Started back in 2005, PA hardcore punks from STEEL NATION are back with a new album, new music video, US tour dates, upcoming European trek with LIFELESS and now a proper check in and commentary on this new, promising era. I caught up with the band’s drummer Ethan Raese to unveil some of the band’s secrets and find out how they feel after 10 years of being a solid, well developing hardcore band.
With their new album “The Harder They Fall” (Harm Reduction Records / Marked For Death Records), STEEL NATION adds even more style and swingin’ hooks to their good old fast-paced heavy hardcore deliveries. Check out their latest impressive body of work and read the full interview below.
What’s up man? How are you? How’s Philly? All good?
Things are well, but I actually live in Pittsburgh now haha, I haven’t lived in Philly since about 2007.
Wow! Sorry then! Ok mate. Whatever, you’re back! PA’s finest are still on track with some serious plans for the rest of this year. You recently unveiled your new record via Harm Reduction Records and just announced your teaming up with Marked For Death Records! Tell us more about “Harder They Fall” and generally the condition you found yourself in Winter 2014/2015.
It is a privilege that you consider us on of PA’s finest. We are really excited to have support from both Harm Reduction and Marked for Death. I think that The Harder They Fall speaks for itself. It is just the next step for Steel Nation. We try to progress our music each time we write a new song. We didn’t see the point in putting out another record exactly as Forever Wounded. We are always looking to push the limits with our band while still staying true to being a hardcore band. This winter we didn’t get out to play as much as we had liked but we are looking to make up for that this spring and summer with getting a bunch of shows lined up and making it back to Europe with our friends in LIFELESS.
Besides music, what was influenced your new work?
I think we are just influenced by the world around. Everything from our families and friends to tough times we go through as well as things that are happening in our towns and country. Every day shapes the people that we are and I think that comes through in ways through the music that we write.
There are so many bands that changed their direction in the process. After so many years, how do you manage to develop your grit and stay close and so connected to your roots?
Staying connected to our roots is something that we never really think of, it just happens. I feel if you are a genuine person then you don’t need to consciously think about how you are going to stay true to yourself, it just comes naturally. STEEL NATION has never been a band about trying to fit a certain mold or please a certain crowd of people. We have always just done what we wanted to do and written music in a way that we are happy with and represents ourselves. This is not to say that when bands change their style over time that they aren’t being honest with themselves, I do however feel that there is a difference between growing as a musician and then selling yourself out to portray a certain image and sound.
What obstacles did you have to overcome to keep this band alive?
This band has gone through some difficult obstacles to stay together. Earlier on we struggled to find a singer which is what lead us to just becoming a 4 piece. These days none of us live in the same time. I actually live about 3 hours from everyone else so practicing becomes challenging. Even when we were recording The Harder They Fall we ran into so many road blocks from having the studios hard drive crash, to health issues that came up. If I am not mistaken we had all the songs to that album written 3 years ago. It isn’t the perfect situation for a band but we all make it work. I know that I am very lucky to be playing with 3 super talented musicians so even though it is a little more work to make this band happen, to me it is totally worth it.
How old were you when you started this band and your previous projects? How do you look back on the story of STEEL NATION?
When STEEL NATION started 10 years ago I was 20. As far as other bands go, I had been drumming in bands since I was 14. There is a long list of bands but the first I actually played shows with was a band called THE WARRIORS, not the one from CA. Our first show was with RUN DEVIL RUN and I think after that I knew I was going to be playing in bands for a long time. It is crazy to think that it has been that long. Looking back on the STEEL NATION story, sure there are things that I wish we would have done differently but I think that is a normal feeling with anything in life but it is important not to dwell on those things and look more to the future. We had some bad luck, got dropped on a few tours, had gear stolen and had problems with a singer but that is all things we don’t worry about anymore. We are more focused on writing new music and getting back to place shows in cities we haven’t been to in years. If it wasn’t for the problems that we ran into earlier in our band we may not be the band we are today.
Tell me about the first local music you were aware of. Do you remember your first punk shows?
I grew up in a college town in West Virginia and was lucky enough to have a punk and hardcore scene. The first show I can remember seeing a local punk band called ÜK, I can’t remember the other bands though but it was a show outdoor in a park.
Were your local bands important in terms of growing your awareness of hardcore punk culture?
Yea, I imagine that everyone’s local bands are important to them growing up especially when you grow up in a smaller town. I am sure if I grew up in a bigger city like Philly or NYC it would have a been a little different but in my town it wasn’t too often that bands would tour through so I relied more on the bands from my town. I remember the guitar player of a local hardcore band called LAW BITING CITIZENS worked a college store that sold CDs. I would stop in and he would tell me which bands I should go check out. I’ll never forget him telling me about SICK OF IT ALL “ Blood, Sweat & No Tears” when I was 13. The university in my town brought in a lot of people from all over so for the time I lived there we had a good punk and hardcore scene going. Eventually, we started getting bands like INDECISION and KILL YOUR IDOLS to come through in play. But growing up in a small scene also got me to start traveling for shows. Pittsburgh was the next closest city that had good shows, then sometimes I would travel to Cleveland, Erie and College Park MD which were all not too far away.
Considering your local hardcore scene, what’s changed besides everyone around getting older? :)
As far as where I grew up I don’t know really if anything happens there anymore. Occasionally I hear of a show going on but it certainly isn’t how it used to be. I still want STEEL NATION to go back and play where I played my first show but things just haven’t worked out. Pittsburgh seems to be getting better on the other hand. There was a period of time where there wasn’t a consistent venue which always makes things hard. But with bands like ETERNAL SLEEP and CODE ORANGE doing their things, the scene I feel is getting better.
Do you have this feeling that there are too many bands recording, and not enough people going to shows and actually listening? Do you concur?
I really don’t think that there is ever a problem of too many bands or recordings. I want there to be more bands and more music getting put out. I always look at it as a challenge. When a band puts out a good record it inspires me to keep writing music and pushes me to try and take things to a new level. I can probably agree that maybe there aren’t enough people going to shows. It may be hard for me to speak for the rest of the country but I know shows in my area are much smaller and scenes like Erie PA don’t have nearly as much going on as they did when I was younger. As I mentioned earlier, I think not having a consistent venue in a scene makes it difficult to get kids to constantly come out. At the same time too, I don’t feel as though there are many tours happening either.
What do you think about what hardcore punk genre has become?
For me, punk and hardcore is still what it was when I was younger. It was a way to express myself and be creative in a subculture because I didn’t see eye to eye with what everyone else was doing. Through hardcore I have met some of my best friends and had the best times in my life and that hasn’t changed. t think a lot of people may say that hardcore has become a popularity contest or something else along those lines. I may agree with some of those things but I am really not trying to worry about other people and what they are doing or what they say about bands and hardcore.
Ok then. So how about touring? Tell me about your plans for this year. How do you feel about traveling to Europe?
As far as touring goes, right now we are planning to come to Europe with LIFELESS in August but that is really our only four plans we have for 2015. It is tough for us to get the time off work and be away from our families so it is doubtful we will be doing full US tours any time soon. We are trying to make it back to many of the places we haven’t been to in a long time. It isn’t that we don’t want to tour, it has just become more difficult to make it happen. I am always excited to come play Europe. I enjoy seeing different cultures, exploring cities and playing new places. It will be nice for STEEL NATION to finally to do a proper tour in Europe. Plus I love the post show kabob!
Are there any radical, timeless memories from your previous European treks you’d like to recall here?
I have for sure had some good ones. I feel that there will be some good stories from this upcoming tour. A few years back I filled in on drums for the Mongoloids and had my birthday while we were in Essen. Definitely went to a dance club and didn’t leave till it was about 7 in the morning haha. That was certainly something very uncharacteristic of me. The first show I ever played in Europe with STRENGTH FOR A REASON will be something I will never forget. STEEL NATION’s first time over was pretty funny though just because we got this Skoda car rented and we hardly fit in it. We really aren’t the smallest group of guys and we were crammed in this tiny car driving all over the place. It probably looked like a clown car when we rolled to the shows and got all our stuff out.
Haha, nice :)
What European band and/or labels have you recently looked up to?
I think the first European band that I got into was KNUCKLEDUST. I remember when I was in high school my buddy had their split with INDECISION and since then they have been one of my favorite bands. I can’t remember when exactly but I was so stoked when they came over to the states in maybe 2005 or so and played Baltimore and outside of Allentown PA. After finding out about them it opened the doorway to bands like BORN FROM PAIN, STAMPIN GROUND and of course NO TURNING BACK. NTB has been a big part of my life and STEEL NATION as well, from going to a band that I would mosh and stage dive to and then to being some of the best people I have met. One of my favorite STEEL NATION tours was sharing a van with NTB and playing shows down the West Coast into Mexico. I have always felt that European hardcore is extremely underrated here in the States.There are so many good bands that need to be heard.
Alright my man. Thanks a lot for the insightful interview and feel free to wrap it up with your final words. Take care and good luck for the rest of your plans for 2015!
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to speak about my band and share some of the experiences I have had through hardcore.
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