"Creating anything is the only way I feel good about myself. If I'm not creating, I feel worthless sometimes. Even if it's something that nobody sees, it's a healthy thing to do. It makes you feel less anxious, less depressed."
That's Anthony DiDio talking about his therapeutic writing process with Vein, the boundary-smashing hardcore outfit for which he pens lyrics, handles vocals and designs merch. The band recently unleashed its full-length debut, a whiplash-inducing blend of chaotic hardcore and hooky nu-metal titled errorzone. It's an intriguing post-millennial fusion, given that fans of those two genres rarely crossed over during their respective late Nineties/early Aughts heydays. "They didn't mix when I started going to shows, either," says the 23-year-old DiDio. "That wasn't cool at all. But the way this band sounds is just the music we want to write. We didn't really think about it. Some songs on the album are way more in one direction than the other. Other songs sit in the middle. But if the song is sick, the song is sick."
DiDio and his bandmates — guitarists Jeremy Martin and Josh Butts, bassist Jon Lhaubouet and drummer Matt Wood — grew up north of Boston in Massachusetts' Merrimack Valley. As a child, DiDio went to Blink-182 and No Doubt concerts before graduating to the heavier, angst-ridden sounds of Korn and Deftones. Then his older siblings turned him on to the dizzying metallic hardcore of Botch and local heroes Converge. By the time DiDio hit high school, he was going to hardcore shows at Anchors Up!, an all-ages venue in Haverhill. "Growing up and going to hardcore shows in Massachusetts, we have a really strong scene that's always supported us," he explains. "But we also have a low tolerance for bullshit because Massachusetts is very real and to the point."
DiDio's experiences growing up as a fan in his local scene's mosh pits, as well as around his home state's no-B.S. attitude, play out in his band's reckless onstage presentation, which defines the idea of full commitment. As a result, Vein's reputation for balls-out live performances — complete with flailing limbs and flying bodies — is compounding by the day. "We've all messed ourselves up," he says of the group's battle wounds from shows. "I've never had to go to the hospital, but I've definitely fucked myself up."
For DiDio, funneling his pent-up energy into Vein's live shows is a necessary form of catharsis. "Sometimes you're playing and the vibe just takes over," he says. "You're one with the vibe and the band and the music. You come off feeling like you just released something. If I feel like I still have shit to let go of after we play, then I didn't like the set."
DiDio approaches his lyrics in the same way, releasing demons through self-reflection. "A lot of the lyrics deal with dark shit, like depression," he explains. "But there's also brighter moments of realization on the album and moments of embracing life. I'm not going to get into any specifics or anything, but there's a lot of introspective topics going on."
Vein may be building buzz fast, but DiDio still has to hold down a day job, driving Uber and Lyft, and it provides plenty of time for introspection — as well as the occasional opportunity to work up negative vibes. He shares a not-atypical story from behind the wheel. One time, when a passenger typed the wrong destination address into the app before DiDio picked her up, things went sideways fast.
"I took her to the address and she started freaking out on me, like, 'This isn't where I live!'" he recalls with a laugh. Turns out they were about 40 minutes from the woman's house. DiDio patiently explained that he could drive her home, but that she'd have to type in the correct address — and pay for the ride. "She started saying it was my fault and that she wasn't getting out of the car," he says. "I didn't know what to do, so I drove around the block for about 10 minutes. I was trying to be reasonable with her, but she wouldn't stop freaking out. She said she was gonna call the cops on me. I finally drove to a gas station and said, 'You need to get the fuck out of my car.' So I just left her there and told [the company] what happened. It was her fault, so everything was fine."
While listeners might relate to this sort of everyday frustration, DiDio's goals are much deeper. He points to the band's video for errorzone leadoff track "virus://vibrance." In the clip, a man uses forceps and a scalpel to cut out his own eye — and then smiles with satisfaction. It's a graphic and bloody sequence, made all the more unnerving by its hyper-saturated color palette. "The video was my idea," DiDio enthuses. "The song is about digging deeper inside yourself and reshaping your perception — cutting your own eye out and smiling because you've done some deep diving and found your inner vision. But it's definitely super gory."
In the spirit of diving deep, DiDio has, on occasion, used psychedelics as a tool for self-realization. "Acid is horrifying, but mushrooms are great," he clarifies. "I've only done them a couple of times, but it kinda cuts through the static in your mind. It helps you reach the core of things. But it's not something I think anyone should depend on to have those realizations. You don't need to do drugs to get to that point at all. But it's cool because if you have that experience, you can take some positive things with you."
DiDio wants listeners to have a similar experience with errorzone — minus the drugs. "I hope they can relate to the lyrics and realize some shit about themselves," he offers. "I want them to have a strong personal experience and connection, and new feelings about themselves because of the record. That's my ideal."