By Morgan Y. Evans | Live shots from NEMHC Fest 2013 by J.M.
The recent good word came down the mountain from Prosthetic Records in August that breakneck punk/death/grinders Trap Them will be returning to GodCity Studio in Salem, Mass. this fall to record a new full length with Kurt Ballou of Converge (due out in 2014 as the crow flies). Trap Them are a band that throw their bodies and minds fully into their art, a reminder that inconsiderate artists who play for fool’s gold will miss the true ritual freedom of embracing raw musical expression. They carry all the weight of The Jesus Lizard or Black Flag or any band who (at their peak) gave their all to the music, a contrast to pampered rock stars who can never manage to bury the hatchet with their ex-bandmates or whatever the fuck. I was worried for a bit that 2011’s thrilling Darker Handcraft would be Trap Them’s last release, but earlier this year the band hit the live stage for the first time in a year and a half at the vaunted new England Metal & Hardcore Festival and put to rest rumors of their demise.
Due to various factors almost too numerous to explain here, my interview with vocalist Ryan McKenney from the first day of NEMHC this year feels like it took just as long to see the light of day! Trap Them killed it headlining the second stage the day they played, a shot in the arm of exposed nerves and warts and all angelic (or rather very human) vulnerability dancing on the head of a pin pulled from a grenade of seriously bottled up anger. You should have been there.
The whole Friday at NEMHC I attended was a blast, with bands like The Mongoloids, Death Before Dishonor and especially the humorous Municipal Waste delivering high energy, crowd rallying sets. Every Time I Die sounded heavier than I’d ever heard them, hitting the stage with a serious ferocity in the fresh wake of the Boston Marathon bombings that hit close to home for regional festival attendees of the Palladium in Worcester. Trap Them were nonetheless the stand out band of the day, frighteningly talented and back in action on their own terms. Brian Izzi can write riffs to sting your guilty conscience.
I wanted to give Trap Them fans something to enjoy while they wait for the new record to come out next year, so here is my overdue talk with Ryan from back in April.
“Things like this are cool, in varying degrees,” said Ryan McKenney that day, a bit anxious but friendly pre-show. “I don’t do well with large crowds. While we’re playing I can handle it because I’m not paying attention. A lot of these tests I’m all anxiety ridden. Humanity overload. I’ve never been able to handle it. That’s the thing, you feel nervous and shitty until the moment you play. Then you don’t feel it. I can go hide afterward or whatever but I don’t have to be sucked into something where I’m completely paranoid.
I asked him what kind of things made him nervous.
“More of the headlining bands are not from the type of music I associate myself with,” Ryan said. “I grew up more in the punk scene, so when I am here it is kind of a black wave. You show up and wonder if you are automatically judged. It’s kind of like being in high school. You walk around wondering if you are being judged and feeling like something might be wrong. Most of the time nothing’s wrong, but…y’know. I mean, I’d be lying if I said I am not a little nervous today. It’s been over a year and a half since we played. Yesterday was the first time since August 2011 that we played together in the same room. I went to the first one of these (NEMHC). Great time. Years later to be thought of enough to have this be offered to us…I have no delusions of grandeur. This entire fest, we’re all small fish in a small pond. When you’ve devoted this much time to doing something where even at the best you’re not achieving much in life, it is the type of thing where you think… you know what? It was kind of all worth it.”
Ryan and I were semi-huddled under the tent Prosthetic was using outdoors and it was slightly cold. I asked him if it is hard to come down from the adrenaline or release of a show.
“Kind of,” he admitted. “It used to be a lot different but for the last couple years when we toured I did the merch, so I just had to suck it up. Work while I’m either dripping or bleeding and just deal with it. The unwinding comes once you load back in and the show is over. You get a couple minutes before you get in the van. If anything the singer should be working harder. You don’t have to set up anything so help carry some shit. Use the pythons. Stop being a lazy bitch. Some singers just carry a cymbal bag and get tired. I know my role. I do the Tetris in the van.”
In his matter of fact, take it or leave it congenial manner, McKenney revealed a contrast to the wounded animal fighting for life he can be on stage.
“I hope everything goes well and then I’ll be really happy,” Ryan allowed. “Being thrown back into this after so long you just hope,” Oh god, please don’t let me fuck up”. We want to experiment with trying to have real lives and still do the band when we can. It’s still full time. We’re not fuckin’ around.”
Trap Them is not fuckin’ around. That’s for sure.
More photos of Trap Them on the next page… (or click here)