The Long Island indie/post-hardcore scene has been one of the most intriguing scenes in recent memory. It seems that nearly every band to come from it has experienced a relatively short period of extreme success, only to crumble at their peaks into nothingness, leaving fans to sulk with their old records. Also, nearly every band from the scene either denies membership with the scene, suggesting that they are different or superior, or denies any scene whatsoever. The island seems densely packed with musicians, most of whom seem to know each other, if not have played with each other, in the past. From the early days of Glassjaw and The Movielife to new bands like Envy on the Coast and The Republic of Wolves, some of the most appealing bands in music come from the 1.4 thousand square mile island. We can only hope that the recent bands coming from LI won’t be doomed to the same pattern of an extremely quick rise followed by a turbulent crash. This will serve as a chronicle of the scene, tracing its roots from the beginning, to the near-extinction of the scene, and ending with its recent reemergence.
Dead to the World: The Beginning of the Scene
Long Island’s first emergence in the indie/post-hardcore scene came around the turn of the new millennium, with bands like The Movielife and Glassjaw forming. The bands benefited from many years of touring and demoing, perfecting their mix of metal, hardcore and pop-punk.
The Movielife formed in 1997, demoing for two years before finally releasing their debut full-length, It’s Go Time. The band had one of the most energetic live shows to come around in a long time, with vocalist Vinnie Caruana shouting himself hoarse and guitarists Brandon Reilly and Alex Amiruddin thrashing away. Amiruddin would leave during the recording sessions of their follow-up, to be replaced by bassist Phil Navetta’s brother, Dan. Songs like “Dead to the World,” from the debut and “Deal With It,” from the sophomore release This Time Next Year made for some of the angriest pop-punk anthems on record. The aggressive third, and final, record, 2003’s Forty Hour Train Back to Penn would be their only release on Drive-Thru Records, a haven for melodic hardcore bands. The band would break up before the end of the year, with tension between Reilly and Caruana reaching a boiling point, not to mention struggles with Drive-Thru. Reilly, who previously played in The Rookie Lot with scene-god Jesse Lacey, would form Nightmare of You, who followed the same basic sound on their self-titled debut and its follow-up Infomaniac. Caruana would form I Am the Avalanche, who is still considered active despite releasing their only album in 2005. The sound of the album wasn’t too different from The Movielife, despite an angrier approach to Caruana’s vocals, perhaps due to the implosion of his previous band. The Movielife reformed in late 2010, announcing a performance at The Bamboozle 2011.
Glassjaw contained the same angry, punk approach as The Movielife, although they differentiated with their more metal and screaming courtesy of singer Daryl Palumbo and original drummer/current guitarist Justin Beck. Their two full-lengths, Everything You Wanted to Know About Silence and Worship and Tribute are two of the harshest, most abrasive records around. Songs like “Siberian Kiss” and “Ape Dos Mil” would pave the way for future hardcore bands coming from the scene. The band would gain fame for their ability to shift styles mid-song at the drop of a dime. Hiatus was inevitable, finally coming in 2004 after never reaching the deserved level of attribution, as well as complications with Palumbo’s battle with Crohn’s disease. Much like The Movielife, Glassjaw would reform in 2008, releasing the EP Our Color Green (The Singles) three years later with promise of another full-length. Additionally, the band would release the free EP Coloring Book at shows on the 2011 tour. A different approach has come about with the newer songs, focusing heavily on production. Songs like “Black Nurse” and “All Good Junkies Go to Heaven” showcase the “newer” approach. Rumors of finally releasing Worship and Tribute on vinyl have also spread. Palumbo also would lead Head Automatica, his electropunk side project that started with Dan the Automator, though Dan would later drop out.
Your Favorite Weapon– Heyday and mainstream success of the scene
Following the success of The Movielife and Glassjaw would be the emergence of two bands with extremely intertwined pasts. After the dissolving of The Rookie Lot, Jesse Lacey would join former Movielife guitarist Eddie Reyes in the new band, Taking Back Sunday. Lacey was originally brought on to play guitar and sing, though he would switch to bass and allow his best friend, John Nolan, to take over on guitar. The lineup was rounded out by original lead singer Antonio Longo and drummer Steven DeJoseph, who was quickly replaced by Mark O’Connell. After a heated argument that would be detailed on TBS’s debut in the song “There’s No I in Team,” Jesse Lacey would dissolve his friendship with Nolan, as well as his membership in the band. Adam Lazzara was brought in on bass, and would move to lead vocalist after Longo would be kicked out by Reyes. Shaun Cooper would replace Lazzara on bass, forming the lineup that would record the landmark Tell All Your Friends, which is still seen as one of the best records coming from the scene. Featuring dual vocals from Lazzara and Nolan, the album would feature such hits as “Cute Without the E (Cut from the Team)” and “You’re So Last Summer.” The album became incredibly popular, due to its extreme catchiness and abandonment of most standard structures for songs.
Shortly into recording the second album, Nolan and Cooper would leave to form Straylight Run, a more acoustic-based project, with Nolan’s sister Michelle, after arguments between Lazzara and Nolan. The two would go on to write many hateful songs aimed at each other on following releases. Nolan and Cooper were replaced by Breaking Pangaea singer/guitarist Fred Mascherino and bassist Matt Rubano. This incarnation would last for two albums, Where You Want to Be and major label debut, Louder Now, before Mascherino would leave, unhappy with the direction of the band. He would be replaced by progressive guitarist Matthew Fazzi of Facing New York, who would record New Again, an album well-known for its split reviews and Lazzara’s disowning, along with a sound that pushed the boundaries of their previous releases. Shortly after the tour cycle for New Again ended, Rubano and Fazzi were “let go” in order to reunite the TAYF lineup of the band, whose album is expected in the coming months. Fazzi would form Happy Body Slow Brain, which features a more progressive, jazzy sound. As popular as TBS’s albums would be, the constant lineup changes and in-band turmoil almost eclipse the popularity of the albums.
Carrying the torch with TBS would be Brand New, led by original TBS member Jesse Lacey. Lacey would form the band with Garrett Tierney and Brian Lane, the bassist and drummer of his previous band The Rookie Lot, along with the teenage lead guitarist Vinnie Accardi. Continuing on in the pop-punk direction of The Rookie Lot, Brand New would record their debut album Your Favorite Weapon, which would contain singles like “Jude Law and a Semester Abroad,” and “Seventy Times 7,” which would show Lacey’s side of the story regarding his friendship with Nolan, which would be reformed in the years following the release of the albums. The album also features Glassjaw vocalist Palumbo on the song “The Shower Scene.” The reformed Glassjaw would later tour with Brand New. On their sophomore release, Brand New would explore a more mature approach, with many, including Rolling Stone, marveling at Lacey’s lyrical ability. The music videos for “The Quiet Things that No One Ever Knows” and “Sic Transit Gloria… Glory Fades,” would gain repeated spins and massive attention. This is something Lacey could not abide by. He would shatter all expectations and praise with the career 180, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. Featuring much more introspective lyrics, which have yet to be revealed, and instrumentation more similar to post-rock then pop-punk, the album would gain them massive critical success at the expense of commercial popularity. Lacey would soon become a recluse, updating the band’s website rarely, though constantly touring. After a disastrous performance at Lollapalooza 2008, which ended with Lacey storming offstage after chucking his guitar at Lane during the climax of “You Won’t Know,” the band would remain silent for close to a year. Finally, they would release Daisy. Few albums have had such a range of response, with early fans despising the lyrical nature and abrasive yelps from Lacey, with others loving the raw nature of the release. After a brief tour cycle, the band would once again enter hibernation, with no news from April 2010 to February 2011. In early March 2011, the band broke their silence by announcing a handful of shows for April, igniting fans’ hope of new material.
You Won’t Hear This: Emergence of new bands
After the many lineup changes of TBS and the shift of style of Brand New, many fans would gain the mentality that the scene was done. There were few bands containing the same style of its formation. Two bands would follow that contained a similar style to the torch-bearers before them, though both would deny membership to the scene. Envy on the Coast would tour with TBS, gaining massive popularity for their fusion of hardcore with progressive elements. The voice of singer Ryan Hunter would also be heavily praised for its uniqueness. He would share the task with guitarist/vocalist Sal Bossio. The band gained a massive fan base on the backs of their self-titled EP and debut full length, Lucy Gray. After the recording of their second record, drummer Dan Gluszak would leave, to be replaced by many drummers from the scene, including Will Noon of Breaking Pangaea and Straylight Run, and Matt Fazzi of TBS and Happy Body Slow Brain. The new record, Lowcountry, featured a new, more alt-rock sound, leaning slightly toward Incubus territory, thanks to Hunter’s vocals and guitarist Brian Byrne’s tone. Shortly after the release, the band would call it quits, with Hunter and Byrne forming the hardcore group North Korea and Bossio performing solo. With a relatively short lifespan, EotC managed to grab a massive fan base and many fans are excited to see the progress of the new bands.
Due to odd circumstances, The Republic of Wolves would gain fame as one of the best independent bands around. TROW gained recognition after a friend-of-a-friend to the band would leak demos from their first EP, His Old Branches, as the first sound bites of Brand New’s Daisy. After hearing the news, TROW would deny involvement on absolutepunk.net, a popular site for fans of the scene. Regardless of involvement, the leak would provide the band with a fan base who would stick around for the release of His Old Branches. The EP would be rated as one of the best EPs of 2009, featuring poetic lyrics from singers/guitarists Mason Maggio and Gregg Andrew DellaRocca. Also important is the band’s young age, with half of its membership still in school. The following year would be huge for the band, as it would end with news of two releases, 2010’s full-length Varuna and 2011’s EP The Cartographer. Featuring two sides of the same story, Maggio would take most of the control on Varuna, with DellaRocca focusing on The Cartographer, showing the diversity of the band. Unique as one of the few groups in the scene without inner turmoil, the young boys have paved a road for themselves as one of the premier bands around, lighting a spark in the simmering fire of the scene.
While the future of the scene is impossible to determine, with the many bands crumbling left and right, it cannot be denied that the track record is impossible to ignore. LI’s scene resembles a massive family, due to the interweaving backstories of many of the bands, complete with all the highly publicized arguments and triumphs one would expect of a family of its size and magnitude. With albums like TAYF, TDAGARIM and Worship and Tribute coming from the same area, Long Island will surely go down as one of the more influential scenes in the annals of indie rock history.