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Harm’s Way Interview: Vans Warped Tour 2018

Chicago hardcore band Harm’s Way are bringing their aggressive and heavy music out on the final cross-country run of the Vans Warped Tour.  Their sense of community and individuality runs deep through their lyrics and the message of the band.  The band is touring in promotion of their latest release, Posthuman, and we were able to sit down with vocalist James Pligge and drummer Chris Mills to discuss their new music.

Groovey.TV: Your latest album Posthuman has been out for few months now and you guys have toured extensively since its release. How is the new material fitting into your live shows and how has the crowd reception been?
James: I think the new songs are going over really well. Before this we did a headliner to promote Posthuman and it was probably the best tour we’ve ever done. The whole album is being received very well. As far as the songs live, there seem to be a lot more people getting to know the new songs as we play them more and more. We’ve released a few videos and you can kind of tell which songs people have become more familiar with from the new album. I would say overall it’s been awesome and the whole album has been received well.

GTV: This album was a big release for the band. What has been different this time around as opposed to previous releases?
Chris: I think just time and budget. We took a long time writing the record, demoing the record, doing preproduction, and just really sitting with the songs. Working with a producer like Will Putney was also a big change for us. On our previous few releases we worked with our friend Andy Nielson out of Bricktop Studios in Chicago. That was a change of scenery for us because we traveled out to New Jersey to track and to do preproduction. Will kind of helped get the best out of the songs, get the best out of our performances, and just helped throughout the whole preproduction phase to elevate the songs to a higher level.

GTV: This is your first album on your new label Metal Blade Records but you released limited edition vinyls through a couple of your previous labels. Were those relationships important to the band to maintain and involve?
Ryan: Absolutely. With Closed Casket Activities, who released our LP Isolation, and Deathwish Inc., who released Rust and Blinded, it was really important for us to preserve those relationships and also stay rooted in the community in which the band came up in. So by doing those limited edition releases with them, it was kind of just a way for us to stay grounded in those worlds and to stay connected to our previous fan base.

GTV: You guys had a small string of shows right before kicking off Warped Tour. What can we expect from a Warped set that is different than other tours?
James: I think the most obvious difference is how the crowd reacts and kind of being a little bit more intimate with the crowd. You’re obviously in a smaller venue and the crowds aren’t nearly as big but there are definitely 200 or 300 people at the front of the stage. The securities different, there’s not that big barrier between you and the crowd. If people want to sing along and know the lyrics, I can hand the mic to them. Obviously here it’s a little bit harder to do that. The shows that we mostly play are metal and hardcore, so those are mostly the people that come out. Whereas here you can play to a wide variety of people who have never heard your band or just listen to pop-punk and are trying to check out your band, so it’s definitely a different dynamic.
Chris: It’s also different playing in the sun and daylight everyday.   As a band, aesthetically, we’re pretty dark, kind of a cold vibe. To perform these songs in an outdoor, bright setting has been kind of an adjustment for us. It’s been welcome and cool, definitely enjoyable thus far.

GTV: I read that you like the punk and hardcore scene because of its’ independence to explore musically. Do you still believe in the independence of the punk and hardcore scene?
Chris: Absolutely. It’s part of the ethos of this band and will always be part of this band. It’s what we grew up in, it’s what the band came out of, and it’s still a music scene and a subculture that we are still very much immersed in. It’s something that’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
James: I definitely think that it’s something that has allowed us to be very individualistic in the way we write music and the way we perform. Even in our own scene of people we’ve been pretty unique in the way we write music and some of the different things we do. I think it’s cool to embrace that and if you’re familiar with punk and hardcore, it’s really just about being who you are and being true to yourself and not really paying attention to what other people think about you. I think that’s an important aspect to maintain through a music career.

GTV: The band has been around for a long time and has seen how the trends in music work. Do you find that when the spotlight is on hardcore music that it changes the scene in anyway, either good or bad?
Chris: It’s interesting because I think it happens in waves throughout the years. Look at when Hatebreed broke, or Earth Crisis, they were doing Ozzfest and stuff like that. It seems that there is this cycle where bigger labels or more mainstream outlets will take punk or hardcore or more aggressive music and try to repackage it for the masses. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing, per say. It’s like us doing Warped Tour. In many ways, it is a pretty mainstream fest; there’s a lot of commercialization. But it gives us a lot of opportunities to maybe expose somebody to a whole other world that they may not know exists. So I don’t think it’s a bad thing, I just think it exposes more people to the subculture and to aggressive music in general. It’s going to stick with some people and not stick with others. Maybe from a corporate standpoint there are some cringy things that may happen. But I think as long as bands are staying true to themselves and aren’t changing to fit some sort of mold, then there’s no problem with it.
James: Yeah, as long as you’re not changing musical style or changing who you are to fit the mainstream just to be popular or to make money, I think that’s the main thing. As long as you stay rooted to who you are and the way you originated as a band, that’s most important.

GTV: You’ve said that hardcore music is emotional and a space for people to process different emotions in. Do you write music to help yourself emotionally or do you write it for your fans?
Chris: It all comes from raw emotion. From the heaviest songs we have to the more atmospheric, melodic songs, it’s all coming from a place of raw emotion. Some people think that hardcore is just there to have people get down and mosh and beat each other up, but there’s so much more to it for us and there’s so much more to music than that. If anyone will actually sit with the lyrics and the music, they’ll see that it’s a very multi-layer thing. So for us, it’s very much an outlet to process emotions and to deal with the bullshit that comes with everyday life. I know for James specifically, he’s the primary lyricist and he can probably elaborate more on that.
James: The lyrics I write are interpersonal feelings that are going on. It’s not always something I’m feeling but it is something I have felt. Whether its anxiety or depression or anger, I think it’s important to have things in your life that you can let those feelings out in a positive way. Music has always been that for me and I think the whole band can agree that just playing aggressive music kind of lets out a certain feeling that you can ‘t really get out in any other outlet. We’ve mentioned this before, along with fitness, that’s the way we get those feelings out. I think those are positive ways to help influence the world as opposed to being negative between interactions with people everyday or taking drugs or alcohol or things that are negative for you and others around you. Music has always been the core version for me to let those things out.

GTV: What has the atmosphere been on the final cross-country run of Warped Tour and what do you think the legacy of Warped Tour holds in our culture?
Chris: It’s been cool. The shows have been huge. Everyone has caught wind of the fact that it is the last one so it’s bringing a lot of people out of the woodwork. It’s been a really diverse crowd with a lot of young kids to a lot of old folks who maybe were around for the first few Warped Tours. It’s been a cool vibe. As far as the legacy of Warped Tour, for us, we were going to Warped Tour in the early 2000s. My first Warped Tour was in 2003 and I remember rushing to see bands like Poison the Well, Alkaline Trio, and Thrice and stuff like that when I was young. It gave me a space at a really young age to see a lot of different bands in one place. The hope is that this tour has done that for a lot of people.
James: Warped Tour has always been a staple for people to go to a place and see as many bands as they can handle in one day. I find it hard to believe you can’t find one band that you didn’t discover or take something from in a whole day of music. When I was younger, that was the festival to go to, between that and Ozzfest. If you liked more of the punk style of music, you went to Warped Tour. It was the first time I ever saw AFI. It’s a cool event and it’s unfortunate it’s ending but at the same time I think it’s had a cool impact on music, in the mainstream and in the underground. I’m sure there will be something that takes its place.

GTV: After Warped Tour you guys are going over seas for the festival circuit. Any plans for the fall that you can share with us?
Chris: We have some tours coming up in the fall that we can’t really delve into yet, just for announcement purposes. But we’ll be all over the USA doing hardcore stuff, doing crossover metal stuff between October and December. In 2019 we’ll definitely be doing a lot of international stuff, going to different continents to push Posthuman as much as we can.

Check out Harm’s Way latest album Posthumans

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