Avail – “Over the James”

If you were perusing distro tables at any hardcore show in the ’90s, you touched an Avail record. Right there, alphabetically misfiled between Assfactor 4 and Amber Inn vinyl, were copies of the Richmond-based melodic punk band’s Satiate or Dixie LPs or Live at the Kings Head Inn 10-inch. But it was on the band’s fourth album, 1998’s Over the James, that everything came together for Avail. The band’s melodic hardcore, punk and rock sensibilities combined perfectly with a compositional sensibility that had never before been this on-point (“Scuffle Town” is untouchable) to create a melodic hardcore classic.

Not that the band had time to notice. They were road-dogging it hard at this point, living the nomadic punk band life of 1998, which was somewhere between playing squats and playing bigger shows with melodic punk bands who were achieving some sort of near-mainstream success. Fact of the matter is Avail were both and neither, the band just consistently plowing along on their own path, which is why they’re universally respected among scenes from underground emo hardcore to metal, the band’s totally sincere take on punk was nothing if not honest and totally admirable to anyone who loves it loud in any capacity.

And nowhere in their catalogue is all that more apparent than Over the James, so we caught up with vocalist Tim Barry, guitarist Joe Banks, bassist Justin “Gwomper” Burdick (who had joined the band just prior to Over the James), drummer Erik Larson (who you may know from Alabama Thunderpussy and Birds of Prey) and cheerleader Beau Beau (uh, more on that later) to get the scoop on Over the James as the band was preparing to play their first shows in 12 years to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the album.

Even though we haven’t let a lot of melodic punk in, Avail, we open the doors of the Hall to you. Such is the power of what you’ve created—the passion, the sincerity, the fact that 21 years later, even the most hardened death metal fans can turn on Over the James, crank it up and just feel it. It lived on distro tables for years and now it can rest easy in the Hall, forever remembered as the punk classic that it is.

Need more Avail? To read the entire seven-page story, featuring interviews with all members on Over the James, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.