Sunday, 19 May 2019

***ANTONIO LEIRIAO exclusive interview***


exclusive interview w/

Back in 2017 I was revving up for the first Zegema Beach Records Fest. I was also talking to Antonio Leiriao at that time. There was even a mild discussion of a Mara'akate reunion at ZBR Fest, to no avail. Regardless, Antonio and I spent some time in late 2017 doing this interview that we kinda put on the backburner as our lives got nuts. A few months back Antonio hit me up again, saying it was time. So I polished it up and here we are.

Who are you? What bands have you been in? Give us a quick overview!
Antonio Leiriao, Indianapolis,IN.

The State Secedes, I Am the Resurrection, Usurp Synapse, Mara'akate, Thin Fevers.

Owner/Operator at Small Hand Factory Records, partner/DJ in Naptown Soul Club.

Can you give us a chronological view of your musical evolution, starting with what music you remember first loving and how you got into it?
I grew up in Rockville Centre, NY on Long Island.  My Mom loved music and had my sister and I take piano and violin lessons early on.  We were exposed to a lot of Jazz, Celtic, Middle Eastern, Rock, Folk, Brazilian, Portuguese music as kids. My parents took us to many live concerts in and around the NYC/LI area early on and we were lucky enough to see folks like Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Miles Davis, etc. The first music I remember being a fan of was Irish troubadours like Johnny McEvoy and mainstream stuff like Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, etc. After that it was Hip Hop and Metal. My friends and I would skate to De La Soul, DRI, Slick Rick, Slayer, Et al.
Through skateboarding I eventually got into punk/hardcore. Bands like Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Token Entry, Misfits, Samhain, 7 Seconds, GB, Youth Of Today. Those were all early influences in my early teens. In High School I started to get in to a lot of "alternative" bands at the time and some of the post hardcore bands like Jawbox, Quicksand, Fugazi, etc. My friends and I would go to shows in and around the NYC area at this time as well. Mostly Two Tone Ska style stuff and a few local LIHC/NYHC shows but I wasn't part of either of those scenes at the time.

After High School is really when I started to attend LIHC and NYHC shows on a regular basis. My friend Jim Nash whom I'd grown up with but who had attended Archbishop Molloy in Queens instead of HS in RVC was really the prime mover in this.  Jim was really in to the NYHC scene, and was attending Bond St. shows, etc. way before any of us were. I'd gone away to college in upstate NY for a semester and returned miserable in late 94/early 95 and thanks to Jim and Jeff (Quiet Storm zine) I started attending LIHC&NYHC shows on the regular from that point on. Most of these shows were at the infamous Mecca of LIHC, the PWAC.

I was really in to LIHC/NYHC bands like Bad Trip, Burn, Mind Over Matter, Scapegrace, Clockwise, and Yuppicide at this point in time. The Victory Records stuff was taking off as well so that was also in play. Snapcase, Earth Crisis, etc

At this point a few records began to shift my perceived idea of punk and hardcore. The First Hoover LP on Dischord, Lungfish Talking Songs For Walking also on Dischord, the Lincoln 7"s on Watermark and Art Monk Construction respectively.

Not long after this I guess what you'd call the watershed moment or the singular event happened that pushed me or rather pulled me to screamy hardcore (as it was known then).

I was subletting a room at my sister's apartment in NYC for the summer. My friend Justin Scurti (band mate of Jim Nash) was putting on a show at his parents house in Woodhaven in Queens. Tetsuo and Edgar, both LIHC bands, were playing the show. I'd never seen either band and they played a style of hardcore that I identified with immediately. It was heavy, screamy, emotional and a far cry from the tough guy/polished/ style of stuff I was used to. Then I fatefully bought the Breakwater '5&7' s/t 7" from Bob English's distro box and nothing was ever going to be the same from then on. That record and the Ordination of Aaron 'Eli' 45 are the two exact moments where anything I decided to do musically were born.

I met the guys in Closure not long after through mutual friend Seth Berman who also introduced me to the Tetsuo/Edgar guys. When both of those bands broke up is when The State Secedes began.

So that's the Genesis point I guess. After that it's a straight line through a bunch of curved ones. The State Secedes ended. I Am the Resurrection began, I drove Usurp Synapse on tour and joined the band about a quarter in, juggled both IATR and US for a few months, threw my chips in and moved to Indy and did US full time, joined Mara'akate for the Euro 03' tour, and when Mara'kate ended Colin and Derek started Phoenix Bodies while Brian, Ben and I started Thin Fevers. TF was Post punk inspired by Gang of Four, Killing Joke, etc.


Can you tell us about your ventures into punk, hardcore and the genre name that some embrace and others reject...screamo?
The term "screamo" is just a shortening and combining of the two already in existence terms "screamy hardcore" and "emo" and I've no problem with that.


What bands were the most inspiring for you throughout the years you played in bands?
The bands that inspired me most were Antioch Arrow, Angel Hair, Born Against, Moss Icon, Nation Of Ulysses, Ordination of Aaron, Rocket From The Crypt, Breakwater, Portraits Of Past, Policy Of Three, Palatka, Los Crudos, Avail, 52X, Indian Summer, Honeywell, really too many to mention. There's a lot of gold out there on one off 7"s and LP's from that time.


Did your parents support your musical endeavors?
My parents were very supportive though I'm not sure they understood it exactly. I grew up in an artistic household. My parents were what I'd term NY Bohemians and loved art immensely. My sister and I pretty much haunted museums our entire childhood.  We were both encouraged to do creative things in life.


Some Mara'akate questions:

Did you do vocals throughout Mara'akate?
I was not the singer on any Mara'akate records. I joined the band to do the 2003 US/European tour.

Josh was the vocalist on all the Mara'akate records. I'm sure at some point he changed his style and there is some difference in vocal tone but that's all the same vocalist.

And why did you come in at the end, did they lose their initial vocalist? It seemed as if the vocals went through two stages so I wasn't sure if it was the same.
Brian Wyrick and I were roommates throughout this time and when Josh couldn't do the already booked Mara'akate US/Euro tour, he/they asked me.

I wasn't in a band at the time and was considering moving back to NY, not sure if I wanted to continue to be in bands, etc. it kind of fell out of the sky. Really a wonderful moment in my life.


Ahhhhhhhh, now I understand. I'm always raving about the "Congratulations On Your Impending Geography DVD", what can you tell us about that?
We made a conscious effort to record and document the tour. I don't think we had it in our minds to release a DVD of the whole thing until we got back home. Brian Wyrick (guitarist in Mara'akate) mostly shot the footage and edited it. We brought it to Clark Giles of Happy Couples Never Last as a possible project and he released it.


What bands from the tour/dvd do you remember the most? What stories are there behind that dvd?
Well all the bands we toured with were amazing both as people and as musicians. It felt especially nice to me personally to share a bunch of shows with Off Minor. Saetia and The State Secedes were brother bands and its always nice to see family you know really well anytime but that's double when you are touring abroad.

We were very fortunate to meet the incredible people that are/were La Quiete, Los Aseinos De La Superficialidad, Now Denial, Crowpath, Raein, Yage, etc

The DVD is basically a small capsule of our lives at that time. Lots of it still makes me smile as it's my best friends and I joking around and having fun. It may not be totally apparent, but we were a machine on that tour. None of us wanted a day off. We spent 5 weeks in a van and never wanted a day off.  Ben and Brian remain my best friends in this life so it's always nice to revisit the DVD for a laugh.


Some Usurp Synapse questions:

When did you join the band and in what capacity?
I joined Usurp Synapse during the 2000 US tour with Racebannon and Jeromes Dream. I had initially been hired by both Usurp and Jeromes Dream to drive both bands on the tour as I had a van and they needed both. About a quarter way through the tour Usurp asked me if I wanted to sing in the band alongside Jon Scott who was the singer on all Usurp releases as he was also juggling synth duties as well. I believe the thinking was that it would provide better dynamics for the live set and free him up a bit.

What was being in Usurp like? All these years later I feel like the band had a very specific but unidentifiable mystique.

Being in Usurp? Complicated.

I was a late addition to the band and as it wasn't my own or something I had started, it was a foreign experience for me. They'd been a band for a long time before I joined and there were strains on relationships within the band that were apparent and some that were not. When it was good it was great but when things soured towards the end well, I'll just say it was ugly and a lot of friendships were ruined. I'm not above my part in things and it's important to say so. I look back at the good times, the fun we had, the touring experiences, the camaraderie we had as friends at the time, but in the end it's hard not to be bitter about how it ended. Usurp is a cautionary tale and a tale filled with the disposing of band members at will for one person's vision.  It was not a healthy environment in its twilight.

The mystique of Usurp? It's probably due to the nature of the music and the unpredictability of the live show. We did a lot of things in the live setting that were unconventional and reactionary toward the crowd. The dissolving of the wall so to speak.


Can you give any instances, for us (like me) who may not know specifics?
Well as far as the music is concerned, it's still interesting, original, and of its own genre/style. While I've heard bands who have made music similar to Usurp, I'd say the band had no predecessor in total. When I joined the band, the main song writers in the band were listening to John Zorn, Sun Ra, Melt Banana, Discordance Axis,etc. So they were very in tune with other genres and taking cues from them as far as time signatures and putting those elements to work within the screamo or whatever you want to call it framework. Not easy to play either I might mention. It took a lot of skill and musicianship to play those songs. I was always impressed as they would make it look so easy!

In the live setting we were trying to make it a more volatile performance. Too often you'd go to a show and play to people who would just stand there and rock back and forth. There's no life in that. I guess we were looking to make it a more chaotic scene. It helped the band as it kept the energy up and the band members fed off of it. Hardcore and punk have this grossly homogenized idea of what and audience should do which is just stand there with crossed arms rocking back and forth worrying about what everybody else is doing while making fun and castigating the first random dude who goes off freely because they feel it. We wanted none of that. We wanted it to be volatile, kinetic, and with a true energy. The dissolving of the wall between the band and the crowd as I said before. People have and did get upset at the band for some of the live performance antics (for example we threw bags of flour at the crowd at a fest in Pennsylvania) but you are better off going to the theatre than going to a punk show if you can't understand the nature of punk rock and its philosophy.


What is your favourite Usurp release and song? You must have had some ridiculous tours, which one was your favourite?
My favorite usurp stuff to play live were the songs off the Hassan I Sabbah split. Great songs and the synth dynamics that Jon was working with then were awesome. I loved Hassan I Sabbah as well. So it's an easy choice. I'd known Chad from when Puritan and State Secedes played together so I loved playing with them and definitely my favorite stuff live.

The only full tour I did with Usurp is the US tour with Racebannon and Jeromes Dream. Definitely a fun tour. Some of the best times of my life. The most memorable tour/road trip would definitely be what we refer to as "Big Weekend" where we traveled to Boston in the dead of winter to play something called "fuck fest". It was an absolute nightmare going to and coming back but it's one of those singular experiences you can only look back on together.


How did being in Usurp differ from being in other bands?
The difference was that Usurp were a well polished machine and I mean that in the best way. When I/we met Usurp on the State Secedes/Racebannon tour you could tell they were looking to do bigger things. They had good contacts, were networking the right way, putting out releases on the right labels. In short, they had a plan. It was impressive. So yeah they very much differed from other bands as they knew what they wanted to do and had a plan. Initially when I joined Usurp I was also in I Am The Resurrection. While we had a plan in IATR for what we wanted to do it wasn't nearly as thought out as what US had in their vision.


You played in I Am The Resurrection, what can you divulge?
IATR was formed after the end or should I say ending of live performances of The State Secedes.  Myles Karr and Adam Dooling were both attending school at SUNY Purchase and asked me if I was interested in a band they had recently started. So I drove up there and long story short, it clicked immediately.  We had access to rehearsal rooms and good equipment and could really wood shop the songs through the winter. Looking back it was great, we were cloistered up there in Westchester. We had no scene that we belonged to outside of the Purchase musical scene (which would bear fruit in and of itself) so it was refreshing in that setting. I call it the "great shrugging off" period as we were no longer beholden to scene politics and could just create. At the same time we collectively had a chip on our shoulder as we wanted it to be brutal, cathartic, and revelatory.  It's a distillation of the bands we had been in before but has something else to it that is just time and place. Were we what has been said about us? I think the record stands for itself.


Please tell us the history and message of THE STATE SECEDES.
The State Secedes started after Tetsuo and Edgar had broken up. I was friends with Matt Gordon (Tetsuo) and he and I had talked about starting a band for awhile before States (our shortening of the name amongst ourselves) started. There was talk of a Tetsuo reunion and they practiced one night at Dan Boles (Tetsuo, States drummer) to kick the tires on the Tetsuo stuff. It's a long time ago but I think I showed up later after that practice and we just started in on new material that Bob English had at the time. Myles Karr had been recruited for the Tetsuo reunion as well so basically it was 3/5 of Tetsuo + myself and Myles working on the new material. We decided it sounded good and that we should start a new band etc. We agreed we needed a second guitar player to fill out the sound so we asked Daryl Palumbo (Glassjaw) to play guitar as well. We practiced quite a lot through the winter of 96, getting our chops up and figuring out songs. I think the first show we played was with Closure and Irony of Lightfoot. Shortly after that Daryl decided he couldn't do the band full time  and was replaced by Chris Jensen (Halfman, Campaign). We started playing locally frequently, that turned in to doing a lot of NYC and out of state shows. We toured with Drift from Canada in '97. Played some fests, local and out of state shows through '98 while working on new material. In '99 we went in to WGNS in DC with Geoff Turner and recorded the full length s/t LP on Level Plane. We did a short tour that spring/early summer with Portrait (ATL) and then did a late summer tour in August w/Racebannon in support of the full length. After the tour the band pretty much broke up. We'd been doing it a long time and everyone was being pulled in other directions: work, school, family.

The State Secedes is both a band and a metaphor and in that sense it will always be, continue, and never die so to speak. Hardcore/punk is a duplicitous system and acts the same way that any societal strata does. For all its talk it's still a human construct and subject to levels of importance however stupid, ironic, and foolish those may be. A "13th grade" if you will. The State Secedes was counter to that. The band was and is against all that.

Hardcore/punk speaks of inclusion but just becomes a mirror of the same society it's counter to. You have punk kids castigating and putting down other punk kids. So that's where we were coming from.

Thankfully the band started up around the same time as what I usually refer to as our brother bands. Saetia, Murdock, Devola, Judas Iscariot, C.R., and a few more that escape me at the moment. We were able to create a scene within a scene through those friendships. Looking back it was a very magical time for punk/hardcore in NY. We were all doing different stuff but we all supported each other. Great times.


Holy shit, Drift!?!? And Daryl Palumbo? Wow! Can you tell us more about your relationship with him?
Daryl was a friend of ours and someone we all collectively knew through the LIHC scene. He was already in Glassjaw who were a very well established band and at the forefront of the LIHC scene and would continue on to be a more famous and well known band.  Daryl was a big fan of Gravity records, Portraits Of Past, et al. So when we started coming up with the idea of The State Secedes he was in from the start and definitely on the same wave length as to what we wanted to do. Unfortunately he had to quit the band not long after we began (thankfully playing our first show before leaving) but he helped write several States songs and was instrumental in the bands existence. As an aside, Long Island was so rich with talent and bands that it was, in retrospect, a very special place to be during that time and I think the sheer amount of talent just made every band and musician better.

There is a lot of focus and attention paid to the NYHC scene of old (and rightfully so) but I think the LIHC chapter of hardcore had yet to be written or fully realized in a proper context or breadth. While the "city" scene sputtered or stagnated to a certain extent, Long Island was producing a far more varied and strong product at the time. Bills would be as diverse as Half Man w/ Silent Majority, Vision Of Disorder w/ Edgar, Kill Your Idols w/ State Secedes, etc. So there was this really communal "we're all in this together" hive mind idea.


What opinions do you have about the current state of music today?
Music today is as it sort have always been. There's a tremendous amount of superficial dreck but if you dig deeper you're going to get rewarded.  I'm not up on all punk/hardcore bands as I used to be but I definitely think bands like Frameworks, Killie, etc are great. Unfortunately I think most punk/hardcore bands spend too much time trying to sound like a band they admire and this just makes a general clone soup. There is no differentiation and just becomes a unlistenable knock off.

Music is an eternal thing. People shouldn't get caught up in what it sounds like compared to what's already in existence.


How do you feel about the US and what is going down? I'm watching from Canada and thinking that I'm watching the rapid decline of so many things, which is stirring things up here, as well, especially in terms of anti-immigration.
Well as a first generation American and the child of an immigrant I'm also appalled at the state of affairs politically in this Country. My mother immigrated to the US from Ireland in the late 50's and gained citizenship in the decade thereafter. My Father's parents, my grandparents, immigrated to the US from Portugal in the late 20's and followed the normal path to citizenship as well.

My sister and I grew up in a family that was both very proud to be both Irish and Portuguese but also extremely proud to be American.

We were instilled with the pride of where our families came from and that of being able to live in America. For my Mother that meant opportunity outside of rural Ireland which was extremely limited but so much more for women. My mother arrived in the US as a nun working for the Catholic Church and was able to leave that oppressive mechanism and create a life she would never have been able to carve out in that era or eras in Ireland. My Grandparents left Portugal looking for better opportunity and slowly worked their way out of New England textile mills and moved their growing family down to the Portuguese enclave of the Ironbound in Newark, NJ for better opportunity.

So, when I hear the rhetoric that mentions immigrants as a problem or use them as a scapegoat I take great umbrage with it. I don't think you'll find more patriotic people in this country than those that have immigrated here, whether or not they have been able to complete the process or not

So you've got this caustic, ugly, anti immigrant rhetoric hate speech being bandied about by the supposed leader of the free world and frankly it's alarming and disgusting.

The blaming of immigrants for society's ills smacks of rhetoric from both fascism and nazi propaganda. Scapegoating those that are trying to make a better life in a new country is shameful.

Donald Trump is never going to be able to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US, the world has revolved. It's eventual, a Malthusian prophecy in reverse.  We don't need as many to do as much anymore. I'd say start a works program, give people access to tech training,etc. but scapegoating immigrants is shameful, dangerous, and completely myopic given how this country was created.


What do you have coming up in the near future, in terms of bands, releases, touring, etc.? You also run Small Hand Factory Records, what can you tell us about that?
I'm not in any bands at the moment but there's always a possibility of a reunion on the horizon.  Myself and DJ Paren have a monthly soul night in Indianapolis called Naptown Soul Club that focuses on the amazing musical legacy of Indianapolis and Indiana in general and features national DJ's who specialize and promote the rare funk and soul 45 genre. We've released a mix cd of rare and deep Indiana 45's on the Dark Matter Coffee imprint out of Chicago and we'll have another one or two out this year as well. I also run and operate Small Hand Factory records. The mission with the label is to be a place where bands that I have a personal connection with can create, have a home, and then hopefully move on to bigger and better things. We mostly specialize in metal/hardcore bands but that's only absent of opportunity. Music genres are not mutually exclusive. It's all the same thing if you're listening.

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