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Drain want you to embrace the past, present, and future of hardcore

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Drain appear on the cover of the Summer 2024 Issue — head to the AP Shop to grab a copy.

Sammy Ciaramitaro is tired. You wouldn’t really know it, given the way the Drain vocalist seems to have easygoing, garrulous posi vibes on tap, but the mug of coffee clasped in his paw for our early morning Zoom call is doing its share of work. This is what happens when your band blow up — you spend most of your waking hours doing things you thought were only for other people, and you end up wiped. It’s part of the deal.

Right now, Ciaramitaro has got a festival date on his mind. He knows it would probably be wise to send out the Bat signal to his bandmates — guitarist Cody Chavez and drummer Tim Flegal — and run their set before the weekend. But, if he’s being completely straight with himself, he’d rather head for the beach. “I was just talking to the guys,” he says. “We could practice, but honestly, we should have a bonfire instead. I think that would be really fun. I’ve got some firewood. We can just chill.”

Read more: In conversation with Scowl and Frank Iero

It has been a little more than 12 months since Ciaramitaro quit his job making merch at Print Head, a shop owned by Cole Kakimoto, his former bandmate in the now-legendary wrecking crew Gulch, to go all in on Drain. Given everything that’s happened since then, it’s easy to understand where he’s coming from when he says he needs some time to decompress. Having your life upended, even in a good way, is a lot to take on board. “Just keeping it real — it’s taken me a bit to find my flow,” he admits.

Tessa Wessel

Thanks to its party-ready blend of crossover thrash and snotty West Coast hardcore, Drain’s 2020 debut album, California Cursed, popped off during the escapism-vacuum of the pandemic, its gonzo energy and plentiful mosh parts standing out even amid a wildly stacked San Jose-Santa Cruz scene. The band subsequently signed with punk heavyweights Epitaph in anticipation of its follow-up — last May’s muscular, streamlined Living Proof — and almost overnight Ciaramitaro’s world tilted onto a new axis. He’d always worked, since he was a little kid in the family business, and that routine was suddenly gone, replaced by the feeling that things could go really right, or really wrong. “That was a very surreal period,” Ciaramitaro recalls. “I put all my chips in.”

Soon, though, the waiting was replaced by something altogether more chaotic and rewarding. If California Cursed had gotten their foot in the door, album two kicked it off its hinges. Any lingering anxiety was swept from the board as Ciaramitaro, Chavez, and Flegal hit the road, their day-to-day existence rapidly resembling a series of elaborate plate-spinning acts. “Things have just been snowballing,” Ciaramitaro says. “We dropped the record, and days later we started a full U.S. tour, the longest we had ever been out in one chunk. We were the headliners, and we’d never done that. The expectation was that, hopefully, people would come out. Basically, every show was sold out. It was awesome, dude.”

Sharpening the feeling that something cool was happening in Drain’s orbit was the Tarantino-level supporting cast they hauled along for that initial U.S. run. “We were just trying to see who was around,” Ciaramitaro recalls, noting that they essentially lucked into the sort of bills that people might talk about in ecstatic tones a few years along the line. As they ate up the miles, Drug Church and Magnitude slotted in alongside Restraining Order, Combust, Outta Pocket, Torena, and several groups who were operating out of the bulletproof Convulse Records stable at the time, including GEL, MSPAINT, and Gumm. “Different bands, different sounds, same umbrella,” Ciaramitaro reflects. “It was so cool, man. And it worked.”

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Tessa Wessel

Looking back now, Ciaramitaro sees that tour as a lightbulb moment. Still in the slipstream of its success, Drain started plotting something even bigger that would also, from their perspective, chime with the way they like to get their hands dirty at every level of the band’s existence. “I’m very intentional,” Ciaramitaro says. “When I’m making merch, it’s, ‘I want this blank, and I want these colors. This design is cool, but can we add these two little things?’ I really think about it. So, once we did that one tour, we started putting feelers out for the next one — the momentum was already there.” 

The result is the massive Good Good Tour, which will spill across North America this May and June, offering a hand-picked window into hardcore’s current genre-reshaping paradigm shift — through bands such as Drain’s Santa Cruz friends Scowl and Baltimore’s uncompromisingly brilliant End It — and also its febrile history. Modern greats Terror and Angel Du$t, led by Trapped Under Ice vocalist Justice Tripp, are inked onto the poster alongside NYHC stalwarts Madball and H2O. “I was like, ‘Dude, why don’t we say yes to everybody and figure out a way to make it cool?’” Ciaramitaro says.

That’s exactly what they did, with groups set to windmill into the frame for select shows, meaning that one person’s experience of the tour might be totally different from someone who goes a couple of nights later. By the time it winds up at Santa Cruz’s Civic Auditorium in June — for what’s already been termed the biggest hardcore show in the city’s history — it will have welcomed 17 bands across 23 dates, including massive “beach parties” in locales such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. “It’s surreal, dude,” Ciaramitaro says, the beach-bum tenor of his voice selling the feeling perfectly. “It’s pretty nuts.”

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Tessa Wessel

When Ciaramitaro was printing merch, he sometimes felt like he was plugging himself into the scene in another way, helping to keep it alive even when he wasn’t onstage or turning up at a local show. This attitude is essentially the same one that underpins the Good Good Tour. “I hate to say use my platform, or whatever…” he says, trailing off for a second. “But we just did this Neck Deep tour, and before every show, I was digging online and asking people who were the popular bands in whatever city we were in. I made a point every night, ‘Yo, shout out to these guys. If you’re here and you like us, this exists in your backyard.’”

Without getting too philosophical about it, these bills perhaps make the most sense when viewed through the lens of a wider hardcore ecosystem. They are a reminder that the present doesn’t happen without the past, and also that massive dates at amphitheaters don’t happen without kids first booking house shows. It can be easy to become sniffy about people finding their way, but in a lot of prominent musicians’ stories, you’ll find a single event that shifted how they viewed music and their place in it. This is what Drain are trying to replicate on a country-wide scale.

Terror vocalist Scott Vogel, for one, recalls having his eyes opened by seeing Inside Out, Quicksand, and Shelter at the same Buffalo show in the early 1990s with the same fondness as driving to Albany to witness the “straight-up viciousness” of Madball, Cold as Life, Stigmata, and Blood for Blood one after another. “I think one of the beautiful things about hardcore is how simple, and also necessary, it is for newcomers to become more involved,” he says. “That could be playing music or other avenues like booking shows or taking photos or making art. There’s open arms for people to do things and express themselves and help this world grow.” 

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To see evidence of this attitude in action, you only have to look below Terror’s name on the Good Good Tour poster — Vogel’s band helped pave the way for Scowl’s Kat Moss and End It frontman Akil Godsey to become involved in hardcore. “That 10 for $10 tour back in the early 2000s was a banger,” Godsey says, referencing a run that found Terror and Trapped Under Ice playing supporting roles to Bane, Madball, Poison the Well, and Vision of Disorder. In an email, Moss adds: “I remember seeing Terror, Knocked Loose, Jesus Piece, and Year of the Knife at 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley. It was a massive turning point for me personally — it inspired me to want to play in a band.”

It’s a similar story for Ciaramitaro. Looking back at his own life in hardcore, he immediately brings up the time he and Chavez, along with Scowl guitarist Malachi Greene, drove from Santa Cruz to Oakland to see Angel Du$t play. “We were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” he says with a laugh. “It felt like there was a million people at that show.” 

It was Tripp’s bone-deep outsider swagger that left an indelible mark on him, though. When he talks about having Angel Du$t along for the ride this summer, Ciaramitaro is just a fan again, giddy that he gets to do something his younger self would have flipped over. “Dude, this is the coolest guy I’ve ever seen,” he says. “Now I’m gonna be on the road with him and my other friends — there’ll be some kid in the crowd who’s going to be taking Drain out in five or 10 years.”

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Tessa Wessel

As one of the tour’s senior statesmen, Vogel is living that reality right now, and, true to form, he’s totally on board with the sentiment. It’s hard to overstate the weight of influence that Terror hold over a particular brand of vein-bursting, breakdown-led songwriting after almost 25 years in the game, but they have zero qualms about hopping on a tour opening for Drain, an outfit far closer to the start of their journey than its end. “I love nothing more than finding a new band that makes me feel alive and watching them grow and flourish,” Vogel says. “Terror has no ego about ‘We have done it longer’ or bullshit like that.

“I have a lyric in one of our songs that says, ‘Respect the roots, but we live for today.’ I think that sums up how I feel pretty well,” he continues. “Truth is, hardcore is alive big time in 2024. But I do think knowing the history and the foundations that built this beast is important to be aware of. It’s not my place to try to force the past on people, but I believe hardcore is so fucking cool, and real that kids will wanna know the stories and how things came together.”

Pre-internet, there was a specific buzz attached to poring over the thanks page in a record’s liner notes, synapses firing as you tried to get a picture of what a band sounded like just from their name. Often, you’d have your preconceptions smashed to pieces within seconds of hearing the real thing. The Good Good Tour has some of this energy baked into its DNA. 

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Tessa Wessel

It will be something, for example, to see kids waiting out for Drain’s fizzing mosh anthems confronted with End It’s gnarly, fast, metallic riffs and the heavyweight presence of Godsey, whose barbed charisma runs in parallel with lyrics that fixate on death and the reality of survival. It’s in these moments that Ciaramitaro’s “same umbrella” concept will come alive, pushing back against the narrow, prescriptive way that hardcore is often discussed. 

Godsey, for one, is relishing it. “I love to see the kids’ faces when they’re giving their opinions, then find out that it all falls under hardcore,” he says. “They’re just newjacks — they can’t help it. That’s the beauty of this thing. There’s space for you to be loud and wrong, and if you tough it out, you’ll be able to hold that space for some other younger jackass.”

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Tessa Wessel

Basically, once you realize that you don’t know anything, that’s when the fun really begins. Noticeably, fun is a word that Ciaramitaro returns to time and time again when talking about the Good Good Tour, partly in bewilderment at where he finds himself as a musician, and partly as someone who loves hardcore to his bones. But it’s also a reminder that, even though their circumstances have changed beyond recognition, Drain are determined not to lose sight of why they’re out here. “I’m so lucky that I get to do this full time,” Ciaramitaro says. “I’m so blessed. But, inevitably, sometimes it’s like, ‘OK, this is definitely a little bit of work right now.’ I just want to try to make everything as fun as we can. If we’re not having fun, I think it would show.”

He’s right. This whole endeavor, from finding the right bands to making sure it works conceptually, has been a lot. But it will be fun. There’s no doubting that. And, if the next house show in one of these towns has a few new faces at it because they saw a date on the Good Good Tour, all of that effort will have paid off. “That’s how it goes, man,” Ciaramitaro says. “It’s all cyclical, you know?”

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Tessa Wessel

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