The rise of New Jersey’s SEARCH has been hard to ignore if you are dialed in to the current day hardcore scene. Five scene veterans came together almost by chance and less than a year in already with a 6 song EP out now on the iconic Revelation Records. We caught up with frontman Tim McMahon and bassist Ed McKirdy who give us the scoop on how Search came to be and what lies in their immediate future in this February 2017 interview. ALL photos by: JC Photo Media (except where noted). Graphics by: Bas Spierings.
IE: Can you give band members names, ages, instrument, and what bands they've been a part of in the past?
Tim: Tim McMahon - 42 - Vocals - Mouthpiece, Hands Tied, Face The Enemy, Triple Threat. Chris Zusi - 45 - Guitar - Release, Ressurection, Floorpunch, Bill Hanily - 42 - Guitar - Spirit, Floorpunch, Ed McKirdy - 43 - Bass - Hands Tied, The Killing Flame, Mouthpiece, Ken Flavell - 46 - Drums - Failsafe, Turning Point, Shadow Season.
IE: Where and when was the first Search band practice and how did that first practice go?
Tim: March 12, 2016, Hellhound Studios in Rahway, NJ, was where we had the very first Search practice. We had been talking via text and phone calls prior to the first practice, since early January of 2016, but our schedules didn’t permit us to get together until March. Also, considering we’re all spread out from South Jersey to North Jersey, we had to find a somewhat centralized location to meet up, so that’s why we settled upon Hellhound Studios in Rahway. Eventually we shifted to Woodrock Studios in Raritan, NJ for the rest of our practices.
Prior to that first practice, Zusi had been sending us clips of riffs that he was coming up with and one in particular had stuck in my head. When we all got together for that first practice, I said, let’s work on this one and it was the song that would become the title track off our 7”, “Between The Lines”. I had lyrics already written from listening to Zusi’s riff, so it all came together pretty smoothly. We also worked on a second song, which would become “Slipping Away”, the second song off our 7”. Bill wrote the music to “Slipping Away” and by the time we got together for our second practice at Woodrock Studios, I had lyrics for it and we were off to a solid start with two songs that we were all happy with.
IE: To date how many shows has Search played and who are some of the bands you have shared the stage with?
Tim: We’ve only played 5 shows to date, here’s the breakdown; July 24th, 2016 with Token Entry, Nerve Endings, Out Of Body and Only Glory at The Underground Arts, Philadelphia,PA.
September 10th, 2016 was the Back To School Jam with Title Fight, Turnstile, Incendiary, Angle Dust, Forced Order, Breakaway, True Love, Protester and others at Game Changer World, Howell, NJ.
October 14th, 2016 with Burn, 9 Lives, Wilding Incident and Activator at St. Vitus in Brooklyn, NY.
October 22nd, 2016 was the Edge Day show with Floorpunch, Murphy’s Law, No Tolerance, Waste Management, and others at Hardcore Stadium in Cambridge, MA.
February 11th, 2017 with Judge, Killing Time, Fuck You Pay Me and War Games at Cafe 611 in Frederick, MD.
IE: Who was the catalyst to this project and what kinds of ideas were thrown around early on in the planning stages as far as the band’s sound and direction?
Tim: After doing sporadic Mouthpiece reunion shows over the years, I had been looking to do something new for a while and had been hitting up Ken somewhat regularly, trying to convince him to start playing music again. Ken hadn’t really played drums in a band since Turning Point ended and hadn’t been in an active band at all since Shadow Season broke up in the 90’s. I knew Ken was still straight edge and still listened to hardcore and was a great drummer, so he was a vital part of what I was hoping to put together.
I remember at one point, pitching the idea to Ken of getting Zusi involved with whatever it is we put together and that sparking some genuine interest in him. Ken had known Zusi all the way back from the Turning Point/Release days of the late 80’s, so I think the familiarity of Zusi made things intriguing to him.
At some point around November of 2015, totally unrelated, Bill called me about a new band he was working on with Chris McGill from Vision and Mike Kingshott from Floorpunch. Bill asked if I was interested and although I had been talking to Ken about doing something, that project had yet to get off the ground, so I figured I’d check out what Bill had going on. I also pulled Mouthpiece guitarist, Chris Schuster into that project with Bill and we all got together at Woodrock Studios and ran through some song ideas. The band with Bill, Chris McGill, Kingshott and Chris Schuster never progressed more than one practice. We all talked for a couple weeks about ideas and concepts, but that’s pretty much where it ended.
Then on January 2, 2016, Chris Zusi invited me over his house to watch the Notre Dame/Ohio State Bowl game. While hanging out over Zusi’s house, I was thumbing through Facebook on my phone and saw Ken post a photo of himself playing drums and it said something about “Getting back to my roots, playing in a freezing cold garage”. I commented saying, “Get warmed up, let’s do something”, but not really thinking much of it. Then on the ride home from Zusi’s, I saw more comments coming in, I saw Zusi comment saying, “I’m in, NJHC”, then followed by Ed chiming in saying, “I just restrung my bass and took my New Jersey Straight Edge jacket to the dry cleaners. Let’s do it”. Before I knew it, the band was forming through an innocent post that Ken made on Facebook.
Over the next two months, a lot had transpired. I was asked by Ken to sing some Turning Point songs for a tribute set they were going to do at This Is Hardcore 2016 for their singer Skip, who had passed away. Me, Ken, Zusi and Ed were talking regularly about ideas for this new band, then Zusi suggested we ask Bill to get involved as another guitarist to beef up the sound. Bill was then pulled into the fold, discussions continued and really the only consistent idea, sound wise that kept coming up, was all of our mutual love for Youth Of Today. We also discussed that we would lay the theme of New Jersey Straight Edge on heavy. We had all come from a long history of New Jersey straight edge bands and we liked the idea that we were all still straight edge and realized that was something special. Other than that, the idea was to do what felt natural, nothing was going to be forced or faked.
Ed: Just to jump in real quick—after Triple Threat kind of fizzed out, Tim and I had been talking about doing a new band for years. Putting aside the semi-reformation of Hands Tied and various Mouthpiece reunions, I know that I had been feeling extremely eager to start something completely new. The goal for me was always about starting a new straight edge band comprised of people our age and who had similar backgrounds in the hardcore scene. This was obviously a lofty goal as the list of people in their 40’s who are still straight edge and actually have the time and energy to start a band is very short. The fact that we ended up with the people we did, in my mind, is nothing short of a miracle. For me it’s the perfect line-up and we all seem to gel as a band and as people.
IE: I heard that you guys were originally supposed to put out a demo and somehow that turned into a 7" on Revelation. How did things move along in that regard?
Tim: After our first handful of practices, we had put together 6 solid songs and were trying to determine what our next move was going to be. Zusi had talked to Brett Beach, who had released the Floorpunch demo and 7” on his label, In My Blood Records and Brett was interested in doing a cassette release demo with us. Simultaneously I had pitched the idea of recording the songs and sending them to Revelation to see if they’d be interested in releasing the 6 songs as a 7”. At some point, we just decided we’d pay for the recording ourselves, send it to Rev and see if they were interested and if not, we’d release the 6 songs as a demo with Brett on In My Blood. Either way, we were going to get the songs out there, we just weren’t sure exactly how it would be released. It turned out that Jordan at Revelation was indeed interested, so we committed to them, sent them the finished recording, squared away all the record layouts, sat back and waited for the release.
Ed: Huge thanks to Jordan and Revelation for all of his support. Also thanks to Brett for being there from the start.
IE: Search has gotten a ton of attention and press based off the fact that the members of this band have been in a bunch of popular hardcore bands in the past. It has helped gain a ton of press and things have moved along for Search insanely fast. Most or all of your members have previously been in bands where things were built at a slower pace. Although Search is not a huge name just yet you'd have to admit the band has grown in leaps and bounds in its earliest stages. Can you try and compare the sudden burst Search has encountered and compare it to some of your older bands that may have had a more steady organic rise. Which way is more satisfying in your opinion?
Tim: Although the rise in popularity would seem sudden via social media and it’s assumed that since we’ve all done fairly popular bands in the past, we’d have an instant foot in the door, it hasn’t really panned out exactly as it would seem or be expected. The reality is that it’s more of a struggle starting a new band for us today, than it ever was. Yes, I had connections at Revelation from doing the Mouthpiece discography with them, but we had to send our recording to them, just like any other band and we had to go back and forth with them and push for it to happen, nothing was handed to us and it was never a foregone conclusion.
Being older, having full time jobs and families doesn’t exactly lend it’s self perfectly to trying to get a brand new hardcore band off the ground. Timing, scheduling, it’s all a lot tougher these days. Aside from that, the hardcore scene is generally a younger kid’s scene. I’ve found that in this day in age, you have to prove yourself to the younger crowd, they’re not just going to blindly accept and support the older guys, they’re skeptical of us, they assume we’re here for the wrong reasons, so it’s a bit of an uphill battle. Honestly though, I accept all the opposition and doubt and absolutely know that we’ve got nothing to hide. This is who we are 100%, take it or leave it. We take nothing for granted and appreciate everything that we’ve worked for and accomplished so far and we’ll continue to keep working at it.
IE: Another question in the how it was then and how it is now mode... Back in all of your earlier bands you were all at an age where there probably weren't as many adult responsibilities like you may have now with work and families. While going out on a long tour back then may have been a no-brainer I would guess that things may be different for everyone this time around. Can you touch on who has kids, married, what types of jobs everyone in the band has and what realistic goals you guys have for playing out?
Tim: I sort of touched on this with the last question, but yes, adult responsibilities, life and realities have definitely smacked us all dead in the face. Not that we weren’t already prepared for it, but there’s no question that scheduling, due to our busy lives, has probably been our toughest obstacles. I think we’re hoping that with careful planning, we’ll be able to make the most of the time that we do have. As for who has kids, Ken and I have three, Zusi has two, Bill has one, Ed is the only member without kids. Job wise, I work in management for a printing company, Ken is a foreman and involved with carpentry, Zusi is a business planning analyst, Bill does IT work and Ed works as a designer in an advertising agency. Goal wise, I think we want to keep writing new music, recording, playing out as much as possible, touring when we can as much as we can. Like I said, with proper planning, I think all of our goals should be attainable. As for the immediate future, writing and recording an LP is probably our biggest goal. To date we’ve got roughly 6 new songs, so we’re about half way through writing an LP.
Ed: I could be wrong, but as far as I know, a new straight edge band started by guys in their 40’s is fairly unchartered territory. At the risk of sounding self-congratulatory, there just aren’t that many of us who actually MEANT IT when they said straight edge was a lifelong decision. So, for better or for worse, this is what True Till Death looks like. It really is very humbling to still be able to be a part of this hardcore scene. Let’s face it, the scene has always been about the kids. The kids do the bands, start the zines, set up the shows, etc. To be able to still stick around and be involved this many years down the line is a privilege. There is a huge amount of respect and appreciation among the entire band for this scene and we are all so grateful that the kids are willing to give us a shot, this late in the game.
IE: You said you have written some new songs since you recorded your 7" which is a little over 10 minutes long. With a lack of original material for your earliest shows how were you filling up your live sets?
Tim: Somehow or another we’ve managed to string together about a 20 to 25 minute set, including the six songs off our 7”, a little in between song banter and a cover song. At our first two shows we covered, “As One” by Warzone, then this last show we played, we covered “Shutdown” by Project X and added three new songs, so that bulked the set up a bit.
IE: Search carries that traditional youth crew/straight edge sound into 2017 approximately 30 years since its inception. In more recent years there have been bands who have rejuvenated the genre but there have not been a large number of them. Do you feel like with your sound and lyrical approach that Search brings new elements into the fold or do you look at what you've written and think you are happy to just keep this style alive to a newer generation?
Tim: I’m honestly not so sure that we really put a lot of thought into keeping anything alive, being different or not being different. I think we just play what comes natural to us. We all grew up on the style of hardcore that we play, we all played a similar style of hardcore in our past bands and we’re just continuing what we’ve always done. Nothing is forced, what we play is a product of who we are.
Ed: Tim nailed it. We didn’t walk into that rehearsal space and say “Okay, let’s start a band that sounds like Youth Of Today mixed with Uniform Choice.” We walked in there and whatever happened… happened. This sound, for me, is the only thing that feels completely natural and authentic for me to play and it honestly just pours out of us.
IE: So now that you already have a 7" done what does the immediate future in 2017 hold for Search? Also is there anything else you would like to add before we wrap this up? Thanks for your time!
Tim: I think what the immediate future holds for Search is more shows, more song writing and hopefully preparations for an LP.
Ed: I love the direction the band is headed in with the new songs and can't wait to get in the studio and start working on an LP
PHOTO BY: STEVE LUKUSKI