Change come to us from the Pacific Northwest cities of Vancouver BC and Seattle, WA and are made up of veteran musicians from within the hardcore/punk scene. Band members Aram Arslanian, Chris Williams, Jeff Caffey, Mike Jurek, and Matt Bertell have been a part of bands like Champion, Lower Species, Punitive Damage, Dead Weight, Angel Du$t, Odd Man Out, Gag, Keep It Clear, Betrayed and a bunch more. Although Change are essentially a brand new band to most there is a backstory that dates back a few years and we get into that within this interview which was conducted with their singer Aram and guitarist Chris earlier this year and revisited just a few weeks prior to this being posted. Their debut album "Closer Still" is due out on September 11th via React! Records. Lead photo by: Anna Swiechowska, Graphics by: Bas Spierings 


IE: What's up guys? Can you start off here with a basic intro? Who is in the band, what instrument they play and if you’re not too shy about it please give us your ages and your favorite superhero.


Aram: I’m Aram, I sing and I’m 45.


Chris: I’m Chris, I play guitar. 43 years old. My favorite superhero is Archangel from X-Factor. He has a really dark interesting history; he was basically this beautiful, rich playboy with a perfect life and lost it all when he was betrayed by his best friend and turned into a blue-skinned killing machine by Apocalypse. So, a lot of his story is about overcoming this dark part of himself that wants to kill everything and coping with a lot of loss in his life. He’s a lot darker and more complex than a lot of superheroes. And honestly, he looks really cool and has razor-sharp metal wings.


Aram: The other guys in the band are Matt on bass, Mike on guitar and Jeff on drums. My favorite superhero is Ironman, not the movie version though. I really like Tony Stark’s character arc in the comic; he was this self-destructive alcoholic and it actually caused him to lose everything and have to stop being Ironman for a bit. It’s a real human storyline and it always made the character stand out to me.


IE: One thing that struck me on my first couple of listens to your new album “Closer Still” is that you are playing traditional youth crew style hardcore but are in some ways a rarity in that you come off sounding original while staying within the parameters of what people consider the youth crew sound. You have obviously listened and played these songs a lot... was trying to bring new ideas to the table while sticking to that tradional sound and style hard to accomplish? Most or all of you have been playing in youth crew style bands for the majority of your adult lives.


Aram: Thanks man, I really appreciate that! When the band started the goal was to play a style we grew up on without being derivative of it, and that was hard. Like you mentioned, we’ve all been playing in bands that fit in this genre for a long time, so it’s easy to pull from the same playbook and just repeat yourself. We spent a lot of time encouraging each other to get a bit more creative. The initial version of most of the songs on the LP were pretty generic, and we focused on breaking things down to basics and trying to make each song a strong track on its own. I also sought feedback from musicians I respect and sent tracks to a few people who were kind enough to listen and discuss. This was a fun record to write and record, and also took a lot of effort. 



IE: Why the name “Change?”


Aram: Because I was going through a period of pretty significant soul searching and I felt it reflected what I was trying to do in my life. Starting in 2016 I hit on a patch of some very rough years that had a pretty serious impact on my life and health. I started to struggle on a personal level and lost faith in people and in myself. When things got really bad, I knew I needed to do something to pull myself out. So, I started to go to therapy and a few months later I started working on the lyrics for these songs. Through both I began to get my head together and that gave me an opportunity to hold up a mirror and start working on the things in myself, and my life, that I wanted to change. I worked hard, and continue to work hard, on myself and on keeping my world healthy. That means keeping a tight circle of solid relationships and focusing on maintaining my physical and mental health. So, Change just seemed like the natural name for the band.


IE: Change almost has this new car feel. Your first record is coming out, first show was not too long ago, and you just completed your first tour to Europe. Digging a little deeper though, there is more of a backstory with the idea of this band and the actual recording dating back a couple of years. And the band as it is constructed right now is not the same lineup that recorded the "Closer Still" album, right? Can you provide us with the details?


Aram: Yeah, the lineup that wrote and recorded the record was me, Dave, Alex and Carl who are all guys I played with in Keep It Clear. The original idea for the band was to try and capture the urgency of the “Disengage” era of YOT and as we worked on the songs the sound evolved from there. After recording the music, the LP sat unfinished for a couple of years until I decided to go back and lay down the vocals. I had started my own business about a year before that, and our daughter had just been born, so it took a long time to write lyrics, demo out the vocals, find out what worked and then get the right take. By the time I’d finished everything the record had been in the rear-view mirror for the other guys for about three years. In that time two of them had gotten married, one moved to Seattle and everyone had new jobs and bands. So, while the guys were supportive of the LP being finished, they weren’t into playing in the band. Honestly, I wasn’t really sure if I was either and completing the record was more about unfinished business rather than starting something new. But, after playing it for some friends, especially Chris, who now plays guitar, I felt a lot of genuine caring and support and decided to make Change a band. 


Chris: While I didn’t play on this record, I do feel like I was kind of along on the ride. I’ve played in other bands before where I joined later and didn’t write any of the music and that’s always fun, but there’s sometimes less of that emotional connection. For Change it was different because Aram and I and some other friends were dealing with some pretty heavy emotional tumult over the course of this time. We talked alot on the phone over this period and helped each other come to terms with some pretty serious things and I feel like alot of that went into making this record what it is. As Aram said, when he finally sent the near final product to me to listen to, he still wasn’t sure if he was even going to release it. It was more a personal journey that he had to go through for himself. But when I heard it I was like “Aram... you have to put this record out. You have to do this band.” The music, the message, everything about it.. it was too good to be just a personal journey, and quite frankly; I think alot of other people could benefit from hearing it and reading the lyrics. 




IE: The second ever Change show was at a festival in Barcelona and was the first of 7 shows in Europe. Not your typical start for a hardcore band. Did it feel weird jumping into things like that? How did that short tour come together?


Aram: Chris and I have an old friend in Spain named Gabi, who asked us to play his fest "Can’t Keep Us Down". CKUD is sick, a really diverse lineup over two days and the vibe is perfect. So, with that show in place, we reached out to Robert from Refuse Records to book a tour around it. The whole trip was incredible, we saw so many friends and made many new ones and everything felt natural. It definitely helped that Chris and I had already toured together for years in Champion and that Matt, Mike and Jeff all have toured a bunch and are really fun to travel, and be in a band with.


Chris: Aram mentioned earlier, some friends who were supportive when he still didn’t know if he was going to release the songs. Gabi was definitely one of those people, as was Robert. So for us it just made so much sense that we go play there as soon as possible. Not only was it an excuse to just go see old friends, it was sort of a celebration with some of those people that without whom this whole band would not even exist. 


IE: What was the best thing you had to eat on that last tour?


Chris: For me, it was the dinner at Conne Island. Conne Island is a legendary venue in Leipzig, Germany. It’s been around for like 30 years. Champion played there a couple times and I remember the food being so good. They have cooks that prepare this big delicious vegan feast for all the bands. Europe is like that, all the kids that book shows usually also include a legit meal for the bands. They really take care of you. It’s super cool and special. But Conne Island’s meal was just next level. But that was like 15 years ago, so I was low-key hesitantly excited to get back and see if the meal was still as great as I remembered. I didn’t really say anything to the other dudes in the band about how pumped I was because I didn’t know if it would still be on that level, but I was really looking forward to it all tour. And we played the last show of our European tour there and it was legitimately better than I even remembered.


Aram: Oh man, Jeff and I ate at this vegan Korean place called HD Chay in Berlin that was so unreal. We ordered way too much food, ate all of it, and considered ordering more although I was already dying from being too stuffed.




IE: Considering you don’t have any official releases out yet, how have the reactions been to your live shows? So much with hardcore is singing along and knowing when the breakdown is going to hit. I am guessing people knew you from previous bands and went off for you nonetheless?


Chris: Straight up, every show we’ve played has been incredible. We’re a new band and like you said, we only have a couple of songs out there. So, we weren’t really expecting kids to go crazy or anything, or even to have full rooms. We just wanted to have a few kids that were interested, that we could appreciate their interest and give them our all and hopefully they appreciate that. But we’ve also been lucky to have some awesome friends involved in helping set up the shows and spread the word. People like Zack from Brainstem who invited us to be on our first show in Tacoma with some killer bands, or Gabi from CKUD Fest and Robert from Refuse who booked our Europe tour and is putting out our record in Europe. And the shows have been really cool. We’ve had way more people checking us out than we expected... in large part due to the support of those friends. Some of those shows kids stagedove and hit the pit and some shows they just stuck around and checked us out and that’s way more than we could have hoped. The feedback and connections we’ve made with kids have been super moving and we’re just really psyched to play some more shows and experience that connection with as many people as possible.


Aram: The shows have all been awesome! Lots of energy, dancing, diving and a few people who knew the lyrics. We’ve loved every minute of it!


IE: You guys have fired out of the gates with a slew of shows (including some that were unfortunately canceled due to the coronavirus). What's in the works for the near future once things open back up? From an outsider's perspective this band seems motivated. Could Change become a band that goes beyond playing long weekends of shows?


Aram: With COVID-19 the world has turned upside down since our first few shows. First, thank you to all healthcare workers, nurses, doctors, paramedics and hospital staff. Also thank you to all essential services... we’re so appreciative of you. In comparison to what’s happened in the world our band plans seem pretty minor, but yeah, we did have a bunch of stuff get cancelled. Shout out to all the promoters who booked us, and we’re sorry for any hardship you’ve experienced as a result of this health situation. There’s a lot of conflicting information about when live music can happen again, but we do have tentative plans for some local shows, some California shows, an East Coast weekend and a European again. Also, we’re already talking with some people about a South American tour, as well as Australia and Japan. So, while we won’t be doing long tours, we do plan on getting out a lot.


Chris: We were actually just talking this week about how lucky we feel that we were able to do Europe and play some awesome local shows before COVID-19. If the timeline was even a month or so off we would have had to cancel everything. So, while I wish we could play another show tomorrow, I’m super grateful we have those memories and experiences and can’t wait to do it again. 





IE: Change has two band members in Vancouver, BC and 3 in Seattle. The two cities are about three hours away from each other. Has this presented any challenges so far? It would seem that getting together just for a practice could be one. Is there a lot of emailing or texting ideas, riffs, lyrics amongst each other?


Aram: Nah, the two scenes are very tight knit and playing in cross-border bands is really common. Since the record is already done, we just get together to practice for shows although new song ideas are starting to be discussed so we’ll see what happens.


Chris: Yeah, it’s not too bad to get together aside from the one time that we drove 2 and a half hours to the border and realized SOMEONE forgot their passport! Honestly, as cheesy as it sounds, it’s harder right now not being able to see each other. I just want to hang with these guys, make music, eat food and laugh.


IE: Getting into the message there is some heavy content on "Closer Still", some being depression related. The track "Beyond" in particular talks about it but with an attitude of rising above it. Care to talk more about this song?


Aram: That song is about dealing with depression and anxiety by reaching out to others, being honest with them about what’s going on, listening to them when they tell you that they love and care about you and letting them help. Earlier on I talked about this hard period that hit my life, and anxiety and depression really caught hold of me for a few years. Like most people, I’d experienced short bouts of both before that passed pretty quickly. But this was an entirely different thing and I didn’t know how to cope with it. I started to withdraw from people and became isolated. The more isolated I became, the more negative self-talk started to take hold and eventually it was non-stop. It’s a wild thing when you stop believing in yourself and start thinking the very worst every day. During that time close friends knew something was up and were reaching out, but I was having a hard time connecting with them. I was embarrassed and didn’t want to tell them fully what was happening. I also was hesitant to dump too much on anyone or cause people to worry, so I just got more distant. Luckily, I had a great therapist who helped me work through it. He helped me start opening up, and every time I was honest and let people in, I felt a lot better. Eventually, through connecting with healthy people in my life, the negative self-talk eased back. I was able to hear and believe the love and care that people were sharing with me. So, I wrote that song to both speak to that experience and also encourage people to be real and honest with your loved ones when you’re going through a hard time. Don’t be embarrassed and don’t hide your feelings. Let people help, because they love you and care about your well being.  


Change in Czestochowa, Poland, February 7, 2020. Photo by: Michal Bajur

IE: What was the inspiration for "Death", the spoken word outro?


Aram: I think death should be the best motivator to use your time wisely and live a good life. I’m a really energetic person and love being involved in a lot of things, and a part of that is because I don’t believe in any God or afterlife. I believe the time I have is finite, so I want to make the most of what I have. I don’t think death is something to fear, instead we should accept it and let it inspire us to live life to its fullest.  


IE: Aram, you have an interesting job/profession and company. I wanted to ask you about what it is you do and how it kind of ties in with your experiences being in a band and your involvement in the hardcore scene. From the little I know about it seems as if you took life lessons from being in the hardcore scene and somehow made it into your job. 


Aram: I’m the CEO of a company that does leadership coaching and communication training in corporations. In my earlier career I was a therapist that specialized in addictions and mental health. I took that, and my background in punk, and started my company, so I’m essentially a therapist that works in the business world. Our clients really value the psychology that we bring to the work, but they LOVE the stories about touring. It’s fun to talk about with people, but also is in the DNA of everything we do as a group. The way we built the company is 100% based off DIY culture and the majority of the people that work there are connected to the scene. A message I have here is that you can be a punk/hardcore person and still be a professional that works to make the business world better. We can engage issues, help companies make better decisions and confront prejudice. In fact, I feel that people within our community are often better equipped to have these tough conversations than people who didn’t grow up in our scene. I know it’s not for everyone, but if you take the path into the corporate world then do know that you don’t need to hang up your boots. Click HERE to learn a little more about Aram's company.  


IE: Tell us about "Closer Still" and plans for its release. 


Aram: The record is 13 songs and will be out this September on vinyl in the US and pre-orders are now available through REACT! Records will also be available in Europe through Refuse Records, and on tape in Australia through Life.Liar.Regret Records. Thanks to all of them for putting it out!





IE: Any shout outs?


Aram: The bands: Odd Man Out, Punitive Damage, End of Dayz, Berthold City, Scowl, Applewhite, Titled, Juice, By All Means, Appraise, Spirit Crusher, The Fog, Eat My Fear, Dregs, With x War, Dying For It, Restraining Order, Rejection Pact, Chopping Block, Headcount, Life Force, No Heads, Perfect World, Inclination, One Step Closer, Mindforce. The person: Andy Patillo aka Today’s Man


Chris: Some bands I’m digging that Aram didn’t mention already; Method Of Doubt, XMala ActitudX, Dumah, Raw Brigade, Weight, Waste, Castigo, TV Set, Ingrown, Low End, No Right, Praise. I can’t wait for the new One Step Closer, that single is incredible.


IE: Anything else you want to add in closing?


Aram: Thanks for this interview and all your support! Change supports a drug free and cruelty free lifestyle.


Chris: Thanks Chris for everything, I’ve been an In Effect Hardcore reader for like 23 years now, so really appreciate being a part of that legacy. GO HAWKS!