Stretch Arm Strong by JC Carey
Stretch Arm Strong by JC Carey

STRETCH ARM STRONG on hardcore’s evolution, maintaining positivity in dark times, navigating adulthood and unpacking “The Revealing”

16 mins read

“The Revealing” EP, STRETCH ARM STRONG’s first blast of new tunes in nearly 20 years, punches in at just under 15 minutes, proving the band still knows how to deliver intensity and purpose in a tight package. The physical release is set for May via Iodine Records, but fans can already stream the whole thing online.

We caught up with guitarist David Sease for a chat about what’s been going on with the band, the making of the EP, and what the future holds.

The band, celebrated for infusing the hardcore scene with their upbeat ethos since ’92, has gracefully evolved. Today, they navigate the harmony between their musical passion and the realities of adulthood, skillfully managing family responsibilities and professional commitments without dimming their fervent love for hardcore.

The Revealing” stands out not just because it’s new material after such a long hiatus, but because of its raw energy and the unmistakable bond the band members share.

It’s clear from talking to David that getting back into the studio felt right. They hooked up with producer Steve Evetts, known for his work with a range of hardcore bands, and even managed to get Lou Koller from Sick of It All to throw down some guest vocals on one track.

David’s pretty candid about the band’s dynamic and how they’ve managed to stick together through the years. Despite the challenges of coordinating life as adults, the drive to make music that resonates with both them and their fans has never faded. They’re excited about the release but realistic about what comes next. Playing live is on the table, with a slot at Furnace Fest this fall, but there’s no grand tour plan. It’s more about finding opportunities that work for everyone.

Stretch Arm Strong by JC Carey
Stretch Arm Strong by JC Carey

David also touched on the hardcore scene today, reflecting on how it’s evolved yet stayed true to its roots. There’s a sense of continuity, with new bands taking the torch and running with it, while veterans like STRETCH ARM STRONG come back to remind everyone why this music mattered in the first place.

It’s refreshing to hear from a band that’s not out to relive their glory days but to add something meaningful to their legacy.

“The Revealing” is a snapshot of where STRETCH ARM STRONG is at right now – older, wiser, but still with plenty to say. The full interview will dive even deeper into the band’s thoughts and experiences – check it out below.

Interview with David Sease (guitar/backing vocals).

Guys, let’s start with a blast from the past – it’s been a hot minute since “Rituals of Life” and the scene’s changed a bunch. How do you feel about hardcore’s evolution from the sweaty pits to the digital space?

Full disclosure, I don’t get out much, but when I do, I recognize the same stoke in the younger crowd and younger bands that existed in us when we were renting out vet’s halls and playing sweaty clubs in the 90’s. So maybe in that sense, it’s not an evolution but a generational recognition of how great hardcore music is.

Zooming out a bit, you could still hear the 80’s in the 90’s, the 90’s in the 00’s and so on and so on, so there’s certainly an inheritance that new bands are building on and which you can hear in their music.

David from Stretch Arm Strong by JC Carey
David from Stretch Arm Strong by JC Carey

Pounding drums, ripping guitars, thumping bass, and searing vocals encouraging and responding to the energy of the people in a room is something that all hardcore kids understand, regardless of the era, and it comes out in the music.

Some of the sounds, styles, and production elements of the music may be different, and the topics of the lyrics might meander a bit to respond to current events, but to me, the differences mainly seem to be a matter of degree.

Depending on the era, there might be more or less distortion on the guitars, more or less melody in the vocals, an increase or decrease in the tempo of the song, but anytime you get a handful of people with instruments that decide to make music because they want to and will take unlikely measures to get their expression out to the world, the energy is going to be powerful.

It will attract a certain amount of people that want to share in and add to that energy, creating something that is simultaneously timeless and fleeting. That sharing may happen in a basement show with 8 local bands, or it may be at a giant festival or even in an arena with some of our more mainstream HXC ambassadors.

Stretch Arm Strong by JC Carey
Stretch Arm Strong – Scott in “Chadball” shirt, by Michelle Mennona

Hardcore has been and should always be at least a little “out of step” with the mainstream of society and culture. Because of that, it has an opportunity to offer a more welcoming place of community than the society that surrounds it.

When I found HXC as a young teenager, I felt like I found a home. Although HXC has always had an impulse for inclusion, unity, and acceptance, it has not always delivered as well as it could have.

Hopefully, as HXC goes from generation to generation, it will find new and creative ways to lean into that impulse and show the rest of the world how it’s done! I love a lot of the new bands I hear today and am stoked that they are putting in the effort to make their own music, book their own shows, travel around in sketchy vans, and build friendships beyond their towns.

You’ve been dishing out posi-vibes since ’92. How do you keep that fire burning in a world that’s pretty dark these days?

The world has always had a mixture of lightness and darkness. The current times are not so different in that. While being positive is not as simple as just walking on “…the sunny side of the street”, there is certainly an element of choice in how we navigate the vicissitudes of life. Positivity encourages positivity. Negativity encourages negativity. I feel like part of the SAS message has always focused on the importance of choosing positivity in the midst of the darkness.

In The Revealing EP, SAS continues that journey and perhaps adds to it a bit. The lyrics of this EP are aspirational. Part of the message in the lyrics expresses an intention and hope that we can learn to embrace not only the light in life but also the dark; recognizing the darkness in light and the light in darkness and having the aspiration to still choose love in all situations.

The lyrics reflect on the idea that we can learn and grow from everything around us, even the difficulties.

The song “Illuminating” on The Revealing EP explores this idea specifically. When we see our darkest shadows as opportunities for growth, we can approach, address love, and convert what needs the most help in our lives. Efforts to embrace and love those dark shadows can produce the most positive of results, positively affecting the world around us.

David from Stretch Arm Strong by JC Carey
David from Stretch Arm Strong by JC Carey

As we say in “Still Believe, Part III”, “the only way out is through”. From the perspective of this song, going “through” involves seeing, embracing, and offering love to something that is difficult rather than rejecting it or trying to avoid it.

One of the hopes expressed in these lyrics is that we can learn to love everything and everyone around us, even those things and people that we find difficult. As it says in the song “A Revealing”, we cannot leave anyone behind.

None of these ideas or approaches are new, and the aspiration to meet life as it is with its ups and downs is difficult, but there is always an opportunity to choose positivity.

Recognizing that we have this choice and developing practices to learn to expand what love can mean and how it can be expressed is a way to keep the fire of positivity burning. As it says in the song “Aspirations”, each moment is eternal when we love!

Stretch Arm Strong by JC Carey
Stretch Arm Strong by JC Carey

South Carolina’s been your stomping ground. Give us the lowdown on how it’s shaped you and any local acts that are torching the scene right now.

All the SAS guys grew up near and around Columbia, the capital city of South Carolina. The University of South Carolina is in Columbia, so there was a bit more going on musically than might have been otherwise. The university’s radio station used to host a metal show and a hardcore show, which helped a lot of us youngsters get juiced into some cool music.

We were influenced by early SC punk and hardcore bands like Antischism and Bedlam Hour. Each of these bands made a real splash in the scene well beyond SC, and they gave us an example of how this whole thing could be done. Columbia also had a solid club that touring bands played even before SAS was born, and we grew up going to shows there. The club would also book local bands as well. A solid venue can always help a music scene thrive.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s, influential bands like Dag Nasty, 7 Seconds, Agnostic Front, Agent Orange, Verbal Assault, Bad Brains, Descendents, Sick of it All, DRI, and Youth of Today played in our town. These bands and those that would follow inspired us to travel around and make music. We had a lot of peers that were coming along at the same time we were, and there was no shortage of cool shows going on. So, although we were a small, rural state, we had some great shows in the early days.

Although we were able to see plenty of touring bands, we were still pretty isolated, and it was tough to keep up with the state of the art in terms of music. Because we were insulated from so many outside influences, we created music that stood out from some of the other bands at the time. We knew we wanted to play heavy, fast, and melodic music, and somehow the combination we formed seemed a bit different than some of the other bands that we’d end up playing with on our early travels. I believe that helped us.

Our most popular song, “For The Record”, is all about growing up and going to these kinds of shows here. We were repulsed by the Confederate Flag that used to be on top of our statehouse. We didn’t fit into the mainstream of our regional culture but did find love in our local hardcore and punk scene. That song does a better job of illustrating that than I can say! Give it a spin if you’ve never heard it! The HXC and heavy music scene in SC has a lot of great bands that are putting in work these days. Some to mention include Brass Tongue, Demiser, Laid Out, Riot Stares, Rat Poison, Reviler, Vorov, and Your Spirit Dies. As I said earlier, I don’t get out too much and I know that there are rad bands that I’ve not mentioned, and I’m sorry!

Stretch Arm Strong by JC Carey
Stretch Arm Strong by Joshua Lohrman

2023’s been a furnace of fresh tunes. What’s in your playlist right now that’s got you hyped, any surprise finds?

I have to apologize before I answer this question. I do not put in much effort to find new music today. I know that’s terrible! In the streaming age, it only takes a few clicks to enter the rabbit hole, going from a song that you know and love and into a genre of music you never even knew existed, full of band names you’ve never seen.

I find myself coming across new music and I have almost no context or understanding of who the band is, where they’re from, or even what they’re about. This is a big departure from how I used to consume music before the streaming age.

Back then, I became invested in the bands I listened to, mainly because of the effort it took to find them.

It might have been from reading the thanks list or liner notes on an album I had, a friend might have turned me on to them, I may have seen them open for a band I went to see live, I might have read about them in a zine, or I might have simply bumped into their music at the record store, but in any case, there was some effort that I took to get this new music, and I appreciated the discovery more than I do today.

I am not blaming this on the streaming age. I know I’m being a lazy consumer. My bad!

I have a few playlists that I listen to regularly. Some of my favorite heavy music finds recently that are on a playlist are Direct Control, Annihilation Time, Faim, Rotten Sound, Punitive Damage, Rotting Out, Airbourne, Denial Fiend, Mindforce, Incendiary, and the Arson Project. There are so many more, but that’s just a few that I see when I scroll through one of my “go to” playlists.

That Furnace Fest comeback – was it like flipping a switch back to the old days, or did it feel like stepping into a new pair of kicks?

Getting ready for shows is difficult when you’re not really a band. Any time we play, we want to deliver everything we can. We don’t want to half step it or hold back, and yet, we’re not a well-rehearsed band anymore!

We remember the old days when we were a well-oiled touring machine and hold ourselves to that same standard, which is not possible. We also feel a lot of obligation to the people who are coming to see us. We have been very fortunate to have fans that are deeply appreciative of our music and our live shows. The last thing we want to do is ruin a good memory that they have with us by playing a bad show. All this gets compounded when you play a festival. Playing shows is one thing, playing a festival is even more difficult.

Festivals usually have bigger stages, rapid turnovers between bands, and lots of chaos generally. It can be tough to settle into the flow of everything and just focus on playing. Luckily, I think we are so comfortable with each other and enjoy each other’s company enough that we make it fun no matter what.

I’m glad to see so many great bands coming back. If you could front row any band’s comeback, who’s getting your ticket money?

De La Beastie Boys Called Quest opening up for Bad Brains, with special guests, Modern English.

And, oh yeah, Leeway shows up too and uses Bad Brains equipment to play a handful of hits (as if there were only a handful!).

Stretch Arm Strong

With “The Revealing”, you’ve compressed pure dynamite into six tracks. Why choose the EP format over a full-blown album after such a long break?

The decision to release an EP was mostly a practical one. SAS is just not much of a band these days. Outside of playing a few shows every couple of years, the most consistent thing we do is talk on a text chain.

Everyone has busy schedules and Scott lives in New Jersey, so it is difficult to write much music together.

We had a great time practicing for the few shows that we’ve done recently, and during our jams, of course, the idea to write came up but we knew that our time would be limited. The idea of putting together 10 or 12 songs never seemed possible.

So, we considered that if anything would ever be possible, we could only hope for an EP at the best, and that was more ambitious than probable. In the summer of 2023, Casey from Iodine records asked if we would have any interest or ability to record with Steve Evetts.

We were all very excited about the prospect, having loved heaps of records that he’s done in the past, and having missed an opportunity to record with him on what would become the Rituals of Life album. As Scott, our other guitar player often says, the opportunity “fell into our laps”, and we decided to go for it.

Writing for The Revealing EP was different than anything we’d ever done. It was pretty much done in my home studio as demos that I’d share with the rest of the band.

I would regularly send the guys full demos with guitars, bass, midi drums, and vocals for feedback and would then iterate based on the feedback. Jeremy often came over to help, offering ideas and his excellent ear for revisions.

With a lot of work and a lot of back and forth, we were able to get 5 original songs completed and were excited to re-record the song “Take a Stand”, a song that Chris, our singer, wrote for a band called Strait Up that he was in with Scott and our old friend Matt right before Stretch Arm Strong was born. We always loved that song and were very excited to cover it!

From that point, we committed to practicing those songs as much as we could. John even went into a local studio to record drums with pre-recorded guitar scratch tracks to practice what it would be like when we got with Steve Evetts.

Stretch Arm Strong

The hard work paid off and our approach seemed to go about as smoothly as it could once we got into the studio with Steve. I am so happy with how everybody performed on the recording. We were all pushing about as hard as we could, and Steve pushed us a little harder still. I think that energy comes across in the songs. Steve Evetts is an amazing engineer and producer and became part of the SAS family immediately. We could only fit 6 days into our schedule to record this EP, but we got it done!

I also think that the EP format makes a lot of sense for SAS. The songs on The Revealing are pretty short, and the EP is just around 14 minutes. I think it is a good collection of songs to give people, and is easy to listen to from top to bottom in one sitting, and hopefully keeping the listener wanting more.

Collaborating with Lou Koller is massive. How did that throwdown come to life, and any wild moments from that session you can share?

Just to come correct, Stretch Arm Strong has loved Sick of it All for as long as I can remember.

We have held them in the highest regard and have all been fans forever. We had the wonderful opportunity to tour with SOIA in Europe and in the US. It is hard to overstate their significance in the history of Stretch Arm Strong or to truly explain their influence on our band. They are, hands down, one of the greatest live bands you’ll ever see, commanding a stage like no other with some of the most important HXC songs that were ever written.

As I mentioned before, the song “Take a Stand” was a song that Chris wrote in a band called Strait Up that existed before SAS. He, Scott, and our friend Matt were in that band in the early 90’s. Strait Up originally recorded the song in 1991 and it came out on an amazing split 7” later that year.

For years and years, we would jam a few bars of “Take a Stand” at SAS practices or sound checks, but never fully committed to playing it. It is a standout song and has really held up through the years. We all liked it and thought it would be cool to give it the good recording that it deserved, so decided to put it on The Revealing EP.

Chris is still heavily involved in the music industry and does a great job of keeping in touch with some of our old friends from the touring days. Since he and Lou are in touch, Chris reached out to Lou when we found out we were recording with Steve Evetts in New Jersey.

He asked him if he’d like to sing on the EP and Lou was into the idea. We were beyond stoked.

Once we knew Lou was down, I started looking at lyrics that I thought would be cool for him to feature on, and I immediately thought of “Take a Stand”. It’s totally perfect for his vocal style. It is also killer that he sings the words “what’s going on”, on this song. If you love the Just Look Around LP from SOIA like I do, you’ll know why that’s rad!

The whole experience was great, and some highlights included sitting down with Lou on the couch, lyric sheet in hand, listening to the song, and pointing to where his parts were. It was also amazing standing beside him as he was tracking vocals, sort of being an assistant. His voice was immediately perfect and although he probably had more than one take, he didn’t need to. He crushed it right from the start!

His willingness to be a part of this EP is very special to us, and I am very grateful that this collaboration exists as a piece of history, particularly on this very special song! Having Lou, the singer of one of my favorite bands, sing on what will almost absolutely be the last thing SAS records, is just a gift and treasure!

Stretch Arm Strong by JC Carey
Stretch Arm Strong by Scott Smallin

Are you guys plotting to keep the momentum going? What’s cooking for the next few months? Got plans to throw more fuel on this fire with additional releases?

Every show we do could be our last one. It is actually kind of hard to believe that we’ve done what we have over the last few years! I didn’t think any of this would happen.

We are playing Furnace Fest 24’ and are trying to sort out a local show in South Carolina. Other than that, we don’t have any plans. I can say this, though.. All of the guys in SAS love each other and hold deep appreciation for one another. We also appreciate all the love and support that you all have given us. We are happy to play shows that make sense for our collective lives, but that gets complicated!

How amped are you to keep the live shows rolling? Can the fans expect to see you tearing it up on the regular or are you keeping it chill?

We love playing live, and it takes a lot of work. Booking plane tickets and car rentals and all that stuff just to get in a weekend of practice is tough.

So, while we love playing shows, we can’t promise much. Keep an eye out!!!

Are there any whispers of a European or Asian tour? The international scene’s gotta be hungry for you guys.

We don’t have any plans to do any international touring. I would love to, but it would have to make sense for all of us. We loved the one time we toured Japan. We always loved our time in Europe!

Thank you for your interest in our band. We’ve so deeply appreciated your support all of these years, and even more today!

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Karol Kamiński

DIY rock music enthusiast and web-zine publisher from Warsaw, Poland. Supporting DIY ethics, local artists and promoting hardcore punk, rock, post rock and alternative music of all kinds via IDIOTEQ online channels.
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