City Keys is a new straight edge hardcore powerhouse based in Scandinavia. Prior to their debut EP Tip The Scale we reached the band to check about all they believe in. And what we learned through the course of this conversation is that they are not afraid to tell what need to be told, a thing that has ruined so many other bands for all of us.
The name City Keys is a slang word for bolt cutter, a powerful symbol of direct action and radical politics, which I find a great name for a hardcore band. How did you come up with the idea to form City Keys and what kind of message do you want to convey through it?
Carl: I came up with the name just because I had been thinking alot about how the justice system actually works, and how it wants to be seen. Wherever you take a look in the world, it’s always the poor, uneducated and racial discriminated people getting runned over by those with social and economical power, while being protected by laws which are protected by financial buisiness. And when the laws don’t protect the lower class, people find new ways to get by, and therefore the name city keys turned up to be making a point. The keys to the cities could be in each and everyone’s hands! It doesn’t need to be a golden key you know.
In whatever situation you find yourself in, there are ways to get by and survive. And what we have been inspired by during all these years is the DIY self-teaching spirit. Knowledge is passed by a friend to another one, and new tools are taught se we adapt them into our every day lives. I’m not talking about just the mechanical tools, but for information and experience as well. Those could be even more important when feeling like life is out of your control. I hope we can inspire people to ease the sense of hopelessness and the feeling of being lost, since we are in the same struggle.
You’re going to release your first 7” “Tip the Scale” very soon. Is there a certain concept behind the album?
Claes: Yeah I feel like we had idea behind everything we did with this recording. From the sound of the bass to what kinda expression we wanted with the lyrics to what graphics we used or colors we picked for the vinyl etc. I guess we kinda wanted it all to be heavier and darker, and I feel that’s where we were headed in general as well. Less compromising, less fucks given to what’s the right thing to do or whatever. This band isn’t very tied up to rules, even though everything is very planned. It sounds like a double standard but it’s really not.
Where do you draw inspiration when writing music and lyrics for City Keys? How hard is it to write meaningful lyrics for a hardcore band? Do you think it’s much more challenging to write them from a more nuanced personal and emotional perspective rather than singing about general issues?
Claes: It’s hard to say what is meaningful and what is not, but I think I know what you mean. For me it’s meaningful to just lift shit from my chest, but all of that doesn’t have to be carved in vinyl forever and ever. I’m pretty done with writing about personal stuff. I felt like I said what I had to say about personal matters. Now, I’m more attracted to just write punk songs. Telling people to fuck off and stuff like that. It sounds like a joke but it’s actually how I feel. Still not on a personal level but on a more social political level.
What is it that you set out to achieve with City Keys? What else should we expect after your first 7”?
Carl: We basically started this band to find the feeling of total freedom again. Not getting lost and drained down the path, but doing this for the sake of having fun and appreciating every single thing this band could achieve. Not taking anything for granted and going to new places is what I personally have in mind. Not just playing hardcore punk shows is something I have wanted to do for a while. Reaching out to a “new” audience which does not know us or never heard of us is a big reward of having a band, I think.
We are currently working on new songs, and if that hard work pays off, there will be something very exciting coming up next year for sure. This band has only members that are hungry to getting things done!
The first song you have revealed from “Tip The Scale” is called “Self Defence”, what does self defence mean to you?
Claes: Fred wrote most of the words for this one. For me this song is dealing with the frustration of feeling powerless.
What do you love the most about each other member of City Keys?
Carl: You know there won’t be any bullshit with one and other in City Keys. We are not afraid to tell things that needs to be told, which is a thing that has ruined so many other bands. If something doesn’t feel right or it’s impossible to do, we tell right away and won’t let it rot.
Getting the chance to play with some real deal people is such a rare thing, and that entire feeling really is the core of the band. It’s a bond that makes us confident enough to start dreaming of tours that hasn’t happened yet, just because we are all on the same level or way of life, you know. None of us will suddenly stop enjoying to play music, or needs to make a job career. That confidence together with how free we feel to do whatever is what makes me strive for more and more.
You were touring extensively throughout the world with Anchor, getting to some of the most distant places ever imaginable. Do you think that touring the world as a DIY hardcore punk band can give you a quality of life? How do you see the world through the lens of a touring hardcore band?
Carl: My years in Anchor definitely gave me a new perspective of what the world looks like. How important music is for people all around the globe, as a place to escape the “daily life”. And it’s just the daily life that I personally do not want. After so many tours, all I want is to be out there every day. It doesn’t matter if it is touring, tourist traveling, or hiking mountains.
As long as I don’t need to sell my body to do meaningless work, to buy shit I don’t really need, then I’m feeling like I have a quality life. The word freedom is something you learn to put a very high value to, after some years of touring and struggling back home to get by with bills and such. My feeling of how touring punks think is mainly that as long as the van is rolling, you are on a higher level of living. The road and adventures on tour is something money can’t buy, and what is more to ask for?
The way we learn to see different cultures while touring with a band could be compared with a weird VIP trip. Since you always hang out with locals wherever you go, you get the deeper facts and the real deal, instead of reading stuff in the newspaper, which more then often has a twist or angle that doesn’t fit what the real situation. We are always grateful to be learning new things from punks and our friends wherever we go.
The last is on you, feel free to share whatever you want, and whatever we may have missed.
Thanks you for having the interest of City Keys and doing this interview!
We would like to thank everyone who gave a minute to check us out, to have read this DIY CONSPIRACY interview and being excited for more! For those who know us personally, we are very honored to call you our friends! Thanks to Evil Greed, and War Records.
Hardcore and the DIY way of life is what have taught us to question things that seems to be unjust, and we hope you do to. Find your own keys to get by! See you soon on the road.
—Carl, Fred, Claes