Contention band
Interviews

The breakdown of modern society: an interview with Florida straight edge hardcore / metalcore warriors CONTENTION

Photo by Ana Massard
Still quite fresh off their recent release of the amazingly intense “Laying Waste To The Kingdom Of Oblivion EP on The Coming Strife, Florida based straight edge band CONTENTION are re-releasing their demo as a 7” via Dropping Bombs and we took the chance to sit down with their vocalist Cosmo Vidussi to chat about various topics, including Florida, some politics, the pandemic, their local scene and, of course, their vicious craft.

The band’s 2019 demo gained recognition and attention members of straight edge hardcore community and fans of metallic hardcore / 90s metalcore, as well as the scene of pioneering Belgian edge metal and hardcore bands, the legendary H8000. CONTENTION released a killer follow-up to their debut dubbed “Laying Waste To The Kingdom Of Oblivion” in late Summer 2021 and now they’re on the verge of the hopefully fruitful new year that will enhance their work and bring us some more vicious punches and hopefully an epic full length worth a sin.

For fans of: Arkangel, Mourning, Reprisal, From The Dying Sky, xRepentancex, Abrasion.

Contention band

Photo by Hannah Borries

Hey guys! Thanks for joining us! How are you? How’s Florida?

Cosmo: Thank you for interviewing us dude. It’s 63 degrees Fahrenheit here in Florida so basically a frozen wasteland by our standards. It’s okay otherwise.

Come to Poland to feel our vibe haha!
Ok guys, so I recently spoke to my cousin from Illinois and he was assuring me that Florida is said to be one of the greatest places to be in the States right now. Florida has indeed the hottest economy in the country and among the lowest COVID case and death rates in the country, and you probably have more opportunity down there than any other state in the country. I wonder, how does it feel from the inside, being a Florida citizen? How do you see your state developing compared to the rest of the USA and how it affects you personally?

Cosmo: Some in the US would resent some of those statements, but frankly I’ve never lived anywhere else and I feel lucky this is where my parents decided to set up camp back in the 90’s. We have a reputation as both a paradise and also a lawless, violent wasteland. Reality is probably somewhere in between.

I’ve never seen snow fall, it’s brutally flat and the heat is pretty oppressive over half the year, but the beach is ten minutes away, I have a decent proximity to three music scenes, and I can grow any plant year round. Truly the worst part of Florida is that the rest of the US is flocking here to evade covid restrictions in their home states. In my town the population has gone up some obscene amount over the last year. Dear old Northeastern Americans: keep your money and germs and stay off my roads.

How has the pandemic affected you and your local independent arts and music scene?

Cosmo: There was definitely a long while where shows were impossible to book. Some people tried, (and in certain genres outside of hardcore I don’t think there was ever really a pause) but ultimately a year went by in Florida with no notable shows. It took some of the bigger bands in New York and California playing high profile shows before anyone was willing to resume booking here again. Everyone threw a fit online when Madball played that huge show, and then when the LA scene did it weeks later, no one batted an eye. Shows were decidedly back. Madball died for our sins, essentially.

As for us, we hardly saw each other during that year and writing/band practice took a definite hiatus. We weren’t sure if and when things would get back to normal. What do hardcore dudes do when there’s no hardcore? I tried to focus on staying employed/sane, had some tumultuous shit go on in my personal life, lost a lot of money on schemes, made some money off schemes, moved back to my hometown.

Contention band

Photo by Ana Massard

Please take us before the pandemic and tell us a bit about your background and what led you to form CONTENTION.

Cosmo: Lucas (drums) and I have played in hardcore bands together since I was fourteen. I can hardly play any instruments but I put my dues in on bass, guitar and drums for a while before I could convince anyone to let me front a band. We both ended up moving a couple hours north to Tampa later on. We all played in various bands around the area and were in the same orbit for a few years before Contention. Six Paths, Point of Contact, Stance, Control System, Thorn, Inflict, etc.

Josh (Guitar), Bayly (Bass at the time, now guitar), Lucas and (our previous guitar player) Mitch had three songs mostly done by the time they asked me to join. I was hesitant because I had never really done the sort of vocal style they were looking for, so I came to a practice in Josh’s garage with the intent of turning them down. By the end of practice they’d pretty much talked me into it.

How did you guys fit into the local hardcore landscape at that time?

Josh: We definitely stuck out a bit but not in a bad way. I think the local scene needed a second to digest our sound, but shows have been popping off for us here lately. We feel a lot more accepted now as opposed to our first few shows.

Contention band

Photo by Aaron Kidder

How has your local scene in Tampa evolved over the years? What changes, progressions and transformations have you seen in person?

Josh: Our scene has always been smaller than most but at the same point that is something that we have also priced ourselves on…the same people have kinda been doing the bands for a number of years but I would say that that isn’t the case anymore. Post quarantine there has been a lot of new kids starting bands and shows have been really well attended lately. The scene is the biggest it’s ever been right now.

Cosmo: In the smaller town I grew up in, we sort of idealized the scenes in Tampa and Miami because we didn’t really have one of our own. We’d drive up (or down) for any opportunity to see hardcore bands. I distinctly remember being fifteen and searching desperately for a ride to see Harms Way, Foundation and Rotting Out at Skate Park of Tampa. I hitched a ride with some older friends and no one else got to go. I think some of my friends are still upset about it.

As people come and go, I’ve seen a few sounds wax and wane in popularity: youth crew, metallic hardcore, fast hardcore, bands in standard tuning, bands in drop a… but right now Tampa is super diverse and the shows post-lockdown have been very sick. It takes me back to the crazy shows I went to when I first got into hardcore.

How much was the H8000 scene a conscious influence for your sound? What other influences were there on you at this point?

Josh: We all enjoy H8000 bands but the influence wasn’t intentional. We enjoy Italian straight edge bands like Reprisal and From The Dying Sky, and those were the bands that we were directly pulling from. Arkangel also was another heavy influence on our sound.

Was European hardcore scene always a thing for you? Have you been to Europe and experienced some of our DIY communities in person?

Cosmo: In general, I’m fascinated by scenes outside of the US. Only our drummer has gone overseas and none of us have gotten to experience a European hardcore show, unfortunately. Basically we’re all uncultured Florida hicks. I don’t want to jinx us but if all goes well, that might be changing in the near future.

Contention band

Photo by Hannah Borries

How did you team up with The Coming Strife for this new release?

Cosmo: We owe a lot to Oli of The Coming Strife Records. Immediately after putting our demo out on bandcamp, he hit us up and offered to do a tape run. Since then, his label has grown a ton so we’re fortunate he recruited us early on. It was the obvious choice to do our first “real” release with him. We were blown away when the 12” completely sold out the first day and I think Oli was a huge part of getting our music out there and making that happen.

For our European friends, TCS will be putting out a cassette of Laying Waste (and some merch) real soon, look out for it.

When you started, was the intention to be a straight edge band and channel a particular message through your recordings?

Cosmo: Absolutely. Josh is in Point of Contact but the rest of us hadn’t done a proper straight edge band before. I’d written some lyrics over the years and I had a lot more I wanted to write. It was overdue.

Contention band

Photo by Ana Massard

How long have you been straight edge and what gravitated you towards this conscious way of living?

Cosmo: Somewhere around ten years. Like a lot of people, I grew up around addiction and because of that, I never felt that comfortable fucking around with drugs or alcohol. Some people with addicts in their families go the other way and lean into it, but I saw the end result and opted out. I’d rather steer clear of all of that as a means of self preservation and, frankly, sheer contrarianism. I never want to be a tedious person and I feel that drug use is just not that exciting or rewarding in the long term. After a certain age, there’s no charm left in self destruction.

There’s not a lot to do in the town I’m from, so there’s a lot of hard drug use among young suburban kids. Everybody there knows at least a few people who have overdosed on opiates. Finding hardcore and straight edge gave me an alternative to all of that. Though, after coming home as a kid with broken teeth, bloody noses and a few double black eyes, my mother probably would’ve preferred I just smoked weed in the park like a normal teenager.

What are your thoughts and opinions on sXe bands whose core members are no longer edge?

Josh: If you are a straightedge band, then all members need to be straightedge and remain edge. Especially if that is the focal point of the message. Bands breaking edge during their career is usually a sign that the band is nearing its end.

Cosmo: Put them to the sword.

Contention band

Photo by Aaron Kidder

The breakdown of modern society is definitely something that you express through your lyrics on “Laying Waste To The Kingdom Of Oblivion”. What thoughts and observations on the world today do you have in your notebook? What specific topics do you think are worth addressing in a modern straight edge band’s repertoire?

Cosmo: That breakdown is absolutely a central theme on the record. I wrote it at the height of the pandemic and the 2020 American social unrest when it sort of felt like we were living through this major societal collapse.

There’s nothing wrong with ignorant bands or 80s-worship bands but that’s not the subject matter I want to explore with Contention. The same themes have been done to death and straight edge lyricism doesn’t have to be as redundant as it sometimes is.

My personal brand of straight edge is all about thinking for yourself and being an anti authoritarian. Personally, I’m not interested in telling people how to live their lives. I certainly don’t want strangers telling me how to live mine.

I’m not here to condemn drug dealers or users or play cop or play judge. I don’t care which drugs are legal and which aren’t. The government’s arbitrary laws don’t mean much to me. I want to live apart from all of that.

𝑌𝑜𝑢 𝑑𝑜𝑛’𝑡 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑡𝑜 𝑎𝑔𝑟𝑒𝑒 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑤ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝐼 𝑏𝑒𝑙𝑖𝑒𝑣𝑒 𝑡𝑜 𝑏𝑒 𝑎 𝑓𝑎𝑛 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑚𝑢𝑠𝑖𝑐 𝑏𝑢𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡’𝑠 𝑒𝑠𝑠𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑦 𝑚𝑦 𝑚𝑎𝑛𝑖𝑓𝑒𝑠𝑡𝑜 𝑜𝑛 𝑚𝑜𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑛 𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑎𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡 𝑒𝑑𝑔𝑒 𝑝ℎ𝑖𝑙𝑜𝑠𝑜𝑝ℎ𝑦.

What’s worth mentioning as a straight edge band: resisting self destruction, the US government’s historic role in drug trafficking, mass incarceration, strength through restraint, criticizing what’s been normalized, making your own laws, striving to be ungovernable, rejecting dominant social narratives and expectations. Foundation, Earth Crisis and Have Heart had some insightful shit to say, let’s build on that.

Contention band

Photo by Aaron Kidder

Do you consider CONTENTION a political band?

We all have some core ideologies in common but I don’t get into specific politics in the lyrics. American bipartisanism is one big shit show and I try to avoid playing into it too much. Suffice to say I don’t feel represented by either half of the corrupt, charlatan whole.

Ok guys, so what’s up next for the band?

Josh: We are currently writing songs for an LP which we will probably have finished next year at some point. In the meantime we will have two promo songs out in the coming months supporting that. We also have a 5 show tour booked with Cold Steel where we will be playing a Few Midwestern states so be on the lookout for that.

Cosmo: Hopefully some short tours all over the place. Some of the members have careers we work around but we’re determined to hit every area we can. The label Dropping Bombs is putting out our demo on vinyl soon and it’s gonna have a sick screenprinted b-side, I’m stoked to see it.

Lastly, can you give us your list of top records and bands worth a check in 2021?

Josh: Check out Diffuse, Control System, The Arrival Note, Stedfast, Foreign Hands, Koyo, Cold Steel.

Cosmo: I’m rarely up to date on new music but check out The Coming Strife’s lineup in general for new hardcore releases. Also check out Feverchild, Fading Signal, Spill and Big Cheese.

Outside of that, I liked the new releases from Militarie Gun, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Nick Cave, Spectral Wound, Portrayal of Guilt, Floating Points/Pharoah Sanders, Wolves in the Throne Room, Drug Church, Regional Justice Center.

Contention band

Photo by Aaron Kidder

What’s your outlook for 2022?

Josh: Play as many shows as we can and write as much music as we can.

Cosmo: Put out more music, play more of America, play outside of America.

Awesome. Thanks so much for your time! Feel free to share your final thoughts and take care! All the best for the rest of the year and 2022!

Cosmo: Thanks so much for interviewing us dude.

I appreciate the hell out of everyone who checked our music out. Look for our demo coming out on vinyl for the first time from Dropping Bombs (along with some merch). When we play your town, don’t be a civilian. Either mosh or come to the front and scream the words in my face. Remain unbound. 

The breakdown of modern society: an interview with Florida straight edge hardcore / metalcore warriors CONTENTION
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