The Saddest Landscape: Isn’t All Hardcore an Emotional Expression?

Interview with the amazing The Saddest Landscape conducted via email shortly after they reunited in 2009.

As there isn’t so much information or band biography on The Saddest Landscape around, could you begin with a history of the band. And once the band split up, why did you manage to make a reunion in 2009?

The Saddest Landscape originally formed in early 2002, our other guitarist at the time, Si, and I (Andy) talked about forming a band, and he went to school with our original bassist who in turn knew Aaron, our drummer, and that sort of started it off. We have always lived a number of hours apart at any given time so we just did things when we could. So we did that for awhile released a few records, toured both in the States and Europe, did some more records then eventually took a bit of a break, this was in part as we had a falling out with our bassist, and at around the same time Si went to Korea for awhile, (which is also what lead to Aaron and I doing Her Breath On Glass). So we never really broke up we just kind of didn’t do anything. It also felt like we didn’t really want to do it without Si, and if he wasn’t there maybe we shouldn’t do it, then over time it became clear he just wasn’t into doing it anymore, so we had to really think about could we do it with someone else? So when we were in Europe last August, we agreed to do a couple The Saddest Landscape shows and have our boys in Merkit help out and learn some songs, and it turned out to be a lot of fun and a lot of kids still seemed to be into it so we realized yes we can do this, and more importantly we really wanted to keep doing it, so we got the 2 Mikes to join the band on bass and second guitar, and here we are, a year later a few shows, a couple new records coming out soon and quite excited about the future.

In what past and current projects have the members of The Saddest Landscape been involved? Her Breath On Glass comes to mind.

Well, Her Breath is the most known right now I would think as it is both myself and Aaron (TSL drummer), so that is definitely the one that shares the most resemblance to The Saddest Landscape, before that I was in a band called, The Last Forty Seconds, which I also sang and played guitar in. Aaron was also in a short lived post-rock band called Championship, and Mike is in a alt-country style band called The Farm League.

You were part of the scene in the 90s with venues like ABC No Rio, bands like Saetia, Neil Perry, You And I etc. What are your memories of that time, can you give us an insight into the emo hardcore scene since the time you have started playing in bands and being part of the DIY scene? Your favorite bands, shows, moments, good and bad things… and what’s different now?

Well to clarify, The Saddest Landscape came just after most of those bands you mentioned, (and as a side note ABC NO RIO is still going strong so they are in no way just a 90’s venue), but I was in other bands that played with some of the bands you mentioned and I definitely saw all those bands. As for my memories of that time, it was exciting I had started seeing more diy/emo hardcore shows a few years prior with bands like Anasarca, Frail, Julia, Ordination of Aaron etc., so it seemed like a lot of kids my age who saw those bands formed the next round of bands around the time frame you are mentioning. It was really a great feeling to be part of the scene we loved as more than just a spectator, be it in bands, doing zines, labels etc., we could do it too, and change what we thought needed changing while carrying on traditions we wanted to see preserved. Around the late 90’s early 00’s I would say my favorite bands of that scene were Orchid, Yaphet Kotto, Jeromes Dream, Reversal of Man, City of Caterpillar, the list can just keep going so ill leave it at that.

As for what is different now, mainly the internet has really changed so much, this whole file sharing thing has made it so kids can just get an entire bands discography in a matter of minutes, gone is a time when you had to search every distro imaginable just to hear a song by a band, buying records on packaging alone, this risk/excitement just isn’t there in the same way. It seems now by the time you even hear a band you have already formed some sort of opinion on them because of posts on message boards, or clips on a myspace page. I miss that aspect of it. Or seemingly simple things like going to friends houses and making mix tapes just to hear more bands but while doing that having a conversation with them about how they found this band, or what this record means to them, now its just click and on to the next one.

What would you say to people who think that there is no room for emotional expression within hardcore punk, that hardcore should be political, tough, aggressive? Do you think it can be really an appropriate balance between politically outspoken and emotionally available hardcore without being contradictory to each other?

Well first I would argue that isn’t all hardcore an emotional expression? Just because you aren’t singing about broken hearts does not mean you can’t be emotional, a lot of strictly political bands I happen to have quite an emotional response to, which I think a lot of other people do too. This is good, it causes people to take action when they really feel something, as opposed to just being told to think something. Hardcore/punk should be whatever you make it, this means though that you have to accept that it may include some really silly tough guy macho bands, just like you have to accept some really shitty emo bands as well, just listen to what you like, just because these bands exist does not make what you like, (or any other bands for that matter) less hardcore because of it. As for the balance between politically outspoken/emotionally available hardcore, sure I think there can be a balance, I think the best bands are the ones that offer both, just be fucking passionate about something, I want to believe what your singing about really matters too you, whatever that is.

What’s the saddest thing that you see in your everyday life? Do you feel the people around you are getting more and more alienated and lose their passion to change the things around them? And how the music you’re making deals with this, is there an intention to ignite the passion in those listening to your music and coming to your shows or it’s just a way to escape from the alienation of the outside world and create your own alternative through the hardcore scene?

This is a tough question, it sounds overdramatic to say I see sadness all around me, because it isn’t up to me to decide what/who is sad, I do see a lot of people though who don’t really seem to know what truly makes them happy, or if they do they lack the courage to go after it, which I think is something we can all relate to. Just this very real fear of getting hurt, or rejected, judged, or simply dismissed as not valuable. I know I am afraid of this, and I often feel trapped because of it. And sure I see a lot of people who have lost their passion, but I also see a lot of people who never seem to lose it, who put so much of themselves into what they do, whether it is playing in bands, making dinner, or making someone close to them feel loved. These are the people who inspire, the ones whose excitement for what they love is so contagious that I can’t help but get caught up in it, and it makes me want to do better, to put more of myself into what I do. As for the intent to ignite passion, there is no deliberate attempt to do that, but if it happens great it would feel like an accomplishment. And sure it is an escape, but again I don’t really think about it in that way, there are a large range of emotions that go into playing music for us, ultimately it feels like something I just can’t imagine not doing, I would feel lost without it.

What keeps you waking up every morning? Do you feel loved and do you think you’re giving enough love to the people who deserve it? What in your opinion are some useful things we can do in our everyday lives to feel more connected with the people we care about and to deal with the important things in our lives?

This is a tough question for me, I actually skipped this one as I was not sure how to answer it, I just know I wake up every morning because that is what you do, scars and all, you just keep trying. And most days, yes I do feel loved, but some days are darker than others and it is hard to see or feel it. and as for giving it, I hope so, but I think we can all give a little more at times. As for what to do to feel more connected and deal with the important things, I guess the real trick is to take a step back and really try and define what is truly important to you, a lot of things we fight so desperately to hold onto we often times find out they are not really where happiness lies, and it clouds what we should really be caring about and fighting for, but everyone needs to find out what that is for themselves. And yes of course you are going to get hurt, that is ok, just don’t be afraid to fail again if need be, who knows one day it may get better, but failure is not as lonely a place as it sounds.

Your lyrics are beautiful, really expressive, passionate and romantic. Which are your favorite The Saddest Landscape’s lyrics and what about the process of writing it?

Thank you, it always means a great deal when people tell me that, As for my favorite lyrics, it varies depending on what I am feeling at the time, the first one I felt really good about was “The Sixth Golden Ticket”, I felt I was really able to encapsulate what I was feeling with that one, “Wishlist For The Drowning”, and “A Statue of a Girl” come to mind as well. Lately though “eternity is lost on the dying”, which was on a bonus 7” with the discography I am really happy with. Also a new song we just recorded called “..sp Lightly Thrown” I think is one of the better things I have written, but we shall see tomorrow I may feel otherwise. As for the process of writing them, I write a lot, it just helps me sort things out, I try to write everyday, not just lyrics, then at some point I just get an idea, or moment where I feel like this would make a good song, so it can start there. Ultimately I just try to write in a way that hopefully people who listen can understand exactly the feeling I am trying to convey, even if the situation may be different the feeling is there. And at the very least it will help me get a better understanding of what I am feeling.

It seems that your name and the title of the song “Fourty-four Sunsets” come from the book “The Little Prince” by Antoine De Saint-Exupery, right? How do you came up with this song? And what about the meaning of “The Stars in January”, why are there two parts?

That is very astute of you, so yes it is a little prince reference, (as is the band name). in terms of what it is about, it is simply just being passionate about one thing (or person), and whatever this may be, whether it is a person or a sunset, can mean everything to you while at the same time be completely overlooked or taken for granted by someone else.

As for …the stars in January, first the song is not in 2 parts, that is just some bullshit internet thing where the people downloading it made a fucked mp3 with the song in 2 parts, so yeah one song. As for what it is about, it is about trying to get through life doing everything you think is right, learning from examples/mistakes made by people you have maybe looked up to, or who had been where you are before, but then when you get there watching everything fall apart, seeing what you want directly in front of you and you just can’t get to it. And because of this being sort of forced to rethink everything you believed in and feeling desperate enough to put all of your faith in things like stars, then wondering if even they can take the weight of it all.

What do you think of the role that the internet currently plays in the hardcore/punk scene? In the song “The Fashion Magazines Have Succeeded” you touch the subject of the internet message boards and the negativity of internet over the scene. Also what about the fashion magazines and media hijack of terms like Emo and Screamo and the huge fashion trend that was generated in the last few years?

The internet is a tricky thing, we actually spend a fair amount of time debating this within the band too, its tough I really struggle with how useful it is, often times it just seems to do more harm, which I don’t mean as far as physical damage or anything of that nature more that the convenience of everything just seems to lessen the value of the music. It just seems like so many people download so many records that they just don’t spend enough time listening to them and really absorb them, instead if something does not instantly grab them then its on to the next thing, which is sad, a lot of truly great records take a few spins to really get under your skin. As for the song “The Fashion Magazines…” it is less about any specific form of media and just more commenting about the over all struggle some people have with staying hip/relevant. Part of the negative aspect of internet culture seems to be this desire to not only be the first one to find out about a band, but also be the first to start talking shit about them, almost like there is some sort of status points in tearing people down. I see it all the time people hiding behind computers commenting on one show they heard about where a band supposedly played poorly, or had a record that one person didn’t like so they post like they are experts, and the band in question gets torn up and that is what people remember and they are just associated with those comments before they are even heard, never mind that the band could have had an off night at that show and are usually brilliant, or that record in question was a leaked unfinished demo never intended to be heard etc. As for the media hijacking the emo scene, fuck it, it doesn’t even matter, it has been happening for decades the media can have the shitty bands, there are enough great and amazing bands/records/zines within our diy scene to keep me interested that I just don’t worry about it anymore. The whole fashion trend is only relevant if we take part in it, so just don’t invest.

What is the most meaningful thing you have heard at a hardcore show? Is there any band that you’ve seen live and something what they say between the songs have strucked in your head?

Oh, man there are so many, but if I think back I remember seeing Frail play a long time ago, and the singer in-between songs made everyone turn to the people next to them and introduce themselves, saying that if we really wanted to make this a scene, and be something different, make a difference we should start by getting to know everyone around us as we were all part of it, I thought it was such simple thing, but something that is so overlooked, and when people did it you could kind of feel this energy in the room and when the band played it felt like we were more involved somehow. That always stuck with me.

Anything you want to add?

Just thank you asking me to do this interview, and as always communication is encouraged so feel free to get in touch: coveryourheart.com. and not to plug product to blatantly but if you would to order any of our records you can do so at: tslhbog.bigcartel.com Thanks.

Mittens XVX

Positive person bringing a small fragment of warmth and light in a dark and cold world. Editor of Tigersuit Zine. Founder of DIY Conspiracy webzine. Contact him at: mitkoxvx@gmail.com