IF 2017 WAS THE YEAR HARDCORE RUBBED SHOULDERS WITH THE MAINSTREAM, 2018 WILL BE THE YEAR IT KICKS ITS ARSE.WE HEADED TO AUSTRALIA’S UNIFY FESTIVAL TO HANG WITH THE SCENE’S NEXT BREAKOUT STARS...
“Idon’t think I’ve ever said this in an interview before,” begins Bryan Garris, “but I have never written any of my lyrics down. I feel like if I write something down, and then I go back and read it later, I’m like,‘wow, that is so corny.’ So I’ll get rough recordings of our songs, and then I write in my head and just memorise it. It’s always just been in my head.”
This is the most surprising of revelations from a man whose lyrical poetry – touching on death, addiction, religion and everything in between – has made an earth-shattering impact on heavy music in recent times.then again, Knocked Loose deliver sounds straight from the soul, so why would Bryan calculate his thoughts ahead of time? It’s just another reason why the band today stand as one of the most unique young groups on the planet.and, crucially, it’s why their remarkable frontman is currently sitting with Kerrang! in a remote, south-eastern state of Australia as the quintet – completed by guitarists Cole Crutchfield and Isaac Hale, bassist Kevin Otten and drummer Kevin Kaine – lead our Hottest Bands Of 2018 cover feature this week.
Only today, it’s absolutely pissing it down.that’s that metaphor out the window, then.
This minor detail doesn’t diminish Bryan’s overwhelming gratitude during our 40 minutes spent together, though.“this is the best place I’ve ever been,” the frontman beams.“it’s paradise here. When you start a band, you’re like,‘i want to tour the
States, and I want to go to Europe.’ But you never think you’ll go to Australia. It’s mind-blowing.”
The Kentucky five-piece have made this coveted trip across the globe for UNIFY Gathering – Down Under’s only rock and metal camping festival. Having reached their destination via bumpy tracks sprawled with greener-thangreen trees and lone fishermen picking creatures out of the nearby Tarwin River, you can easily see why Bryan calls this place “paradise”. Hell, even the roads that the band have arrived via – with stereotypical names like ‘Fish Creek’ and ‘Surf Drive’ – remind you that you’re experiencing an exotic bliss that few others get the chance to.
The resulting migraine-inducing humidity of today’s torrential downpour doesn’t faze Bryan in the slightest, either.the faint smell of damply trodden-in grass is apparent, but there’s a real sense of something happening in the air, too.after all, Knocked Loose belong here: a festival with a friendlier-than-yourneighbourhood-spider-man community vibe, total inclusivity, and a varied line-up to suit even the most picky of attendees.
Taking shelter in a large white tent at the backstage compound of the sold-out festival, the 24-year-old is quietly spoken, but incredibly engaged for a man who has spent his morning crammed into the back of a van. It’s a lifestyle that he’s very quickly had to adapt to.
“In 2015 we toured for 10 months,” Bryan states in a dry American drawl, from underneath a Higher Power cap and a soaked-through raincoat.“we would be on tour, and the flyer
for our next tour would be on the wall, and we’d be like,‘hey, if you like what you hear, we’ll be back in 10 days with a whole different crop of bands and merch!’”
This dedicated approach, coupled with Knocked Loose’s stunning iteration of metal-tinged hardcore (not that Bryan buys into genre pigeonholes, but more on that later…), has seen five small-town kids break out of their native Louisville and onto a festival stage some 9,000-odd miles from home. It’s why Kerrang! have made the equally exhausting journey, too. Because who wouldn’t want to catch Knocked Loose at one of the world’s greatest festivals as their revolution takes flight?
B ryan Garris still remembers the summer that changed his life. Raised by a mother who loves hip-hop and a father who “goes through phases where he’ll be super into country, and then he’ll be super into old rock, or super into hip-hop”, it wasn’t until the Knocked Loose leader was introduced to heavy music by his aunt some 13 years ago that his sights were set on being in a band.
“She showed me Rage Against The Machine, Slipknot, Korn, and even some punk bands, too, like The Dead Milkmen,” Bryan recalls fondly, putting himself back in the shoes of that wideeyed 11-year-old.“it clicked with me, and I was just hooked. I think I dove in at an age where I didn’t really know what I liked, or what I wanted to like, and I found that I was just all about that.”
Taking on the role of frontman, though – and eventually touring extensively alongside the likes of genre heavyweights Counterparts and Every Time I Die – wasn’t even on Bryan’s radar. In fact, it was a joke with a mate that essentially turned into a very real career move.
“One day I was hanging out with a friend, and we were making fun of screaming vocals – well, not necessarily ‘making fun of’, but mocking it,” he explains. “And I was doing it, and my friend was like,‘that’s pretty cool!’ so I was like,‘alright, I’ll do this…’”
While finding his feet as an aggressive singer, Bryan was also dipping his toes in other waters. He found “something to do” in football, basketball and baseball at various stages growing up, but his other great passion was – and still is – art.there wasn’t much else to channel his energy into in Louisville other than that.
“I was really young, and watching infomercials on Nickelodeon about getting briefcases that teach you how to do cartoons, and my mom would get me all of those,” he remembers.“i wanted to be a comic book artist.” After turning up to all the advanced studio art classes that he could in high school, Bryan looked into attending art college afterwards. Juggling that with music, though,
proved too tricky.“i always
“YOUSEE A LOT OF HARDCORE BANDS JUST BE A HARDCORE BAND, AND THEY’LL HIT A CEILING” BRYAN GARRIS
tell my girlfriend: ‘ i wish I still knew how to draw,’” he sighs. “but I’m very much behind the art of Knocked Loose – I have a very specific direction that I want us to go visually. Everything I’ve ever liked to do, I get to exercise that through Knocked Loose: art, writing, performing. I try to take advantage of that output.”
Despite the obvious building success of each of Bryan’s creative endeavours, the frontman still retains an air of self-consciousness. though the singer today can happily share the UNIFY stage with metal giants Parkway Drive and Architects, his reserved offstage mannerisms mean that he doesn’t instantly strike you as the man leading this next wave of hardcore heroes. To put this in perspective, when Bryan first started out, he didn’t even write lyrics for any of his pre-knocked Loose bands, for fear of other people’s judgement.
“I was convinced that I couldn’t write lyrics,” he confesses. “it would suck, because I would start a new band, and they’d be like, ‘here’s some songs that we wrote,’ and I would be like, ‘okay, cool, I need you to write me lyrics.’ It was just me in my own head.”
Knocked Loose’s attention-grabbing 2014 EP, Pop Culture, found the frontman taking a full-on, belligerent approach to songwriting. Having never previously been in bands that sang about “hateful things”, Bryan removed the focus from his own lyrical insecurities by swinging at the things that pissed him off. “it’s funny if you break down every song on that record,” he chuckles. “one is about how I hate religion; one is about how I hate my friends; one is about how I hate myself; one is about how I hate drugs…”
The quintet’s raging 2016 full-length debut, Laugh Tracks, however, had a much more considered approach. Not only did the subject matter shift a gear as Bryan matured in those two years between releases, but his dark tales of anxiety
and depression struck a chord with listeners more than ever before. He prefers not to address this in interviews, though, and is extremely wary about sounding “dramatic” when it comes to talking about mental health. while lyrics like, ‘so I’m stuck alone in the world / Uncomfortable in my skin,’ from the album’s title-track, and, ‘my tombstone was made at birth / My coffin is on my back,’ on lead single Deadringer speak for themselves, past experience has taught Bryan that it’s simply not worth delving into these topics out of the studio; last year, the then-23-year-old was told by an interviewer, ‘You’re pretty young to talk about dying all the time.’
It’s no wonder he plays his cards so close to his chest.
At this point in the interview, the weather outside takes no prisoners. UNIFY’S middle-of-nowhere surroundings, with exposure to the nearby coastal climates of Venus Bay, make for a thrillingly unpredictable experience.as you can imagine, aside from the once-a-year buzz of the festival, nothing much else makes its way round these parts.
Bryan had a similar experience growing up in his own hometown.
Crestwood, on the outskirts of Louisville, where the singer and his family still reside, barely has a music scene. Attending hardcore shows in his high school years, he would have to rely on lifts from other fans to get him into distant goings-on.
“My friend would drive all the way to my house and pick me up and take me to shows,” he smiles, his hushed voice barely audible over the passing storm. “And if I didn’t have money he would pay for my way in.the first time I ever met Tyler Jordan – who used to sing for this band called Another State, who are very important to us – he was like, ‘tomorrow I’m going to see Expire and Power Trip in Cincinnati – do you want to come? I’ll take you.’ Because I couldn’t drive at the time. He didn’t know me at all and took me to Cincinnati.”
Is that more of a reflection on the people of Louisville, or hardcore as a whole?
“I think it’s a little bit of both, but I definitely have to give credit to where we’re from,” Bryan nods. “we’re so used to getting skipped, and so used to driving if we have to.the closest major city to us is Chicago, and it’s four-and-a-half hours away…”
Louisville’s out-of-reach proximity doesn’t exactly present itself as the perfect breeding ground for hardcore’s Next Big Thing. Not that Knocked Loose ever thought about such obstacles. after forming in 2013, the possibility – or desire – of becoming a fulltime touring band didn’t even cross their minds. Bryan’s studious nature meant that he wanted to stay in college “and try and feel like an adult”, while the rest of the band were just stoked on having the chance to play their instruments every once in a while at local gigs.
Yet Bryan’s reluctance to travel was quickly altered after his first real touring experience.the offer came through during the summer (“So I could still be in school,” Bryan emphasises), and, after that initial run of dates, Knocked Loose changed their minds about only performing in Kentucky.
However, having gone from homebodies to road dogs in an exceptionally short space of time, Bryan learned the hard way how tough a life on tour can be.
“It definitely changes the dynamics of relationships you have at home,” he frowns. “my younger brothers are growing up without me there, and it’s really hard missing out on holidays, birthdays and weddings. I’m at the age now where my friends are getting married, and it’s very hard to be like, ‘i can’t say no to this month-long tour for one wedding.’” Even the town itself is moving on without Bryan.the frontman pauses to take in the fact that the place where he was given his firstever “real legal job”, a SONIC drive-through fast-food chain, has now shut down. “stuff like that happens all the time, and it’s weird for all of us,” he exhales, his usually darting eyes focussing momentarily on the floor.
But even the most casual of fans would understand that this is all for the greater good. with the skies clearing for Knocked Loose’s 4:20pm stage time, the five-piece pull UNIFY’S biggest crowd of the day so far. Bryan takes full advantage of his surroundings away from our interview tent, bounding his way from the left to the right of the stage and getting in the audience’s faces at the barrier. Despite only having a set length of 40 minutes, it’s more than enough time to create an impact that leaves older bands on the bill – like Knocked Loose’s current tourmates in Fouryear Strong, and fellow hardcore favourites Stick To Your Guns – singing their praises throughout the weekend.
What’s more, Bryan finds his far-from-home experience even more enjoyable since his long-term girlfriend joined them on the road to sell merch. “it’s definitely worked out for me,” he smiles, gesturing to the stall where she’s situated. “but she’s not just here because she’s my girlfriend – she does a very good job for us, to the point where the band approached me and were like, ‘we like having her on tour, and we want her to do all of it.’”
“MY LYRICS HAVE ALWAYS JUST BEEN IN MY HEAD...” BRYAN GARRIS