“Thank you for making this the best night of our lives.”
These words were spoken by Marky Hladish, lead singer and guitarist of The Felix Culpa, at the band’s final show on Friday, Dec. 9 at The Metro in Chicago . An indie/post-hardcore quartet from Rockford, IL and Beloit, WI, the group broke up just as they were starting to make it big.
“After eight years or so of kinda doing this it gets to a point where, you know, we’ve done a lot, basically everything we wanted to do, and all of us just thought that it felt right,” Hladish said regarding the decision to break up the band. “It made sense to not be doing it anymore. That’s about it.”
When the breakup was announced by the band in early October, confusion and despair were the feelings felt by many of the band’s fans. The breakup came within a year of the band signing to No Sleep Records, a fairly large independent label. It seemed that with the label’s backing, the band should have been able to go in any direction it pleased. Despite breaking up before releasing any material on No Sleep, the label was anything but disappointed with the band’s decision.
“Chris from No Sleep flew out and is here right now. He hung out with us all weekend. He’s pretty cool with it; he’s a solid dude and, honestly, we couldn’t be happier to be part of the No Sleep family,” Hladish said with a smile. “We couldn’t be happier, but we are even sadder we are breaking up now because we wanted to stay a part of that family and sell CDs for those guys because there honestly isn’t a harder working, better, more honest label out there in our opinion.”
Despite only releasing two full-length records in eight years, The Felix Culpa certainly has left its mark on the scene.
“I think The Felix Culpa definitely made a positive impact on the scene. They took a somewhat common sound within the genre and they really put their own spin on it and made something unique,” Billy Duprey, multi-instrumentalist and screamer in The Republic of Wolves, said. “I feel like what they did with their music will definitely influence up-and-coming bands in the scene who will try to capture a similar style in their own music and I think that’s great.”
The Republic of Wolves was only just starting as a band when The Felix Culpa took them on tour. According to Duprey, the band learned some lasting lessons from The Felix Culpa.
“We weren’t totally used to playing live shows just yet and when we saw them play, we were just blown away by their stage presence. They really created an atmosphere with their performance. I think seeing them play definitely influenced how we approached our live show from that point on.”
As the band played its final show in front of a packed crowd at The Metro, you couldn’t help but sense the bittersweet feeling in the air. Although the group was ending its career, the fact that it was doing it at possibly its biggest show with fans from across the nation couldn’t help but give the room an emotional atmosphere.
The band, who released two landmark albums for the scene in a period of eight years, made sure that this would be a show to remember. The bill for the night contained not only Felix playing its last show, but two bands reuniting to play their first shows in years, as well as an up-and-coming band that Felix had become quick friends with. According to Hladish, the particulars surrounding the band’s final show were no-brainers.
“[Monday’s Hero] were basically our sibling band. They broke up about four or five years ago and we always teased them and said ‘If we ever break up, you’re playing the last show,’ and it came to it, so they had to come out,” Hladish said about the choice for Felix Culpa’s direct support.
Sainthood Reps was the only active band chosen for the show, with the band putting out its debut, Monoculture, earlier this year. It was easy to see Hladish’ love for the band, as he sang the opening words to the title track of Monoculture prior to the beginning of the interview. “They’re probably like our cousin band (laughs). They’re from Long Island and we toured last summer with them and it was just the best times. We had some great memories with those dudes from playing beach volleyball, (laughs) and by that I mean Frisbee because we are actually NOT sports people,” Hladish said, smiling the entire time.
The show opened with El Oso, another band containing some of The Felix Culpa’s good friends from the same area.
“We wanted it all to be friends. We wanted the show to be a family thing and the Metro was cool enough to say ‘Yeah, you guys pick the bill and the day and we’ll do it.’ It was awesome.”
It was easy to tell that this night would not be one easy to forget for any members of the band. Despite having an injured wrist, drummer Joel Coan was all smiles throughout the set. Hladish spent a majority of the two-hour set telling the fans how much their support meant to the band throughout the years and thanking the fans for sending them off on its last night. Playing a set consisting of the band’s earliest songs, from 2004’s full-length Commitment and 2005’s EP Thought Control, all the way to their most recent releases, last year’s Sever Your Roots and this year’s Bury the Axe. Despite this being the last show as a band, it was anything but the end of the members’ music careers.
“Joel, our drummer, writes music under the name Thereafter, I believe. I know he has been working on some solo music and you are probably going to be seeing some stuff from him soon,” Hladish said. “Dustin [Currier; guitarist] plays guitar in an as-yet-unnamed band [later revealed to be Cut Teeth] with Kyle Johns from Monday’s Hero, actually. He’s the lead singer of Monday’s Hero. And their band is just killer. I’m not really sure what their plans are, but they write some great music. I also have a band with my wife called Venna, which Dustin plays keys and mandolin and stuff in too.”
As Hladish repeatedly stated, he was anticipating the show to be the highlight of the band’s long career. But it is important to note that the night would be viewed as the beginning of many things. While fans will be saddened by the book closing on Felix Culpa, they should hold out hope with many new chapters beginning in the careers of its members.
“Once you’re a musician, it’s not like you can really stop. It’s a part of you and you just keep doing it.”