Before we even say a word to each other, Backtrack guitarist Ricky Singh lays it out: the full size, full color zine that serves as a preview for their new LP. Filled with photos of friends, art, personal moments, tattoo flash about the band, a pair of tracks on flexi and more, this is Backtrack's world summarized in a beautifully packaged glossy. In the world of PDF sheets filled with bullet points about bands, it's a refreshing, impactful alternative.
"We had a bunch of different friends work on it," says Singh about the production of the zine. "I've been making zines for six or seven years, and I've always wanted to make a Backtrack one. It's for me, strictly – just because I want to do it. I've mostly just interviewed bands about things that are a little bit deeper than what a musician would normally discuss with another musician. I've tried to do one every year."
Singh's ideas about zines are, by 2017 standards, a bit old school, but then again so is Backtrack's work ethic, drive and stamina. Clad in shirts featuring Agnostic Front, Outburst, Breakdown and others, the band and its members shout out NYHC forefathers, never forgetting their roots and the originators. It's that focus on "spreading the hardcore reality" that has lead Backtrack to tour the globe and be the first NYHC band to tour China. In addition to the incessant touring, since forming in 2008, Backtrack released three EPs and two LPs. Downtime was clearly an afterthought.
And then it all stopped as the band members reached their mid-to-late twenties, leading to a short hiatus from the band and subsequent adulting. Backtrack was put on the back burner while band members reclaimed their individual identities and settled in to what some might call "the rest of their lives." But all that time away has only sharpened their focus, making sure the band makes the most of their time away. And they have: Backtrack are prepping for the November 17 release of a new LP, Bad to My World, on Bridge 9. Stream "One with You" from Bad to my World, which premieres here, above. Order yours via Bridge 9.
Though Backtrack focused on the sounds coming from the NYHC just a few miles away, initial inspiration came from the improbably huge Long Island scene that grew around them in the early 2000s. "Glassjaw was one that sort of blew my mind and made me think, What the hell is going on here?" says Singh. "I'm pretty sure I saw the first Brand New show too, with Atom and His Package. Lots of local shit like Taking Back Sunday, from my town or the next town over from me, that made me want to give it a shot. But I think Kill Your Idols is probably my biggest inspiration from Long Island."
Musically, vocalist James Vitalo is quick to point out the influence of Breakdown and Killing Time, but concurs on the early influence of those shows. "I saw Taking Back Sunday and Brand New at Babylon VFW Hall in 2001. The show was packed, and I remember Jesse [Lacey] fell on his face at the show. I'll never forget seeing him when I was leaving the bathroom – he walked by me, smiling and spitting up blood."
"There were not many bands doing the style that we love," Vitalo continues. "Most of the bands on Long Island were pretty melodic, but us and Incendiary started around the same time. There weren't many NYHC bands touring or getting out of the region, so it felt like NYHC might have been dead except for the forefathers. The main mission statement for me was to wave the flag for NYHC worldwide – play as much as we could everywhere we could."
"We toured 8 or 9 months out of the year for 5 years straight," says Singh. "It started to take a toll on our mental states and the dynamic within the band. There would be times where people wouldn't talk for a week or two. Relationships were ruined or not seen out, time with families were limited, and all of that makes your drive wane from that initial 'we are totally in.' It's discouraging when you aren't all at the same level. I treasure it more now."
Vitalo also sees the initial hiatus as therapeutic and totally necessary, especially in the context of the new record: "It was good for us to take a step back, and I think that is evident in the record we wrote. We could have easily grinded out a new record, but we took that time out and we really love Bad to My World."
After some time and changes to the lineup, Backtrack entered the studio with producer Nick Jett (Terror) in tow to record what would be Bad to My World with Dean Baltulonis. Their goals were simple according to Ricky Singh: "Some of the tension from before came from things we didn't love about the last record. We didn't work together as much as we wanted to or should have. So when this record started coming around the bend, we decided that we needed to work more as a team to create the most cohesive record possible."
James Vitalo agrees that the time away was positive in other ways as well. "From a lyrical standpoint, not being in the band and drawing from other life experience made for a better record – having thoughts and feelings outside of the van. The part of the lyrical content is about fighting from being a regular joe, so seeing this from another perspective was helpful."
Working with Nick Jett helped bring another perspective into the fold on the new LP, one that Vitalo welcomed with open arms. "It's always a struggle to keep things fresh and not fall into a pattern whether that is with language or vocal delivery. Nick played a key role in help shaping the vocals on the record and had some cool ideas. I'm happy with the final product."
Today's release, "One with You," is a reaction to 2017 hardcore though, a condemnation of what James Vitalo says that he doesn't "feel connected to" when it comes to the moments outside of the music. "I think there are a lot of people that are not doing anything progressive with this music. ["One with You"] is sort of an anti-unity song in that just because you're a hardcore kid doesn't mean that I'm going to stand by everything you say. That's my fuck you to everyone who is negatively contributing to the hardcore scene."