Interview: Bent Blue’s Tony Berolino Gushes Over New EP ‘Where Do Ripples Go?’

Exposed and honest, the songs of Bent Blue capture raw emotion with ardent vulnerability. This San Diego melodic hardcore band channel their frustration from a crumbling world through an intense version of punk. The D.C. influence is brash and unapologetic; think Rites Of Spring, Embrace, Dag Nasty, etc. Add some Dan Yemin, more Paint It Black, but Lifetime too; Pat Flynn, a la Have Heart and Free, especially; recent bands such as Western Addiction, Walk The Plank, even some unpolished Bane. 

Bent Blue only began their trek in 2020. After a demo, WAR picked them up and reissued it as a 12-inch EP. Now, this seven-track wonder announces itself with heart but also caustic guitar lines and original rhythms. Vocalist Tony Bertolino’s excitement is palpable.  

We’re just excited to write and play music. The band started as a project that we didn’t think anyone would care about. It’s been cool to see there are people into what we’re doing. I think the motivation is to keep having fun and see what else we can do that we didn’t originally think was possible.” 

The casual acceptance of a fickle hardcore fandom is empowering. But the reality of a fantastic record sitting in fans’ hands finally is a special moment for Bertolino.  

“I’m hyped! It feels so good to finally have this thing see the light of day. We recorded the EP back in early 2021 and have had to wait over a year to get it out because of vinyl plant issues. We’ve already begun playing some of the songs at shows, so it’s going to be cool to have those tracks available for people to get familiar with ahead of time.” 

Reflecting back on the egregious and low hanging fruit comparison to DC’s Revolution Summer, Bertolino admits but molds his response. “When we were all looking to start a hardcore band, the four of us landed on a handful of old-school influences we intersected on. Most of these fit primarily in the more stoic sounds of D.C.-style hardcore. But we didn’t want to be some kind of style-worship band either and not put out anything original. I think the balance has been struck by keeping songs eclectic and kind of unexpected.” 

“Eclectic and Unexpected” is a damn fine way to put it. While a cohesive record which has a bold flow, the twist and turns are as engaging as they are welcome. Recorded and mixed by Gabe VanBenschoten (producer Ancestors, Daisy Chain, Horse The Band), there is a certain ebb and flow to the EP, acknowledging the attention given to the sequence of songs. This is sometimes lost with “early singles” and tracks for playlists on streaming platforms. Some people tend to miss the experience of a full album. 

Bertolino expands, “Yeah, we definitely put a lot of thought into track order. Like I mentioned before, our songs are eclectic. Each track is pretty distinct from the next. We wanted to make sure that if a listener wasn’t feeling one particular track for whatever reason, that the next song was different enough from the last to pull them back in. Fast to mid-paced, aggressive to melodic, straightforward to experimental.” 

VanBenschoten’s experience behind the boards aided Bent Blue in honing their ideas and solidifying the exacting execution. There is a loose, raw feeling to the record. Where Do Ripples Go?, self-released and out now, is an explosive yet introspective dynamic harnessed within 15 minutes. Bertolino lauds Gabe for his guidance. “Working with Gabe was such a cool experience. He’s a talented musician, which makes him a good partner to have in the studio. He was quick to pick up on the direction we wanted to head in for the record. He always offered meaningful feedback to consider, and because of his experience, we trusted him as a sounding board for new ideas. We’re stoked to have worked with him. 

The lyrics for the song “Commodified Existence” is a declaration against the willingness of humans as consumers to exchange data as currency for convenience, ease, and speed—and a ‘platform’ for their ‘ideas’ and behaviors. While that information, through the corporation’s eyes, eliminates individuality for data points. Bertolino elaborates on this suggestion, adding, “as well as the general idea that capitalism requires the objectification of humans. Profit motive demands low costs and high consumption. That motivation often incentivizes companies to pay workers as little as possible to maximize profit. A lot of us forget that our consumption comes at the cost of dignity and humanity for ‘expendable’, out-of-sight workers and the resources of ‘distant’ communities.”  

The second half of 2022 will be spent by Bent Blue sharing this emotional expedition with crowds on both coasts. “We just announced a U.S. East Coast tour with the band Stand Still that begins the end of July. We’re super stoked on that. Back home, we’ve got several cool shows planned for Fall, including playing this new hardcore festival in Santa Barbara called Your Life In America Fest. We’ve also got a live session we’re setting up with Half Way Home in San Diego later this year that should be a cool experience.” 

As the band share their new project, Bent Blue are also gearing up for a handful of live dates. Check those out below:

July 29 – Long Island, NY – Frogzz Saloon (No SS)
July 31 – Richmond, VA – The Camel
Aug 1 – Raleigh, NC – School Kids Records
Aug 2 – Atlanta, GA – Sabbath Brewery
Aug 3 – Tallahassee, FL – The Bark
Aug 4 – Evansville, IN – Damsel’s
Aug 5 – Chicago, IL – The Rumble (No BB)
Aug 6 – Toledo, OH – Ottowa Tavern

Preorder the vinyl here, and stream Where Do Ripples Go? in full below:

For more from Bent Blue, find them on Facebook, Instagram, and Bandcamp.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Andrade

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