One year after the successful release of their debut EP on Goodwill Records, Safe Inside Records, World’s Appreciated Kitsch, and Ugly And Proud Records, Chicago/Boston/Seattle based straight edge pack xBYSTANDERx (members of Trial, Decline, Test of Time, Hellnation, Expired Youth) are back with a new electrifying EP “Where Did We Go Wrong” on Safe Inside Records and Goodwill Records, cementing their status as here to stay. The record comes out today, and to celebrate it, we have teamed up with our man Greg Bennick, who offered us an in-depth, authentic commentary about the record, its inspirations, some of the new songs, vulnerability, expressing emotions through hardcore, and more. Check it out and catch them live this Summer,
Hi everyone. This is Greg from Bystander. I am at my apartment – in an undisclosed top secret location in the middle of the United States – and have been here for the last six weeks. I’ve gone rogue. I’ve been by myself almost that entire time and it’s driven me insane, and yet more sane at the same time.
I wanted to share some thoughts about two of the songs on the new Bystander record, ““Where Did We Go Wrong?” which by the time you read this, will be out on Safe Inside Records in the United States, Goodwill Records in Europe and being distributed by Deathwish in the USA.
So 2019 has been a year of tremendous loss for me. I went through a breakup, right before Christmas 2018….basically Christmas Eve. It was truly agonizing and from that experience I ended up in tears basically from Christmas Eve until about the end of March 2019 I would say. In the midst of that, the record was being put together and there was no way around feeling what I was feeling or writing the record. So on a personal level I needed for the lyrics to be therapeutic, but I didn’t want the lyrics to be self-absorbed. I wanted them to be applicable to my peer group and to anyone who might listen, whether or not they were in love, or had love lost.
The song, “Where Did We Go Wrong?” started with me asking that exact question, “where did we go wrong?” but about my former relationship. At the same time, I was thinking a lot about hardcore as I was writing – since the theme of our band has tended to be examining aspects of the music community of which we are a part. I realized that the same question can apply to hardcore as well as it can to a relationship: where did we go wrong? What is it about hardcore that can be improved? Where along the line did we shift our focus somehow? How can all of this be improved.
One thing that struck me quite often in the last couple of years is how vulnerability needs to play more of a part in hardcore and how a true expression of actual genuine emotions and feelings needs to play more of a part in the community and in the art itself, amidst the songs. Even the name “hardcore” itself hardly works for me at times: the idea that at our core we are hard. It doesn’t really apply to me or to a lot of the people I love. The idea that we are strong and that we put our strength first as our most important attribute is kind of crazy to me. Being powerful and hard and strong are not attributes which I celebrate in myself nearly as often as being vulnerable or truly feeling and with that, being insecure or being afraid. Vulnerability is far more important to me than strength. Anyone can get strong. Lift things, repeat. Harden yourself to connection, repeat. Ignore your heart. Repeat. But it takes real courage to get vulnerable and to be weak in front of others and survive.
So the question becomes, where along the line did it become okay for us to be hard and strong as the first and foremost line of defense against the world? I think it should be almost last. I think that our vulnerability should be far ahead of our strength. The most devoted people in hardcore, those who are closest to me, are certainly the ones who have hurt the most and yet are willing to share it.
As the song says, “we put anger on the altar / and sacrifice our hearts”. The idea here being that we put anger in a place where it is revered and in doing so we sacrifice our ability to feel, to share, to be vulnerable. I think this is a point where hardcore has gone wrong and most certainly can be improved upon or changed Hardcore would be far more vibrant if we put feeling first. Anger gets boring after a while. Strength certainly does. We can’t forge real connections based on strength the way we can with vulnerability.
The second song I wanted to write about is called “Broken No More”. I reached a breaking point post-relationship where I was a shell of a human being. I couldn’t function. This went on for months, but amidst that, like I mentioned earlier, the Bystander record was literally being recorded. During the sharing of my anguish about the loss of the relationship with a long-time friend of mine, I reconnected with her in a really powerful way as friends. We were there for one another across the USA. She was going through a breakup at the time as well and as we connected about what we had in common our friendship solidified. We exchanged texts, nonstop, day and night, trying to make sense for one another of what we were each feeling about these people we’d loved so dearly. Our texts were in a volume that cannot be comprehended: at one point we exported our texts and the export was 500 printed pages long. Five hundred. All in support of one another’s emotional process, and helping navigate and clarify it out of friendship and love. True support through the tears. At this point, meaning record release day, we are probably well over a thousand printed pages. Total friendship, total support.
The first line of “Broken No More” is “this heartbreak is a bond / and you are a gift through the tears”. The line relates directly to my friend and to the idea of connecting with another person, especially around pain. I was thinking a lot about that. And again, so to make the lyrics not be self-absorbed, I thought about hardcore and one of the moments in hardcore I so very often feel. I looked within and realized that I feel that same sense of connection as I feel with this friend who is so dear to me, as I feel when I have a microphone in my hand at a hardcore show and I’m looking out at people’s eyes. Those people at a show are a gift through the tears too. I thought that it’s in the eyes that connection happens. It’s the experience at a show where you realize that in that moment you’re not in fact alone anymore. You see it in the passion people have in their eyes even if they are out in the crowd in the distance from the stage. And in realizing that you’re not alone, you also realize you have support and MAYBE in time, that maybe you’re not falling to pieces in the same way as you once were because others – like my friend with all the texts – could stand on days when I couldn’t and vice versa. We together weren’t broken all the time. Just some times. Less and less often as time went by. I have no idea how I made it through, but the lyrics to that song explore some of it, and place it in a larger context so that its not just about me and my process, but all of ours.
I wanted the song to be a call to emotional action, that we no longer feel victimized by the world. Instead maybe it is possible to feel as though we’re ever so slightly on top of things because we’re in it together. Because that’s the way that I feel when I’m texting my friend. And that’s the way I feel when I look at people’s eyes in hardcore at shows: we might feel broken but we don’t have to be broken. We don’t have to be the result of all the things that have happened to us. We can be the potential from all the things that have happened to us.
So those are those two songs. And I want to thank IDIOTEQ for taking the time to put this online. If anybody has any questions, thoughts, disagreements, anytime, reach out to me on social media at @gregbennick on Instagram or Facebook of course, as well. Ask me any questions about the lyrics. I’d be happy to share. Ultimately it’s in the sharing that the value of hardcore resides for me and thrives most in all of us.