Urban Sprawl are a fast-rising hardcore band out of San Fransisco Bay Area. By their name alone, you can tell that this is a band who takes the problems of their city seriously. When they dropped their 2018 demo, ears across the nation, and the world, were eager to hear their take on the plight of the former bohemian paradise, now locked in a double chokehold due to the influence of big tech and real estate speculation.
Urban Sprawl’s social commentary is made all the more urgent by the band’s vicious take on vintage Poison Idea and Nerve Agents riffs, with a shot in the arm of sheer speed and modern aggression drawn from a deep well of inspiration that includes more contemporary bands like Violent Minds, Wasted Time, and Green Beret.
Urban Sprawl have a new seven-inch they are ready to drop on January 22 called Concrete Altar. It will be out via Revelation Records, and you can get an early taste with our premiere of the video for their song “Slaughtered.”
Check the video below, and then keep scrolling down to read an exclusive interview with vocalist Taylor Todd.
Interview conducted on January 13. It has been edited slightly for the sake of clarity.
How long have you been working on your new 7″?
We started writing early in 2019 and ended up recording in October 2019. Due to the pandemic, and a few other setbacks, the release got pushed back till now. We’ve been sitting on these tracks for a while and are beyond stoked that the release is coming to fruition.
Are there any overarching lyrical themes to this album?
I definitely touch upon a bunch of different themes throughout the record, but I would say an overarching theme of the record can be summed up in the title track of the record, “Concrete Altar.” I think now more than ever, folks are being disconnected from our true needs and the realities of our humanity. Many are willing to put tradition, industry, social Darwinism, and capital upon a pedestal of worship over the livelihood of our fellow humans. All the ways in which this idea of devotion to tradition works against their best interests and denies the sanctity and reality of others.
The urban landscape has become an archetype of these illusions in a very blatant and obvious way; high-rise buildings and condos are being unveiled while people starve and struggle to make an honest living. The COVID-19 crisis has shown this to be more evident in all the disgusting and privileged ways many folks are willing to put people’s lives at risk for their selfish conveniences. Not to mention the lack of aid and backward, right-wing, trickle-down views have denied millions any support or dignity.
With my lyrics, I don’t really aim to push a particular viewpoint. The goal is to evoke a feeling or emotion that inspires people to actively seek out ideas and become active in questioning things around them.
Are you still operating in a Wasted Time x Violent Minds lane, or have you branched out in terms of your sound for this release?
Those definitely have remained huge influences, but I would say we’ve definitely added a few other elements into the mix as well. The biggest change in the musical stylings is that this is the first recording with a full band.
Kwame and I recorded the demo ourselves. All the members have thrown their particular flair on the tracks that have stirred the ship in a new direction from the demo. Ian is from Santa Cruz, so there’s more of a BL’AST influence. When we started playing together, this was Kurt’s first hardcore band he played in, so he’s approaching the drums from a different perspective, and Jasmine rips at the bass, so her four-string dominance is all up in the mix.
Why did you decide to release your new seven-inch on Revelation Records?
I mean, it was a pretty simple decision given that they are a legendary label with so many bands that had a huge influence on all of us. On top of that, Adam is a solid friend who has gone out of his way in a huge way and put his trust in us for this opportunity. We got to tour the Rev warehouse when we did a weekend down south with TORSO. There were a lot of screams of joy and big feelings when Adam busted out the rare Rev relics.
What are your plans for promoting the new seven-inch?
That’s a good question! I’m a teacher who’s been teaching in-person the last six months, so until I can get the vaccine, any live streaming stuff is sadly off the table. None of us are big internet people, so we’re trying to think of unique ways to get the word out without having to be annoying on Twitter. I had the idea of doing a mailing list where we’d send out zines and mixtapes, etc. … which was stolen directly from GIVE’s Flowerhead mailing list. More info to come if that comes to fruition.
How did COVID impact the recording and release of your album?
The recording not so much; we actually recorded the record at the end of October of 2019. The release date got pushed back for a bunch of reasons related to COVID. For example, our friend Beau, who did the cover art, did this incredible, gold-leaf painting for the record, but he couldn’t get the art digitized cause the photo studio that photographs his work had to shut down for the pandemic. Little setbacks like this added up.
How has COVID impacted your local, punk scene and the city of San Francisco more broadly?
You know, it’s kind of hard to say at the moment. Pre-pandemic musicians and the arts were hanging on by a thread. Venues were closing at an alarming rate, and the arts and culture that drew everyone to San Francisco began to dwindle as the influx of wealth began to become more and more disconnected with the realities of the community that built the city for what it is.
On the pandemic, many of the remaining venues have shut down or are barely hanging on. But, on the flip side, there has been a mass exodus from San Francisco, as the majority of tech companies have moved to permanent, work-from-home platforms. Literally, there were certain months where you could not get a moving truck, so many people were leaving.
With that, rent has declined more than 30 percent. So, on one hand, the decline in rent could open more possibilities in the future, but in terms of the quality of life people are experiencing at the moment, things aren’t looking good. Only time will tell!
What are your New Year’s Resolutions for 2021?
Work on more creative projects; read a lot of books; skate and surf a bunch, and when the vaccine rolls out and it’s safe to do so, play lots of gigs, and celebrate friendship.
Image courtesy of Revelation Records.