Combust are an up and coming NYHC band who got things started in late 2017 with the release of their 6 song demo. Since that release they have played around the East Coast a bunch while also working on their latest release which is a 6 song EP titled “The Void” which came out this past March. We caught up with Combust frontman Andrew Vacante for this July 2019 interview. Photo and graphics by: Pete Gregory.
IE: What’s up Andrew? Where are you right now and what do you think you would be doing if you weren't doing this interview?
Andrew: I’m actually currently at Combust practice, ironically. I would probably be just home watching Seinfeld.
IE: Congratulations on the release of the new EP called “The Void” which is out now on Edgewood Records. Can you tell us more about it? How many songs are on it, where you recorded it, and basically what are your thoughts on it now that it’s officially done, released and the reviews are coming in?
Andrew: Thank you! I’m really satisfied with this record. It means a lot to me in a lot of different ways. There are 6 songs. We recorded it with my long time friend Will Hirst at Gate 6 Studios in Massachusetts. I love having the finished product and seeing all our hard work come together this way. I think it was received pretty well as far as i can tell. I’m really proud of the material on all levels.
IE: This EP obviously didn’t appear overnight and upon initially hearing it I knew you guys put the time in to make this the best record it could be. Can you talk about the behind the scenes work that went into the making of “The Void”? The types of things that people may not know about or see that helped you get where you wanted to be with this new release?
Andrew: A lot of the writing process that we went through would be me and Peter (guitarist) meeting up and writing riffs. Or it would be the bassist, me, and both guitar players getting together at someone’s house and trying to finish a song without drums and bringing it to our drummer. A lot of ideas were sent by phone as well haha. There were so many ideas and riffs and lyrics scrapped for this. We wanted it to be natural and we didn’t want it to be a record where we try too hard and lose the natural fun vibe of hardcore at the end of the day.
IE: I think you initially told me that Combust was a Killing Time worship band or something really close to that when things were getting started with this band. Do you still stand by that?
Andrew: I definitely feel that we still have that vibe but it’s just not as simple and we have taken that idea of worship and molded it into our own sound.
CLICK BELOW TO STREAM OR DOWNLOAD "THE VOID" BY COMBUST
IE: What's going on with the cover artwork? The song “The Void” lyrically is a depressing one. Were you trying to connect the artwork with the lyrics in the song? Who drew it and how much influence did you have on it and what was drawn?
Andrew: The artwork was done by Chris Wilson, he sings for a band called Ekulu. I gave him the general idea of the record and some inspiration and reference I wanted to pull from and he ran with it. We were also kind of racing against the clock to have it done since we were trying really hard to nail the perfect cover we wanted with other artists. The song “The Void” is me kinda venting about how I feel at this point in my life where I’m in this cycle of waking up every day with a job I don’t have a passion in and how I feel like it’s kind of stealing a piece of my personality and a lot of my time and drive. It’s a song about feeling like life is too short and I feel like I’m just not finding that fulfillment and I don’t want it to go by too fast without me finding my purpose. "The Void" is essentially the place in your mind where all your doubts, fears, frustrations, and dark thoughts are.
IE: What about the song “The Devils Crown”? An interesting title. What's this song about?
Andrew: “The Devils Crown” is about the injustices within the prison systems and its history of racism and corruption. How the function of the police is social control and protection of property and protecting the rich. The title of the song was inspired by a KRS One track.
IE: Do you write all of the lyrics and does everyone in the band kind of have to be on board with whatever message your putting out in the lyrics? I would guess you all pretty much have the same type of mindset on many topics but do the lyrics ever come up in conversation with the other members?
Andrew: Yeah, I write all the lyrics. I run the lyrics by everyone before they are finalized and make sure everyone is cool with what I’m talking about. I think the message and making sure your whole band stands by that message is an important aspect of hardcore that gets lost often. But most of the Combust lyrics are really personal struggles.
IE: The track “The Void” has a real “Seekers Of The Truth” Cro-Mags vibe at the start and the fade out. Was this done intentionally like a homage to the original song or do you maybe not think it is that similar at all? What are your thoughts on it? I have had a couple of people make mention of it and when I hear the song I hear it as well.
Andrew: People say “Seekers” a lot which is the overall OBVIOUS vibe and especially because the main idea of the song links to looking for some truth in my life but it actually was also our attempt to combine “What I Want” by Killing Time, “Rock n Roll Rebel” by Ozzy, and of course “Seekers”. We sneak in a lot of homage to a lot of bands but this one was definitely more obvious.
COMBUST @ 2019's UNITED BLOOD FEST IN RICHMOND, VA. PHOTO BY: PETE GREGORY
IE: Edgewood is the label that put it out. The label itself was originally from Ohio I believe and now based out of Richmond. Can you tell us about Combust’s connection with Richmond, VA and how (I guess) you got on to Edgewood Records? Staten Island to RVA is not a short drive but yet there is this connection with your band and that area.
Andrew: We were already pretty close with a band from Richmond called Downfall and did a tour with them early in our "career" as a band. My boy Harry put me in contact with Craig from Edgewood when we were putting out new stuff and he was really into it and we started really connecting and now we feel like we are part of a family more than a label and its awesome.
IE: What other bands is Combust rolling with these days? What bands do you consider close friends that you always seem to be either playing with or hanging out with?
Andrew: Shout out to Red Vision, Downfall, The Fight, Rule Them All, Hangman, Blind Justice, Fence Cutter, Choice To Make, Outsider, The Answer, and Mindforce
IE: In the past year or so Combust has built up a bit of a buzz in the NY scene and a big part of that came with you opening up the Jimmy G benefit show at Tompkins Square Park last September that saw you play in front of a few thousand hardcore fans. How did opening that slot come about and how big do you think that was for Combust as far as getting your name out there and showing a mostly older crowd what your band can do?
Andrew: I believe Cuz’n Joe and Drew Stone just reached out to us about the show and we actually had to play a show in PA the same day after we played that show. I think it was definitely the biggest show we’ve played to date which is pretty awesome.
IE: Were there parts of that day that you will remember for a long time to come? Were there interactions from certain people from other bands? The crowd’s response to your music? What things stood out where you know you are never going to forget them?
Andrew: I spoke to the guys in Killing Time for a good amount of time and it’s kinda corny but that was really awesome to me. Just bullshitting with Carl and Anthony about the band and hardcore was great. I’ll remember that set and that day for the rest of my life for sure.
IE: How do you view the current landscape of sorts in the NYHC scene? Are we in a good spot right now in your opinion? What can be done to make things better?
Andrew: I think there are a lot of new kids coming to shows and there are good turnouts for DIY shows for smaller bands which is awesome. I think maybe there can be a little more sense of unity and community because it just feels like it can be too segregated and exclusive with some people.
IE: You guys recently had to back out of a recent show at Niagra in NYC opening for Darkside NYC. What happened?
Andrew: Our guitar player had to go away for the weekend with another band and we couldn’t find a fill in unfortunately.
IE: Upcoming in August you guys will be playing a West Coast run of shows that starts in Seattle which I guess is a little different for a band from NY. Usually you see a band take a van and make their way out and then loop back playing shows the whole way. Can you talk about this run of shows overall, logistics, how you are getting out there and back, who you are playing with, who set it up etc…
Andrew: The tour is gonna be with our good friends in Red Vision and Downfall, two bands from Richmond and also on Edgewood Records. We booked it ourselves and had some help from a band called Fixation from Philly who will be playing some of the dates. We couldn’t get enough time off work so we figured that just booking it cross country and playing as many shows as we could get time off for just made more sense for us.
IE: When I first met you you were still doing the band VICE and you guys were pretty much this DIY touring machine. At the height of your touring the band easily had the most flyers I ever posted to the In Effect site as I would guess you may have been on the road in upwards of 6 months a year. Combust has been doing tours but nowhere on the level of what VICE did. Would you like to see Combust go more in that direction with touring or is there a different mindset to what you want to do with this band? Vice was like an all-out assault. Where do you see Combust going?
Andrew: In my perfect world, I would be on tour constantly with Combust as well but unfortunately now that members are older including myself we have bills to pay and responsibilities and shitty full time jobs and unfortunately I don’t have the luxury to make Combust a full time touring band so we do as much as we can for the moment. I would love to play Japan and Europe and all that. Combust will be touring just nowhere near as hard as what Vice was doing.
IE: You are also playing in another band called Reaction? Can you tell us more about that band, what they have put out and what you do in that band?
Andrew: So far we only have a demo. I play bass in the band. It’s a straight edge band comprised of members of Ekulu/ Illusion and Regulate. I feel like it kind of reminds me of Judge and Floorpunch.
COMBUST @ NYC'S TOMPKINS SQUARE PARK SEPTEMBER, 2018. PHOTO BY: STEVEN J. MESSINA
IE: You have been doing hardcore lead vocals for bands for a few years now and are far removed from being a really young kid just getting started in bands. Can you offer up any advice for kids just starting out that may want to start a hardcore band in the same vein as the ones you have already been in? Your bands have always stuck to a DIY path and have grown organically and it can be hard for newer bands to get noticed when there are so many bands out there.
Andrew: I say just make sure you are doing it because you love it and the rest will follow. Tour as much as you can not to try to be big but basically because it’s the best time you can ever have.
IE: Thanks for your time Andrew. Is there anything else you wanted to add before we wrap this up? Good luck with Combust moving forward.
Andrew: I’ve always really appreciated what you do and the support you have shown me through all these years. In Effect is truly an iconic piece of hardcore history and its awesome you guys remain relevant and give respect to all bands current and old and don’t just live in your glory days. I love hardcore music. Thanks for the interview.
COMBUST @ NYC'S TOMPKINS SQUARE PARK SEPTEMBER, 2018. PHOTO BY: TIM DALEY
COMBUST @ NYC'S TOMPKINS SQUARE PARK SEPTEMBER, 2018. PHOTO BY: RICH ZOELLER
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