Editor’s Note: This article features brief profanity.
Despite a history of more than 40 years with roots in punk rock and new wave heavy metal, hardcore music has yet to be categorized as mainstream. You won’t find bands like Trash Talk, Xibalba or Fugazi in Billboard’s Top 100 Songs of the Year.
However, if you look into today’s counterculture, you’ll find a young group of people who head bang to lyrics of anarchy, authenticity and originality.
Early punk bands like Black Flag, Sex Pistols and Dead Kennedys arrived onto the scene during the height of hard rock ‘n’ roll music in the mid-70s to late 80s. Punk music became a subgenre of rock ‘n’ roll, making it easier for bands of the time to cross over into the limelight. Hardcore music emerged in the late 1970s in Southern California, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.
Punk music, which preaches individuality and community, has united the youth from across the world and, in many cases, shaped the opinions and views of listeners. This is the case for Lee Spielman, lead singer of the band Trash Talk, based out of Los Angeles.
“I grew up on going to punk shows,” said Spielman before going on stage at the Black Cat. “Most of my friends came from punk. I got most of my morals from punk. I interact with people, pay my bills, and be on top of stuff because of punk.”
Trash Talk is trying something few hardcore bands are attempting: crossing over to the mainstream. Tyler the Creator, founder and leader of the popular hip-hop group OFWGKTA, has signed Trash Talk to his label. The crossover of genres has pulled in many new listeners for Trash Talk.
Contemporary music is typically slower and more melodic.
With the popular music of the late 20th and early 21st century being so different from hardcore, it has made it difficult for current punk bands like Underoath, Melvins and Misfits to break into the mainstream.
In contrast, hardcore music evolved into faster, heavier and angrier music than original punk or rock ‘n’ roll. This expression of rebellion and release of aggression has appealed to the youth for generations.
So, will hardcore ever be mainstream?
“There’s a lot of crossover bands. Look at Nirvana or Sonic Youth who have crossed over,” Spielman said, taking a drag from his cigarette. “I don’t know about hardcore, like aggressive hardcore music, but I definitely think there’s a lot of punk bands who have broken through.”
But will this shift ever occur for hardcore bands and their fans? Will the anger, edginess and rule-breaking ever appeal to the masses?
For many listeners, the aggression, volume and anger are an escape.
“It’s safe,” Daniel Jay, 20, of Rockville, Md., said. “I like skating to it. I like living to it.”
Unlike Spielman, who said he thinks anything can happen in the music scene, many avid listeners and fans disagree.
“It’s never going to be mainstream because hardcore and the mainstream don’t go together,” D.C. native Henry Smith,19, said. “Hardcore is supposed to be about people speaking up about what’s fucked up and that’s not mainstream. It’s about what’s on your mind and what’s happening around you – not bullshit.”
Some members of the hardcore and punk scene say they don’t want their music to go mainstream, and for a good reason. Once a band is signed to a major label, the rebellion and excitement often disappears.
“It will never be mainstream because it has to be grassroots. It has to come from the streets, from the people without a voice. Mainstream and hardcore aren’t one and the same,” Rico Estevez, 26, of D.C., said.
“Fuck the mainstream.”
Katie Ebel is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.