Every time Knocked Loose singer Bryan Garris steps onstage, he loses himself in the energy of the moment and becomes the polar opposite of the unassuming, non-confrontational Midwestern boy he was raised to be. Sometimes he even forgets where he is and winds up hurting himself in the process. Over the years, Garris has chipped his teeth on the mic, collided with his guitarists and fallen from the stage. Once, he was even knocked unconscious.
"We were in Brooklyn at a little VFW hall with no stage, and everybody was moshing and singing along," Garris recalls. "I inched my way from the drums and towards the crowd. I looked back at the drummer for just a second, and then I turned my head and I just saw a boot coming towards my face. I got kicked in the forehead and went tumbling backward and through the drums. Then I saw black."
The band briefly stopped the show while Garris bent over at the side of the stage waiting for his head to stop buzzing. Less than a minute later, he bounced up and Knocked Loose finished the show. "I had a big bump on my forehead and some cuts on my back that were bleeding through my shirt," he recalls. "But one of our biggest things is to always play the show no matter what."
Knocked Loose's commitment to playing anywhere, with anyone and at any cost has served this group of millennials well. Since forming in Oldham County, Kentucky, in 2013, they've rapidly become one of the most active and popular live bands in the hardcore metal scene. The group's cardinal rules are to never turn down an interesting gig offer or be shoehorned into a scene. Following this credo, they've played with NYHC pioneers Agnostic Front, deathcore pugilists the Acacia Strain, rapper Danny Brown and pop-punk outfit Four Year Strong. "We'll play with any band in any genre," Garris says. "I don't care if you call us hardcore or metal or whatever.
"We're still gonna sound the same and be the same band. I like playing with bands that are different because it takes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to prove yourself. A lot of people just want to play festivals and do little weekend runs with big bands, or sit around and wait for an offer from a big band that will never come. We just like to get out there and play music. We're not trying to be cool."
Knocked Loose learned from a young age how important it is not to disappoint fans. Growing up in Louisville, a market that most major bands avoided, when one of their favorite national acts played somewhere nearby it was a cause for celebration. "Being from the Midwest definitely gave us like a different mindset than bands from big cities," Garris explains.
"When it came to touring, we had to try harder because when we were younger we had a hard time getting noticed since we weren't from some big city. And we vowed never to cancel or give anything less than 200 percent because when we were in high school and a big band did come through town, we'd be super bummed if they didn't make it or played a bad show."
In the four years since Garris started Knocked Loose with his high school friends — guitarists Isaac Hale and Cole Crutchfield, bassist Kevin Otten and drummer Kevin Kaine — the group has shown no signs of slowing down. They've toured relentlessly, and released two records — 2014's Pop Culture EP and last year's full-length Laugh Tracks — that received widespread praise. Performing aggressive music isn't just an outlet for Garris' creativity; it also plays a crucial part in the singer's mental health by providing him with a positive way to cope with depression and anxiety, which run in his family.
"I try to get all that stuff out in my songs and onstage so I don't have to walk around and be some nihilistic douchebag," he says. "I think that's why I'm such an easygoing, polite guy in real life." Garris and Knocked Loose's sincere, hardworking approach is continuing to paying off, and 2018 is shaping up to be the band's biggest year yet: At the end of February they're launching their first-ever U.S. headline trek with one of their favorite bands, veteran hardcore demolitionists Terror, supporting them.
"It's really weird to have someone you've looked up to for so long opening for you," Garris says. "I've still got Terror shirts I got when I was in middle school.
When the tour got brought up, we joked, 'Why would we have this amazing band open for us and then have everybody walk out before we go on?' But I don't think that will happen. We play to a younger crowd and the guys in Terror want to perform for younger people that maybe don't know them. Really, it's a win-win." Since Knocked Loose have a full tour schedule for the foreseeable future, the band hasn't focused too much on writing music for the follow-up to Laugh Tracks. And Garris hasn't penned any new lyrics he likes in ages.
"I've had this crazy writer's block," he admits. "When I sit down to write and nothing comes to me, I get very discouraged. Sometimes it scares me. I'm like, 'Damn, what if I don't have anything to say anymore? What if I had one album in me and that's it?' But then I think for a minute and realize: I've got more to say."