Interview by Jay Frost; photos by Marcy Dwyer
My first introduction to this beast of a band came in late February of this year at the second-annual Upstate Black ‘N’ Blue Cabin Fever Party at Bogies. A four-piece based out of Western Massachusetts, Before I Had Wings follows in the tradition of Hatebreed, Death Before Dishonor, and Shattered Realm with a brand of brutal hardcore that simply destroys. Forming in 2009, BIHW has unleashed their aural assault on unsuspecting towns all over the Northeast, and have become somewhat of a permanent fixture here in Albany. One listen to their debut Burn the Impure will show you why – as it perfectly captures every nuance of their intense live performance; it will leave you reeling and wanting more.
I caught up with three-quarters of Before I Had Wings (vocalist Chris, drummer Nate and bassist Kane) after their set at the Black Phil Memorial Show on Sunday, July 28th. Phil Brewer, guitarist for Albany’s At Arms, lost his battle with cancer recently, and his friends in the scene organized this show to celebrate his life and to raise funds for his family. All three of them were very down to earth and forthcoming with information regarding the history of the band, its future, and – for Kane – a cheerful anecdote about his first time meeting Phil.
UM: So you guys are from Western Massachusetts; what part of Western Mass do you call home?
Chris: We’re all from different areas: I’m from Berkshire County; they’re (Kane and D.J. – their guitarist, who was handling merchandise at the time) from Pioneer and Nate’s actually from the Albany Area.
UM: That’s right, I remember hearing that. So, how long have you guys been doing this now?
Chris: Before Nate was in the band…all together, like three years. He joined about a year or so ago…Maybe 2009? I think me and the guitarist D.J., we were writing stuff in 2009 but we didn’t start playing shows until 2010.
UM: So you’ve gone through a few line-up changes since the beginning?
Chris: Basically, the only line-up change has been the drummer. We had a drummer for a long time, but he decided to quit and Nate took over.
UM: You guys are lucky! It’s so hard to replace a drummer.
Chris: I know, especially around our area.
Kane: Nate’s the best!
Nate: Thank you!
Chris: Nate’s got it on lockdown.
UM: Nice! So anyways, I remember mentioning in one of my reviews of your previous shows that your sound is comparable to bands like Hatebreed and Death Before Dishonor. Other than these two, can you tell me what other bands have influenced you?
Chris: It’s all different; it depends on who you ask. For me personally, its bands like Shattered Realm and Let it Die, you know? Like ’04-’05 core mixed with beat-down; I like Nasty, I like World of Pain, I like all that shit.
Nate: Same here, basically. Actually, I like death metal, too, but beat-down mostly – Shattered Realm, World of Pain, Nasty.
Kane: I’m into New York Hardcore. We don’t sound like that, but I’m influenced by bands like Citizen’s Arrest…
Chris: We’re not afraid to admit that we’re also influenced by Numetal – bands like Coal Chamber and Machine Head.
UM: Oh, Coal Chamber and Machine Head are awesome! You can’t argue with that!
Chris: Yeah, we have Numetal riffs and we’re not afraid to admit it. People call us Numetal, we don’t give a fuck what you call us!
UM: Absolutely, you guys are fucking awesome and I don’t give a shit what anybody says. I’ll put that in print, too! Anyways, you guys are straight edge?
Chris: We’re a straight edge band, we just don’t sing about it. In the past, we’ve tried out non-edge members and nothing ever worked out, and not necessarily because they weren’t straight edge, but because they didn’t make the dedication towards the band. But then recently, we decided that we’re just going to stay a straight edge band, we’ll have straight edge members; it’s not a big deal. We’re not going to sing about it, were not going to put “X”s in our name, but we’re all straight edge and that’s what matters the most. I was in straight edge bands [that sang about it] before, and you basically end up cutting your fan base in half because people don’t want to hear about it.
UM: That’s cool. So I have your first full-length, Burn the Impure, which is a great album, really heavy and well-done. Do you have anything else in the works?
Chris: We’re working on something right now, but that’s probably going to take a year, maybe two [to complete]; were not rushing it. We have a title already picked out, but we don’t want to give it away. We’ve got a lot of shit going on next year, so if we start recording? Awesome, if not, you know? We’re just gonna take it slow. We’ve got the eight track Burn the Impure full-length/EP, whatever you want to call it, and then the two-song demo we released earlier this year.
UM: That’s right! I remember seeing that somewhere online…that’s two new songs?
Chris: If you go to Stereokiller you can download it for free; it’s “Unworthy” and “Bitter Man”, just look it up…
Chris: We have older stuff, but we don’t talk about it because we don’t sound like that anymore. We don’t like to bring it up, but if people are really interested, just hit us up. We’ll give you a cd.
UM: I’d actually like to hear that myself.
Chris: We were not influenced by the same stuff we are now. Our guitarist will straight-up tell you he was influenced by like Emure back then.
Kane: Times have changed.
Chris: Times have definitely changed since then.
UM: Ok, well we got a good amount of ground covered in five minutes or so. On a final note, say something about Phil. I didn’t know him personally, did you guys?
Chris: I’m from Western Massachusetts, man. I think Kane…
Kane: I hung out with him one time, and it was sick! We were at a party at Vinnie [Life Sentence]’s house, and everyone was listening to Trapped Under Ice and like moshing in the living room. Then some girl changed it and put on rap – which was awesome, I thought it was sick – but Phil got all pissed. He kept trying to run around this girl to change the music, and he had just broken his hand, so he was doing all this weird shit to try and change the music, but he couldn’t really, so that was sick…he was a good dude, though.
UM: That’s good to know, and it’s good to see that there are so many people out here tonight to support him, even those who didn’t know him…
Chris: I’ve been going to shows for probably about ten or eleven years. I probably ran into him, I just didn’t know him by name. I probably shook his hand; but it seems like a lot of people cared about him and that’s what matters. That’s what the scene is all about.
UM: Absolutely, and it seems like hardcore more than any other genre will pull together for a crisis moment or a benefit or memorial. I think that’s great…
Chris: This is probably the fifth or sixth benefit I’ve been to, if not played…
UM: Yeah, the Stigmata benefit was pretty wild…
Kane: I was crushed, literally, like on the floor.
UM: Ha! Yeah, I caught an elbow to the face for that one. I always say that if you catch a head injury at any point, it’s a good show.
Chris: We actually get frowned upon for encouraging violent dancing. We’re really into it – we think people, like, frown upon us for it though.
UM: Yeah, but Scott Vogel and Jamey Jasta do it all the time.
Chris: It is what it is.
UM: Right on. So I see you guys have been getting around a lot lately – you’ve been in Connecticut and New Jersey recently. I know you just finished up, but do you see yourself playing Albany again soon?
Chris: We’ll be back whenever Mike [Valente] or Dan [Asylum] will have us. We’re gonna take a little time off to write, but we’ll be back.
UM: Well it’s always a pleasure to see you guys; you guys are one of my favorite bands. I listen to Burn the Impure as much as possible. It’s hard though, I’ve got kids in the house and my youngest is just starting to get into music. At four and a half, his two favorite bands are The Ramones and Agnostic Front.
Kane: That’s real stuff!
Chris: Yeah that’s good stuff.
UM: Well it was a pleasure talking with you guys and I’ll see you inside.