There’s always good punk bands out there, you just need to know where to look. Chicago has a particularly vibrant scene at the moment, with different facets spread throughout the city. The Kreutzer Sonata is one of the many bands cultivating this fertile ground of rambunctious noise.
When confronted with the old scene inquiry, “So, are you street punk or hardcore?” – the band’s music responds, “Why not both?” But with additional pop-punk and crust elements blended in, the band is far from a simple 82′ throwback. On June 28, The Kreutzer Sonata will release a new studio album, The Rosehill Gates, via No Time Records and Don’t Panic Records & Distro.
To learn more about the band and its sound, I talked to Adam, the band’s vocalist. I’ve known Adam for more than a decade, having come up in the same era of the CT punk scene and played a role in our own little corner of that scene. Adam has always been a powerhouse in terms of vocals, lyrics and live performances, so it’s always good to see what he’s up to.
Read our chat below, and check out “Glory Daze,” from The Rosehill Gates.
Hey Adam, always good to talk to you! What’s the story of The Kreutzer Sonata? When did you form and how did it all come together?
Hey Drew, good to catch up. TKS started back in 2011 when I moved to Chicago from NYC. I recorded a demo in Bridgeport, CT and used it to find band mates out in the Chicago area, which is how I met our longtime guitarist, Karl. The first few years we spent playing shows to basically nobody. I would go down to Karl’s house to jam two days a week and sleep on his floor, writing and practicing all night. Over the years it got more serious and we found more dedicated musicians and really delved into the Chicago underground music scene. Since then, we’ve released a few full lengths on local labels and toured consistently around the Midwest/East Coast US and Canada. Recently, we got to open up for some fun bands like TSOL, Negative Approach, World/Inferno Friendship Society and the Detroit Warped Tour.
We got some fun things coming up with New Jersey’s The Oi! Scouts and East LA’s Corrupted Youth at Liar’s Club in Chicago on July 7, as well as an opening spot on Midwest Live and Loud 2019 in Chicago at the Cobra Lounge on August 31st. This band was built from the ground up and, after a number of years, we are finally getting the sound and direction we envisioned back in 2011.
How would you describe the band’s sound to a new listener?
The band’s sound takes influences from older street punk/hardcore punk with the occasional melodic influence of the Crack Rocksteady-style bands. Vocally, I am as much influenced by bands like Monster Squad and A Global Threat as I am Tom Waits and Jerry from Trophy Scars (NJ). Lyrically, I am very inspired by Shane MacGowan, and draw a lot of literary inspiration into the song writing process. The band has a lot of influences outside of the hardcore/street punk realm and I feel like this helps give our albums a sound that is distinctly us.
I assume you got the name of your band from the Leo Tolstoy story. What made you decide on this name?
I named the band at a time when I was getting really excited about reading and writing again. I couldn’t get my hands on enough books at the time. I remember reading the novella, The Kreutzer Sonata, and being inspired by the writing. It was around the same time I was recording what would be TKS demo and I sort of slapped the name on there. Over the course of the years, the name of the band has grown in depth. I became acquainted with the violin sonata the book was named after and the story of rejection it is associated with. The sonata was dedicated to a great musician by the name of Kreutzer, who rejected it as trash. Growing up playing in punk and hardcore bands, we were used to the idea of pouring your heart and soul into music that was thrown right back into your face by the people around you. I thought it became a fitting association for us, especially during the formative years of the band, where we really couldn’t get a foot in the door anywhere for a good while.
What’s the band’s lyrical focus? It seems more observational and less personal than the stuff you used to write. Is that correct?
These days, the lyrics tend to be stories of life around Chicago. We have a new album coming out, The Rosehill Gates, which carries a theme of the years I spent working the graveyard shift at a 4 a.m. bar across the street from the famous Rosehill Cemetery, one of the oldest in the city. Stories of violence, separation/divorce, social life, fast times and downward spirals I’ve lived and witnessed are all encompassed in the record, more detailed than the often vague, self-deprecating lyrics I wrote back when I was a confused teenager. To me there seems to be more substance in images and stories that generate emotion in a listener than to scream straight emotional things. It took writing a lot of bad songs to learn that.
Your vocals have always been insanely raw and razor sharp. How do you keep it going without blowing your voice out?
Just like it took years of crappy lyrics to finally get somewhere I was happy with in my writing, it took years of blowing out my voice at shows and on tour to find out what works for me. I definitely have more understanding and control over what I’m doing these days. And believe it or not, I actually take care of my throat at shows, on tour and in the studio. It’s almost like I grew up in some ways haha. It’s funny because most people I know in Chicago can’t imagine me as a vocalist because I’m generally a quiet guy these days. But I still let it all out when I get the chance.
You’ve been in Chicago for a long time now. What’s the nature of the scene out there compared to the NYC/CT area where we grew up?
Chicago has a great music scene right now. I feel like the Chicago punk/hardcore music scene never had its day in the sun like the East and West coasts have had over the years. There were always great bands out here, but I feel like the city is still very overlooked. In many ways, the punk scene here is split into a few different scenes. Pilsen and Little Village on the south west side have a great history of DIY punk, hardcore and artists and they still represent that proudly today. If you go up north, you’ll find bands that play places like Liar’s Club and Quenchers (RIP) but never make it down to the south side (and vice versa). There’s a lot of punk bands more on the rock n’ roll side these days, and a ton of hardcore and powerviolence bands right now. Also, there’s something to be said for Blue Island, IL and the punks/skins out there doing their thing south of the city. That place is crazy and always a blast.
I am forever grateful for growing up on the East Coast in the early 2000s. At the El n’ Gee in New London, CT, I saw some of my favorite shows I’ve ever been to. Not to mention getting to see bands like The Freeze, Agent Orange and Reagan Youth play one of the last CBGB’s shows before it closed down. The scene was so vibrant back then in those areas, along with all the shit in Boston. You could go to the Empress Ballroom in Danbury, CT any given weekend and see a fun show. Or the Wallingford American Legion and other DIY stuff. I remember going to a show in a YMCA gym or something like that in Norwich and all the street punks shooting hoops while the bands played. (Author’s note: Adam mentioned to me later that he regretted not mentioning the band Fourth Corpse here as well, an error I couldn’t be happier to fix)
Your mention of the Empress is bringing back all the feels right now. My own first show was there.
It was fun times. There’s still a great New England and New York area scene out there right now. This past fall, we toured Canada and the Northeast. We hit up Manchester NH, Alston Mass, Wallingford, CT and Brooklyn. Bands like Brix n’ Mortar, Mickey Rickshaw, DNZL, Damn Broads!, OC45, Down With Rent, Intercourse, Restraining Order, Secret Spirit are all out there killing it right now!
Oh, and the best CT band will always be The Bloodshot Hooligans, in my eyes. (Author’s note: BRING BACK THE SPIRIT!!!)
It’s pretty awesome to see you still out there playing punk and hardcore, dude. Do you see yourself doing this for many years to come? Or will you have another inexplicable folk-punk/acoustic phase circa 2009-2011? (Please say no…)
Hahaha, I still play acoustic guitar but can’t stand folk punk anymore so, “that’s gonna be a no from me dawg.”
But punk and hardcore- yes. Been doing it for a while now, started when I was 13 and I’ll be 30 in October. So far, no signs of stopping. The older I get, the more I find myself branching out under the umbrella of those genres and experimenting with sounds and styles and gear. But the best part for me is, after playing in this band for so long, I’ve met so many great friends from around the country. We can go play a show in several places now and have a bunch of familiar faces to hang out and jump around with, and get to meet more and more people and see more places along the way. And my band mates are the best. Never had better people to travel with either. It all means a lot to me, seeing as how long we played to nobody but the sound guy and our girlfriends. Music has brought me every close friend I have in my adult life, not to mention my jobs at Chicago staple punk bars Liar’s Club and Delilah’s. So yeah, I see no reason to ever stop.