New Music

Emotion etched in punk: the arc of PACK SOUNDS

6 mins read

Originating from Kalamazoo, Michigan and finding its heartbeat in Goshen, Indiana, the raw surge of emotion within punk rock finds a voice in PACK SOUNDS, already featured in IDIOTEQ a couple of times now. Their identity, interwoven with palpable vulnerability, is amplified by spirited guitar sequences and rhythms that touch the profound depths of the human spirit.

This melodic emo punk outfit is an exquisite fusion of Andrew Kallicragas’s poignant lyricism and Russ Wagner’s discerning guitar prowess. Their musical trajectory, studded with diverse influences, culminates into an aural experience of anthemic choruses that are as much a treat to the ear as they are an exploration of the myriad complexities of life.

Their storied musical histories and influences come together to create Pack Sound’s unique blend of anthemic choruses, ear worm melodies, and vulnerable lyrics.

Juxtaposed against this backdrop is the impressive line-up that completes PACK SOUNDS: Steve Brewer’s vigorous drumbeats, Greg Brewer’s resonant bass rhythms, and the collective vocal harmonies that lend a textured depth to their sound.

And when one thinks the ensemble couldn’t be richer, enter the exceptional skills of Rick Johnson, Evan Judson, and Evan Krabill, weaving in elements of trombone, trumpet, and saxophone respectively, elevating the auditory experience to a crescendo of emotions.

Real Gusto: A Symphony of Resilience and Renewal


The pandemic years, challenging for many, saw the band introspectively channel their creative energies into two intimate EPs. But as dawn succeeds night, ‘Real Gusto’ emerges, illuminating PACK SOUNDS‘ essence. Released under the banner of Friend Club Records and soon to resonate with European audiences via iCorrupt records and Slow Down Records, this album stands as a beacon of the band’s indefatigable spirit.

From meticulous recording at Cold War Studios by Rick Johnson, through the immersive mixing at The Vault Studio Michigan by Jordan Wagel, to the masterful finishing touches by Blake Bickel at Dynamic Sound Service, ‘Real Gusto’ is a labor of love, patience, and sheer determination.

Capturing this journey’s soul, the artwork by Jon Weed adds a visual dimension, juxtaposing the album’s sonic narratives and emotions, creating a holistic experience for the audience.


“This record was probably 4-5 years in the making… Now that it’s finished, we’re just ecstatic to be playing live again.” – says the band.

Beyond the Horizon: A Promise Etched in Soundwaves

PACK SOUNDS, with ‘Real Gusto‘ under their belt, look forward to a future painted with tours across North America and Europe, eager to connect with fans old and new, sharing their stories, their emotions, and above all, their unparalleled passion for music.

In memory of Eraklis “Pete” Kallicragas, ‘Real Gusto’ isn’t just an album; it’s a tribute, a testament, and a promise of more heartfelt melodies to come.


Join us soon as we journey deeper, with a special track-by-track commentary, unraveling the stories that make ‘Real Gusto‘ the great, resonating listen it is.

Track by track commentary by Andrew Kallicragas:

“Glasses Half Empty”

This song was the companion piece to “Buckets Half Full” from our sophomore effort “Rally On.” Both songs are about a close family member’s battles with addiction and how we’re sometimes helpless to help those we love most. At the time I wrote “Glasses,” there was a lot of talk in the family about cutting off the person who was struggling. I think often there’s a mentality that they need to hit rock bottom before they’ll get better or at least be willing to try. I remember this person’s mother being upset by this push and just saying “What would you have me do?” This was her child and no matter how bad they got, how could they abandon their own child?

As a father of two, I can relate more and more with her decisions to stand by her child. Even as our children grow and become “real people”, it’s hard to ever see them as anything other than these vulnerable beings we brought into this crazy world. Happy to report the person struggling did turn their life around and is doing great these days. Musically, I really enjoyed writing the verse guitar part for this song. Instead of writing a repeating sequence, the chords change to the lyric melody so each line is unique to itself. Fun to play but a nightmare to teach someone.

“You Got That Right”

This is lyrically one of my favourite songs I’ve written. I don’t write love songs per se, but when I do musically venture into the realm of relationships, I work really hard to avoid a lot of the cliche derivatives that plague most pop music. An example could be the line “eyes level skewed” versus saying the more obvious “we’re not seeing eye to eye.”

Even though I never planned to be the vocalist for Pack Sounds, now that I’ve been bestowed that role I try really hard to maintain some sense of lyrical cleverness while still being catchy. While this song was inspired by a particular person, it has now somewhat morphed into my feelings about relationships in general. Even at our most combative, there can still be love and understanding for those who we choose to live our lives with. Also that while relationship chapters may need to be closed with specific individuals, it doesn’t mean that new stories won’t arise with them in the future.


This was written when there was a lot of political turmoil in the USA (not that there isn’t still). “Simpatico” means having similar attributes or being compatible. I wanted to write a simple song about togetherness that focused on similarities instead of differences. Channeling the anthemic hardcore we all grew up on, vocally this was intended for anybody and everybody. This mic is your mic vibes.

“Eraklis (Pete)”

This song makes my whole family cry. My grandfather was a larger than life personality. Always the life of the party. He was unfortunately taken too early due to an easy miss by his cardiologist and I feel like my whole family has always felt robbed of those last couple years he should have had. It was an odd experience to summarize him in a song but I feel satisfied with the lyrical outcome. He really was the most inviting, boisterous, loving person.

I still find myself choking up a bit when we play it live which I embrace. It’s like a timestamp on this person that I’ll always miss but can visit anytime I listen or perform this song.

“Cat Poster (Hang In There)”

I got a random call from my mother’s boyfriend about how my mom hadn’t been feeling too well and they decided to go to the hospital. A routine visit quickly escalated into a very serious situation in which she had a kidney infection, sepsis, and other issues that were all compounding on each other. Suddenly I found myself in a conversation about being ready to drive out to Philadelphia (about 14 hours from where I live in Michigan) to say goodbye to my mom. It was a stressful time to say the least.

I wrote this in the middle of the night, almost like a wish that she would be OK. Luckily she pulled through but I feel like the experience was kind of a transitional moment where I grew from naively thinking “my parents are invincible” to “how many more times will I see my parents?” Depressing, I know, but it makes me appreciate the time we have together.


The older I get, the more I appreciate family, friends, and loved ones….things that can’t be replaced. The title was originally “Hang In There” but our drummer Steve loves cats and was adamant about bringing up the classic motivational poster of a cat hanging from a limb with the caption “Hang In There, Baby.” It just makes me laugh anytime I try to explain to anyone why the serious song about my mom almost dying is called “Cat Poster.”


This whole song was written in 10 minutes. It’s just one riff that felt more like a band warming up at practice than a song. We fell into this idea that the only lyric should be “whoa” and it kind of stuck. Greg came up with a weird bassline, Russ got ultra creepy with his guitar noises and Rick, our engineer, laid down the trombone parts to bring it all together.

It’s a fun song but ultra hard to sing live. I think I recorded seven vocal tracks, all progressively higher and more blown out than the previous take. End result is a song that totally shreds my vocals live if I try to sing it like the album. If this ever becomes a live staple it will definitely be audience driven.

“Paper Bag Palpitations”

My wife is a beautiful person and the fact that she has put up with 20 years of my out loud thinking is truly incredible. For whatever reason, I just need someone to be present as I rant and ramble endlessly to sort out all the whirling thoughts, feelings, and ideas running rampant inside my head. I’m too extroverted for my own good. That woman, more than anyone, along with my brother Jason and PS co-guitarist Russ, have really become experts on letting me wear myself out verbally, and I love them all dearly for it.

This song is an ode to them. Funny enough, the line in the song about missing punchlines is a reference to the Joker quote “without Batman, crime has no punchline.” I always remember that line and a reference to polar opposites made sense lyrically as I wrote a song all about myself imposing my extroverted personality all over my introverted loved ones.

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