“There’s definitely a lot more fingerprints on it from everyone else in the band along with a lot more contributions from all across the board.”
Massachusetts has an extensive history when it comes to hardcore punk. Bands like Converge, Energy, A Wilhelm Scream, Gang Green, Have Heart, The Freeze, Slapshot, Sam Black Church, The Proletariat and many others have come out of here with unbridled angst and vigor. It’s a style that’s been woven into the state’s local music community and its dedicated following is very real and known all over.
Coming out of the North Shore, Oh The Humanity! arrived with a second LP, this one self-titled, via HellMinded Records in April. The quintet of vocalist Kevin Athas, bassist Andy Hakansson, drummer Chris Santoro, and co-guitarists Chris Dilseo and James Slvio are among those up next to make major waves from this storied punk rock stretch of the Atlantic coastline.
I recently spoke with Athas and Dilseo about their new release being more of a joint effort which they pressed on some rad-looking vinyl.
Is there any specific reasoning for [the self-title]? Does the upcoming album signify a new chapter for you guys?
Kevin Athas: The reason why I advocated for the self-titled route is because I feel like this album is the most representative of all of us contributing what we each like in music on a personal level. When our band first got together, everybody had pre-existing song ideas, riffs and stuff, and we ran with every idea because we were getting our first batch of songs together to play shows. Now that we’re a few years into this, to me this record best represents who we are and what we sound like when we make music together.
Chris Dilseo: Some of the early stuff was just like a song that I wrote or a song that Jim [Slvio], the other guitarist, wrote. There’s a little of that on this one, but there’s definitely a lot more fingerprints on it from everyone else in the band along with a lot more contributions from all across the board, which is awesome. Honestly, that’s what we were hoping would happen in the first place, and it really came together when we were coming up for the songs for the album.
The cover art was drawn up by Charlie Robinson and it’s a burning mill building. What inspired this design? Did Charlie just do it on his own? Or did you have creative input on it?
KA: We gave him some ideas of a moody cityscape or destruction in fire, just ideas relating to moods. Charlie has worked with us for a long time now with album art, flyers, and merch designs. He’s part of the team, for sure, so working with Charlie now is less of giving him specific instruction of what we’re looking for and more of communicating with him on a project as he works through it.
CD: A lot of what we give him is kind of like atmospheric types of ideas. We don’t have to give him a ton of specifics, a lot of the ideas behind this one was just capturing the atmosphere that we’re looking for. Because we’ve worked with him for so long he’s pretty good with just running with it.
You guys already kind of alluded to it, but with this record signifying more of a joint effort, what would you say was different about the experience of making this release at Q Division Studios in Somerville than what you’ve previously done together?
CD: I think before we had the songs pretty much completed by the time we got into the studio and this time we knew what we wanted to do with all of the basics and everything but then there was a gap of a few months before we started recording any type of overdubs. We definitely stretched it out a lot more over this one and also the engineer that we worked with, Sean Callahan, is a good friend of ours. He’s a busy guy these days, he has a lot going on. He works on a podcast and he gets really busy during the summer, so basically the main difference this time is that we went in knowing that we weren’t going to finish it within a month. We went in knowing that we were going to get our basics done and afterwards we were going to use them to come up with some of the lyrics, some of the melodies, the guitar leads, and things like that while picking it up a little while later.
For the vinyl version of the album, there’s a really cool splash design of white, blue, and orange on the record. How did you go about making that happen? Was it a request that you put in with your label at HellMinded Records or did it happen in a different way?
KA: That was all Joseph Kuzemka at HellMinded Records. I think he was trying to have the color scheme to relate to the blueish green highlight of the fire and stuff, but that was all him. He came to us with the design and we absolutely loved it. He’s putting out some really cool vinyl right now and we’re super excited to see them in person when they come from the plant. It’s gonna be awesome to see what they look like.
CD: We were really excited when he sent us those mockups because with the other vinyl releases that we’ve done before we mostly self-financed so we could never really afford to have anything other than straight black vinyl. We’ve looked at other color schemes before but we never could really afford it. What Joseph came up with looked a lot like what I was hoping colored vinyl would look like based on how the album cover looked so it was pretty exciting when he showed us those.
What are your plans to promote the album in the absence of live music due to COVID-19?
KA: We’ve each been in separate pandemic bubbles because a few of us have kids and live with people who are high-risk, so we’ve been really diligent about social distancing and stuff. We haven’t been getting together because of it, but once we can do so we’re going to start playing again as soon as possible. As far as promotion goes, we’ve been trying to spread the word through friends online as much as we can. Chris and I have done a few other interviews including a bunch through podcasts, which is something we’ve never really done before but it’s been pretty fun to talk about the history of the band and talk to new people about what we do. We’re hoping to reach more folks that way.
CD: Like Kevin said, some of the members of our band are living with high-risk people so I’ve been hanging outside in my backyard with acoustic guitars and I haven’t been playing that much at all. Some of those people are in the process of getting vaccinated so we’re hoping that we can start getting together again soon.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.