URBANOIA is one of those bands that reminds you of classic 80s hardcore punk outfits and what hardcore punk is all about. This Stavanger-based pack have released one demo and “Svart Sement” EP, out on their own label called Urban Boys Records! If you’re into pissed raging pure old school hardcore punk, you should instantly dive into their work and my interview below, telling a lot about the history of Scandinavian punk, URBANOIA’s influences, inspirations and other issues.
Yo! What’s up guys? How are you? How’s summer goin’?
We’re alright. We recently came home from our first eurotour with DARK TIMES. We also just released our first Ep “Svart Sement”.
Yeah man, it’s your first proper release after the 2012’s demo, right? Tell me more about this work contextualized in URBANOIA’s existence. How did you guys form this band and what does this EP represent to you?
The band came together in Stavanger, in the spring of 2012. The idea was to start a raw, hard and fast punk band influenced by early Scandinavian hardcore. We recorded four songs and started booking and playing as many shows as possible. The demo from last year was only available online, so this 7″ is our first physical release. Quality wise it’s a big step up from the earlier material, and we are really happy with how it turned out, both musically and aesthetically. Anders «The Professor», our drummer, recorded, mixed and mastered the songs, Henrik (bass) designed the front cover and layout, and we released the record on our own label, Urban Boys. The covers were screenprinted by Kjetil Brandsdal of the infamous noise act NOXAGT.
Nice. Are there more records available via the label?
No, it was only started to get things running with this record.
What early Scandinavian punk bands should we learn about in our historic lesson?
These days Swedish hardcore seems to be really “in”. That’s cool, as there are some Swedish bands that are pretty hard, which we like, but we feel that some great Norwegian hardcore bands get lost in the wake of all the trends. It seems like a few people have started to discover some of them, like BETONG HYSTERIA, which is an absolute favorite of ours, and SVART FRAMTID. But at the same time it feels like people don’t try to discover new bands other than what they get served. Take 1983 when ANTI-CIMEX’s “Raped Ass” EP was released, Norwegian FADER WAR had already put out some blasting d-beat on a comp from Bergen named “Ingenting for Norge”. In 1983, both PSYKISK TERROR and FORBUDT UNGDOM were featured on the Swedish “Raped Ass” cassette compilations.
While some of the aforementioned bands have a really raw sound, it seems apparent that the Norwegian sound is not only founded on DISCHARGE-esque rawness, like many of the Swedish and Finnish bands seem to be. There is just as much influence from American contemporaries or even classic rock. The song structures on BETONG HYSTERIA’s “Spontan Abort” or the fact that Jimi Hendrix was one of BØRRE LØVIK‘s (of Bannlyst) main sources of inspiration being some noticable examples.
There are also quite a few great comps from that time, like “Tsjernobilly Boogie”, “Then the Molde punx go marching out”, “Nå eller aldri”, and “Noize of Norway”, which anyone interested in early Norwegian and Scandinavian hardcore should check out.
All this being said, here’s a list of a bunch of great bands from the Nordic countries: SHITLICKERS (SE), ANTI-CIMEX (SE), HEADCLEANERS (SE), TOTALITÄR (SE), AVSKUM (SE), MOB 47 (SE), RIISTETYT (FI), TAMPERE SS (FI), RATTUS (FI), TERVEET KÄDET (FI), WAR OF DESTRUCTION (DK), BARN AV REGNBUEN (NO), KAFKA PROSESS (NO), SO MUCH HATE (NO), HÆRVERK (NO), DET GLADE VANVIDD (NO), BLACK UNIFORMS (SE).
And what about your first contact with punk? How did you discover hardcore?
Henrik: Me and my friends started a band when we were 11, it turned out to be a punk band. I think the records that really did it for me was MISFITS‘ “Static Age” and DEAD KENNEDY’S‘ “Fresh fruit for rotting vegetables”, they just opened my ears to a lot of other great bands, both old and new. I also listened a lot, and still do, to the “Ramonesmania”-collection. To me THE RAMONES is the ultimate band; loud, fast, great looks, hard work.
Håvard: I got into punk and hardcore through metal. Firstly black metal, and then the metalcore scene in my home region, Rogaland, which was huge at the time. Seeing and listening to local bands that combined the musical intensity of the bigger metal bands I liked with lyrics about animal liberation, sobriety and political activism, really affected me deeply. Simultaneously, you had great local bands like ORDRENEKT and C.H.U.D that represented the more punk part of the spectrum, and connected the Stavanger-scene musically with classic Norwegian hardcore. At the time, my family had a painfully slow internet connection, so instead of waiting literally for hours to download classic records, I used to ride my bike to the library downtown, and rent a lot of American hardcore albums there. They actually had a quite decent selection, and I remember picking up stuff like MINOR THREAT, JUDGE and HÜSKER DÜ.
Torgeir: I got into punk partly through my cousin and partly through going to the public library in Stavanger and checking out bands like BLACK FLAG, EXPLOITED and STIFF LITTLE FINGERS. I’ve always been really drawn towards punk and there used to be a big punk festival in Stavanger, and I remember being 13 and being bummed because I didn’t get to see THE EXPLOITED. When I turned 14 and started secondary school I got a couple of older friends who were into punk, and they took me to see ORDRENEKT, NAKKESKUDD and some other local bands I thought were pretty cool at the time. Then I got into straight edge, but I soon felt alienated in Stavanger because there were only shitty metalcore bands. People claimed to be into hardcore, but were really just into shitty third-rate nu metal bands. When C.H.U.D. came along I fucking loved it. They were great, and hopefully we haven’t seen the last of the underground dwellers…
Speaking of your other bands and projects, how does your experience differ between each of them?
Håvard: I play in two other active bands right now; BLOOD SUCKERS, where I play bass, and BRAIN WASTE, where I sing. Each band is a unique experience for sure. BRAIN WASTE is comparable to URBANOIA in the sense that I write most of the material, but for me the band is a vehicle for a totally different type of hardcore than the one we play in URBANOIA.
Henrik: As Håvard said, we play together in BLOOD SUCKERS. I also play in a band called HAUST and play bass live with ÅRABROT. All of the projects obviously differ from each other since they are different bands with different approaches.
Torgeir: I’m currently teaching myself how to play the guitar, and I’m working on some songs for another project that will probably never see the light of day. Some day maybe, though.
What goals do you want URBANOIA to accomplish?
Firstly, we want to play live as much as possible. We had a really good time on tour this summer, so hopefully we’ll do a lot more of that in the future. Secondly, we want to put out better and better records. We recorded four tracks for another upcoming 7” in the same session as the songs on “Svart Sement”, so that record will probably be out sometime this winter. The newer songs are even harder, and perhaps a bit more influenced by early USHC and certain Japanese bands, than our previous stuff. That being said, it feels like we’ve developed a pretty cohesive sound, and that we are staying true to our original intention of implementing elements of classic Scandinavian hardcore in our music.
The most important thing for us is to emphasize musical quality, both live and on record. We’ve seen tons of bands get away with writing dull songs and performing them sloppy as hell over the years. It´s a problematic aspect of the hardcore scene; the idea of a supporting community often results in an uncritical mentality, which allows a lot mediocre projects to thrive, and live on way past their expiration date. It also seems like a lot of bands uses some sort of political agenda or halfhearted humor to excuse the fact that they’re musical output is weak. We want to address serious issues in our lyrics, but we don´t obsess about conveying a certain message to the point where our focus no longer is our music and our performance. It doesn’t have to be shit, just because it’s punk.
You’ve been on tour performing 11 venues. What other phenomena and regularities did you observe among people that attented those gigs?
One of the cooler things about our tour, was that we managed to play at a huge variety of venues and to a lot of different crowds. In Aarhus, Denmark, we played in an event space/architectural project in the form of a large glass dome. The festival drew a pretty diverse crowd; both punk and hardcore kids and people who seemed to be into loud, alternative music in general. Without a doubt one of the best shows of the tour. In Halle, Germany, the show was at a pub where local metalheads and random townies went to get drunk. The support band that night, SIX PACK, was an all cover band that played an hour of punk classics. FEAR, DEVO, GERMS, you name it. Most folks were chilling on bar stools while we played, but the show was really fun. In Häckeberga, Sweden, we played a two day festival in the middle of the woods. The bands played on the back of a big trailer, and the fest was just general mayhem, fueled by a seemingly endless supply of Norrlands Guld. We had a blast.
It´s hard to draw any general conclusions about the European punk/hardcore scene from our experiences on tour, since we played so many different places. Still, it seems apparent that neither we or DARK TIMES fit in 100% with the stylistic and musical conventions of the eurocore scene. On the other hand we might look too clean cut for the most crusty parts of the punk scene.
You played a Fluff Fest warm-up show on July 25th. Didn’t you regret changing the direction, htting the road and passing on the amazing fest?
3/4 of URBANOIA have been to Fluff Fest before, a few years ago. Back then we all liked it, but I think we’ve all grown a bit tired of the concept of big outdoor festivals by now. We’re happy that the organizers had room for us on the bill though, a fest like Fluff is a great place to introduce your band to a lot of people from all over world. Many fest attendees seem to be quite open minded when it comes to checking out lesser known bands, such as us. Even though there were problems with the PA-system and we played first, it felt like there was quite a few people at the show, and that the reception was pretty good.
That being said, there are some tendencies surrounding the fest, that are pretty annoying and alienating, to us at least. For example; it´s cool that the organizers of the fest emphasis the importance of awareness in punk, but the fact that Fluff has become sort of a hub for the so called progressive part of the European hardcore scene, seems to attract a lot of people who are really outspoken, but also severely lacking in general knowledge and valid arguments to back up their strong opinions. Some fest attendees seem really eager to create controversy over petty shit. To us, that stuff is as far from “progressive” as you can get. Guess what; hardcore doesn’t have to be particularly political, radical or progressive. Some of the greatest bands ever utilizes a lot of so called “sketchy” symbols and language in their artwork and lyrics, but if you’re a rational person you should be able to deal with that stuff, and maybe even enjoy some of their works without issuing a fatwa against every trace of sketchiness you encounter. We’re not saying that one should let lame reactionary attitudes slide, but ignorance isn’t any more attractive when it is disguised as loudmouth radicalism, and hidden behind superficial “activism” or quasi intellectual slogans.
So what other gigs have you lined up for the coming weeks and months?
No gigs, but we’re going to record vocals for our upcoming release while Henrik is on tour with his other projects.
How are you living your shows? How would describe yourself in the stage?
Hopefully we look the way we sound. We have a strict no-shorts-on-stage-policy (drummer exempted of course). It looks really weak. It´s not a shameful thing if bands do a big thing about their live-shows, as long as they can pull it off. Imagery and aesthetics is half the band.
Alright, so let’s go beyond music.
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
Henrik: I was 16 and found out that non-human species are the only ones worth saving.
Håvard: I’m a fan of choosing the best available option. When I found out about veganism, it became apparent that continuing eating animal products would mean depriving myself of a preferable way of living. We have the luxury of not having to torture and kill to survive, and I choose to enjoy that luxury.
How have you feelings about veganism changed over the years?
Henrik: No, but my feelings towards a lot of vegans has certainly changed.
Håvard: Even though I never thought being vegan was hard, it´s become more and more evident to me that it is not really a challenge at all, for me at least.
Is it noticeably harder on the road being vegan?
We haven’t been on tour as non-vegans, so we can’t really compare. Gas stations suck anyway, but it’s easier to get a hold of vegan food around in central European cities than in Norway.
How important are vegetarian/vegan approaches in terms of the hardcore scene?
People should live the way they feel is right, but vegetarianism and veganism is the only way to go if we, as a race, want to continue to exist.
You discussed a lot of classic bands. What new artists get you psyched these days?
Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it! It’s been a pleasure. Any closing thoughts you’d like to attach to our feature?
Thanks for interviewing us. The “Svart Sement” vinyl is almost sold out, so if you want a copy, act fast. The songs from that record will soon be released on a tape by Flophouse records in the US. Thanks to Nick for making that happen! We also have another 7” coming up.
Great! Let’s keep in touch and do it again sometime! Cheers!