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Starting a band amidst turbulences of the pandemic: a year in review by Cleveland hardcore punk band LAST GASP

Photos by Andrew Wells
In conjunction of the release of a new hardcore split with Rochester, New York based WHO DECIDES, launching today on Dropping Bombs label, we’re stoked to be partnering with Cleveland hardcore band LAST GASP (ex members of Wreak Havoc, Tiger, and Dismantle), for a special essay on starting their band in 2020, including records that they were inspired by and some cool live photos. Oh, and we have quick WHO DECIDES commentary and the first listen of the full split, too! Yay!

On this new high-octane release, Who Decides crashes out of the gates with 2 rock n’ roll infused hardcore songs reminiscent of The Suicide File or Hope Conspiracy, while Last Gasp keeps the momentum going with 3 absolute rippers that call to mind bands like Allegiance or Panic.

The artwork for this release draws inspiration from the Spy vs. Spy comic book series and will be housed in a fold out cover courtesy of Jon Mayo. Records will be housed in a fold-out cover printed by Markley at Econopress.  Screen printing by the legendary Eric Z at Refuge Skateboard Shop. Vinyl pressed at Archer in Detroit.

Estimated street date is February 1st.

Comment WHO DECIDES: “Like our Last Gasp friends, Who Decides was an unintentional Covid project. We released our demo on Head2Wall earlier in 2020, and we actually had two songs left from the sessions that didn’t fit the demo super well / would have made it too long.”

“They ended up being ready to go when Last Gasp approached us to do the split, and Eric at Dropping Bombs was kind enough to put it out. The lyrics are pretty self-explanatory, and I think not far from where we left off with the demo. Also like the demo, this was self-recorded and then mixed by Alex Salter. I think that’s all I got. I hope shows come back soon.” – they conclude.

𝐴 𝑦𝑒𝑎𝑟 𝑖𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑃𝑎𝑠𝑡, 𝐹𝑜𝑟𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟 𝑖𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝐹𝑢𝑡𝑢𝑟𝑒
𝐴 𝑦𝑒𝑎𝑟 𝑖𝑛 𝑟𝑒𝑣𝑖𝑒𝑤, 𝑏𝑦 𝐿𝐴𝑆𝑇 𝐺𝐴𝑆𝑃’𝑠 𝑆𝑒𝑎𝑛 𝐻𝑒𝑙𝑏𝑖𝑔

For anyone who has ever started a band, you know that the early days are usually a time of great excitement. There’s almost always a period early on where the first few songs are coming together and the potential for the band is starting to become clear. There are few genres of music that rely on live performances more than hardcore punk. Playing shows is a crucial part of gauging interest and tightening your sound. When Last Gasp had a demo’s worth of songs under our belt and a handful of promising early shows lined up, we felt that we were about to come out of the gate strong.

Of course the world had different plans, however, and live music was put on hold indefinitely just days before our first show when Covid-19 started to spread rapidly in the US. Needless to say all of our shows were cancelled and progress was halted.

LAST GASP

So as a new band, we were left with few options. Do we hang it up? Try and come back when venues are back? Or do we keep our foot on the gas? After it became clear that this pandemic wasn’t going to be over anytime soon, we chose the latter and returned to the basement to start workshopping new music in early April. Not long after that another difficult decision arose as it became clear that a lineup change was in order if we wanted to write the more aggressive sound our music was heading toward. Anyone who has ever had to kick someone out of a band knows how uncomfortable and awkward the whole process is. In our case though it was potentially suicidal as the guitarist we were having issues with was a respected old head in the Cleveland hardcore scene. That being said, sometimes addition by subtraction is the best thing for a band and we immediately started working on new material that we were proud of. Looking back, I really do think going through both of these experiences early on set the tone for our work ethic and helped us realize where we were setting the bar for ourselves moving forward.

When the protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd started in late May/June we felt compelled to help any way that we could. We released the new batch of demos that we had recently recorded titled “Second Wave” online with all proceeds going to the Cleveland BLM chapter. With some local press we were able to raise $500 for the important cause. Around this time I think we all knew that continuing to stay productive during quarantine was the right move and we continued writing throughout the summer. With nothing else going on and most of us off of work we really honed in on the band, which was all aided by the fact that our drummer George was able to record us in his home studio. Songs were demo’d and videos were shared remotely so that we could stay dialed in without any extra in-person practices. We even recorded a live set in an empty venue with some other NE Ohio locals to try and stay as productive and visible as safely possible.

LAST GASP

With the help from some amazing regional labels we were able to release some physical media over the summer. Dropping Bombs out of Michigan have been riding with us from the jump pressing our demo 7” with an insane screen-printed b-side, while (the almighty) War Records from California put out a cassette tape pairing our Second Wave EP with our demo. Both releases caught some attention but seeing our cassette tapes available through RevHq was massive for us.

With COVID cases still running rampant in our beloved city the recording studio that we had booked time with shut down. Taking matters back into our own hands we self recorded three new songs. Our fastest most aggressive material yet. George our drummer plays in a side project with Skylar from Who Decides called Highway Sniper. That was the connection to our favorite band from Rochester New York. George played us the Who Decides demo before it was released (Head2Wall Records) and we were floored! We immediately talked about doing a split with them and after some communication we were off to the races. Luckily they had some extra songs kicking around. With our demo looking so wild we knew that we had to raise the bar with this one. We hit Canadian artist Jon Mayo up for the Spy vs Spy layout. Jon is a big fan of Mad Magazine and hardcore so it just made sense. Every aspect of this record was created with vinyl collector’s in mind. PLUS, the b side of the test presses will be hand painted by Cleveland tattoo artist Nate Kemr making them that much more rare. The whole project really came together and we’re excited to work with Dropping Bombs again on the release. Scobie of DB is a vinyl dork much like the rest of us, so it was yet again, an easy decision.

LAST GASP

So, how do you end your first year as a band that included a lockdown, one chauncy streamed live show, and a band member removal? Well, you record a full length of course. Staying active during quarantine gave us a rare opportunity to release new music during a time when a lot of “known” bands were sitting on material (or calling it quits all together). We’ve been lucky to catch some attention from the right bands and people who were thirsty for new music. This, along with even more downtime to write and workshop music led us to Bottleworks Recording where we recorded our first full length in Cleveland’s historic Little Italy neighborhood with local whiz kid Steve Perrino.

With two releases already recorded and ready to go for 2021, the future is bright. Like the rest of the world we are anxiously awaiting the end of COVID. We hope this is the year where we will be able to hit the stage and finally scratch that itch that we haven’t been able to get to quite yet.

𝑇ℎ𝑒𝑠𝑒 𝑎𝑟𝑒 𝑠𝑜𝑚𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑟𝑒𝑙𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑒𝑠 𝑓𝑟𝑜𝑚 2020 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑖𝑛𝑠𝑝𝑖𝑟𝑒𝑑 𝑢𝑠 𝑡𝑜 𝑘𝑒𝑒𝑝 𝑝𝑢𝑠ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑤𝑎𝑟𝑑.

Ryan:

Change – Closer Still

Yambag – Posthumous Pounce

En Love – Love Will Drown the Nest

Big Laugh – Manic Revision

Discourage – Forlorn Hope

Dave:

End of Dayz – demo

Spy – Service Weapon

Who Decides – demo

Rain of Salvation – In Times of Desperation

Seed of Pain – Flesh, Steel, Victory

George:

Nothing – Great Dismal

No Pressure – S/T

Growing Stone – I Had Everybody Snowed

Fixation – Promo 2020

Taking Meds – the Meds You Deserve

Sean:

Spice – S/T

Mindforce – Swinin Swords, Choppin Lords

Militarie Gun – My Life is Over

Gulch – Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress

Phoebe Bridges – Punisher

Starting a band amidst turbulences of the pandemic: a year in review by Cleveland hardcore punk band LAST GASP
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