BYSTANDER is a new band, but ‘new’ is relative when you consider it’s comprised of members of veteran bands like Seatlle’s metallic hardcore preachers TRIAL (New Age Records, Panic Records, Equal Vision Records, Refuse Records) and Chicago’s torchbearers DECLINE (New Age Records). These nice fellas draw from the old school hardcore with direct nods to straight edge, spice it up with clear vocals that spit well-thought, inspiring lyrics, and breathing more life into hardcore than many heavier and louder bands out there.
We sat down with the band’s singer Greg Bennick (TRIAL, BETWEEN EARTH & SKY, One Hundred For Haiti, Words As Weapons) to introduce the band, discuss its motifs, upcoming debut 7”, reveal some exciting plans for his other bands and projects, and a lot more. See the full interview below.
BYSTANDER features Greg Bennick, Chad Rapper, and Shariq Ibriham. The band’s debut 7” will be released soon via a number of great labels: Safe Inside Records from San Diego, CA, Goodwill Records (Europe), Kick Out the Jams, life.lair.regret (Australia), Spreading the Hardcore Reality (Mexico, Latin America), Reason Records (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus), and World’s Appreciated Kitsch Records (Greece, Balkans, Turkey) and Ugly and Proud Records (Balkans, split with Worlds Appreciated Kitsch).
Hey Greg! Thanks so much for taking some time with us. Over 3 years since our lengthy interview, I knew we would eventually reconnect, but I wouldn’t guess it would be abut your new band! Please tell us about this project and prompted you to team up with Chad and Shariq to form xBYSTANDERx? What’s it like starting another band after so many years of being involved in the hardcore scene?
GREG: In early 2018 I was approached by Chad, who I’ve known since the mid 90’s. He texted me and asked if I would be interested in singing for a band which he and the other guys had formed. It didn’t have a name yet he said, just five songs which they had written. I asked to hear the songs and when I did I got really excited. That was about two months ago. I basically absorbed myself in writing and challenging myself to write lyrics as it’s been so long. Then, by a miraculous bit of good fortune, Blair Calibaba (recording engineer for Trial and for Between Earth & Sky) from Vancouver BC called to say that he had come out of recording retirement and wanted to do projects on a very very limited basis. I asked if I could record vocals with him and he said yes. The chemistry was perfect with Blair, the songs were great, and my voice FINALLY after twenty years, is solid. I loved the entire process from being asked to be in the band to finishing the record last week. The other guys are creative machines. And the momentum from within is amazing. Every day we text one another in some way about twenty or thirty times ideas come up and they get accomplished or replied to within minutes or hours. I’ve wanted to be in a band like his for a very long time.
The name BYSTANDER and your debut track suggest you’ll be encouraging conversation about important issues in life and trying to make a change. Can you tell us about the idea behind the name and your ‘mission’ with this project?
GREG: The band name was actually suggested by the other members and I instantly loved it. I loved it for the irony. Someone who is a Bystander is someone who sits on the sidelines and watches. They don’t get involved or speak out or take any action. I certainly don’t want any of us to live that way, especially in this political and social environment. So the name is ironic. Usually band names describe the listeners to that band. Or the members. Well I don’t want anyone to be a Bystander. All of the bands songs are calls to critique ourselves and our scene / community. They might sound like straight edge anthems but if you look closer at the lyrics they are about things which we should consider changing, not celebrating, about ourselves and our scene.
How important is the straight edge component?
GREG: It’s huge! I love that we’ve established a baseline of being straight edge in the band. The straight edge is a great starting point though and not a finish line. One of our 7” songs other than the one we debuted on No Echo this week speaks to that idea: we aren’t finished once we are straight edge. Instead we are at a starting point. What will we do with this mental clarity gained by not getting intoxicated? How can we build alliances rather than just tearing one another down or refusing to talk? All of these questions and more need to be asked once we give up drinking and focus on our mental clarity.
Since you’re located in different cities, how active will you be after the release of your debut 7’’? Can we count on a follow-up record and some live shows this year?
GREG: I truly hope so! I expect we will play in the Midwest for sure, and we will do shorter tours whenever we can on the coasts. I want to come to Europe too. And yes I absolutely want a follow up record! We are writing machines so I will be excited to see what the guys – and what I myself – come up with next.
Can you please drop us a quick update on new BETWEEN EARTH & SKY and future plans with TRIAL? What can we expect from both bands in 2018 and beyond? Can you tell?
GREG: Between Earth & Sky has musically written twelve new songs. Ten will be for an LP on Refuse Records. I just need to write the lyrics now! I am maybe 1/5th done with them. I will work more on them in the next months and hopefully we can record towards the end of this year. I love Between Earth & Sky. We move too slowly. But the band concept of exploring life and death and what it means to be human inspires me deeply.
TRIAL will play at least one show again, very likely this summer. Beyond that its difficult to say any more than that. Check back soon for more news.
Ok Greg, so lastly, how is the One Hundred For Haiti project? How has it evolved over the years and how did it affect you personally?
GREG: Perfect timing with that question as I’m currently in Haiti writing you in the middle of the night on my phone in a very rural area called Ranquitte. I don’t even think it’s on the map. One Hundred For Haiti manages and maintains more than forty water sites here, working for local Haitians who asked for this kind of support. We’ll be expanding that project this year. We are also working on raising funds to build over thirty roofs for families who live in very basic structures, some of which have no roof, while other families have to sleep standing up during the rainy season because their roofs leak so much. We are prioritizing the houses owned by single mothers first. The organization overall has kept the same focus – development instead of relief – for years. What’s changed is a strengthening of the relationships we have in Haiti. Relationships are everything here. We’ve grown much closer to the communities we support. People can find out more about those projects I mentioned and all of our others at onehundredforhaiti.org.
What’s the next big milestone for the organization?
GREG: I’d say the next step for One Hundred For Haiti is to start getting grants, and to expand fundraising so that we can do EVERYTHING we want to here rather than having to wait. It’s difficult to know that people want to make changes in their communities and simply don’t have the resources or impetus to start. We try to help with both. Next for us: the roof project and then working on job creation so that Haitians here can help themselves from within.
Great, thanks so much for the update, Greg! Appreciate it! Thanks for delivering more meaningful content. Good luck with all your current projects and cheers from Warsaw! The last words are yours.
GREG: I miss Warszawa so much. It’s one of my favorite cities and has been for two decades. I appreciate Goodwill Records for putting out the Bystander 7” in Europe and the other labels worldwide which have agreed to do vinyl and cassettes. I’d love for everyone to find us in Instagram and Facebook and to keep in touch.
Last words for you: Przyszedł Herbst z pstrągami, słuchał oszczerstw z wstrętem patrząc przez szczelinę w strzelnicy.
Thanks for the interview!
Haha, thanks a lot! Now, you really messed up with my mind. Cheers!