Everyone out there has or has had a band that they can’t help but tell everyone they know about. The type of band where you just want to shake people and say “LISTEN TO THESE GUYS!” Baltimore’s END IT are currently that band for me. After one of our writers (Becky McAuley) gave them back to back solid reviews I had to take notice to their latest which is called “One Way Track” (out now on Flatspot Records). Stylistically End It is not reinventing what hardcore music is and their latest EP is shorter than some Leeway songs but it is their authenticity that makes them stand out from the pack. Give End it a few minutes of your time and I am hoping you feel the same way! This interview was done in mid-February with their singer Akil Godsey. Rounding out their current lineup is: Chris Gonzalez on drums, Ray Lee- guitar, Johnny McMillion- guitar and Pat Martin-bass. Shout out to Becky McAuley, the Getting It Out Podcast, Sean Reilly, Carl Gunhouse and Kenny Savercool for their photos used in this interview as well as Bas Spierings for the graphic work.
IE: What's up Akil? Where exactly are you right now and what do you think you would be doing if you weren't answering these questions?
Akil: I’m currently sitting in my childhood home using my mom’s desktop computer cause answering all these questions on an iPhone is not the move, haha. I just got off a 24 hour mortuary transporter shift. If I wasn’t responding I’d probably be sleeping or watching “Word Party” with my daughter but it’s President’s Day so schools are closed and she’s home with her mom. In an ideal world I’d be at my house smoking weed and talking shit over an episode of Hoarders.
IE: Mortuary Transporter sounds like a job where you might have some crazy stories…
Akil: I’ve been doing the mortuary transporter job for about 8 months. Yeah, it’s a head trip. People are afraid of death but dead people are really just like someone being in a very deep sleep. I’ve had people throw up after death. I’ve noticed people always die naked and fat in the basement, haha. The worst is a decomposing body in the summer time. Skin starts to slip off, like a serious burn, and the smell will stay in your brain for an entire day depending on how long they were there. It’s made me almost numb to tears and grief. You maintain the role while on the call but between the lack of sleep and not having time to eat some days you could really care less but I would never openly express that to a family.
END IT IN BALTIMORE, MD SEPTEMBER 1, 2019. PHOTO BY: CARL GUNHOUSE
IE: The bio that Flatspot Records sent our way with the “One Way Track” release talks about End It being “more focused, mature, and having a change in perspective due to major life changes” since your demo came out in 2017. What kinds of changes and events have gone on amongst the members of this band since 2017?
Akil: Well in 2017, I personally had the privilege of becoming a father. We replaced our drummer and bassist. Our lead guitarist laid his girlfriend to rest after a lengthy bout with cancer. R.I.P Lauren. As we all get closer to 30 you start to realize just how finite your time is on this planet so we started to take things more seriously as a whole. We still are down to party, but we’ll also take a night off. Get some rest, occasionally.
IE: Aside from being more focused and mature from personal standpoints these songs on “One Way Track” have a more crisp, full type of sound when you play them back to back with your demo. For people just finding out about End It today for the first time what can you say about the style of hardcore you guys are putting out there? What bands influenced this band to do what you are currently doing?
Akil: Our style of hardcore ain’t nothing new but when you got a lot of bands that are very clearly not living the type of lives that match the energy they exhibit on stage you can smell it. We’re dudes just playing from their life experiences, not what has been retained from sitting on You Tube for hours. As a band I can say we draw inspiration from our OG’s (Stout, Next Step Up, Gut Instinct). Ray Lee writes most of the guitar riffs and he’s a metalhead so I can’t even begin to name what motivates him. We both have musical backgrounds so anything from musical theatre to Gregorian chants could have somehow weaved its way into our sound. Lyrically I give a lot of credit to the LIHC band Neglect. That’s where we got the name and my focus on suicide/death.
PHOTO BY: SEAN REILLY
IE: I have shown your new “One Way Track” EP off to a bunch of people, just like through texting the link to friends and asking what they think. Every one of them has really liked what they heard but most of them have also said “wish it was longer”…. Do you have any regrets about this EP only being 5 minutes long? Was waiting a little longer to give it more length an option when discussing when to put this out?
Akil: If I can keep it a whole bean we just released the new songs we had written. After all of the situations life threw at us we really just wanted to get these songs to the public so we could say we did it. I’m honestly shocked as many people give a fuck as they do cause people ask about the length as if it was planned, which is weird to me personally cause I consider us a hardcore punk band. Straight up go onstage. Play as passionately as you can and then go home. Not to be a jerk but we didn’t consider anything. We had these songs ready, recorded them, and dropped them.
IE: Has the band talked about what you want to put out next and if so is there any kind of timeline on when that may happen?
Akil: We’re in the process of writing an LP currently. Ideally it would be out late this year if not early next year but with the lives we lead who knows. I got child support payments and all the other things that come along with fatherhood. I could fuck around and inadvertently become a single father before the year is out so we really take things on an offer by offer basis. If it’s in the cards it will happen and if not I personally wouldn’t be but so bummed. I didn’t plan to live past 18 anyway so the fact you like this music enough to wanna hear my opinions about anything is rad. I’m just happy to be here.
IE: I'm really into the vocal style on the two releases. To me there are too many bands where the vocals can go too hard or too tough guy sounding and end up making many bands sound alike. You have found a style that is still hard but also gives End It a unique sound. When you first started doing vocals what other singers were you looking at as influences and did it take a lot of work to get where you are at or is your style just you yelling into the mic and that's just what comes out?
Akil: So before any punk rock got involved I was a black child forced to go to church every Sunday for 16 years until I got my first job. I’ve been singing in public my entire life. This is just the end result of being angry but having a certain musical acumen. I went to high school with a focus on vocal performance so my breathing and ideas toward speech cadences are shaped by that. I never really cared about how someone sounded. I’ve always been a fan of what they were saying. That’s half the reason I don’t dig on that real hard tough guy shit. How imma take your threats seriously if I can’t understand them? I will say that when I’m writing lyrics I wonder if what I’m saying would impress the people I’ve looked up to over the years such as: Alice Cooper, H.R., Henry Rollins, Milo Aukerman , Brian “Zoid”, Nina Simone. This list would take forever but these are a few standouts.
PHOTO BY: SEAN REILLY
IE: Before writing up these questions I saw that you did an interview with a really cool podcast called Getting It Out and to get some ideas I checked in on that interview. In it you talked about singing in church when you were growing up and being in the choir while in school. Do you feel like having these past experiences helped you out in any way for being the frontman of a hardcore band even if it is a thing where you kind of shook off any stage fright types of tendencies or maybe they even gave you ideas on how to use your voice in a musical sense?
Akil: Oh for sure! I’ve been the baby of my family forever until my brothers started having kids so I’ve been on display since day one. I used to have to sing solos in other languages in high school and we had adjudications and competitions every year so this is nothing new to me. I’ve also been one of maybe four black dudes in the Baltimore scene for almost 15 years now so I’m used to standing out. I don’t have time to be afraid. I have absurd shit in my mind I need to get out.
PHOTO BY: SEAN REILLY
IE: “Worlds collide when my boots on your neck”…. Is a VERY memorable line from the “One Way Track” song. It jumps right out at you when it hits in the song. What’s going on lyrically in this part of the song and how do you personally go about putting lyrics together? Do ideas come into your head throughout your day and you write stuff down? What types of topics do you like to touch on when coming up with lyrics?
Akil: I wrote this line in particular after calming down and looking back on the foolishness I had gotten into in years past. This line in particular is from a time when you try to tell someone to knock their poor behavior off then one day get fed up and stomp the shit out of them. I’m never violent without cause so if you get to the point where I’m placing all of my 230 pounds onto your throat you deserved it. The first EP was actually the final stage, in retrospect, of me processing a good friend’s suicide and me ending a long relationship with a woman. This EP is me processing my own poor behavior up until this point. You have a kid in a city as small as Baltimore and you get worried that someone, who would never have the balls to step to you, would try to attack your offspring or family in retribution for something you did to them regardless of your justification. I write down comedy bits much more often than I do lyrics. I have a personal rule of no re-writes. I hear the song and whatever comes out is what we roll with. I’ll add a noise or take off a few syllables, but what is on my mind at the time is what I use. I tried my hardest to only use topics I can provide real life evidence about. The LP will give me a chance to think of more esoteric topics and show my actual vocal range. There’s a ton of things to discuss so imma tap into those instead.
IE: You brought up writing down comedy bits, is that something you are into as well?
Akil: I’m as big a fan of comedy as I am of punk/hardcore. I could recite Comedy Central bits in totality growing up. I would sit around and think about how good comedy should be when I got older considering we had an entire television channel dedicated to the art form. I’m going to start a podcast and get into stand up whenever I get some more free time. The band takes a lot of energy even though I make it seem effortless, haha.
IE: Who drew the cover artwork to the new EP and how much input did you have into what they drew?
Akil: The homie Worthey out of San Diego, California. IG: Wortheydesign. I personally didn’t have a lot of input on the cover art. I just got asked if I liked it or not. It’s a rip from the Freddie Grey riots in Baltimore 2015. Kids were stomping on a cop car. BCPD IS A GANG. Straight the fuck up.
PHOTO BY: SEAN REILLY
IE: Another eye catching visual from you guys is the band shot in front of the warehouse gate with END IT in graffiti. Where was this taken and who hit that gate for you guys?
Akil: Our dude “AGAIN”. If you ever drive around Baltimore from the county to deep over East/West this kid gets up. Not to dick ride but I’ve seen his art in parts of town you really don’t need to be in on foot. He a madman. This photo was taken in a part of town called Woodberry. It’s just outside of Hampden, which is a historic part of Baltimore. That’s where they still wanna hold onto the Kitchy notion of “John Waters” era Baltimore. The 50’s/ 60’s… which is cool if you white, but I’m not so fuck that noise, lowkey.
IE: “Raw Dawg” and “The Comeback” were two songs that made up the “B-Sides” release that came out I believe in 2018. These two songs were online for a bit and then just disappeared. What’s the backstory with them being taken down and will we ever hear from them again maybe on a future recording?
Akil: Yeah, we put them up at a time where we felt like it had been too long without hearing something from us. Then right before we finished recording the EP Ray decided we should take them down. I like it though cause I know who was actually digging us by the people who ask me about them, haha. We discussed re re-recording them. Maybe use them on a split or something.
IE: Your two releases have been put out on cassette by your label Flatspot Records from Long Island, NY but with roots in your hometown of Baltimore. For a hardcore band in 2020 how important do you think it is to be affiliated with a record label and what kinds of things does your label assist the band with? I ask this mostly because there are a lot of ways for fans to get music via streaming sites and downloads these days versus back in the day where fans HAD to go through a record label to initially attain a bands music.
Akil: So we’re on Flatspot because the other half of the label, Che, was really pertinent in the orchestration of End It becoming a group. I used to sleep on a couch in the house he lived in. He saw me singing for a band called Malicious Code, R.I.P, and thought I would be a good fit with these dudes who were looking for a vocalist. With that being said he decided to put us out. It’s been vital ‘cause a lot of the politics that come along with being in a band were smoothed out by having the Flatspot name as a bolster. Also it’s sick ‘cause they put out the Trapped Under Ice demo back in 2007 and I can’t even front like that wasn’t the gospel so it’s good company to keep. It’s beneficial from a business stand point but also it’s keeping that Baltimore tradition alive. We’re all family when it comes to this Baltimore Hardcore scene so it really just makes sense.
IE: You guys obviously represent Baltimore Hardcore 2020. For us not living there and in the know at this very moment, what are some bands to look out for, venues that take care of bands and the overall vibe going on there right now. Are things trending up or down at this time for your scene?
Akil: BALTIMORE IS ON TOP IN THE 2020! We got Husker Don’t Productions, me and my dudes, cranking out sick shows. The young kids in Ouch Industries bringing the younger bands to the city. The Ottobar is a staple venue that always gives us a place to play/host. The Motorhouse is another. The Undercroft is doing more shows lately. We’re trying to meld the boundaries between “hardcore” and punk”… it’s all the same shit. Rituals which is right next to the Ynot Lot, where we played with Turnstile, is run by a punker named Joseph and he looks out for us. The vibe is good. Sick local and touring act shows monthly. I’ve seen so many new faces and a lot more black/brown kids coming out letting their freak flags fly which I love. I’m very excited for the future of my city. The kids got some odd ways about them but I’m also jaded and the son of a steel worker so I’m stuck in my way to a certain degree but things must change to continue to thrive.
IE: What’s on tap for End It as 2020 rolls along into the spring and summertime? Are there any plans for another music video, tours, writing new music? If you could write the perfect script to set up the rest of this year for End It how would it look?
Akil: We wanna shoot a music video for at least one other song. We’re playing United Blood Festival (NOW CANCELLED- editors note) so that’s rad. Got a few weekenders and maybe another East Coast tour if we can float it. Definitely writing an LP. We’re on the latest comp from Dog Years Records coming out in late March. If it were up to me I wanna hit the road with a band that has similar energy but plays to totally different crowds. I wanna see a true genre blend. I wanna crossover while retaining our authenticity.
END IT IN BALTIMORE, MD SEPTEMBER 1, 2019. PHOTO BY: KENNY SAVERCOOL
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CARL GUNHOUSE PHOTOGRAPHER
SEAN REILLY PHOTOGRAPHER
KENNY SAVERCOOL PHOTOGRAPHER