusetts-based, even, at one time sharing a member. Regardless of their overlap though, each and every band within the community maintains their own sense of self, and perfectly encapsulates their art. Whether it be Defeater’s lustrous brand of concept-laden hardcore, or Touché Amoré’s adrenaline-fuelled minute-long assaults; La Dispute’s lyrically tumultuous tales of life and death, or Make Do And Mend’s gruff dealings with everyday life, there’s an honesty and compassion that lies deep within the music that feels like it’s been missing from the genre for far too long.
“Make Do And Mend are one of my favourite bands because they have the same mentality if they’re playing to twenty people, as they do if they’re playing to six hundred people,” explains Mike York, guitarist of Pianos Become The Teeth. “They just have a ‘give it their all’ attitude and I love watching that band.”
“And the best part about it,” adds in frontman of Touché Amoré, Jeremy Bolm, “is the fact that you can just come talk to us all. Everyone will be hanging out at merch after shows. Everyone wants to meet kids. We’re so easy to just speak to. There’s no hierarchy.” A statement mirrored by Pianos Become The Teeth vocalist Kyle Durfey: “There’s no rock star mentality. It’s really easy to get along with anybody.”
But is there ever any friendly competition between the bands? Well, not so much rivalries… “With anything with your friends,” starts Carroll. “Like, when your first friend learns to ride a bike, then everybody starts learning how to ride a bike. Everybody starts to take their training wheels off. I think we do that a lot within our world. I remember, last year, hearing Balance And Composure’s new record ‘Separation’ and just thinking they just stepped it up and took the world of music to a new level. I feel like that all the time! Hearing [Touché Amoré’s] ‘Parting The Sea…’ did the same. I remember hearing that record and thinking, ‘We gotta step up and take our training wheels off!’ We’ve got to make sure that we’re doing something as good as our friends.”
“It’s absolutely amazing to watch your friends bands grow and grow and grow.”
Jay Maas, Defeater
And so, it seems inevitable that this collective is really causing a stir. A handful of bands have already embarked upon huge sold out US tours, as well as large scale support slots – Touché opened for Rise Against on their European arena tour, and - alongside Balance And Composure - are currently supporting Circa Survive in the States; they’ve even found themselves taking the odd broadsheet column inch.
“It’s absolutely amazing to watch your friends bands grow and grow and grow to a point where… La Dispute, on their last tour in the States, they filled a couple thousand cap room in Philly,” explains Maas, before his bandmate Derek Archambault joins in, “That’s just not heard of.”
“For a band that does exactly what they want,” Maas continues, “because they don’t write music for anyone but themselves, that’s amazing.”
The final question, however, must be asked: does this really hold the strength to be named a movement? Well, we may just have to see, but Carroll has his own thoughts. “Right now, we’re living and playing music in a time where there’s a very relevant set of happenings and bands and in that way, it is very basically a movement. I don’t by any means think we’re inventing the wheel or bringing radical change to modern music at large, but I think that in modern music, there will definitely be bands amongst this crop that will be remembered for a very long time.”