The Gestalt prayer has been used time and time again as a mantra for the artist — a rallying cry for following your muse and going on instinct. Published close to 70 years ago by psychotherapist Fritz Perls, who knew that words like this could be applicable to a gang of street-tough kids like Trapped Under Ice:
I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful.
If not, it can't be helped.
Baltimore's favorite hardcore sons manifest these expressions on their new LP, Heatwave, which clocks in at a lean 14 minutes and takes a sharp left turn away from previous efforts. The strictly straining, bulging neck-vein vocals that marked efforts like 2011's Big Kiss Goodnight are gone and replaced by a mix of muscular hardcore and melodic vocals. Madball-style New York hardcore-isms are merged with a wide range of influences: from punk rock and pop to funk and even the Washington, D.C. musical phenomenon go-go. To say that Trapped Under Ice are going their own way with Heatwave is an understatement. But in case you're worried they've gone off the deep end, don't be: it all works in the end.
The group's latest track from Heatwave, "Oblivion" — which you can hear for the first time ever below — is, by their own admission, the closest in style to their approach from yesteryear. That said, it's still wholly indicative of their new direction. Fans will recognize the band's command of the d-beat into the half-speed chorus into the start-stop rhythms of the finale. But the brevity of it all is very much Trapped Under Ice of 2017: immediately hooking you in and leaving you wanting more.
Heatwave is slated to street on July 21 via Pop Wig Records, but you can stream "Oblivion" below now, and read our chat with Trapped Under Ice vocalist Justice Tripp, in which we ask him about the band's new approach, and how he finds the balance between pleasing his fans and following inspiration.
REVOLVER What can you tell us about the single "Oblivion," and how it sits within the rest of the new material on Heatwave?
JUSTICE TRIPP In my head, "Oblivion" is the most "Trapped Under Ice" song on the record. Maybe I'm wrong, but when I hear it I think, Oh, that sounds like I think what people expect of Trapped Under Ice, which isn't a bad thing at all. I love where Trapped Under Ice comes from and where it is going. It's definitely fun and different, but hints at TUI of the past.
One thing about the record that I immediately noticed is your vocal approach. On those first two LPs, it sounded like you were going to have an embolism at any moment, just screaming your lungs out. Another thing is that this is a hardcore record, but you guys definitely take risks on it. Hardcore isn't suited for a party atmosphere, but this almost feels like a party record: it's fun and ridiculous in the best of ways. Were you trying to make something more fun this time around?
I wouldn't say there was a conscious goal. We definitely didn't sit down to be like, "Let's write a party record," you know? But at the same time, it's like what you said about the first few records and how I sound like I'm about to have an embolism... That's just who I was at that point in my life. Sitting on the edge of a panic attack, just ready to freak out. I have issues with anxiety. At that point in my life I was in a dark place and I still have normal struggles like anybody else. Maybe it's part of getting older.
When you're young, you don't recognize the kind of influence you have on other young people. Being at a show, I would run into someone every night that would say, "If you play this, I'm gonna fucking kill somebody. I'm gonna fuck this whole place up!" I really don't want to see that. I really just don't want to see some small, younger person get spin-kicked in the nose. But people were just feeding off of the way I felt. I get that I created and projected that, and I didn't like it. Don't get me wrong, I love being in a small venue and watching a band while my homies are just beating the shit out of each other. I have that meathead nature in me to go crazy on my friends. But that's with my friends and in an environment where everybody knows everybody and you know what you're getting into. You know it's going to be turnt up. I just wanted to create a less dangerous environment for Trapped Under Ice. It's hard to be that every single night on tour and witness that every single night on tour and not have some kind of regret overall.
Do you harbor guilt about it?
Yeah. It got a little dark for me. It was hard for me to swallow a little bit. It's not anything that I ever anticipated or intended. I'm not hard on myself about it; I just don't love it. I don't love that that was part of what we did, unintentionally.
Let's talk about the approach to the new record. One of the things that I'm most curious about is, as much as punk and hardcore comes from a place of progressive ideas, it's pretty conservative. Heatwave is hardcore and it's punk, but it kind of rewrites the rules and does its own thing. What are your thoughts on that? Trying to stay within the "rules."
I genuinely believe that the way I feel and the way that other people in the band feel is like a complete disregard for those rules. Obviously, there are things that we like that like tie us to those titles, being hardcore or punk. But I don't — and I know Brendan [Yates] and Sam [Trapkin] don't — go into it with any goal to stay within a certain lane. Whatever feels good. I genuinely just get off on rubbing people the wrong way.
At the same time, it feels good to be appreciated and when people have a positive response to the record. When we premiered a song, we knew that we would get some kind of backlash because ultimately that's what we want. I wanna hear that. I wanna hear people say "What the fuck is this?" because I think anything that's going to be cool or innovative is never gonna be accepted easily. Anything worth doing that I've done in my life was met with loud resistance.
So, this record is 11 songs in 14 minutes. A lot of people are going to say "14 minutes... Is that an LP?" What's your response to that?
That's a Pop Wig LP. Hardcore records weren't meant to be super long records. I have a short attention span and I think the average human being does too. That's why social media and cell phones and technology is advanced as it is. Heatwave is everything I want in a record. After that 14 minutes is over, I feel like I got everything I need out of it. I don't want to put any bullshit in there to appease the industry standard of what an LP is. Industry standard doesn't really mean anything to us.
Are there any bands that you look up to who have reinvented themselves and made it work?
On a smaller scale, it would be Ceremony. I think they're the coolest band in the world for that reason, whether you like this record or that record. Everybody has their favorite record and it's usually different. It's great watching how they could stay the same band and still recreate themselves every record. I remember when they put out Rohnert Park, I texted Anthony [Anzaldo] from Ceremony and said "You literally just changed the whole way I perceive hardcore and punk music with this record. With the way that your band just stays evolving and changing, without fear of what people are gonna think about it." Very brave and exciting to me.
Did you have any of that mentality when you were doing the record, like just let the chips fall where they may kind of a thing?
Where the chips fall, for sure. I think that's pretty much the same with everybody in the band. You just get older and you become more confident in what you like. Doing something that we thought people would think is cool, never once has that equated to success. Never once has that paid off for Trapped Under Ice or any creative endeavor I've been involved in. I feel like during any era of Trapped Under Ice, that's what separated us and what people valued about us. We're just kind of doing our own thing. And I feel like every release we've done, every era was met with that same resistance and it all just proves to pay off in the end. So let the chips fall where they will, what feels good. There are certain conscious things that you wanna create, like a more positive atmosphere that isn't welcoming to bullies. But as far as the creative aspect of it, let the chips fall.
Obviously, you're involved in hardcore and punk with Pop Wig, but outside of that is hardcore part of your musical world? You know, when you go home do you put on modern hardcore to chill?
I wouldn't say I chill out with it. [Laughs] Around the house for sure. And I'm always pursuing and listening to new music in any form of punk rock. A band that is pretty cool for me, being from Baltimore and watching them blossom, is Queensway. They just played Sound of Fury with us, and they did an EP or a short LP that I listen to a lot on Spotify. That's something that I listen to, unravel and pick apart. That said, you can't just listen to heavy Baltimore and New York hardcore influenced stuff all day long, but it definitely is something that I visit very frequently.
There are tracks on this record that fly very close to Angel Du$t and Turnstile material. Do you feel like your other bands are creeping into TUI?
I don't think there is anything wrong with that. I think that's cool. I think like me and Brendan stepping away from each other and doing bands separately kind of helps to define what we like as far as writing songs. And the funny thing is a few songs here were originally written as TUI songs around the time we stopped playing shows. There's elements of that when we were starting to write Angel Du$t songs.
In the end though, I'm not trying to hide the fact that I'm the guy from Angel Du$t. I'm Justice, the guy from Pop Wig who plays in all these bands. I don't think there's any need to hide that Brendan is in the band either. If it feels like Turnstile, that's because the guy from Turnstile is in the band.
What's something surprising that you listen to that could have creeped its way onto Heatwave?
I don't think anything should surprise people but sometimes when I'm wearing a band t-shirt, the internet will be like "Oh, why's he wearing this shirt?" I don't know, it's crazy people are still one-dimensional. Do they think I just sit in my room and play my own band all day long? [Laughs] But a lot of stuff very consciously creeps into the record. I think one thing, some of the faster elements and shooting for chaotic elements, that is definitely influenced by Gauze, the Japanese hardcore punk band. I don't think that's something that people would obviously see, and it's not something I'm saying the record sounds like, but it's there in our way.
Pop music is one thing that shines through everything in our circle. In Brendan's band, Sam's band or Brad [Hyra] and Jared [Carman's] band, there is a subtle pop influence. There's songs that we wrote where I remember listening to Prince and being like damn, I can't believe this element of songwriting. This is a feeling that I wanna imitate and recreate in a hardcore song.
Do you attribute the stylistic shift on Heatwave to a long time away and a focus on other projects?
Definitely. Time away is a big factor and I don't think it's a bad thing. I think it's really cool that was partly an effect of the decision to stop playing shows and see the band from a different perspective. And definitely doing other bands, I think we each learned what we want as songwriters individually — doing different projects makes you a better songwriter. If anything, it made the vision for Trapped Under Ice clearer for exactly what we wanted.