Starting a little over three years ago, New Jersey hardcore band Knuckle Up! has switched up their sound and seen their share of member changes. Now they are ready to release their first full-length album, Motivation From Misery, which they have been putting together over the past year, early this summer. Building upon the core of bassist Abe Rivera-Baez, vocalist TJ Ramos and guitarist Chris ‘Fotch’ Jorhnet, Knuckle Up! is fleshed out by drummer Nick Steinlight and guitarist Dante Santiago and is ready to take The Bamboozle festival grounds by storm, raise hell and make new friends.
Hitting the road right before the festival as support for the band Hundredth, Rivera-Baez considers the short tour “Our little Road to Bamboozle Tour.” Playing Bamboozle is a great homecoming for any band, but at one crucial point, that opportunity felt like it was not going to be a reality for Knuckle Up!
Right before heading out on the road, Rivera-Baez and Jorhnet were excited to talk about the new album and their grand homecoming.
You guys were just signed to Mediaskare Records. How did that come about?
AbeRivera-Baez: The first time we made an offer they weren’t fully into it yet because we were still young, they weren’t sure if it was going to be either [that we were] going to go on for the next year and work hard or we’re just going to disappear. That’s a chance you don’t want to take with a band. After that year, there was an email to Fotch [Jorhnet] basically saying ‘Hey guys, we want to sign you, we have a contract and we’ll talk about it some more.’ I was stoked.
Chris “Fotch”Jorhnet: They were stoked on our new stuff. Obviously, our sound had matured and we’ve been playing a lot more; we’ve been doing our own tours and basically did everything ourselves. They offered us this and it was a way for us to get better tours and better everything. Our friends helped us out. I would say one of my best friends, Sean Murphy from Endwell, helped get us signed and my friend Frankie Palmeri from Emmure helped us out too.
It seems like the hardcore scene is a family. Do you find everyone is so willing to help each other?
CJ: Bands look out for other bands who are doing work. I [would] want to help out every single one of my friends’ bands if they were all busting their asses doing work. Because otherwise, I can’t help you that much or anybody can’t help each other if there’s nothing progressing. You can’t just expect everything handed to you.
With the upcoming album recorded a year ago, how has it been sitting on new music for a year now?
AR: Horrible. It’s the worst.
CJ: We’ve been playing some of our album, but just getting kids pumped on it.
AR: Every two months we put a new track out and that was within the entire year, so there’s still like maybe three tracks we haven’t played yet.
How does your EP, At the Bottom, set the tone for the full-length?
AR: It’s an EP; it’s very freshman. Our first full-length is incredible. It just blows it out of the water.
CJ: Yeah, but it’s also a prequel. The new album is all a progression of that. You can just tell from the album’s artwork it’s us growing. Everything was thought out well. That’s why it took us awhile to put this out because we wanted to make sure that when it comes out you’re getting something worth it.
What will fans be surprised to hear on the album?
AR: We already released one song with Martin Gonzalez from Billy Club Sandwich and kids are pretty stoked about that. The two other guest vocals we have on the CD are Scott Vogel from Terror and he’s on the track called “Motivation from Misery” and then we have Andrew Neufeld from Comeback Kid on “Never Turning Back,” which is the last song on the record. All the guest vocal parts sound awesome and we were stoked when we heard them because when those guys did those parts for us, they put their heart into it.
How did that come about getting Andrew from Comeback Kid?
CJ: I was on Warped Tour last summer, helping out my friends in Emmure and I’ve known Andrew from Comeback Kid for a long time. So one day, after we recorded the album, I hit him up and he was all about it. We just never had enough time and I was on tour in Canada on Warped Tour and was like, ‘You’re on the guest list, come on the tour bus and record in the back room.’ We all got together, recorded the song and sent it right to our producer, Jeremy [Comitas].
Simple as that.
CJ: It sounds simple, but it was really, really long and painful to get everything and everybody organized. That’s one of the reasons why this album is taking a long time to come out.
AR: As much as the vocals sound awesome, it took so long to get them. We were dreading the fact of like when is this going to happen? Waiting on guest vocals was killing us because we can’t get anything organized until those vocals are given, couldn’t get any rough mix, or get any master mix.
Who was the producer on the album?
CJ: Jeremy Comitas. He’s an awesome friend of ours, he use to play in The Banner, he did Four Year Strong, he engineered Chiodos, he was an intern for Machine and he’s a really good guy.
AR: Just before he was doing his own thing, he did our EP in his parents’ basement and it was awesome. We’ve been with him since then and he went from there to Machine and from Machine, he did his own thing and currently he has his own studio and it’s basically where Machine use to be.
CJ: All I know is with Jeremy we grew. It’s like Jeremy’s always been with us, we’re like his baby. We kind of like grew with him and he directed us.
AR: He knows that we love him and he’s like our dad.
Would you say New Jersey is the best breeding ground for hardcore acts?
CJ: For me, coming from Queens, I always saw like it’s the Jersey bands doing something. There’s a bunch of Jersey bands that are big that are all fairly known around the world.
At the Bamboozle Invitational, there was a note that said you represent ‘real’ hardcore. Do you think there’s a lack of hardcore bands out there?
AR: That’s a weird question because we are a hardcore band and there’s still a lot of people that don’t consider us a hardcore band.
CJ: It depends on what hardcore is to you. I wouldn’t say we’re a dying breed. There’s so many kids around the world that listen to hardcore, it’s such an international thing. To me, it’s like we’re definitely not the last of anything, hardcore is always going to be around. It’s never going to be dying, maybe in the eyes of the mainstream. But at the same time like mainstream is where Internet controls everything and a lot of our plays are from the Internet and a lot of people know us from the Internet. As long as there is somebody out there getting pissed off all the time, it’s hardcore.
How excited were you guys to get the word that you were playing Bamboozle?
AR: You mean when we were told on stage after we played at the Invitational? It was awesome. But in like one moment the way that they were telling us that we were on Bamboozle was almost like, ‘Are you going to rip us apart right now?’ They mentioned something about cred like, ‘Yeah, I heard you guys have a lot of cred, but cred has nothing to do with this contest.’ But what did he [John D] say? ‘You call this place your home, you call this place your family and hopefully you’ll be part of the Bamboozle family.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, crap. It did turn out good.’
And the million-dollar question: why does your band name have the exclamation point?
CJ: The exclamation mark makes everything.
AR: The exclamation point definitely does make a difference. When we first came up with the name, we had to choose a name and I was like, ‘The only way I’m agreeing to Knuckle Up is if we have an exclamation point at the end of the name, because it has to pop.’ The guys were like ‘Do we have to?’ and I was like ‘Yes.’
So you are to blame.
Knuckle Up! will play Bamboozle on Saturday, April 30. More info at knuckleup.bandcamp.com.