Despite a revolving door of bassists, a crappy economy and a run-in with the IRS, Boston hardcore act Refuse Resist have managed to not only keep it together, but turn those experiences into a ferocious collection of hold-nothing-back hardcore.
The result led to Socialized, their powerful third album, and a deal with Thorp Records, a label synonymous with classic hardcore.
Innocent Words: For those unaware, how did you guys first get together?
Mike Barone: We’ve been round for three years now. John (Mehlman, bass) and I were throwing around the idea of getting a band together, but we were having trouble finding members. John decided he’d try out drums, so he bought a kit, and I had been playing guitar for about a year. We started practicing in John’s garage with Nick (our original bassist) and Christian (our singer before we met Shawn). We learned covers from Misfits, Ramones, The Clash, Slapshot, Black Flag and Minor Threat. After a few different lineup changes, we needed a vocalist, so we put together a MySpace classified ad. Shawn (Refuse) replied to the ad and came to one of our practices, and we instantly hit it off. A few months later, we had a set and our first show.
Shawn Refuse: I was looking for a band for two years and wasn’t happy with the typical street punk that was coming out of Boston at the time. I stumbled upon something promising on MySpace (ironic, I know). It said “Band looking for singer. Into ’80s hardcore and punk like Minor Threat and Black Flag.” It’s what I had been looking for, so I answered, rented a car to drive to these kids in Methuen, and tried out. I have never looked back. Within a few months, we wrote six songs and recorded a demo at a friend’s studio, so we could start getting shows.
IW: You’ve mentioned your original bassist. You’ve had a number of different bassists, haven’t you?
Refuse: Yeah, we have had a few full-time bass players come and go. On the CD Socialized, Mark from the Welch Boys helped us out while we were looking. Our first and second bass players just couldn’t commit to the schedule and dedication Mike, John and I have towards the band. Don is looking to be a great fit, and damn, he can play. We can’t wait to get back into writing mode and see what he can do.
Barone: Yeah, we are on our third bassist. One for each year we’ve been around it seems…
IW: How did you end up on Thorp Records?
Refuse: It was a pretty obvious choice for us. They have put out a ton of great bands and CDs throughout the years, and we wanted to be a part of it. We went into the studio and recorded a few songs that are on the CD now, and shopped it to labels with the bands that have influenced us. Luckily for us, Thorp liked what they heard, and here we are.
IW: There are some themes that keep popping up on the record about government. Do you consider yourself a political band?
Barone: I wouldn’t consider us a political band, but you’d have to be living under a rock not to be affected by the economy and the blunders of the past eight years.
Refuse: Definitely not. I sing about what I know. I have personally been screwed by credit, taxes, and fallen into the whole addiction of social networking. There are some political references, but I am very middle of the road when it comes to my opinions. I am a believer that if people band together and help one another, things will move ahead. It doesn’t matter if it’s politics, the scene, or life in general.
IW: Tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind “IRS”?
Refuse: I was a “freelance” designer at a firm when I got out of school. I was told I was on payroll, then got hit with 1099s and owing thousands of dollars to the IRS because of a “self-employment” tax. The IRS decided that they wanted their money quicker than I could give it to them and tapped into my paycheck. We were supposed to do a tour when that happened. We had to cancel because of it. Looking at where the tax money goes is painful, too. Between the wars and bailouts, our taxes are pretty much wasted away. Don’t take that as I am anti-military. I think the troops are heroes; I just think our government is poorly run and makes horrible decisions that destroy many, many people’s lives.
IW: You’ve played with some amazing bands. Did you ever play with someone you really looked up to, but they ended up acting like shits?
Refuse: We’ve been pretty damn lucky. I can’t think of any of the bands we have played with as being even remotely shitty. There were a couple of bands that showed up after we played and didn’t get to see us. But, when you are on tour, it’s understandable that it’s hard to get to a gig on time to see every band. In fact, most of the bands we play with are amazing to us and very supportive. We played with Stigma, and Vinny took one of our shirts (an Agnostic Front knock-off shirt). He said he would wear it next time Agnostic Front played in the area. And… he did. We have had the pleasure of playing with Stigma twice now and both times have been a blast. Leftover Crack was another band that surprised me. I had heard not-so-great things about their attitudes, but it was one of the best shows we have played to this day. I talked mostly with Brad; he was one of the nicest guys I’ve met.
IW: The Boston punk scene got a lot of attention in the ’90s. Is it still pretty strong?
Refuse: It’s a roller coaster. There are some amazing bands, but the turnouts are definitely a crapshoot. There are few to no all-ages clubs, so it’s hard to build a community that is really strong. I do feel that it’s on the verge of another comeback though. A lot of good touring bands are making stops in the area, and that’s always good for the scene.
IW: How has the shitty economy affected your ability to tour?
Refuse: Like every other band, I am sure. It’s hard to go out for more than a weekend here and there. We have one guy out of a job, and another not making much, so it’s tough. We plan to do as many weekend tours as possible and a couple of weeklong tours this year. With the economy picking up again, who knows, we may be able to do more touring towards the end of the year.
IW: Any plans to play outside of Boston this year?
Refuse: Without a doubt. We love playing Philly, New York and Baltimore. We are also looking to hit up the West Coast later in the year. We have yet to play out there, and are dying to.
IW: Anything else you want to add?
Refuse: This year, we are adding a second guitarist to the band. Steve Risteen will be joining the Refuse Resist family. He was one of the founding members of Slapshot. I met him last year, and we really hit it off. I can’t wait to start playing shows with him. He adds a fun and energetic aspect to the band. And, if someone says we sound like Slapshot, I can point my finger at him and say “it’s him, not me.” Also, if you see us playing in the area, come out and hang. We like meeting new people and have a blast no matter where we play.