Rising alongside fellow acts CULTURE, MORNING AGAIN and SHAI HULUD in the mid-90s, Florida’s AS FRIENDS RUST steadily climbed into hardcore kids’ hearts with their unique mixture of melodic and powerful amalgam that elevated the atmosphere of their live shows to something entirely immersive. After the band parted their ways in 2002, they performed sporadic reunion shows and festivals in 2008 and current decade, and now they’re back with great news on their new releases, to be unveiled later this year! The recent NoEcho feature reported that AS FRIENDS RUST have been writing and working on new songs and more live shows! We caught up with vocalist Damien Moyal (DAMIEN DONE) to chat about the specifics of their reunion, recall the old days and more. Read the full interview below.
Hey Damien! What a great news you have recently shared! With your latest masterful executions of artistic folk and art rock, some might say it wasn’t expected, but I knew it! I knew you won’t be able to miss those old days any longer, haha! Please give us some details on how it sparked in you and eventually materialized in concrete plans this year.
We’ve been talking about releasing new music for the past 10 years or so, ever since our first reunion, but despite getting some demos done here and there we never made real progress for various reasons. A big part of it was not being sure how to navigate the geographical challenges of living in four different states, but last year Tim, our drummer, moved back to Florida, and with him, Joe and Kaleb all in one place, the idea of recording felt much more attainable and realistic. We started revisiting and filtering through some of the demos we’d amassed over the years and quickly began adding more material to that pile. Before we knew it we realized we were sitting on 6 or 7 strong songs, and it felt like we were on course for an album.
After spending some time apart, what’s it like to work on new music again? Also, would you call it a rebuilding of your friendship?
You know, it doesn’t really feel like this lineup — the core, “Coffee Black” lineup — has been estranged from each other at all. We might have been in the early-mid 00s, but ever since the reunion in 2008 we’ve been in constant communication. We did another round of shows, festivals and tours in 2014 and 2015, and we’ve attended each other’s weddings. So this is very, very comfortable for us. We’re in our element together.
Can you give us a sense of what new tracks sound like?
I feel like the new material is a very respectful mix of the high-energy, faster punk stuff and the later work, which got slightly darker and had a bit more of a rock’n’roll slant. The songs sound fresh and new. People won’t feel like we’re repeating ourselves, but they will recognize the attributes that we think are inherent to AFR’s DNA.
Looking back at the old days, what are some quintessential moments that you remember?
There was a lot of hunger. Like, literal hunger. We were often not home long enough to work or make any real money, so we’d sell plasma or CDs to be able to feed ourselves. We looked forward to touring Europe because we knew we’d get a hot meal every day. Then we’d get to Europe, and we would get sick, lose teeth, get in van wrecks resulting in broken legs and stitches, have guns pointed to our heads one night, be forced at gunpoint to repeat our set the next, have van windows smashed, get bags and stereos stolen from our vans, and still get on stage with smiles on our faces, grateful for the privilege. That’s not really a “moment,” but that’s the spirit of this particular lineup, and it’s something that’s shaped us irreversibly.
What ambitions did you have at the time?
We just wanted food and for people to sing along.
Haha! Exactly. The 90s :)
What do you think it was about AS FRIEND RUST’s work that made it so memorable?
I think there’s an honesty and a relatability to our music that makes everyone feel like they can identify. Inclusion has always been central to the AFR mission, and it’s evident in the subject matter and in the fact that the music straddles so many genres. Most importantly, it’s evident at our shows, where the audience is diverse and smiling and everyone involved feels familiar and connected, and where for 40 minutes or so, everyone in the room is in the band. That’s how we feel, anyway. I think/hope everyone in the room feels the same, because it’s an amazing feeling.
What were some of the most crucial factors in your decision to call it quits in early 00s?
The lineup had changed at the end, and while this final lineup was also comprised of friends and was productive and wrote some really great material, the vibe had changed in a way that made the band stop holding my attention. I missed the mess of the middle lineup. The chaos, the seemingly-constant brushes with death. The final lineup was writing more, getting better recordings and the records were getting attention from labels that were making us offers that could have afforded us the ability to do music full-time, but without that bond it meant nothing to me. I guess I realized that it wasn’t the success of the band that interested me, but the spirit. So I quit.
How do you think touring this time around will be different? From your perspective, how has the underground networking, the DIY punk scene and hardcore community changed over the years?
Not sure how soon we’ll be able to do a proper tour, as this year we’ll be focusing on the new recordings and a few select shows and/or festivals, but we’re excited. AFR has played as recently as 2015, and I’ve stayed active with Damien Done. Kaleb has a solo project that tours regularly as well, and most of us at least play shows on a local level. For the most part things seem the same.
How have you grown as people during your break?
Mostly in our bellies.
;) Alright, so can you tell us something about the live shows you have planned for this year?
We’re playing on April 25th in Brooklyn. We also have have plans to play a couple of festivals in the US and abroad, but we can’t announce those just yet.
Will there be more surprises regarding your other associated bands? Apart from new AS FRIENDS RUST, what else are you cooking this year?
DAMIEN DONE is currently mixing a 3-song EP, and I’m really excited about the direction it’s taking. We continue to play regularly, and will likely do another tour this year. KALEB STEWART has another European tour coming up this spring. Joe has a great metal band called ROT IN COFFINS that’s been kicking ass.
Thanks Damien. Thanks so much for your time and insightful answers. Good luck with the whole process. Feel free to drop your last words and take care! Cheers from Warsaw!
Thank you, Karol! We’re insanely excited to play again, and hope to see everybody soon!
More AS FRIEND RUST live moments from the 90s: