"I support people punching their friends in the face. If they're both cool with it, I'm so down."
That's Knocked Loose guitarist Isaac Hale talking about the next-level, cathartic moshing that has become synonymous with his band. "People know this because we ask for it, but I one hundred percent support a violent, crazy mosh pit," he says. "I think it's awesome. As long as there's a safe place for someone who doesn't want to be involved to go, I fully endorse going absolutely bat-shit crazy."
It's a policy that — along with extreme heaviness, bruising breakdowns and the willingness to play with almost anyone, anywhere — has only bolstered the reputation of this Kentucky hardcore troupe. But Hale is quick to stress that making the crowd go berserk isn't the band's only priority. "We have more to bring than crazy mosh pits," he says. "We want to put on a show and we want people to have fun. We want to provide them with something they're gonna remember. If they wanna clap or jump off the stage or mosh, it's important to us that people find their own way to be a part of it. But don't feel like you have to do anything that would make you feel uncomfortable, because we're not here to be an exclusive thing. We're here to be an inclusive thing."
That inclusiveness doesn't just apply to their audience. You can hear flashes of everything from Slayer and Entombed to Code Orange and Disembodied in Knocked Loose's furious combination of detuned metal riffs and crushing breakdowns, but the band itself doesn't have much use for genre classifications. "Knocked Loose has always presented itself as a hardcore band, and we still carry those DIY ethics with us," Hale points out. "But it's a very wide genre. In 1985, it may have been a specific thing, but in 2019 you've got hardcore bands taking from all sorts of stuff, from nu metal to rap to alternative. We just want play in front of as many people as possible to introduce kids to hardcore and heavy music in general."
"We're gonna play whatever we're gonna play," Knocked Loose vocalist Bryan Garris adds. "But it'll always be heavy. That's the only promise I can make."
It might seem like a huge leap of faith for anyone's parents in conservative Oldham County, Kentucky, to allow their 17-year old to drop out of high school to go on tour with his hardcore band, but in Hale's case it's more like manifest destiny. "From the time I was very young, I wanted to be in a band and tour," he says. "That was always my goal, and my parents always knew that. From the time I was five or six, I was pointing at posters of Metallica and saying, 'I wanna do that!'"
Hale started playing in local bands when he was 13. He went on his first tour in the summer of the following year. He credits his father with getting him into heavy music. "My dad turned me on to guitar music like Sabbath and Zeppelin and especially Metallica," he says. "Then we got into seeing local metal and hardcore bands when I was like 12. Big bands don't come to Louisville that often, so I never went to big rock concerts as a kid. We eventually saw some cool bands like Lamb of God and Hatebreed and Meshuggah, but that was way after I was attending local shows in Louisville."
Garris also got into metal through a family member. "One summer I spent a lot of time with my aunt, and she showed me System of a Down, Korn and Slipknot," he says. "My mom was into hip-hop and my dad would bounce around — he'd listen to country for months and then the next day it'd be classic rock — so the stuff my aunt liked was a new world for me."
The first show Garris ever attended was Suicide Silence, when their late frontman Mitch Lucker was still at the helm. "My mom took me and she stayed because she didn't trust me to go alone," he recalls with a laugh. "She thought I'd get beat up or something. But I met Mitch briefly when he was hanging out at merch, and we took a picture. I wish I could find that photo. It was very cool."
Fast-forward a few years: Hale finishes high school online. Garris and drummer Kevin "Pac Sun" Kaine drop out of college. They jump in the van with bassist Kevin Otten and guitarist Cole Crutchfield. They never look back. In 2016, Knocked Loose sign with Pure Noise Records and release their full-length debut, Laugh Tracks. "All that touring in 2015 was very important, so I'm very glad that I pulled that trigger," Hale says of his decision to drop out. "It provided me with some crazy experiences and it paid off, because it put me where I am today."
And where are Knocked Loose today? Physically, they're in the Windy City. But in the trajectory of the band, they're standing on a precipice. Just four days before speaking with Revolver, Knocked Loose unveiled a three-song 7-inch entitled Mistakes Like Fractures. It's the first new music they've released since Laugh Tracks. "It's a great way to introduce some new things we're doing with our sound, but at the same time have some fun with a cover song we all really like," Hale says of the 7-inch. "We also re-introduced an old song that we think we'll be playing for a very long time, but wasn't originally recorded like we play it."
As such, the 7-inch features the new song "Mistakes Like Fractures," a cover of California hardcore brigade the Warriors' "Slings & Arrows" and a re-recording of fan favorite "All My Friends," which originally appeared on Knocked Loose's 2014 EP, Pop Culture. "For as long as I can remember, people have always compared my vocal style to the singer of the Warriors," Garris says, referring to the distinctive delivery of Marshall Lichtenwaldt. "We get compared to a lot of stuff, but that's actually one that we all agree with. I do think that me and that guy sound very similar, so we've always joked about covering it."
In fact, when Knocked Loose were in the studio tracking the cover with producer Will Putney, they pulled up the original Warriors version so Garris could mirror every inflection in Lichtenwaldt's voice. "It sounded so similar that there were a couple of times when we had to stop because we were laughing so hard," Garris says. "It was crazy."
As for the re-recording of "All My Friends"? "That song has always gone over extremely well live," Garris explains. "When we released that EP, we definitely never expected it to reach as many people as it did. But the recording of the original is god-awful because it's just us in our guitar player's garage. We programmed the drums and none of us had any idea what we were doing. Plus, we play it a lot faster live and we've changed certain things. So I'm glad we got the opportunity to [redo it] because I just can't listen to the original."
The song's opening line is "All my friends are so full of shit," which the now 25-year old Garris says is about that strange transitional period almost everyone goes through right after high school, "where you realize the friends you're going to keep and the ones you're going to leave behind," he says. "And you're angry at the change."
Knocked Loose fans will note a similar lyric in "Billy No Mates," one of the songs from Laugh Tracks. "There's definitely a connection," Garris explains. "The most general way to explain it is that 'All My Friends' is me blaming my friends for the distance and 'Billy No Mates' is me kinda re-thinking it and going, 'Maybe it's my fault.'"
Perhaps the most exciting song on Mistakes Like Fractures is the title track itself, with its Slayeresque guitar licks, harmonic squeals and thudding deathcore chug. About two-thirds of the way through, the music comes to an almost complete halt and Garris screams over piercing feedback: "I followed the rabbit, and I found my fucking ending." "It's just about finding your own solution to the things you can't let go of, whatever that may be," he explains. "It comes from my personal experience, but I wrote it [to be] more general so that other people might be able to feel connected to it."
Just as "All My Friends" is thematically connected to "Billy No Mates," the video for "Mistakes Like Fractures" is linked to that of final Laugh Tracks single "The Rain." In the "Mistakes" clip, we see a sink filling up with blue liquid, which is a deliberate echo of "The Rain" video. "When we shot 'The Rain,' we knew it was going to be the last music video for that album cycle," Garris explains. "We wanted to hint at what's to come, and I knew that blue was going to be a theme that we used later on, so we have the sink dripping blue at the end of the 'The Rain' video, and the new video starts with a sink dripping blue."
All these connections to the past beg questions about Knocked Loose's future. After all, it's been nearly three years since Laugh Tracks dropped. Surely they must have more than just one new song by now. As it turns out, they do: Mistakes Like Fractures was recorded in the same sessions as the band's next album. "We were basically looking for a way to tease a new era of what we're doing with a smaller release," Hale says of the 7-inch. "We wanted to ease people in with a new song instead of releasing everything all at once."
Due sometime later this year, the next Knocked Loose album has been a labor of love. "We spent years writing songs, re-writing songs and ditching them," Hale offers. "We probably scrapped an entire full-length before we arrived at the final product. That's all because we wanted the best out of it. We were criticizing ourselves and second-guessing ourselves because we knew it had to be better."
What can fans expect? "We wanted a faster record this time around, a record that has different facets," Hale says. "It's not just a one-trick pony. There're different types of songs on the record, but overall we wanted to redefine our sound. We wanted to keep the same mentality and the same idea, but just add way more to it."
Emphasis on the heavy, of course. "Knocked Loose will always be a heavy band," Hale says with a laugh. "That's the entire point."