"Maybe it takes being pounded over the head with blast beats to do it, but we just want people to feel something."
So says Candy guitarist Michael "Cheddar" Quick of the young hardcore outfit's full-length debut. Which goes a long way toward explaining why said debut is entitled Good to Feel. "I think in general people are desensitized to things that we shouldn't be," adds vocalist Zak Quiram. "There's children being kidnapped by our government, hate crimes, sexual assault, people dying every day, and we shrug it off because it's such a constant thing. It's pretty sad. But I think the point of music is to make people feel something at the end of the day."
Quiram and Cheddar are sitting in their van outside the Masquerade in Atlanta, Georgia, where they're waiting to load in for tonight's stop on their tour with Canadian genre-benders Fucked Up. It's an appropriate bill, given that Candy aren't beholden to many sonic boundaries themselves. Sure, Good to Feel bursts at the seams with crushing d-beats and jagged hardcore riffs, but there's also noise interludes, drum-and-bass breaks (on the video version of the title track) and — on aqueous closer "Bigger Than Yours" — lush Nineties dreampop melodies. "For the most part, hardcore has been based off the same four or five bands for 30 years," Quiram ventures. "People regurgitating the same four songs that Youth of Today played in the Eighties gets pretty old. Don't get me wrong — I love Youth of Today. But I want to play music that's interesting to people who might love Youth of Today and might also love My Bloody Valentine or the Stone Roses. I think that's hard to do within the hardcore scene, but we try to do it because that's the shit we like."
Along with bands such as Turnstile, Code Orange and Vein, Candy stand at the vanguard of a new generation of hardcore bands with little concern for genre restrictions. "We're not out here trying to be different just for the sake of being different," Quiram says. "We just have a lot of different influences and they should all be able to co-exist within the music we're playing."
Despite what you may have read in just about every article ever written about Candy — except this one — the band is not from Richmond, Virginia. Truth is, the members are spread across the country. Cheddar is from Richmond, but lives in Brooklyn. Quiram is from Buffalo, New York, but lives in Los Angeles. "Our other guitar player lives in Buffalo. Our drummer lives in New Jersey. We all live in different states," the vocalist explains. "It's not convenient, but there's no other option for us so we just make it work. But it adds up to a lot of travel expenses."
As kids, Quiram, Cheddar and their bandmates — guitarist Andrew Stark and drummer Steve DiGenio (Quiram says they're "between bass players" at the moment) — were reared on a steady diet of hardcore and skateboarding. "Skateboarding and the intensity of it is a huge influence on Candy as a whole," Quiram says. "The first time I heard Minor Threat was in a skate video. I was like, 'This song is incredible!' It made me watch the credits at the end of the DVD so I could see who it was."
Meanwhile, older skaters and protracted trips down the internet rabbit hole were turning the now 27-year-old singer and 26-year-old guitarist on to hardcore bands from all eras. "Obviously, a lot of people are exposed to big bands like Hatebreed and Terror when getting into hardcore music when we were kids, and I think those are great bands to take you in the right direction," Quiram says. "But at the end of the day, those bands can show you other bands that they were listening to when they were writing their music. So you keep diving into older bands and seeing where it all started. Everything goes back to the Cro-Mags."
"Cro-Mags were one of the first old hardcore bands anyone showed me," Cheddar says with a nod. "I hope people can tell we have some Cro-Mags influence. I mean, you can't talk about hardcore without them."
Of course, it's not just hardcore that informs Candy's music. Cheddar recalls having an epiphany when Quiram took him to see the Stone Roses at Madison Square Garden. "I've always been into music besides hardcore, but I specifically got into the Stone Roses [at that show]," the guitarist says. "That show was very energizing in terms of working on Candy, which had started right around that time. From there, the Stone Roses were a gateway to pretty much everything other than hardcore that has influenced Candy because, as I dug into their history, I realized how influenced by dance and electronic they and some of their contemporaries were. That made me want to educate myself on electronic music, which I had very little knowledge of at the time."
As it turns out, everyone in Candy still skates — even on tour. And they don't seem particularly concerned about the tour-ending injuries that such an activity might entail. "We're definitely aware of that, but it hasn't stopped us yet," Quiram says with a laugh. "We bring our skateboards with us and we've definitely finished out tours with sprained ankles and sprained wrists, but we make it work."
In the spirit of the best skateboarding vids, Good to Feel is short and sharp, clocking in at less than 18 minutes. "We definitely wanted to double down on being quote-unquote 'extreme,'" Cheddar says. "We wanted something that was pounding all the way through. We definitely didn't want it to be overly long, and a lot of the punk bands that have shaped extreme music have just kept stuff so fast and brief."
"We wanted to keep it simple and aggressive," Quiram adds. "No filler."
They don't shy away from intense lyrical topics, either. The song "Human Target" addresses the issue of racially charged police shootings in America. "I feel like every day you turn on the news and another cop has shot and killed another person of color, and the song is a blunt way of putting it," Quiram explains. "But I feel like there's a lot of protests going on in recent years and people starting to stand up against the police brutality that's constantly occurring."
Lyrics with substance are crucial for Candy, who recently played a benefit show for Planned Parenthood and fully embrace the idea of being a political band. "We definitely wanna be saying something to people," Cheddar offers. "Style is very important to us, but I don't think there's any music that's ever been made that's as important as it could be if it was trying to say something or have some kind of positive impact. We don't wanna ride on sound or influences. We all care about the political environment and the social environment, and we definitely wanna address that collectively."
"There's a lot of bands who have such a large platform to speak and the ability to say things of value that could positively impact other people's lives and points of view, but the opportunity is wasted a lot," Quiram observes. "We try to do that with our lyrics, to have something of value and affect people positively and make people stop and think about the world we're living in."
"Whether you're someone who leans to the right or the left or the middle, there's just so much bigotry being blatantly spouted from the people who are supposedly our leaders," Cheddar says. "There's a lot of people making music who are seeing that bigotry, and you have to say something. How could you fucking not?"