Redding, CA’s Dying For It caught our attention with the recent release of their 10 song record “Born To Deny” on Safe Inside Records. After some digging we found this hard working DIY outfit that was set to head out on the road with Buffalo’s Clear Focus. We got an interview with drummer Thomas and singer Rikki just before the tour kicked off in early June. Check out what they had to say below!
Lead photo by: Dave Mandel. Graphics by: Bas Spierings
IE: Can you start off with an intro to who is in the band, ages, instruments and all that good stuff? Who has the best and worst tattoo in the band?
Thomas: Dying For It is... Rikki, 30-vocals, me…Thomas, 26-drums, Shane, 32-guitar, Matt, 34-bass, Walter, 27-guitar. Shane definitely has the worst tattoo in the band, it's a Celtic cross on his arm that he got right after he turned 18. Rikki has some really great portraits that she's constantly getting complimented for that are of her grandma, her grandpa, and her chihuahua (rest in power, Teebo).
IE: As of April 27th Dying For It has a new 10" vinyl record out on Safe Inside Records. For those reading about you for the first time can you give a short rundown on what they can expect if they pick it up? What kind of hardcore can people expect?
Thomas: We play straight-ahead hardcore similar to that of the early 00’s era. We really love American Nightmare, Go It Alone, Panic, the Suicide File, and the Nerve Agents and try to embody that sound as best as we can. We are really influenced by the bands from the Rivalry Records or early React! Records lineups from the West Coast and hope to bring about some of that feel in what we play. It's available on three colors of vinyl through the Safe Inside Records webstore. None of us have put out music on a 10" before, so we are really excited that it's available in this format. We recorded it at Earth Tone Recording Company in Sacramento, CA, with our really good friend Patrick Hills, which is our second recording with him. It was recorded over the course of a weekend in January of this year.
IE: You guys are from Redding, CA and when I looked it up on a map noticed that you are way up in the Northern part of the state and are pretty much surrounded by national forests. One of the first things that came to mind was this doesn't sound like an ideal area for a hardcore/punk scene to develop or thrive but maybe I am wrong. Can you give us a little background on what your area is like, how it was growing up in the area and if punk and hardcore has always had a presence there or is it more of a thing that has come along in the past few years?
Thomas: Redding is really interesting because of its geographical location. You would think that because of its position between Portland and San Francisco, bands would want to stop here to play instead of spending an entire day driving. We are isolated from a lot of other more sprawling scenes and that's pushed us to get out there. As an area, Redding is very conservative, very low paying, and is always an afterthought for a company's economic expansion. The distribution of wealth is pretty vast and we are one of the biggest meth and opioid hotspots on the West Coast, if not the entire country. We are known for two things--our drug problem and our homeless epidemic. The Redding scene has gone through its ebbs and flows and is recovering from a long downward spiral. The flagship bands and bookers from the early 00’s have long since moved away or have gotten out of music and there really hasn't been much of a scene since then. I think the most difficult thing has been finding people to create music and being in opening bands. Hardcore is not the most popular thing anymore. Redding has a really thriving emo scene and because it's all so small, we have had to merge into that and bring the things we like in along the way. There is a brand new DIY venue opening up in June and we are hoping that not having to ask local businesses or play outdoors will be the key to setting things off for our area. That and getting people interested in taking the risk to learn an instrument and just have fun with your friends in a band.
DYING FOR IT IN CHICO, CA JUNE 10, 2018. PHOTO BY: SEAN MELLON
IE: Who started the band (and when) and how easy or hard was it to find other like-minded people who could all agree on the type of hardcore you wanted to play?
Thomas: I started the band to keep myself occupied when Rikki and I first moved back to Redding from Sacramento in 2013. I was not connected to the scene anymore and didn't have anyone to play with. I had bounced some ideas off Shane, but ultimately his job and family kept him busy, so I continued to develop what would become the self-titled tape by myself. It wasn't until I convinced a couple of guys that I was playing Against Me!-style punk with in late 2015 that I had some ideas that could work as another band that would get shows and have more activity. Rikki had already sang for Sacramento-area hardcore bands in the past, so it was always the plan that we would do something together. It was incredibly difficult finding like-minded people, so I started this band by assembling a group of hardcore-adjacent musicians and they gave the songs fresh takes, but I think our differences in work ethic, goals, and ideals for the band made it difficult to mesh with and lead them to bow out. I think now that the lineup is different I've realized it's important to have people in your group that get what you're trying to accomplish. Shane was the last piece of the puzzle and officially joined us in late 2017 as our second guitarist. I've never been in a band with two guitars before, so this is something I've wanted for a long time.
IE: Rikki, I have to give you credit for your voice and vocal style on “Born To Deny” as it is unique and gives Dying For It that special something that makes a band stand out. Did you always want to be a singer and how were those early days when you first started giving it a shot? How quickly did you come along with it? Can you talk about how you got better at it?
Rikki: I’ve always had a lot of love for singing. I grew up listening to music and it’s always been a huge part of my upbringing. I actually used to sing Selena songs in these local competitions where I’m from (Stockton, CA) called Apollo Nights. I performed my little Selena tribute act all over Northern California from age 8-12. I started getting into punk music around middle school and stopped performing and my parents were super bummed about it. I first heard Bikini Kill when I was about 13, and then The Distillers and that was it. I knew I could still be a singer, it didn’t matter what genre of music, I was pretty determined to still do what I know I loved to do. I fronted my first band at the age of 16. We were called Beyond Your Eyes. For being 16, I was super proud of it. But listening to it now, I can definitely see how much I’ve grown as a lyricist and vocalist. More than anything it was a form of therapy and release of aggression and after all these years, I think that’s been my favorite part about being in a band. Immediately after that band ended I started a new one, Dance For Destruction. That band was together for about 5 years. That’s the band that I really found my voice in and learned the most in. My time in both of these bands gave me a lot of experiences that I was able to bring to the table in Dying For It. Over the years my voice has changed and it’s not been something that I’ve consciously done, I think it’s really just been that I started out so young and stuck with it into my adulthood so the changes have just naturally happened.
IE: What other singers did you look at for either influence or inspiration?
Rikki: My first influences and inspirations were definitely molded by my love for the late singer, Selena. As I got into punk and hardcore my main influences were Bikini Kill and The Distillers. The first time I listened to Bikini Kill, I remember how blown away I was by Kathleen Hannah’s lyrics and how outspoken she was. As a teenage girl, hearing that for the first time… that was incredibly powerful to me. Kathleen Hannah inspired me to be the outspoken feminist I am today. When I first listened to The Distillers I instantly fell in love. Brody’s voice was unlike any females that I had heard up until that point and I loved the powerful aggression in her voice. Her voice really inspired the vocal style that i would eventually adopt for myself.
IE: Your lyrics I would categorize as dark, sometimes depressing and touch on things that are mostly the not so good things in life. Does putting your feelings down on paper, vocalizing them in songs and having people either agree or disagree with you on them give you any sense of relieving those issues you have in your day to day personal life? Is it a release of sorts getting them out there?
Rikki: For me, writing lyrics has always been incredibly therapeutic. It’s been a really healthy outlet for me to work through some really dark and rough times in my life. In a lot of instances I feel like it’s giving myself some closure on certain things, and clarity on others. Writing lyrics and playing shows have always been a cathartic experience for me, and I’m really thankful for that.
DYING FOR IT IN CHICO, CA JUNE 10, 2018. PHOTO BY: SEAN MELLON
IE: Do you ever have people come up to you (or via social media or email) and want to discuss the lyrics with you? Maybe they are going through similar things in their lives?
Rikki: As of lately I actually have had some people reach out to me and tell me how much my lyrics mean to them, and it gets me all teary eyed and emotional. In all honesty, I write my lyrics for mostly selfish reasons, and those are to work through my own bullshit. Recently though, I’ve made it a point to get a little personal before we play certain songs and give people a background on what a song is about, and (most of the time, it’s about my struggle with depression, and my constant feeling of loneliness) each time I’ve spoken about this, it gets met with an outpour of love and sense of belonging by someone who can relate, and in moments like that I’m really grateful for the platform that I have to be able to relate to people, even in the darkest, hardest parts of life, and hopefully be an advocate for hope and not letting ourselves be consumed by sadness if we know we aren’t alone.
IE: Who came up with the name Dying For It and is there any special meaning behind it?
Thomas: Dying For It comes from the name of the 7" EP by Panic, released on Bridge 9 Records in 2001. Rikki and I were thumbing through our record collection for inspiration and this one stuck out to her in particular. It just so happens that this is one of our favorite hardcore bands, favorite hardcore releases, and taking a name from this time period was almost done deliberately, since we want the feel of the band to be reminiscent of that time period.
DYING FOR IT IN HESPERIA, CA JUNE 14, 2018
IE: Where did the cover art for “Born To Deny” come from and how does it tie in with the lyrics on the title track?
Thomas: We knew that we wanted to name the record after the song “Born To Deny” and we were all sitting around reading the lyrics when Shane recalled the Great Fire of Rome. The line from the chorus "It's in my nature to burn you alive. I'm just a creature born to deny." reminded him of Nero, who burned the city of Rome and watched from above while playing violin. The lyrics of “Born To Deny” are an awareness of destructive relationships and narcissistic tendencies--what better way to juxtapose that with this artwork?
IE: You have a tour lined up with Clear Focus out of Buffalo who are also on Safe Inside Records with you. What is lined up for that tour and have you ever played with them before? Who put this tour together?
Thomas: This tour is going to be really fun! We have never played with Clear Focus before, and this will be our first time meeting them, which we are really looking forward to. On the one hand, we get to play with some bands that we have already played with and are friends with like Cutting Through, Jawstruck, Defend, Discourage, Stay Wild. On the other hand, we are going to play some big dates with bands we haven't played with before like Shelter, Fireburn, and Bonebreaker. Every day should be unique and exciting in it’s own way and we couldn't be happier about that. Rikki and I are both vegan, so we are looking forward to hitting all of the usual spots in Portland, Oakland, Santa Cruz, and the LA area. We usually do a lot of short weekend runs and plan it around where we are going to eat, so this time around we have had to budget that in and be conscious of how many vegan doughnuts we can really afford over the course of 12 days on the road. Burt from Safe Inside Records set this tour up and we are really pleased to be working with him and thankful for the time he has spent booking this tour for us.
IE: From checking out your social media pages it’s obvious that the band is willing to get out on the road and play as you have done shows all over the West Coast already. Even if it’s a guess how many shows has the band played and how much behind the scenes work (phone calls, texts, emails) goes into setting up shows for the band? Who in the band does the majority of this legwork?
Thomas: I think we have played a little over 50 shows in the 2 years since we played our first show. I do most of the legwork--booking, promotion, social media, coordinating merch designs, etc. for the band and it's a lot of work. It's almost like having another job, in addition to the full time one I already have, but it's a labor of love and has been really rewarding. Basically whenever I have free time I'm trying to make sure I've caught up with confirmations for this upcoming tour, and shows we have for the rest of the year, including travel plans and things like that.
DYING FOR IT IN GARDEN GROVE, CA JUNE 15, 2018. PHOTO BY: ALBERT LICANO
IE: Thomas, you also work for the Safe Inside label. What do you do there and was you landing there a result of corresponding with Burt who runs the label? Is what you do your full time job? If not what is it that you do for work?
Thomas: I am the "A&R person" for Safe Inside Records, which definitely came about as the result of my relationship with Burt. He liked our band a lot and through working with him on our release, he told me he needed some help. Aside from his other partner who handles shipping for the label, Burt was running this as a one man operation. Now I help him with advertising, marketing, coordinating with graphic designers, I run the Instagram, and I scout out and research new bands with him. This is in no way my full time job. As much as I would love to get paid to be involved in music, this is just another part time venture for me. I work for a local government entity doing HR, which is something I really enjoy.
IE: What do the rest of the band members do for work?
Thomas: Rikki is a self-employed hairstylist, Shane is a travelling union carpenter, Walter is a guitar technician, and Matt has an administrative assistant job.
IE: Dying For It really seems to be putting in the work and its apparent that there is a lot of passion behind what you do. Where could you see things going for the band in say the next year or two? What are some realistic goals that you would like to achieve with this band in that time frame?
Thomas: My plan for this year was to plan our year out in advance, which was realistic, because we had summer plans in February and now that it's summer, we have plans for the fall. In October, we will be taking a weekend trip to the Midwest to play with our friends Better Days and Decline. We plan to do the same thing 2019, which is what we are working on right now. We would like to play the East Coast and will probably end up doing a 5-7 day run out there. I've got a route mapped out, but need to start booking it. Of course we would love to get on some of the bigger fests around the country next year as well, like Sound & Fury, FYA, This Is Hardcore, or United Blood. We would be really pumped to play any of those. The ultimate goal is to get to Europe next year, which we are currently working on too. It's really hard to think 2 years in the future right now, but I think with the bi-yearly release pattern this band has followed, I hope that we release new music by 2020. A lot of current bands seem to be doing short releases, which is fine, but I want to continue to do 10 song releases. Some people considered our tape a demo and our 10" an EP, but I see those as full lengths. I'd like to do an LP in the next two years. I don't see us slowing down any time soon and the goal is to continue to play shows in places we have never been to before and to keep writing for the next release.