"I really thought it was the end."
Old Wounds vocalist Kevin Iavaroni looks out into the distance as he recalls how sick and near death he was after the New Jersey group's 2016 shows with Beartooth and Every Time I Die. His battle with Crohn's disease was taking an almost unbearable toll. Shortly after those gigs, the singer quit the band, which then went through all sorts of lineup changes; he had two surgeries and decided to focus his career on barbering.
Today Revolver is at Shavz Hair Lounge in Wall Township, New Jersey, for a cut. "You know, I've never done an interview like this where people come to my place of work and I'm not in 'band mode,'" Iavaroni says laughing. "So it's interesting." He's dressed in a maroon Fred Perry polo and black slacks — a far cry from his usual, more-theatrical stage attire. I take a seat in his chair and he cleans up my undercut. I'm Iavaroni's last appointment before he and his bandmates — bassist Michael Weintraub, drummer Matt Guyre and guitarist Ben Waugh (also of Canadian crushers Exalt) — hop in the van the very next day for their headlining trek with SeeYouSpaceCowboy and Chamber. Despite the imminent tour, the vocalist is zeroed in on the task a hand, taking time with the fade before delivering a fantastic razor-sharp hard line.
Equally sharp and zeroed-in is Old Wounds' latest LP, Glow. The dynamic and extremely personal 10-track record marks a new era for Iavaroni — who rejoined the goth-tinged hardcore quartet last year — as well as for the band itself, which explores a much wider expanse of sounds, emotions and textures than on its previous offering, 2015's The Suffering Spirit. Below, Iavaroni discusses Glow, as well as LGBTQ and androgynous pride, paralyzing pain, a dog named Lugosi, vinyl pants and more.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT BARBERING AS YOUR OTHER CAREER?
KEVIN IAVARONI It's definitely therapeutic. I mean, I take my time with every haircut that I do. And just the smells in the barbershop, the sounds of our shop — it's just something I've always liked.
WHAT MAKES A NIGHTMARE CLIENT?
Somebody that wants an unrealistic cut. That happens a lot because some people are just not made for certain haircuts and I'll tell them as nicely as possible. If somebody comes to me, like they have extremely long hair, I'll trim their hair. If they're asking for a complete makeover, I might talk them out of it because they might not be a fan of what I do afterwards. I don't like changing people too much because that's when there's a lot of room for error and they might not be stoked.
WHAT IS THE WORST AND BEST THING YOU CAN DO TO YOUR HAIR?
Bleaching and conditioning. I wish men would condition their hair — a lot of guys don't. They just get the two-in-one or even the three in one — it's the body wash, facewash, a shampoo and conditioner. There's no way that the stuff you put on your skin should be put on your hair. Stop.
SO WHILE YOU'RE ON TOUR, DO YOU BRING THREE DIFFERENT PRODUCTS OR DO YOU GO THREE-IN-ONE? I MEAN, SPACE AND LUXURY ARE LIMITED.
Ohhhh, no. I'm the diva of the group. So I'm bringing multiple products. I'm bringing a shampoo, I'm bringing a conditioner, I'm bringing some sort of hair mask, I'm bringing face mask …
[LAUGHS] YOU ASKED ME ABOUT MY LIPSTICK COLOR EARLIER AND SOMETIMES YOU WEAR LIPSTICK ONSTAGE, TOO. HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED DOING PROFESSIONAL MAKEUP ARTISTRY?
I don't think that I'm that talented. I've always looked up to androgynous figures and it was something that always just made me feel comfortable in my own skin and it was just another artistic outlet for me. But I don't think I can be like a makeup guru or anything like that.
ABOUT A YEAR AGO, OLD WOUNDS WERE PLAYING SHOWS WITH EIGHTEEN VISIONS. DID YOU EVER ASK VOCALIST JAMES HART ABOUT HAIRCUTTING SINCE HE'S ALSO A STYLIST?
Oh yeah, yeah. We've talked about it a few times. I asked him if he likes doing men's hair, because he does mostly does women's hair. I prefer doing men's hair and I think he likes the doing women's hair, but we talked about it sometimes, yeah.
DID YOU SHARE TIPS?
I mean, he was definitely a big inspiration for me wanting to pick up some scissors and cut hair and play in a band. Eighteen Visions is a big influence on me wanting to play heavy music. And yes, the fact that he was a stylist was very appealing, as well. So, taking some notes from his book, I guess.
BUT YOU'RE NOT "FASHIONCORE," RIGHT? THAT WAS 15 YEARS AGO OR WHATEVER.
Right. I guess that was the term, "fashioncore." I mean, when I was in high school I had some pretty dramatic, pretty drastic looks and hairstyles. I had some crazy bangs and, like, stupid spiky hair that was bleached a ridiculous amounts of times that just ruined my hair. But I needed to look ridiculous.
WHEN I SAW YOU PLAY WITH EIGHTEEN VISIONS, SOMEONE CAME UP TO ME AND SAID, "YOU'RE NOT HERE TO SEE [ANOTHER BAND ON THE LINEUP]. YOU CAME TO SEE THAT BAND WITH THE ..." AND HE USED THE F-WORD, AND IT WASN'T "FUCK."
Were they referring to us?
YES. DOES THAT HAPPEN TO YOU OFFSTAGE?
That's insane. It's definitely happened. Maybe more so in the earlier years when we were playing these punk and metal shows and there's this figure, dressed in all black and wearing mascara and eye shadow and lipstick and really cares about how his cheekbones look and if they're contoured. So, it's definitely happened. And it's sad to see that people would use that vile, disgusting, hateful word. It really, really does. It bothers me because I know how much it can hurt someone else. That's a strange thing to hear at one of our shows, but again, it's not really one of our shows per se. We were fortunate enough to be with Eighteen Visions. And that's why I feel like it will always be important for my band to speak up against people doing, using that. It's disgusting.
YEAH. I ALSO FOUND IT WEIRD, LIKE YOU'RE IN NEW YORK, BUDDY.
Yeah. [Laughs] Like you're not in the middle of nowhere, like, the sticks. Ugg, that kind of drives me mad a little bit.
SUPPORT OF LGBTQ CAUSES HAS ALWAYS BEEN IMPORTANT TO THE BAND — YOU DRAPE RAINBOW FLAGS OVER AMPS, FOR INSTANCE. AND THIS TOUR YOU'RE ABOUT TO START INCLUDES SEEYOUSPACECOWBOY, WHOSE VOCALIST CONNIE SGARBOSSA IS A TRANS WOMAN. DID YOU ASK THEM TO OPEN FOR YOU?
We did. We had played with SeeYouSpaceCowboy in Orange County at Programme Skate and Sound, and I was very, very excited to play with them because I had been hearing such great things about the band. I had no idea what their political stance was. So it was really cool to see firsthand what they were about, what they spoke about. And I knew that we would get along quite well. So after the show we hung out and I just asked them that we should play more shows together in the future.
When we had finished the writing process for Glow, it was time for us to sit down and talk about bands that we wanted to play with and I instantly had said SeeYouSpaceCowboy. But yeah, I think these shows are going to be really, really special.
SO GETTING INTO GLOW, THE PRE-ORDERS COME WITH A COMPACT MIRROR. WHO CAME UP WITH THAT IDEA?
That was actually a Mikey [Weintraub, bassist]'s idea! Like I said before, I've always ... liked things that were more feminine than masculine. I'm not a man's man by any means. I'm not super vain, but I carry a compact. And then Mikey came to me with that idea and it's just such an awesome idea. Like, I don't think that — and I'm sure that someone has — but I don't know any band that's made a compact mirror. So, I was a big fan of the idea, but I can't take credit for the idea. [Laughs]
WHEN WE ASKED YOU FOR YOUR "SONGS FOR BLACK DAYS," YOU INCLUDED A PLACEBO SONG FEATURING DAVID BOWIE AND YOU SAID, "I'M HERE FOR BOLD STATEMENTS." WHAT KIND OF BOLD STATEMENTS ARE YOU MAKING ON GLOW?
A lot of the lyrical content I was writing in my recovery from surgery. A lot of ... internal conflict with the struggles of dealing with my illness. I suffer from Crohn's disease. But it's something that I've been battling since I was five. So my entire life, basically. And it's something that always rears its ugly head no matter what I do, no matter what medications I'm on, it's just something that always comes back into my life. And it always, always comes back to haunt me.
There's some political themes without going into too much detail, because I love leaving my music up for interpretation by the listener. I've just always thought it was cool [when] I didn't know what the band was necessarily speaking about, but I knew how I should feel about it. For instance, there's a song on the record called "Stripes," and I remember writing the lyrics while I was in the hospital and everything on the news was families being broken up at the border. It was one of the most heartbreaking things I'd ever seen. I'd never thought that I would just see actual heartbreak because of our government. So it's a strong political song.
I DON'T THINK A LOT OF SINGERS WRITE ABOUT IS HAVING A CHRONIC MEDICAL CONDITION AND THE QUALITY OF LIFE THAT GOES ALONG WITH IT.
I try not to be that person that lets my illness stop me from doing things, but there are many moments where I can't move. I'm bedridden and in the worst pain, ever. But I really try to overcome it and it's tough, especially when you're in a touring band. Being on the road and feeling the things that I felt because of Crohn's, it's rough, you know? There's been times where I've had to not get onstage with the band because I was in pain and I'm always the one that loves to hang out on tour. But sometimes I just need to be by myself and lay down. Touring is one of the most stressful things ever and, with Crohn's, you will get a flare-up just because of stressing out. It's a hard thing to deal with and I've turned to so many medications that haven't helped and the end result was that I needed to have surgery. More than one.
WHEN YOU ARE ON THE ROAD, IS THERE ANYTHING THAT HELPS, OR PRECAUTIONS YOU TRY TO TAKE?
I try not to eat crazy foods. I try to eat mostly bland stuff. I drink Kombucha. I take probiotics. I try to get as much rest as possible, but being on the road, that really depends on your schedule and a lot of the time you're not getting the rest of you should be getting.
ON THE TRACK "NO ONE LISTENS WHEN YOU FALL APART," YOU SPECIFICALLY CALL OUT THE DATE "DECEMBER 16TH, 1991." WHY?
That is my birth date. If there's any song on the record that is a flat-out statement about my chronic illness and how I feel about myself and how I've exhausted every option to make myself better, and it just hasn't worked out for me. I've exasperated every sort of door I can open to try and make myself better. It's just a terrifying feeling when you're sick and you can't get better. Basically, I'll share: There's moments where I wake up, where I wish I hadn't, you know? The pain is ... it's paralyzing at times.
I THINK IT'S GREAT YOU SHARE THAT BECAUSE THERE ARE FANS OUT THERE WHO HAVE CHRONIC ILLNESSES, TOO, AND THEN THEY CAN HAVE SONGS TO RELATE TO.
Right. I get messages all the time. All the time. Kids can look to me, like, saying that I'm brave for being able to do what I do. But it's the only thing that I honestly live for. [Laughs] And that sounds kind of silly.
MUSICALLY, THE TRACK REMINDS ME OF A GLASSJAW SONG. I JUST HEARD DARYL PALUMBO VIBES IN IT, THE WAY YOU'RE SINGING IT. BUT THEN I REALIZED YOU AND HIM HAVE SOMETHING ELSE IN COMMON, TOO ...
Yes, he also suffers from Crohn's disease. I remember trying to go see them when I was younger and they would cancel tours because he would have these flare-ups. Very relatable band for me. They're able to capture something many bands aren't able to capture. We're Glassjaw fans. I think Worship and Tribute is one of the coolest post-hardcore records of all time.
YOU'RE ALSO A HUGE COMIC-BOOK FAN. DID YOU GET INTO COMICS WHILE IN THE HOSPITAL?
Yeah! Comics and cartoons where like my entire life when I was a kid. I remember when I was first diagnosed — I'm a huge Batman fan — I had the IV put in me and I couldn't look at it. It bugged me out. I was a little kid, you know? I have this wire, this needle in my arm and my mom actually got me this Batman sock. She cut it and put it over the IV so I didn't have to look at it. So I just had this Batman sock armband that I actually still have.
I'M THE SAME WAY AS AN ADULT — I CANNOT LOOK AT AN IV.
Oh, forget it! I had to put a Band-Aid on because I cut myself before when I was doing your hair. I would have fainted if I really stopped to look at the cut. I would have fell face-first. I am ridiculous. So relatable.
Every eight weeks I have to get a Remicade Infusion and I can't look when my nurse is putting in my IV. I'm literally [turns head away]. I'm fortunate enough that she's able to come to my house, so I have my dog with me and he lays with me the full four hours that I'm getting the Remicade drip. He is a very lovable little boy, my dog. Lugosi, a Boston terrier.
SO YOU CAN'T LOOK AT A CUT, YOU DRESS VERY ANDROGYNOUSLY ... NONE OF WHICH IS STEREOTYPICALLY "HARDCORE." HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE THE HARDCORE MINDSET, FOR PEOPLE WHO AREN'T INTO IT?
It has a lot to do with the subculture and your beliefs and this sense of community — this place where you can speak about political issues and not necessarily be judged. I feel like in the metal community, I think that's a harder thing to talk about, especially while you're playing. I think they're not as open-minded in a way, which is one things that I like playing in Old Wounds is we're very vocal. We wear our influences on our sleeves and I love the fact that I have this platform where I can talk and even if they don't like my band — for the half hour that we're playing, they're forced to listen to what I have to say and hopefully they take home with them what my band's about and can appreciate that.
But we'll play any sort of show — metal show, hardcore show, pop show. Hopefully, those people that come see my band will take away with them what we are. We'll always have the pride flags, we'll always have pamphlets at our merch table for people who are victims of any sort of abuse that they can turn to and can get some guidance and some help. I think that's a very, very important thing because why play in a band? Why have this, this pedestal that you can stand on, if you're not going to use it for the better of your scene and the subculture?
WELL, FOR PEOPLE WHO DON'T APPRECIATE WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY, MAYBE THEY CAN APPRECIATE YOUR OUTFIT. LIKE AT THOSE EIGHTEEN VISIONS SHOWS ...
The vinyl pants? [Laughs]
I feel like it's very important to always reinvent yourself. I think that's one of the main reasons why certain bands have a longevity, if you take risks and you don't always do the same thing. But I think no matter how I reinvent myself, I think shiny pants will always in my repertoire.
I LOVE THEM.
Yes. I do, too. But very, very hard to get off after a 25 minute set of just sweating. [Laughs]
ALRIGHT, LET'S SAY PEOPLE HATE THE VISUALS, YOU GET OUT THERE IN YOUR SHINY PANTS AND FUCKING SCREAM. OLD WOUNDS IS GNARLY.
To me, I've always been just a dude that just wears lipstick and it's very, very sincere and very flattering when people come up to me and they tell me that I've given them some sort of strength to ... I guess, talk to loved ones and family members about their sexual orientation or gender identity. And to me, I've always just been this dude that wore lipstick or vinyl pants and sometimes I'll play in a dress. [Laughs] But to me, that was super sweet to hear and because I don't think that I'm anybody. So I would always tell these people that know you, "You have the courage. You're very strong, way stronger than I am. Like, please don't thank me for doing anything. You're important for many different reasons." I just, I always thought that it was really sweet when people would flatter me in that way, but I would always flatter them back because, really, I'm just some guy that likes being sparkly and glittery.