Earlier this summer, Chicago-based pop-punk band, Knuckle Puck released their debut full length, Copacetic on Rise Records. According to the official press release, “the band set out to flip the script on what's expected from Knuckle Puck without losing sight of the foundation that's converted thousands of devoted fans around the world: rough-around-the-edges urgency buoyed by vocalist Joe Taylor's explosive, gritty vocals.” We asked guitarist Kevin Maida to unpack that statement a bit.
“Going into [recording the new album], we still wanted to be the same band we always were,” he says via phone from a Jacksonville tour stop. “We didn’t want to write the same 11 songs. To us, that was boring concept. We had an opportunity to impress ourselves and see how different we could make certain aspects of this while still maintaining the current band because we like the current band are. We didn’t want to pull a 180. We just wanted to do different stuff. It was fun to see how our music has changed over time.”
The band hooked up with producer Seth Henderson, who had them work out of his Always Be Genius Recording Studio in Indiana.
“It was awesome,” says Maida. “It was the least pressured situation, which doesn’t traditionally make sense if it’s your debut full-length for a record label. It should be your most stressful situation. The only thing that was taxing was the time. It was the most consecutive weeks we spent in the studio. We would go there for nine hours a day for six days a week for a month. That got to be a little much, but when it came time to the creative process and laying down the songs, it didn’t feel like that much pressure. It just felt like we were doing this for fun as opposed to a real deal thing. It was really cool. I don’t know how that happened. It usually gets to a point where some of us feel some kind of anxiety. That’s not to say there was no anxiety. There was some anxiety. That didn’t dominate the whole experience. I look back on it and just think it was lots of fun.”
The intro to the ballad “Ponder” suggests a new side of the band's sound. It features cooing harmony vocals and is typical of the band’s more nuanced approach on the album.
“We wanted a chilled, mellowed out downer song,” says Maida “It wasn’t what you were expecting. That was cool doing that song. It’s one of the shorter songs we’ve done. We put more effort into actually recording it. We had the riffs and kept adding more percussion stuff and different background stuff like oohs and ahs. That was pretty cool. We had a very basic blueprint and just built upon it.”
Not that the band’s lost its edge. “Pretense” commences with parched, rapid-fire vocals before giving way to quieter guitar riffs. And “Untitled” pairs call-and-response vocals with noisy guitars.
The band, which also includes Nick Casasanto, bassist Ryan Rumchaks and drummer John Siorek, played Warped Tour over the summer before this fall’s headlining tour. While Warped can often be grueling, Maida said the band’s experience on the tour was a good one.
“I thought it was awesome,” he says. “It went over a lot better than I thought it was going to. It was different getting used to the environment and just how everything works. It’s a different tour because you’re outdoors and you can’t predict the weather all the times. Things fluctuate that don’t normally fluctuate on a club tour.”
Maida admits he’s not sure how the band will continue to evolve with it next release. But he does know that the band wants to continue to break from conventional emo punk formulas.
“We haven’t talked about what our next step is as far as writing,” he says. “When we get back from our headline tour in a week and a half or two weeks, we’ll figure it out. We’re always writing. I’m excited to see what we can do next. It’s really exciting. “
Knuckle Puck, Seaway, Sorority Noise, Head North, 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21, Agora Ballroom, 5000 Euclid Ave., 216-881-2221. Tickets: $14 ADV, $16 DOS, agoracleveland.com.