Interview with vocalist Chris Colohan | By Hutch
The pedigree of SECT is incredible. Stacked with hardcore punk vets in each slot, their five contributors have cultivated a rich history, but none seems interested in touting any one single member’s past. The music and, more importantly, the message are immediate, harvesting concern and motivating fury from the present tense. Blasting ugly, confrontational D-beat crustcore, steeped in savage commentary regarding society’s conflicts, SECT presented No Cure for Death on Southern Lord.
The members’ histories are an inevitable point of discussion. Vocalist Chris Colohan has been screaming since 1992. He continued in revered entities such as Left For Dead, Cursed, and, most recently, blessed eardrums with Burning Love. Guitarist Scott Crouse has mangled six strings for straight edge vegan kings, Earth Crisis and Path Of Resistance. Joining on guitar is James Chang, formerly of Catharsis and Undying, and bassist Steve Hart, formerly of Day Of Suffering. Notably, Andy Hurley—of Racetraitor, Fall Out Boy, and Enabler fame—joins on drums.
Still, the members have little interest in dwelling on audiences’ potential sense of awe. Colohan explains, “We came together because of our own connections to each other and because we share a common starting point and background, not to consciously combine credibility or ‘scene points.’ That’s entirely everyone else’s deal to look at it that way or see things as a ‘supergroup.’ We started from scratch like any band would, have no entitled or grandiose expectations of it, and are happy to work hard for anything we get out of it based on SECT alone.”
In that spirit, Colohan distills his motivation to the same youthful impulse and connection that have united outcasts for four decades. “Catharsis. Just as it was at age 16,” he admits. The outside’s twisted system provides elements that just make sense when feeling pissed. “It’s just a raw vent to your absolute worst thoughts,” he adds. “Everything feels better when you can haul off and let some of that out.”
Politically, 2017 and the years roiling to this point have been perfect fodder. The ideas and themes that propel No Cure for Death are a sincere reflection on the world’s looming vision. “Well, if music is a vent for your frustrations, and you’re drawing those on the bleak, authoritarian, unfair realities of the world around you, you could hardly have a more urgent moment in history to find things to scream about in all directions than the present,” Colohan accedes. “Themes on No Cure for Death range from the personal—such as feeling like a perpetual outsider in a culture made for/by outsiders, struggles with mental health and the false solutions and dependency offered by corporate medication—to the political, with songs about the hypocrisy and selective politics of the ‘pro-life’ movement when the same forces that drive it are fine with the violence and misery inflicted on all forms of life outside of the womb; songs about the modern incarceration industry compensating for the gains of the civil rights movement and abolition of slavery by retaining a de facto version of the same pecking order with the same victims in new kinds of chains; songs about the conscious assault on our attention spans and version of reality, manipulated now in real-time at levels far beyond anything Orwell imagined—and more! Fun, right?”
It is fun—or, if not fun, at least invigorating. That anger and rage, which stems from and gathers community as a proponent for change, is stabilizing, and when you scream and finger-point along, it is enjoyable.
No Cure for Death is not all cynicism and vitriol. Within this bitter scene, there are avenues of recourse—hence so many factions existing in these scenes—that spur improvement of this country and the world’s sociopolitical issues. Some people choose vegan and/or straight edge. Some choose anti-consumerism and boycotting. Seeing Indecision and Most Precious Blood’s Justin Brannan be elected to District 43 New York City Council affirms his desire to embed malcontents in the system. Other scarred and dejected fans choose nihilism or anarchy. Some simply leave the U.S. for different political constructs.
Are any of these viable options for causing change beyond preaching to one’s own choir? “That’s a good question,” Colohan reflects. “I want to say I agree, because I’m not sure how much I actually expect it to work in the bigger picture so much as I do it because I have to believe it could. But I don’t think we’d all have so much drive and anger if it weren’t for some pilot light that expects we could somehow beat it, make a better world or put a good-sized gash in theirs. Veganism and straight edge, for me personally, are [and] were a one-time choice based on what I did and didn’t want to allow control over me or my money or my body and mind, and which realities I want to support and boycott.”
“Straight edge differs person to person by their history and reasons, but I think veganism more immediately affects a whole category of lifeforms that don’t have a say in being exploited for profit,” he continues. “That violence is cut from the same fabric as the violence that people rationalize happening to other people who aren’t immediately them: racial, sexual, imperialist, or otherwise. The things we do to the earth for money and greed are one and the same as the things we do to each other.”
“Running for office? Fuck me, who knows?” he says, calling back to Brannan’s election. “That system is so thoroughly rigged and safeguarded against genuine threats to its underlying order, I don’t know if it is changeable from within, but props to anyone really trying. Boycotting, 100 percent. I think this is the biggest threat and leverage left, and it connects directly with the attempt to scatter all forms of real talk amongst people. We need to tune out the divisive bullshit, make lists of where our money goes, and organize true and permanent boycotts of those things we don’t like or the powers connected to them. This one—pessimistic as I am—I can see raising fear in the powerful, as evidenced by the swift and nervous backlash to contain the [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] movement, [a global campaign to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians]. That’s usually a sign that this is a direction we should be looking into, regardless of how else we’re fighting and voting.”
“Is politics garbage? I mean, yeah,” Colohan concedes. “When attached as it is to religion and economy, politics is a pendulum that swings from right to left to keep us blabbering about our teams, while a specific agenda sails on unchecked under all the chaos, dead on schedule while we burn out trying to fight ghosts. Of course it’s garbage.”
The ideas burn intensely, but not all fans are pushing play to hear diatribes. SECT’s music, ignited by this incendiary contemplation, sears on the band’s second album—which comes just a year after their self-titled debut. This sound, very similar to Colohan’s resume, is a departure for other members. SECT’s arsenal employs low-tuned grooves, frenzied blast beats soldiering among feedback, and chaotic riffs. They share inspirations with D-beat bands like Wolfbrigade, Anti Cimex, Totalitär—and Discharge and His Hero Is Gone, obviously—but a larger scope of sound like Hail Of Bullets, Skitsystem, Amebix, and Tragedy enter the spectrum. Hearing the grander climaxes and slowed paces paired with atmospheric devastation, one understands SECT’s perspective. The world’s demise is occurring: it needs a soundtrack. Humans, in design and action, incur deserved blame with no retribution.
Chang’s time in Undying and Colohan’s in Cursed and The Swarm are maybe the closest hint of SECT’s musical direction, but Crouse’s tenure seeps into the writing while still exhibiting his yearning for something more organic and raw than Earth Crisis. Colohan lends these two much of the credit. “Scott and Jimmy write everything, demo it, and send it to us, and we all start from there,” he explains. “[We] move things around as we feel them out, once we’re all in one room. The first LP was us going into it very fast and fairly blind. Though the songs had been written for a year or more, we recorded it thinking it would be a demo session at the end of—a.k.a. three days into—the first time we all got into the same place, [North Carolina]. In the year since then, and with playing and touring, we know what vibes best and what directions to follow, so Scott and Jimmy got to write the No Cure for Death songs with the advantage of that, compared to the first LP.”
The cohesion from a year of playing live shows, but geography is still an obstacle. SECT pull members from the Midwest—both the U.S. and Canada—New York State and the American South. “We had to do a lot by remote control, since we live so far away from each other,” Colohan shares. “So, it was some trial and error sending songs back and forth with our parts added until we could get together and jam it firsthand. That was new for me, probably more than the other guys.”
When it came time to record, Colohan recruited the best in the genre. Luckily, thanks to Burning Love, he had a relationship with Southern Lord Recordings and producer Kurt Ballou at GodCity Studio in Salem, Massachusetts. On Southern Lord, Colohan comments, “They’re always great to deal with. They put a lot of love into the records they put out. I like the mix of classic hardcore, doom, and bands like ours—all under one roof.”
When SECT decided to fuse their sonic inspiration with that of noise monger, Ballou, the world made sense. “I was the only one who had worked with Kurt before that, and [I] have known him for 20 years outside of that,” Colohan adds, “but I knew from the sound everyone was going for that Kurt would knock it out of the park, and he did. He has great toys, the right amount of input and guidance in the process, and he’s got it so dialed in at GodCity that it sounds done pretty much right off the floor. We stayed in Salem for the week and took in all the good witchy vibes, the Satanic Temple, and that place with the great quinoa bowls.”
No Cure for Death features irreverent titles, like the callous “Crocodile Prayers,” which eviscerates the “pro-life” movement and their hypocrisy. The lyrics expose hollow actions with gems like “Legislate, dominate,” “You don’t give a fuck when they make it out the womb,” and “Loss of inventory, loss of capital / Save your crocodile prayers for the living!” Placed over Hurley’s brutal blast beats and tom fills, the track is monumental—in under two minutes. The mid-paced groove of “Day for Night” rides thunder and guitar squeals, lyrically twisting and turning through inflicted depression and medication. Other tracks conjure vile tones while disassembling patriotism, dismantling automation’s impending ubiquity, and disavowing police militarization and economic slavery.
As if all the key components were not already locked, one more seasoned noise-wrangler was needed to polish and extract this D-beat reckoning: Alan Douches, hardcore mixing and mastering sensei, was recruited. “Alan is a veteran’s veteran, has mastered Cursed and many things I’ve been part of,” Colohan says. “None of us were in the same place when it came down the pipeline, but between Kurt’s and Alan’s work, we were all pretty proud and surprised to hear the end result. I always have to laugh when I hear something I have any part in and have to say, ‘Whoa, that sounds like a real record!’ I don’t think it’s dawned on me yet that I might be a musician.”
Unfortunately, Colohan cannot outline the band’s itinerary for 2018. Not due to some label’s desire for dangling a carrot; it’s just how SECT operate. But their ambitions match their musicianship and motivation, and Colohan ensures there will be “tours and shows! We never know more than a few steps ahead, but, for being so far and wide, we’ve managed to pull off runs of shows every six weeks or so. There’ll be more of that. We’re gonna hit any places we didn’t get to yet, go back to the E.U., go anywhere we can that’ll have us.”
With No Cure for Death as currency, borders will open.