Hostage Calm combine punk rock spirit with social activism
By Derek Scancarelli
Arts & Ent. Assistant Editor
Hostage Calm’s newest album Please Remain Calm came out late last year. Today, it’s considered homage to the disenfranchised youth of middle-class America.
The Connecticut five-member band combine traditional punk roots with an energetic set of harmonies you can rarely find in 2013.
The band played at Upstate Concert Hall on Mar. 10, playing alongside Fireworks and Misser on The Wonder Years’ headlining tour.
The Wonder Years, a pop-punk band from Philadelphia, will be releasing their newest album The Greatest Generation on May 14.
The ASP was able to sit down with Hostage Calm’s vocalist Chris Martin (not to be confused with Coldplay) prior to the show.
We spoke about punk’s role in protest, the Sandy Hook tragedy, the new album and the band’s response to a recent injustice involving gay rights.
Chris Martin, Vocals, HOSTAGE CALM:
ASP: Please Remain Calm came out in October. How has the response been to the album?
Martin: We’ve been really — I don’t want to say surprised, but I guess overwhelmed. We put out a record that we put blood, sweat and tears into, and when you do that, you do it for yourself and for all the reasons that you make music. When other people respond with such warmth, it’s really gratifying and it lets you know that you’re not alone. I think a lot of that album is a sense of loneliness and abandonment and stuff like that, so to have that album be embraced has been a special thing.
ASP: The record has been described as the band’s manifesto. Do you think the album is almost a proclamation of the state of the American youth?
Martin: That’s how I saw it. I saw myself, I saw it in a lot of my friends too — this sense of stagnancy and a sense of an ever-narrowing future, and a lot of promises that were being broken right in front of our eyes. Whether it’s carrying $100,000 worth of student loan debt, or how increasingly impossible it seems to make love last for a lifetime and all these sort of things that you’re raised on. I think it is, at least in my eyes, trying to talk about this massive falling apart that I think we’re all seeing but no one was really talking about. And I would’ve expected it from the punk community to have this greater sense of “Wow, this economy, the debt we’re carrying as students, the prospects for us down the line and all we’re going through right now, the broken families, the broken schools, the whole thing.” And it just seemed like it was all completely a non-issue, you know? And it’s like the major happening of our lifetime so far. We definitely saw it as trying to write the anthem of the disenfranchised youth that I think we all feel has been really happening to us. It’s trouble making rent, it’s trouble making your dream come true.
ASP: How old are you guys?
Martin: I just turned 25. We are all 23, 24, 25.
ASP: I’m 21, just graduated college, and it’s been impossible finding a job.
Martin: It’s real. I think that it’s not despite good intentions, from us, or our parents, or other people. But I do think there’s a lot that we’re not acknowledging. There’s a big disconnect between what we talk about and what’s actually going on. I felt like that disconnect was so real in the punk community and I couldn’t believe it because you just look back historically like The Clash wrote London Calling and it spoke to the time. It spoke to that decaying gray England in 1979. We wanted our album to be, in our eyes, that for today.
ASP: You guys just put out that 7” split vinyl with Anti-Flag. How did that come about? How does it feel to work with legends?
Martin: [Laughs] It feels pretty fucking great. In their seemingly infinite generosity towards our band they took us on tour in Europe. They brought up the idea of using some material that they had to do a split with us. We were obviously thrilled, Anti-Flag was a seminal band for me growing up. And getting into politics and associating social issues with punk and having that be a sort-of interconnected thing. Any band that can fill an hour and a half of a set with music with just hit after hit after hit is definitely a legendary band and they are just that. We are thrilled to be part of that record, I saw the physical record the other day and I couldn’t even believe it holding my hands on the cover, it’s crazy.
ASP: Would you consider your band politically charged?
Martin: Yeah, maybe not in the exact same way as Anti-Flag but I think we see a lot of the same things in the world and have the same viewpoints on most issues, if not all. I would definitely see us as a politically charged band; I think ours may come from a more social emotional angle which just plays a different role. Anti-Flag educated me on so many issues with their brand of political punk but I would say we fall into that category.
ASP: Do you think social activism plays an important role in music, and vice-versa?
Martin: Absolutely, even at its basic level this punk music is somewhere where all of us who maybe didn’t fit in somewhere else in society came and accepted this diversity and accepted all walks of life. I think in that respect it’s already sort of a political or social act, the whole gathering. And I think music has always been a means for change whether it was for our parents or jazz or hip-hop or whatever. So I definitely see music as a big part of social activism and I think this scene is increasingly plugged into that.
ASP: Why did you guys feel so strongly about the Rocketown situation?
Martin: Well, we’ve played there a few times and I guess for two reasons. The first being the injustice that Wes getting fired for wearing a shirt, not for getting fired for wearing a shirt that had a political message but for that political message, if you want to call that a political message- “I support same-sex marriage.” I guess in modern America that’s still a political message. Also all these punk bands play there and all these kids go out to see punk bands there thinking it’s this place that’s supporting our ethics and supporting our scene, and we’re going there like “It’s this cool community center type thing,” and that’s not what our band believes in.
In my opinion it’s a prejudicial set of ethics to have. We just wanted to bring it to light. He’d promoted for us a few times I’d definitely call him a friend. I’d heard about the situation second hand through a friend and I called Wes and we talked for an hour. He wanted us to bring this to light, he wanted us to talk about it so we decided to use it as a way to talk about the bigger issues of 1) Rocketown’s inner-workings and the injustice around that and 2) the bigger issue of discrimination in the workplace. That was just a guy wearing a t-shirt. Imagine what would’ve happened if that was a transgendered individual? Or a gay individual?
What kind of discrimination would they be subject to? That’s a big picture issue across America and across the world. People are discriminated in the workplace for their gender, their sexuality, for political viewpoints, so that’s why we take so much issue with the Rocketown thing.
It’s at one level this big scene issue, and at another level it’s a bigger question about society. It’s supposed to be a safe-haven for kids to go. What does that mean to be gay and go to Rocketown? If that’s how they treat their employees. I think people deserve to know where their money’s going. It was a heartbreaking situation but I think the one positive is that its exposed and now from this there is a larger discussion about all those issues.
ASP: How is it working with Run For Cover Records?
Martin: They’re the best man. I think they’re the best label out so we’re thrilled to be a part of them. We’re with a community of bands that I think mean a real lot. They inspire us and there is a real camaraderie between all of these bands. I think RFC is a big happy family and we’re happy to be a part of them.
ASP: Are you excited to be playing with The Wonder Years, Fireworks, and Misser? Have you ever played with them before?
Martin: Never with Misser, but with Wonder Years, yes, we played all of their CD release shows and almost only that. We bumped into them a couple of times in Europe. Fireworks we did a short tour with but it’s the first time we’re together the whole gang and we’ve got quite a crew. We were all just out before and we had the bench out we were all lifting and guys were throwing the football and theres definitely a good set of people on this tour.
ASP: Being from Connecticut, obviously you helped contribute towards benefits for the Sandy Hook Relief Effort. Would you say that event really hit home with you guys?
Martin: Yeah, at the time I was living in Baltimore, and gun violence is an all too real part of life in Baltimore. So, I’d come up that weekend, maybe the day after it happened, and it was so surreal, everybody was talking about it. And there was a solemn feeling everywhere, you went to a diner it’s how it felt, quiet, it was like right after 9/11, in that respect of something so traumatic happening in such a close proximity.
But that doesn’t make it any more or less meaningful if you lived 3,000 miles away, but that proximity, there’s something shocking about that. It was hard to see that. I remember watching when Obama went up to speak in Newtown, it was definitely a very traumatic time and I hope the discussion we’re having about violence in society will yield more understanding and policy changes.
ASP: Who have you never shared the stage with that you would like to?
Martin: Well, if we’re gonna get crazy, we’d love to play with Morrissey. Blink 182 — they do pretty well. That would be cool. I really like that band The Love Language, I’d like to play with them. I don’t think we’ve played with The Story So Far. We’re friends with them.
ASP: What can we expect to see from Hostage Calm in the future?
Martin: More touring, eventually more music. Right now, just more touring, here then I’m sure we’ll announce some stuff abroad. Just trying to drive Please Remain Calm and what we’d like to say to every corner of America and the world. We’ve done Europe three times. For us, we all started playing music in our basements so it was wild to play in a different state, so everything is gravy. We’d love to go to Australia and that’s definitely something that’s on the horizon and something we’ll be closely working on.