Denver’s hardcore whirlwind Faim is composed of transplants from many inspiring DIY hardcore scenes from both the East and West Coast in the United States. At the forefront of their music, they bring concepts of anti-oppression politics, feminism and taking care of each other. We’ve had the chance to interview Faim’s singer Kat and guitar player Chris at Fluff Fest 2019 in Rokycany, Czechia.
So, where did it all begin for Faim? How did you get together and what inspired you to start this particular band? How did DIY punk and hardcore shape the world to you?
Chris: We all sort of found each other about three years ago. We’ve just found ourselves living in Denver, and we were all in sort of the same situation. Transplants from different scenes, kind of older hardcore kids who were like strangers in a new town. And so I became friends with Kat; Kat became friends with the other members, and at a certain point Kat said let’s start a band. At least for me, the idea was to find that spark in hardcore punk that has been going on for couple of years.
Kat: Yeah, for me the idea to start a band again was a spark that happened when everything came out about Jim Hesketh of Champion being a predator, the misogyny of hardcore and the fact that I was actually being talked about. Like how everything was very male dominated and we need non-cis men to be a bigger part of the scene, so I figured starting a band could be a good way to do that. On the other hand, the political situation we were going on in the United States with Trump getting elected, you know, I’ve had a lot to talk about with regards to that.
We all grew up in a lot of DIY scenes. Chris did a lot of work in booking shows in North Carolina, so when we moved to Denver and couldn’t really find a hardcore scene, it was really amazing to get things going. That’s how we figured why not start a band.
Do you see some kind of a resurgence of the political hardcore punk scene in the United States? And how do you relate to the term political hardcore band?
Kat: I think I see a resurgence of politics being talked about in certain small corners of the hardcore scene, but I don’t think it happens overall in hardcore in the United States. I think, right now, what is kind of the biggest part of hardcore in the US is just very much about moshing, heavy riffs, and stuff like that. In the smaller, the DIY scene, the politics are talked about a lot and we discuss what we need to do in causing social change, but I don’t think that’s the main focus right now in general, at least not in the mainstream hardcore.
Chris: I actually think it’s getting better. If I go back around 10-13 years ago, there were some kinds of hardcore, like the sort of a vegan straight edge revival in 2006, and I think there was some kind of backlash to that but we’re hopefully coming out of it. Because I do see more bands coming out of more diverse, more critical viewpoints and political ideas that make this thing growing up again. And given the current political climate in the US, I do see a necessity for this right now.
I would like to see more support in bridging punk and hardcore to support more political ideas and political action. I’d like to see more of an actual practice where there is a less of divide between here’s the punk show vs. here’s an activist work (for a lack of a better term.) And I think the time is coming up for that, I mean there’s a very important time right now to come to that.
You’re talking a lot about the US politics on stage during this European tour and I’m sure we’re all interested in that kind of conversations, but what are your main takeaways of Europe from this tour? How do you think your perspective on Europe has changed after all these days traveling around?
Chris: For me, the first thing that became clear when we came to Europe was that at least the punk scene is political. That it’s not weird to talk about politics or to have a political discourse residing in the same spaces as punk, and I think throughout the conversations we’ve had in Europe we can really see how connected a lot of the same problems are.
And it’s very interesting because in the United States we have sort of the public rise of Nazis, the Alt-Right, something that hasn’t been public before in the United States. So we were always looking towards the Antifa movement in Europe to find a way how to respond to this, so I think that has been present throughout a lot of the conversations about the same struggles we share with them. The rise of nationalism, like what happened in the United Kingdom, what’s been happening globally, and how all this connected the dots. We live in kind of a globalized struggle.
Kat: Of course, you don’t wanna say, oh, it’s so great that we are all going through these same problems, but it’s still helpful for us to see that this is kind of a worldwide problem now. I think the biggest thing that I’ve noticed is just how informed the hardcore kids in Europe are about not just what’s happening in their own country but on a global scale. They just seem to be really in tune with the political climate and that has been a really great conversation. We’ve learned a lot. It’s much better way to understand what’s happening in some country than reading news or watching things on the internet. It’s been really cool and invigorating.
Yesterday, during your set at Fluff Fest, you said something like how it’s not just about what we read or what we say on stage, but also we need to shut up and listen to other people’s voices. To those people and communities who are the most affected but are not part of our own privileged group. Can you elaborate on that?
Chris: I will readily admit that when I was younger I took up a lot of space. I think a lot of people like me—white, cis-gender men—took up a lot of space in the activist circles. So one thing I’ve learned and try to take in—is that there’s a lot of people who are affected, who we claim we stand in solidarity with, that are already doing the work.
So I think what’s really important is that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel because people are already doing the work. So at a certain point we just really have to shut up and listen to what other people who are struggling have been saying.
We should find a way to support them without the need to control it. It’s about some kind of democratizing the struggle, we need to provide support not control. This is something that I’ve been trying to work on and it could come in different ways. Like sitting and not saying anything unless someone specifically ask you, or even finding ways to do the background labor, like filling out spreadsheets or doing the mail stuff. And I think punk and hardcore is really a great place to find about all the struggles that need our solidarity.
Kat: I was actually having a conversation with a friend earlier, who had heard somebody speak and he kinda said, you know, “I don’t see gender,” and that’s like “I don’t see color,” where it’s really easy to do that as a cis-man who says I don’t see gender, when on a day-to-day basis women live with being a woman. As a teacher, I see teachers I work with who are like, oh, I’m a colorblind, I don’t see color. Okay, maybe for you that’s your way to be like “I love every child for who they are,” but it’s firstly taking away their kind of individuality, which is a very important part of them—our gender is important to who we are; our color, our race is important to who we are. And second, it’s kind of taking away the fact that you don’t understand somebody else’s struggle. So I think we have a responsibility as cis-men or white people to really be allies to those who are oppressed in different ways.
That can be through shutting up and listening, it can be through somebody who is non-white saying “I need you to read this,” or “we’ve done this work, I need you to do it now.” We have a really important job of being allies to those who are being oppressed in different ways.
Do you ever feel there are seemingly irreversible events you rail against wearing you down? If so, how do you deal with this anxiety and fatigue? What’s your personal way of being resilient and is this a theme in your lyrics as a band?
Kat: I’ve read an article about how our generation is a generation of despair and hopelessness. It’s because we’re the generation that sees what’s happening in the world—we see what’s happening to other humans, we see what’s happening to the non-human animals.
Especially when talking to other vegans, they are constantly feeling desperation. It’s so easy to feel hopeless when you see what’s happening to the world. I’m not saying that people who are not vegan can’t be empathetic, but when you choose to be vegan for the animals it makes you that much more empathetic and see how exactly we treat other beings.
How to deal with the anxiety? I think that more and more people are seeing a therapist just to try to not feel crazy about feeling hopeless. For me, my personal way of dealing with the anxiety of how I feel about the world is that I chose to be a teacher because that does a whole bunch of anxiety. I work with young people who are still very empathetic, who are still compassionate, and who believe in doing the right thing and being a good person. And who really care about others. And then I also volunteer in a vegan animal sanctuary and work with animals who have been rescued… and just doing these things makes me feel more connected to the fact that there are a lot of people and a lot of things that we can do.
But it’s hard, I have to tell kids every day that we have to make the world a better place, but at the same time I feel this constant fear of what our world is gonna be like in 30 years. I think that’s something I struggle with on a daily basis. And it comes out in our songs.
Chris: I think it’s easy to have a nihilistic view on the world that’s so depressing. But I was having this conversation with a friend of mine, who is in this fantastic band called Galeforce, about this exact same topic. The one thing I’ve been noticing—when the world is going to shit—is this beautiful form of resistance that is coming out. I think it’s fundamentally different now than forms of resistance I’ve seen at least from my own form of political awakening during the Second Iraq War when I was a teenager.
I think it’s important for people to look towards how other people are resisting and really allow yourself to be vulnerable, but also to be inspired. Which I really think it’s so hard to do because in many of these fights your heart gets broken over and over again. But I think if you have the ability to be inspired by the work that others are doing and you can do with them, I think that is perhaps one of the best tools in the face of the world going to shit.
There are some people who have power over us and of course they want us to feel hopeless, to feel despair, and they want us to give up. So I think that the strength that we take from other people is the best way to overcome this kind of anxiety. We just have to work together to allow ourselves to take it.
Kat: And I think about our lyrical content. Our songs aren’t positive. They are all pretty negative, but they aren’t meant to be negative. I think it’s just not gonna be genuine for me to write positive lyrics when I’m angry. And so I think that when our lyrics tend to be very negative or pretty angry, I think in having conversations with us, or what we have to say on stage, we do really try to talk about constructive in which we can do things to help our world in some way or another.
You have these t-shirts that say “Kill The Abuser Inside Your Head”
Chris: Well, I actually think it’s a broad statement that’s open to a lot of interpretations. I think that we put a lot of hate upon ourselves. And when I started seeing a therapist, a year and a half ago, as I started talking about my problems one thing that came out was like, hey, you yourself are making this a catastrophe. We’re giving up a lot of power, and this is making us feel like shit. So that could be one interpretation. So take a second and really analyze what’s real, what you’re in control over, and what are you manufacturing in your head.
I think another interpretation that I have, is that, as people, we have the capacity to hurt other people: physically, emotionally, etc. As privileged people—white, cis-gender—like myself, our ability to do that is hundred thousand times more than others. We have the privilege to do terrible things, we have a lot of protection for that. And so with the awareness on people who are abusive, there is this dichotomy between the good dude vs. the bad dude. And I think that has a very significant blindspot. I think it’s really important to acknowledge that just because you’ve never been called out, just because you’re ‘woke’, or just because you’re in some shitty punk band that talks about feminist issues, doesn’t mean that everything you’ve done in your life is perfect or that you’re beyond learning.
So I think it’s very important for everyone, especially for cis-gender men, to constantly analyze their actions, how their actions affect other people, and not wait until someone says that you have hurt them. And it’s also important for cis-gender men to talk to each other about this and not to double the work of the people who are ought to survive the consequences of that. For me, that phrase “Kill The Abuser Inside Your Head” means that in addition to holding people accountable for things they’ve done, that doesn’t make you the other who is perfect. And you have to constantly focus on yourself and challenge yourself. You have to speak with the other cis-gender men about that.
Kat: I agree, and as I said yesterday when having a conversation with my friend about that shirt, he said that as a man he has a lot of responsibility wearing that shirt, especially with our current rape culture and what happened with the Me Too movement. We can all be abusers in one way or another, I think it’s very easy for humans to be manipulative and abusive to those who care about us the most. So, for me that shirt was very personal. I can take out a lot of my anger and anxiety on those who care about me the most. So, for me, personally, it was a reminder of “hey, you need to stop abusing yourself.” We all can be very self-deprecating but also you need to stop abusing those who care about you.
When we hear that word abuser, it’s almost automatically associated with a man sexually abusing a woman but there are so many ways in which we can be abusive to anybody, including ourselves.
Some other important topics I missed to ask about? Yesterday you mentioned something about “This Is Hardcore” festival in the US?
Kat: Yes, I mentioned but I wasn’t as eloquent as I wanted to be. In recent years I’ve seen more diversity in the hardcore scene. It hasn’t just been white cis-men on stage, but the amount of shows and the amount of bands I’ve seen booked, it’s like 95% men playing and this is really frustrating at this point. Because there are so many talented bands that aren’t just cis-men but they don’t get asked to play these festivals.
They’ve just announced the line-up for a festival called Back To School Jam, and I think there are a couple of newer bands I didn’t know and they could not have been all cis-men, but for the bands that I did know there is one female member and that’s it. It’s frustrating that hardcore is still very male dominated.
When we played with Have Heart, Pat had something really great to say about it. That there has been in fact some progress, but until there is an actual equity, until we see more non- cis-men bands on stage, booking shows, or in the crowd participating, we’ve really haven’t done our work. I’m hoping that we’re gonna continue to see progress in regards to that and I urge those who are not cis-men to really think what you can do to be part of that. Can you book shows, can you start bands, and just really be loud about it… It sucks that we really have to work harder in order to gain some respect, but I really hope to see more non- cis-men at hardcore shows and bands. Like here on Fluff Fest.
So what can we do to make it happen?
Kat: When you’re booking a show really think about how to make a more diverse line-up without being to token. I think there’s a fine line there where people struggle, they don’t want to have the token band with a girl in there or being something like that. But what can you do to promote a more diverse line-up?
I think it really starts with those of you who book shows, or with labels who struggle what can you do to put bands on your label that aren’t just all cis-men… And then the whole female-fronted thing is kind of controversial. We are all a hardcore band, we don’t want to be called female-fronted. But at the same time, you know, bands with female members, or non-binary people, or any other not being all cis-men, they want to be recognized for being a good band but also for the diversity that they have.
So basically, just be aware about how the show are being booked, what’s on your record label, maybe go to shows with bands that you don’t know… maybe go out and check a local show of a band you’ve never heard of. Reaching out, talking to people and making new friends. There’s lot of ways we can kind of do that and Fluff Fest is a great example of a diverse crowd. Maybe not that diverse racially, but it’s diverse in a way there are so many people that are different than you. Make friends, make connections.
Chris: On top of that, there are a lot of ways people can actually materially support more diversity. For example, in the States there’s a program called Girls Rock. That’s essentially a music camp for young people who identify as women that really focuses on teaching them how to be a DIY musician. It’s for people who have never touched guitar before. So I think that some things that bands can do, can be to loan equipment, can be to do benefit shows. It can be something like doing a showcase where students can rehearse in their room for a lack of a better term, it’s just important to show up and support them. It can be even beyond that. Let other bands use your equipment if they don’t have the financial means. There are also material ways to make sure we’re giving access to bands that don’t really have the benefit or privilege that bands like us have. Bands like us included should do that. Some bands can just refuse to play the cool show, just to make space for other bands.
It all goes again to sort of seeking out bands that don’t get hyped up, that don’t come from the same background. You just need to start listening to what their needs are and seek out to be more inclusive, which I think the punk scene, ourselves included, we’re not doing the best job of it.
Great! Anything else you want to add?
Kat: Fluff Fest and all the shows on this tour have treated us so well. Even better than expected. The support we’ve had was unreal and the conversations we have are truly inspirational. And I was like looking at Chris with “can we come back next Summer?”, and he was like “that’s just too close.” But we plan to come back in two summers for sure! Hopefully, we can play Fluff Fest again and go to some places we haven’t been yet. We’re honored to play so many great shows with so many great European bands that we wouldn’t even find about if it wasn’t for this tour. Europe is awesome. We love it!