Embracing Vice with Joe Biden
Surrounded by the abandoned filth of neighboring dead industry, Studio 14 sits nestled squarely between the bustling and the forgotten. The legendary Baltimore practice spaces have harbored local notables both loathed and celebrated. It was here that I got the chance to pick the collective brain of 3/5 of Joe Biden, a ferociously adventurous punk unit from the Charm City. I took my seat amongst the cracked drumsticks, unwound strings and shitty carpet thrice stained by bands now forgotten… token detritus of a punk rehearsal room. No better place to chat with a band than the room in which their spastic alchemy was birthed.
You need Joe Biden in your life. I’ll make no mention of the name, aside from the fact that an Apple Music search will yield a 2012 Vice Presidential Debate with the subhuman Paul Ryan or, uhhh, Joe Budden. Should you find yourself disinclined to “Pump It Up”, shoot over to their bandcamp (link) for the real thing… wild, discordant hardcore with myriad divergent influences. Baltimore is having an extended moment, in large part to bands like Joe Biden. 2017’s S/T LP is straight hardcore fire. It fucks convention and fears nothing. Check it out. You’re welcome.
The long running and sadly now defunct Baltimore weekly City Paper recently crowned you guys the “Best ACAB band?” How’d that come about?
Honestly, we couldn’t fucking tell you. Rob got a text from a random number asking if we could come in for a photo shoot. That’s all it said and I didn’t think about it again. While we were on tour, I called him back and asked if we could still do the shoot and when the issue was coming out. He told us it was already out so we had to Google it.
You guys are fresh off playing your hometown at UNFEST, a rad and diverse bill. How’d it go?
Yo, so the first day was incredible. Give rocked the hell out of the show, Persephone was really sick, too. Essex Muro, from Raleigh, they blew me out of the water. We loved day two, though, with Palm and Lily and Horn Horse. They were so sick. I gotta admit, we were nervous. The crowd was big, man, and we all had our moms come through. We’re not gonna take our parents to some fucking punk house. It went really well. Our moms hadn’t seen us since high school.
I’m a lot older than you guys. I’m 38, so in the early 90’s I relied solely on comps, zines, and skate videos. Times have certainly changed. How’d you guys find yourselves in this?
As wild as it is to say, the Tony Hawk games were on point. It’s the first place I heard Dag Nasty and thought it was the best fucking thing I’d ever heard. There was even a Rick Ta’ Life track on there. Did I tell you I saw him recently?! Deep fucking cuts.
My dad was really into punk and hardcore in the 80’s. He grew up in Columbia, a DC suburb, and used to drive into town to see shows. Ever since I was a kid he played me the records but it didn’t fall into place until I was in middle school. He has pretty much the first 4 or 5 years of Dischord on vinyl. He was friend’s with the drummer in Void. That’s the way I got into hardcore music but we’ve been playing punk shows in and around Baltimore for years. Our first real “in” into the scene was Charm City Art Space and The Sidebar, two clubs that’d let high school bands play.
I got into it through him. At first, we listened to a lot of 80’s DC stuff. I listened to so much punk for years but I haven’t really gone back and listened to a lot of those classic albums.
It’s funny you’d mention Void. I hear that in the band… not much sonically, but in the sense of chaos and adventure. There seems to be a willingness to embrace varied influences.
When we started out, we were listening to almost exclusively Dischord bands. It was almost straight up 80’s hardcore worship. The new songs now, though? I swear to God they’re basically like riffs from the Black Sabbath shit. Right after we first started, we got really into classic rock bands and stuff. After listening to so much punk all four years of high school, we were just looking to get a break from it and that led to writing some really cool riffs for the record we put out.
There’s a rad track called “Natural Born Killer” on the S/T LP that I want to mention. It’s probably the only time I’ve ever said the words “surf rock” and “powerviolence” in the same sentence. (Side note, this track is a fucking ripper. Agent Orange meets Apartment 213 and takes a time machine back to 1982.) You guys even do some wild guitar freakouts and have no problem embracing the noisier end of independent music. Where do you see yourselves going next?
We always try and diversify as much as possible when we write. We were just writing earlier today. I remember the funniest thing someone said to me was, “every time I see Joe Biden live, y’all get jazzier and jazzier.” I don’t know, I feel like it’s the classic rock and Sabbath. I guess we’ve pushed away from the blast beats a little and moved to the melodic a bit. We’re extremely proud of the new songs. We’ve really developed our sound as individuals. Everyone has found their part and the way they play. That’s my favorite part about the band. We don’t write any solos. We just jam it through.
I know you guys recently recorded? Can you tell us more about that?
Yeah, we’re recording a split with this really sick band Joy Boy from Birmingham. We have three new songs and two of them are gonna be on that split. Basically, the first song is way more metallic than we’ve ever recorded before. It’s got a Rage Against The Machine talking breakdown in there. The other one is very Black Sabbath: loud, heavy, really fast part in the middle. It’s a pit-opener. It really mixes the groovy shit we’re trying to do now.
Baltimore, as we know, has a lot of older punks but there’s never been a sense of “it was better back then.” How important is looking forward while still respecting the past and “killing your heroes” so to speak.
Oh, man, we’re all about “out with the old, in with the new. I think it’s aweso me to pay homage to wherever you came from. but there’s so much cool shit coming out now. The reason we got this shit started is because I was watching bands like Pure Disgust, Soul Glow, etc. even seeing Dag Nasty with Shawn opened my eyes. The past is the past but there’s new shit coming up. You gotta support the youth, man. As long as there’s opportunities for new bands, there’s always gonna be new stuff. you gotta keep on providing the space for these bands to form. There’s always nostalgia, but it was never the “end all.” I’m glad. It seems like there’s a lot of punk bands in Baltimore right now.”
The interview quickly devolved into discovering we share a hometown (Catonsville, Maryland) and anecdotes that no one should have to slog through. I’ll let you get off the bus. Cheers, y’all. Up the punx.
Photo by the incomparable and talented Farrah Skeiky: farrahskeiky.com/blog
@reallyfarrah IG / @dimsumdc / @homosuperiordc