Jared Leibowitz

Knocked Loose – How Their Purpose Carved Out This Moment

If you can out-sell Taylor Swift in any way in the year 2024, you must be doing something special, and a few weeks ago the rumor was that Knocked Loose was charting higher on Spotify’s Viral 50 chart than Miss Americana herself…. Let’s hear it for hardcore!

It was 2016 when Knocked Loose broke the internet with the infamous barking in their song “Counting Worms.” It is now eight years later and Knocked Loose has become the biggest hardcore band in the world. Through flawless release after flawless release, they have displayed masterful songwriting. The lyrics and intention behind them are set alongside some of the heaviest music possible, too. It really is special, and Knocked Loose never phones it in. This is not a band that pumps out a simple punk songs with a riotous breakdown for the sake of having one. Everything has meaning, theme, and reason. With strong imagery and visuals to go along with it, Knocked Loose is bringing accessibility and innovation to the hardcore world.

You Won’t Go Before You’re Supposed To came out exactly one month ago on May 10; it is the band’s third LP and by far their best. It’s a concise, 27-minute long record, but not a single second is wasted. Knocked Loose managed to slip an even darker storyline into this record – darker than their previous EP, A Tear In the Fabric of Life, and that release gave us chills (in the best way). You Won’t Go Before You’re Supposed To comes alive in a new way, though, especially when alternating between the filthiest breakdowns and the grooviest riffs. There’s an ominous force looming about, and you can hear it throughout until it crescendos on the finale of “Sit and Mourn.” Just wow.

This record has some guests on it, as well: Poppy and Chris Cerulli from Motionless in White. Both deliver outstanding featured vocals, further proving that this is the hardcore album of the decade. Everyone would agree on that; it’s heavy music with such a deep sense of purpose that it cannot be ignored. 

Knocked Loose is touring with Slipknot all summer long, including a stop at Madison Square Garden on August 12. They just played two shows in New York City (Brooklyn Steel and Terminal 5) to sold-out crowds, and both nights saw the band ripping a hole in the center of the world (unsurprisingly). However, right before the shows, The Aquarian had the incredible opportunity to chat with the band’s guitarist Isaac Hale.

It has been a month since You Won’t Go Before You’re Supposed To came out. Tell me about the accolades you have received and overall reception. 

It’s hard to say. A lot of times when I put something out like this, it’s tough because I do my best to put it out into the world, take some time to reflect on it myself, and not look at what other people are saying about it. It’s really easy for me to get wrapped up in what other people are saying. I would say that – from what I’ve seen and gathered – I’ve felt very blessed with the response. I think the record has had pretty much the exact reaction I could have wanted; so many people truly love it, truly connect with it, and get what we’re going for. At the same time, it’s also pissed some people off and just overwhelmed people in a way that we also wanted. I think that every single reaction to it, we saw coming. Pretty much everything has been overwhelmingly positive, though. It’s really hard whenever a record comes out, especially one like this, and it’s the third LP. We were all super nervous, but we’ve been super blessed with a positive response from our fanbase and I couldn’t be more grateful

I get what you’re saying. We’ve had rock albums on the Billboard charts, but very rarely do we see a hardcore band climb the Billboard charts. It’s a huge win for heavy fans. 

Absolutely! All of that stuff, truly, is so far out of our control. It’s so hard for us to see metrics like that, so to see it charting the way it has is almost inconceivable. It’s not something we ever expected. It’s really easy for us to read Instagram/YouTube comments or whatever, but having it sell that much and having it reach the popularity that it has already is not something that is easy for us to see. When we got that news back, we were very, very shocked, and pleasantly surprised. We’re truly grateful. That and this tour that is happening at the same time now… there’s a lot of overwhelming love for the band being poured out right now. I couldn’t be more thankful. 

You could even look at the crowd size, pecifically when you played The Shrine in California and played Sick New World to a sea of people. It’s also refreshing to see a band that hasn’t lost their edge, but is still gaining a ton of new fans.

That’s been the goal! The whole point of the record ,and the point of the band moving forward, was just to push the boundaries and see how far we could take this without compromising our sound at all. It was never the plan of the band to compromise what we were doing/compromise the intensity of the music. The fact it’s been received in the way it has? And we’ve been able to play to crowds we have? It is just truly crazy. It was never a question on this LP if we’d sacrifice any heaviness or sacrifice any intensity. It was always the purpose to keep it as heavy as it is. 

While we’re discussing the album sound, I have to dive into some specifics.”Sick And Mourn” is probably one of the best album closers I’ve heard all year. Tell me about that song and that build into the explosion of an outro. 

The craziest thing about that song is that the outro breakdown of that song – the whole lead over the breakdown, the breakdown itself, the entire end section, that last minute and a half – was all written on the first writing session we did for the LP. It was back in 2021 and it was before A Tear in The Fabric of Life even came out. It was written for like three or four years! Basically, we had a song attached to it, but the song sucked. That part was amazing, though, and I remember when we wrote that part, we did it at a writing session in Joshua Tree in the desert. We would just loop that breakdown and loop that lead over and over again. [We were] shocked at how good it was. We immediately knew that it had to be on the next record and it had to probably end the record. 

It took us up until close to recording this album to get the rest of the song. For the life of us we just couldn’t find the song to put it in. It was driving us for a loop. One day me and Bryan [Garris] had a writing session with Drew Fulk – the guy that produced this record – where me and Bryan said, like, “Hey, man, we’re going to sit down and we’re going to write this closer.” It all came super naturally when we actually sat down and tried specifically to write for it. It’s not that intimidating of a song when it comes to the actual parts in it. It’s only a couple parts, a couple riffs, but it was matching the insanity in the melodic sense of the end breakdown. We had to write a song that matched the scale of what the breakdown was. You can’t just throw that breakdown in – it has to be a whole dramatic part. We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. 

Even as a music journalist, it blew my mind. I feel like you really keep your pacing in mind throughout this whole record, too. Look at “Moss Covers All” bleeding into “Take Me Home.” On “Take Me Home,” there is this nervous edge we feel because don’t know how or when it’s going to breakdown.

Yeah! That was another funny connection: “Moss Covers All” and “Take Me Home” are very much one song separated into two parts. Originally, “Moss Covers All” was this very short, intense, heavy track. It’s only 46 seconds long. That was written completely by me in five to 10 minutes one day. I remember it immediately. It was the second writing session we were doing for this record in Detroit, Michigan. We just had a day where we were all creatively bankrupt and kind of aggravated. We couldn’t come up with anything we truly liked so everyone decided to take a break and fuck off. Randomly, the riffs in that song came to me. I wrote it in like five minutes on the computer by myself, voice memo-ed it, demoed it, and presented it to them. Everyone was down with it. 

[For] “Take Me Home,” we looked at all the songs we had for the record (and this was close to recording the album, as well) and it was like, “Ah, I would love it if there was a space in there for a song that’s sole purpose is to freak out the listener.” We wanted just a horror experience. We didn’t really have anything on the record that was like that. We were thinking of ways we could incorporate that and what the most effective version of  that would be. The first thing that came to mind was the “Moss Covers All” lead and that creepy tape-sounding one at the end. “What if we just used this as a looping thing?” It looped and we built off of it and always came back to it, so that was a song that really came easy when we started to work on it, too, because we already had the blueprint. It was just about layering. We took a lot of inspiration from our favorite noise bands and a lot of our favorite horror-leaning, scary bands we love. It came together super easily and we’re all very stoked on it. That’s the story of how we wrote those two. 

That is so cool to hear! I knew it had that anticipation of building. It gives you anxiety. To hear your mindset of ‘Oh, it’s like a horror film,’ it makes me think about it does feel like a jumpscare is in a horror film with suspense building. 

We’ve gotten a lot of that in a lot of the responses we’ve gotten from this record – and there is a good amount of people saying it. “Oh, this feels like it takes a lot of inspiration from horror. It feels like a scary, kind of intense jumpscare experience.” That very much is something we think about while writing. It’s very cool [that] people are picking up on that. That short, intense foreboding and “What the fuck did I just listen to?” type of experience is definitely what we were shooting for.

For sure! That transition in particular reminds me a bit of “Return To Passion” into “Permanent” on A Tear In the Fabric of Life, that build into the other track. 

I would agree with you! It’s cool that people have picked up on the similarities there. That is definitely something we’ve wanted to do before. It’s definitely a common theme in our band now.

Another question since we touched on A Tear In The Fabric of Life – I am curious to know what constitutes a Knocked Loose EP versus a Knocked Loose LP. You Won’t Go Before You’re Supposed To is only six minutes longer than A Tear in the Fabric. When you’re writing, is it a conscious choice?

In my mind, an LP has to be at least seven songs. There was always a discussion of how many songs should be on this record. At one point, me and the rest of the band said, “Man, it would be really cool if it was a strict 10. What if we just kept it to 10 and every song did something different?” We accomplished a different thing with every song. It was short and to the point. It was sweet. It was scary. And that was it! Eventually we really grasped onto that idea. We were like, “All these songs have to accomplish an individual thing,” and I could explain that about every single track. Every single track does accomplish a unique thing on the record, but the succinctness of it was on purpose. We definitely didn’t want a bloated record. We just didn’t want any room for bullshit. We wrote so many songs for this record. We wrote probably close to 30 or 40 over the last couple of years. Only the best and the most unique stuff got to make it and there’s something really great about that. We weren’t really thinking about the length of the EP when we wrote it. We weren’t thinking about the exact length of this LP either when we wrote it… other than the fact that the EP had to be six songs because we had this storyline for it that we wrote out, we weren’t thinking too much about the actual length. I think that it’s important not to. I think it’s important to keep it natural. If something ends up being super long, it’s super long. If something ends up being super short, it’s super short. Personally, I think a lot of heavy music really benefits from the shortness. As intense of a record You Won’t Go Before You’re Supposed To is, I don’t think we would have wanted something that sounds that intense and scary for 40 minutes –or even 35 minutes! I think we hit the length on it that we wanted. 

I think that is such a wonderful headspace to have. As a fan of Knocked Loose, first and foremost, there’s not a second I would cut. Out of the 27 minutes, all of it is there for a reason and needs to stay. Before this record came out, though, we had two singles – last year’s Upon Loss singles. Was that a totally separate writing process?

Correct! That was a completely separate thing. Actually, the only reason why those singles happened was because of those big fests we played last year. I remember we announced Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza. We really felt it was necessary to have some songs out for that summer. It was such a big thing that we wanted to be able to push something. It gave us an excuse to split off and take a break from the record that was stressing us out and focus on these other two songs. It’s a chance to work with Drew Fulk, who we wanted to try out for the LP. They were an update, a check-in of what we were doing. It was brought up to us – “Oh, just do a single!” Of course Knocked Loose can’t ever do anything like that; we have to really think about something and make it complex, make it deep. Eventually we were like, “Ok, we’re going to do this duel music video with art and lyrics. [We’re going to] connect both things, because it’s not really Knocked Loose’s style to just do whatever, ‘write a song and put it out.'”

The Upon Loss singles are their own, specific, separate thing. It was kind of a break from the years we’ve spent writing this record. It was cool because the Upon Loss singles are great. Not only that, but You Won’t Go Before You’re Supposed To does cover some ground and do some new things [that] the singles don’t. I’m super stoked that we actually separated them. People say all the time, “I wish these singles were on the record,” but I feel like putting them on the record takes away from what they were. We wanted those singles to be identified as their own release in that specific time.

Using those singles, you introduced yourself! One of those festivals you played was Adjacent Festival, which maybe was more of your fanbase: emo fans and hardcore kids. However, playing Coachella, maybe a third of the audience didn’t know who you were. To quote the song “Deep In The Willow,” we’re “Knocked Loose, motherfucker!” This is who we are.

Exactly! We wanted some tracks like that. “Here we are. Here’s what we sound like. Fuck you,” and that kind of thing that was in your face. Like on this record, by the intro track, “Thirst,” we were just trying to scare you the whole time. That, too, was very much in our minds when writing it. 

I do want to ask about You Won’t Go and Tear – spooky and darker releases from the band. With those two in particular, do you think the band would have taken a different trajectory if you hadn’t recorded “In The Walls” on A Different Shade of Blue in 2019?

Um… I don’t think so, because that was always a huge interest of the band. I think we always leaned toward and took inspiration from darker stuff. The best way to put it is that over time we just got better at writing it, you know? There are parts on Laugh Tracks, even where I listen and think, “Oh, we were trying to be artsy here. We were trying to be dark here.” It never really turned out that way on Laugh Tracks. It wasn’t until A Different Shade of Blue when we even started leaning that direction. That was always a huge interest of the band, a huge interest of me and Bryan: to have this darker edge that was horror themed. That was always a huge thing for us. I think it would have happened anyway, but I think incorporating those horror themes and those sad themes… I don’t see us stopping that anytime soon. I think it’s a part of what the band is and I think it’s a part of what we use to set us apart. Knocked Loose has this – even the band name – reputation of being this “meat-head band” or this heavy “people are listening to just because they want breakdowns” kind of band or “people are listening just to take videos of them moshing.” The reality is that when we’re writing the music, there is a way deeper effort than that. It is a very serious deal for us. We’re trying to create art that we truly love that is not only heavy, crazy, and filled with breakdowns, but also lyrically deep and something you can follow musically. There is a lot of purpose to this.