Interview with vocalist/guitarist Jason Yawn | By Doug Nunnally
The past 12 months have been monumental in terms of pivotal political events. From Ferguson and Baltimore to the TPP and net neutrality, there’s just so much happening and it’s only natural for these events to infiltrate and influence the music world. Washington D.C. hardcore band Free Children of Earth released their second album titled Terminal Stasis, a record with a concrete social and political consciousness. “It’s a call back to a lyric from an MC5 song called ‘American Ruse,’” explains frontman Jason Yawn. Much like that politically charged classic, Terminal Stasis is full of ideas that constantly buck the status quo.
“[It’s] pretty much about how I’m seeing the world,” Yawn says. “It seems like we’re in a time when old systems of power and ways things have always been done—they’re all rapidly becoming relics. People have more information now than ever before, and that causes a demand for the removal of the power that restricts what we’re supposed to be.”
Each song on Terminal Stasis goes into detail about the systemic ways that those in power victimize the world rather than enhance it. For example, on “PaperSkinBars,” Yawn examines the problems people of color face with criminalization and underemployment. It’s one of many topics Yawn has been solidifying his stance on since he first got into activism at the age of 18. “It’s something I’ve thought about for a long time and been involved with in regards to pushing back,” he clarifies. “These old ways are not going to stand anymore. It’s time to realize how insane it’s always been.”
Despite the strong political message of the music, Yawn insists that the D.C. quartet is “a band first and foremost.” You won’t see Yawn on stage preaching his views to an unsuspecting crowd mid show. Instead, Yawn is all about creating a band with music that is just worthwhile. “If we’re not doing something that’s interesting musically or has merits, the words aren’t going to mean anything and it’s just not going to connect,” he explains.
In order to get that connection, the band went through a stressful and risky recording process for Terminal Stasis. Since the band’s members are rarely in the same place at the same time, they condensed a normally lengthy process into just a few days. “We hadn’t played as a full band with all the songs,” Yawn details. “I had written the album for a year, but we just hadn’t been in the same room together as a complete band until three days before we tracked. [Drummer] Andrew [Black] flew in on Wednesday, we practiced Thursday and Friday, and then did principal tracking on Saturday.”
On top of that, the band only allowed themselves a maximum of three takes per song while recording. It was something Yawn thought would help recreate the live feeling of the band, a quality that had been missing previously. “We had talked about capturing our live sound on a recording, because I think the first full-length kind of failed to do that,” he says. “The last record essentially was written and recorded before we ever played a show, though, so we didn’t have the benefit of hearing what the band should sound like live.” That benefit didn’t ease the stress of recording. Yawn found himself finishing lyrics shortly before a song was put to tape, a process he describes as “unbelievably stressful,” but it led to a final product that he proclaims is “easily [my] favorite thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Behind the scenes, Ben Green from Fairweather offered whatever help he could as producer. Yawn, a partner in the Cricket Cemetery label, had become enamored with Green’s work, especially on the Loud Boyz’ recent album. “It sounded fucking awesome and we just wanted that for our record,” exclaims Yawn. “There were other producers we thought about, but Ben was by far the best person for the job.” The finished product is a 10 song record that’s urgent not just in its message, but also in its runtime. “10 songs and about 23 minutes,” Yawn says. “To me, long records just always end up having filler, so we didn’t want that. If one of them wasn’t blowaway, we would have just left it off and had maybe only 20 minutes. Who cares? I didn’t know the runtime until we sent it off to print. It just didn’t matter.”
Terminal Stasis offers a clear-cut identity for the band, though Yawn warns, “We’re never going to make the same record twice. It’s pointless and I can’t write in a way that I’m hearing an echo of something I’ve already done.” This desire to be bigger, better, different, and more vocal than ever has led to some of the best punk records in history. Free Children of Earth might just join that punk pantheon with a record befitting the turbulent times of our society.