Knife Hits are the featured artist in this week’s Meet The Band. Every Saturday we introduce you to a new or up-and-coming band. Knife Hits just released their debut album Eris. Guitarist Jake Smith gives us the lowdown on Knife Hits.
Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of Knife Hits.
Jake Smith: Knife Hits started in the early spring of 2011 in Orlando, FL out of the ashes of Republicorpse and Time to Die who were both staples in the local scene at the time. We almost immediately went on our first tour supporting No Qualms for 3 weeks. This was something that worked very well since we shared members and are all best friends. We toured with No Qualms two more times over the next two years (both full U.S. tours, about two months long each). Before the second tour, we released a split 7″ with Bastard Swine from Boston that is no longer available (as far as I can tell).
In 2012 the Orlando exodus began and a lot of the people in our scene started to move away, myself included. We made the tours happen still and very much enjoyed continuing the band even after three members had moved to Philadelphia and two had moved to Chicago. Also, sort of hilariously so, we were a six piece band with two singers for a lot of this time. Our close friend Daniel Cox (Pollen/Dark Thoughts) used to play bass for us during this time, but after the last tour we did with No Qualms we talked about changing the direction of our sound a little and taking the band more seriously and we all knew that Daniel wasn’t so much into the style.
He’s just a great musician and even better friend, so we decided to take the extra singer, Ben Rudolph and move him to bass (because let’s be real; that two singer shit is kinda corny even though we love plenty of bands that did that back in the day). Now we operate out of Philadelphia and Chicago. We take turns traveling to each other’s cities to write and tour. I’m probably leaving some stuff out, but that the the gist, I’d say.
Describe the songwriting and recording process of Eris.
So, like I had mentioned before, our band members are split up between Philly and Chicago, so a lot of the writing happened individually and then we would teach each other stuff by sending videos and getting together for a few days as often as possible for weekends and hitting it hard in the practice room. Each member brought skeletons of song ideas to the table and we would pick them apart and put them back together until we were happy with what we heard.
The recording process was a hell of an experience. We had decided quite a bit earlier that we wanted to make a record with Jon Nunez (Torche/Shitstorm) as he’s worked on a lot of stuff we grew up listening to and I had worked with him before on a No Qualms record that we were very pleased with. We spent seven days with him in Gainesville, FL at Black Bear Studios and he is a dream to work with. We were the first band he recorded in that studio as he had just moved up from Miami, so we got to watch him settle in a bit and it was awesome. I remember him spending half an hour walking around the live room with Jono’s floor tom in his and hitting it in different spots all over the room. “You hear that, it’s dead over here… now listen to that, that’s booming in this spot”.After a bit he found the best spot for Jono to set up his kit. I think once we got sounds, we did about a day and a half of drums.
We did guitars and bass over the next few days. Some of the songs were so new that there were a couple of times we had to do the “you wrote this part, I’m fucking it up, can you track this part of the song” thing. No shame, we knew the most important thing was getting the best takes we could. This is where working with Jon is so great. He’s not gonna bullshit you and he’s not gonna “fix” your riffs in Pro-Tools. But he knows how to get your best performance. There were plenty of times where you’d finish a song and be like “I think I nailed it, let’s move on” and he’d be like “that sounds good but I think you can land on this note a little better to really make it pop” and you think to yourself that you totally played it well enough but then when he makes you do it again and really try to do what he said should be different then sure enough, at playback it sounds better even when you didn’t think it could.
Also, he let us use this guitar amp, that to this day is the most amazing sounding thing I’ve ever heard. It’s this super hot-rodded JCM800, and from what I understand he had two amp guys that he knows do some mods and rebuild parts of it to turn it into a supreme beast. Never in my life have I experienced a sound so heavy with so much clarity. When I first plugged into it and played the riffs from “Map Territory Relation,” our heaviest song, it almost brought me to tears, I was so happy. (laughs) About four or five days into tracking, Jon left for a night to drive down to Tampa to visit someone and got T-boned by a motorcycle that was going almost 100 miles an hour. His truck was wrecked and he suffered some injuries. I think it messed his back up a little. But this dude is dedicated to his craft, and instead of trying to push anything back a considerable amount of time he instead took care of business, got back to Gainesville, and we were tracking again by dinner time the next evening.
If he wasn’t so funny and chill, I might think he’s part machine. The last day of tracking was vocals. Our singer Alex Harrison really put a lot of thought into his lyrics and patterns, but it was the kind of thing where he was finalizing the stuff almost up to the last minute. We had gone out for drinks the night before and things got a little out of hand, as they tend to when spending time in Gainesville. Needless to say, we showed up to the studio the next day in rough shape and I think we were all a little worried about how it might affect Alex’s tracking. My man stepped into that studio looking like hammered shit while we all sat in the control room nauseated and half asleep. We didn’t really know what to expect in the first place as this was our first time in the studio since changing the direction of our style.
When John hit record on the first song and Alex started yelling, our eyes opened up so wide and you could see the goosebumps on everyone’s arms. Alex sounded so beautifully tortured and our current state of disrepair was seemed to not effect his ability to perform at all. Before we knew it he had done half of the record in one take per song and we couldn’t stop talking about how amazing we thought everything was sounding. He was done in a couple of hours and he really saved our asses because we had taken a little more time than expected to track the other instruments.
The whole thing was a great learning experience and we really love this record. We had a blast doing it and I would recommend recording with Jon Nunez to anyone and everyone. One last tidbit: in the mornings before we would get started, Henry from Floor/House of Lightning/Dove/Assuck would come in and lay down a vocal track or two for the new House of Lightning record so we got to talk with him about all kinds of rad shit that happened in the Florida scene before our time and also hear the incredible songs that band put together for their LP. That was a real treat.
How would you characterize the album’s style/sound?
When we started the band, we were just trying to be as heavy and mean as possible with not much else of an objective. But when we decided that we wanted to get a little more serious and write an LP, we decided to change it up a bit. We’d been fans of classic emotive hardcore/screamo/emo-violence/skramz whatever the hell you wanna call it for a long time, though none of us had ever really existed in those types of scenes. We come from a much more punk and grindcore background and we’d like to think that we’ve been able to mix these kinds of things up in a cohesive way for this record.
If people ask me to describe it, I usually say that we’re a hardcore band with screamo tendencies. But I think these days a lot of people would agree that it’s sometimes hard to describe the sound of your own band because you’re so immersed in it, your ears aren’t objective enough to it anymore, so I’m looking forward to seeing how other folks characterize the style and sound of this album.
What inspired the album title?
Eris is the greek goddess of discord, and the center of the mock-religion of chaos known as Discordianism. We reject absolutes. Nothing is true, everything is permitted. We are all popes of our own destiny. We have seen the Fnords! Hail Discordia! Hail Eris!
What has been your most memorable Knife Hits live show?
A few years back when on tour with No Qualms, we played a show in Columbus, Ohio at a place that I believe was called the Boneyard where our bassist at the time (Daniel Cox) was lifted up by members of the crowd multiple times and crowd surfed around during entire songs while belligerent moshers knocked us into our gear repeatedly while other folks were blowing us shotguns off of a comically oversized blunt between songs. Also, any time we play in Orlando, now especially that none of us live there anymore, it’s always memorable. Our closest friends get buck wild and the vibes burst through the roof with positivity (yea, I just said vibes).
What are your upcoming show/tour plans?
Now that this record is finally seeing the light of day, we’re working on some plans. As I write this we’re in the middle of a short run to celebrate the release. The last two nights we’ve played with the collaboration tour of Full of Hell and The Body and both gigs were absolutely killer and we’re very grateful that they had us share the shows with them. We’re confirmed for Florida Is Loud fest in Orlando this December. It’s a really cool two day party put together by our friend Glenn. It will feature only bands from Florida (a few of which are no longer based there, but were originally) with the exception of Yautja, because well, Florida loves them because they are the best band. We will be doing some dates with Yautja around the fest, look for announcements about that soon. We plan to hit the road harder early next year, we have some exciting things in the works with bands we’re very excited to work with, although we have keep our lips tight on that for the moment.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
I can only speak for myself at the moment, but I’ve been listening to the Genocide Pact – Forged Through Domination a whole lot as well as Yautja’s Songs of Lament and Scaphe’s Long Way Down. I just got a new record player after not having one for many years so I’ve been going back to a lot of classics as I rebuild my collection.
Anything else you’d like to mention/plug/promote?
We all have other bands that are very different from Knife Hits. Check ’em out! I play bass in Backslider. we have a new LP called Motherfucker that came out earlier this year and next month we are to Europe with our homies in Triac. Alex and I also play in a punk band called Penetrode. Ben and Jono are in an absolutely amazing weirdo hardcore punk band in Chicago called CHEW and they’re working on taking over punk.
Alex plays in this band that sounds kind of like The Gun Club, called Wild at Heart, they’re blowing up in Philly quick because it’s so damn good. If you haven’t heard about them, you will soon! Ben also plays bass in a top notch indie rock band called Great Deceivers based in Chicago. They’re one of my personal all time favorites. Ant is working on a new band in Philly. They don’t have a name yet but it’s nasty and fast.
Also, some shout outs to friends that I think are doing amazing things. Dark Thoughts are the best Ramones style sped up punk shit you’ll ever hear. Their debut LP is out on Stupid Bag Records and it will never leave your head. Vivian K is a band who relocated to Chicago from Orlando and that shit is straight up ’90s style emo, but better than everything you could compare it to. These folks are absurdly talented.
Pollen is a band from Philly people should know about, they are the most pummeling punk band I have ever seen. Think Frigora and Mob 47 but faster. They’ll leave your jaw on the floor. Honorable mentions I’d like to plug: Blank Spell, Soul Glo, HIRS, Multicult, S-21, Nunhex, Disciples of Christ, Nightfall, Mellow Harsher, False Punk, Enamel, and most importantly, Tenement! I’m sure I’m leaving out tons, but this is enough. (laughs)
(interview published September 24, 2016)