On their debut self-titled EP, the musicians behind the heavy new post-hardcore project Every Scar Has A Story have captured a jolt of expertly delivered emotional energy. The songs feel aggressive, yet not unwieldy — they’re wrapped around strong melodies that lead listeners through the record’s experience. There’s a definite sense of catharsis in the energy driving these hardcore-toned songs, but the catharsis isn’t overwhelming. A sense of focus pervades much of the work; the energy in the songs keeps the experience moving forward and listeners right along with it.
The feeling of diving into Every Scar Has A Story reflects the experience of those who made it. Tom Schlatter has performed with bands including You & I and Hundreds of AU, and he’s one of the creative forces behind Every Scar Has A Story. He explains that he used extra time at home amidst the COVID-19 pandemic to dive into exploratory music-making outside of the realms he’d mostly worked with in the past.
“When the pandemic started I began working from home at reduced hours,” Schlatter explains. “To maintain some level of mental health I put myself on a routine of writing music from genres I had never really gotten to try before. For the past few years I’ve been playing screamy hardcore in a band called Hundreds of AU. The pandemic gave me a chance to put some time into writing and experimenting with some material outside of the screamy hardcore genre and try out grind, fast hardcore, instrumental doom, post-rock, etc. I set out to write an EP of each genre. This project was the result of one of those experiments.”
Rob Fish, who’s previously performed with bands including 108, The Judas Factor, and Ressurection, contributed his talents as the vocalist for Every Scar Has A Story. Like Schlatter, he too drew from his personal experiences as a source of inspiration for his side of the music-making. With this latest project, Fish’s lyrics range from the self-reflection of the title track to the more confrontational closing track, on which he asks if what the U.S. has to offer is worth the “price of admission,” which doubles as the title.
“I let the sonic mood of the songs inspire the theme of each song and, with that, I wrote out what comes to mind,” Fish explains, describing his lyric-writing as “very smooth and organic.” He adds: “I am not a prolific writer with notebooks of muses. Simply put, if I hear a song that I dig and can connect to emotionally the process is seamless. I have learned to pass on songs that are awesome but where I don’t find that connection. I tend to write when I am experiencing emotional battles. That has always been where my music comes from. It’s my way of navigating things that trouble me. In terms of writing “political” songs, it’s hard for me to fathom how our worldview and what we navigate day in and day out could be devoid of politics to some degree so it’s only natural that what I write will at times address politics directly, but it’s never on the agenda.”
The Musical Background for Every Scar Has a Story
Sonically speaking, the drive to found the music of Every Scar Has A Story upon emotional experience informed the riffs, too.
“For me, I have wanted to do songs that were a bit different than my past bands,” Fish explains. “Something very rhythmically driven with guitars that were equal parts melodic and loose. A song is a song when we find an emotional connection to it. If a song is well-written but we can’t find a collective emotional connection then it’s a bundle of riffs that we move on from until we can find that connection.”
Meanwhile, Schlatter explains that some of the reference points for the bulk of the new songs were some rock bands he was a big fan of throughout years past. “For this project in particular I wanted to do something that was influenced by 80’s alternative rock bands that I loved as a kid such as Midnight Oil, The Cure, The Smiths, The Church, etc.,” he shares. “From a guitar perspective this was my first time really leaning heavily on effects like chorus and reverb, as well as utilizing single coil guitar for the entirety of the project.”
Schlatter and Fish also note some more recent work that’s really captured their attention. Fish notes the new rap record Run The Jewels 4 and the new heavy group Bitter Branches among the work that’s occupied his listening lately. Bitter Branches (which you can read more about at this link) is comprised of musicians who’ve been in heavy music since the 90s, and Fish notes that he’s “enjoying seeing people of our age group writing and recording music that reflects how they view the ongoings of our world coming from the background of dissident music and scenes.”
Schlatter adds: “I’m pretty fortunate in that I have a lot of friends who play in great bands right now. The smaller DIY scene that I get most of my music from has seen a really huge explosion of talent from great people who are putting inspiring projects together.”
Some of the specific projects that have stood out to him include the Toronto-based group Respire, the Philly-based group Closer, the Spain-based Drei Affen, and the Oakland-based Hawak, all of whom perform fairly intense and intricate music.
“I really love the diverse representation of each band — POC, women, LGBT folks — and the valuable perspective in lyrical content that comes with that,” Schlatter shares. “Musically I think each band is really taking that screamy hardcore genre that I love and doing their own unique take on it.”
Launching into Every Scar Has A Story, Schlatter and Fish definitely made some leaps. “When Rob got in touch about doing some vocals I was a little caught off guard,” Schlatter explains. “I think we all make this really uninformed judgement of each other that we only play/listen to the type of music that is reflected in the bands that we play in. To think Rob would be interested in this sort of 80’s sounding stuff was unusual to me at first, but then it made perfect sense. It sounds nothing like either of our old bands and was a good opportunity for both of us to do something that we hadn’t had the chance to do in the past.”
Putting the Pieces Together
As for the process of putting together the song components themselves, Schlatter explains that those behind the project actually “recorded the guitar, bass and vocals ourselves” and “did all the file sharing/mixing remotely.” It’s a triumph of using technology for good, really.
Contemplating possible takeaways for listeners, he adds: “I think with the advent of recording technology and the accessibility of free tools to record with, I hope it inspires people to look into that DIY approach of creating your own music at home if they never thought to check it out. I think hardcore/punk has grown recently to have an emphasis on impressive large budget production. If bands want to take that approach, that’s great, but at times it seems to close people off to the option of learning something new and trying it themselves. There’s a spirit to that concept that I hope gets conveyed.”
It’s pretty remarkable that the folks behind this album recorded parts remotely, because the sound that they’ve captured feels so rich that it wouldn’t be surprising if they said they’d recorded live in the same room together. The songs feel like they’ve captured some of the energy of a live show experience quite perfectly — and indeed, Fish notes that “there are preliminary plans for a weekend of shows in late November in the Northeast,” although as he also notes, COVID-19 could still have more of a say than expected over live events by that time. In the absence of shows, Every Scar Has A Story — which is available now via Equal Vision Records — provides a welcome invigorating time.
“Looking at the songs now, I’d say get comfortable being imperfect, get comfortable with the collision between what we aspire to be and who we actually are, ” Fish shares when asked what sorts of takeaways he might like to shine through the music. “There will always be conflicts so be determined to meet those conflicts head on. Continue to strive to be better as an individual, friend, and member of society. Don’t fixate on how what is happening impacts you and be more reflective of what it means to our loved ones, our neighbors, and our communities.”
“We both enjoy seeing people in our age group — 40+ — starting new bands, writing music and trying new things,” Schlatter adds. “From a non-lyrical/musical perspective I would love for people to see an EP like this and think ‘Two people over 40 wrote this, maybe hardcore and punk isn’t something I have to age out of.'”
Check out the music below! Pick up the record at this link.