For decades now, Richmond, Virginia has been known as one of the most exciting punk scenes in the country. This past February I was introduced to the latest EP from punks Ghouli titled Nothing. After listening to the 6-tracks of pure rage, sick guitar riffs, and relatable lyrics it came no surprise that they too hail from the Richmond punk scene.
Vocalist Sam Poe has the intelligence and stage presence that one needs to have in order to stand out in such a thriving scene. DIY Conspiracy got to chat with her while she was quarantining and got to hear first hand her thoughts on how music scenes will survive in the post-pandemic world.
Give us a background on how Ghouli got started. Are you all from the Richmond area?
Sam: Ghouli formed in Richmond during 2017 when Mikey and Eric started playing music together. They needed a vocalist and I always had wanted to be in a band so I went for it. After a couple bass players came and went, Jake joined early 2020.
We’ve all lived in Richmond for a while, but not all of us are originally from here. I’ve lived all over—Alabama, Connecticut, Hawaii, Japan, Los Angeles, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake Virginia. Mikey (guitar) is from North Carolina. Eric (drums) has been in Richmond for 13 years, but has also lived in northern Virginia and Minnesota. Jake (bass) has also moved around a bit, but is mostly from Virginia Beach.
The band has an intensity that blends hardcore punk with thrash. I read that you are also influenced by death rock bands like Christian Death. Given the eclectic combination, what does the band describe their sound as?
Sam: We usually just describe ourselves as “hardcore punk.” It’s open ended enough to include our different sounds. We definitely take influence from death rock and metal, which gives us a dark or “spooky” vibe, but hardcore punk is our core sound.
Richmond has a rich history in punk rock and hardcore. What is the scene like nowadays? Is there pressure coming from such a legendary place?
Sam: Well, pre-pandemic, the scene was still thriving in my opinion. There are always new, great bands forming. There’s always a show to go to. There are so many different pockets of scenes too.
There is a bit of pressure to live up to being a Richmond band. On one hand, there are so many bands it can be hard to stand out and feel heard. On the other hand, there so many punks all over Richmond it takes the pressure off to know you’re not the only one.
Speaking of legends, Bob Quirk recorded, mixed, and mastered the album. How did the band end up working with him?
Sam: I think Bob is kind of the guy to go to for recording here. Someone gave Mikey Bob’s number and it just kind of happened. He is easy to work with and knows what he’s doing which is why we went to him again for our EP.
Your lyrics are simple but point. One line that I love was from your demo on the song Old Man Yells at Cloud:
“I Don’t know what’s wrong with me
Its depression or anxiety
maybe its hostility
probably just all three.”
There is a theme of despair and anxiety in a lot of the lyrics making them very relatable given the mental health state of the world nowadays. Is mental health something that you struggle with or you have had to deal with in the past? Do you purposely shy away from the typical socio-political topics like many hardcore punk bands?
Sam: My mental health is something I’ve always struggled with, but it was only a few years ago I was diagnosed and began to understand what anxiety and depression were. I think if mental health was discussed more growing up I would have had the tools to navigate my issues and wouldn’t have been such a sad and mean kid. I like writing about my personal experiences and always think the conversation surrounding mental health could be louder.
I do and I don’t purposely not write about political topics. Some topics just haven’t been explored yet in my writing. Some other topics I feel there are more oppressed and repressed artists, who are directly impacted by those topics, singing about what they go through, and I wouldn’t want to speak over what they have to say about them. We should listen to those who share those personal experiences.
As a woman fronting a punk band, do you think women are starting to get more respect and recognition in the underground scenes? Did any females influence you that were a part of the DIY scene?
Sam: I think women do get more recognition and respect overall, but there could always be more. The amount of hardcore and punk bands with women members is amazing, but again, there could always be more.
I always feel like the guys get more praise after a show. I guess that could also be because I can be a little standoffish. I think that’s my biggest obstacle being a woman in punk/hardcore… You want people to take you seriously, but you don’t want them to like you just because you’re a woman. I have frequently asked myself, “Did we get offered this gig just because they needed a band with a female on the lineup?”
One of my biggest influences were Nicole and Janine from the band Witch Hunt. Honestly though, anytime I watch a punk/hardcore band with a female or femme vocalist I get inspired.
Now that the state of live shows is in jeopardy, what do you think the future will hold for DIY scenes? Do you believe the scenes can withstand having a “social distancing” policy?
Sam: I hate to say it, but I think scenes will dwindle and venues/DIY spots will close. There is no way to social distance at a punk show. I don’t think we’ll be able to have a safe show until there’s a vaccine. It really sucks, but I think being safe is the most important thing.
What is next up for the band? How have you been spending quarantine?
Sam: We are scheduled to play The Fest in October in Florida. You can probably tell from my previous answer I don’t have high hopes that’ll happen, but hey who knows. We haven’t had band practice in months, but we’ll be putting out some covers soon that we’ve individually recorded at our homes. We are also still writing new music. Possibly a full length next?
Mikey and I have thankfully been able to work our day jobs from home. Jake just recently went back to work. Eric is a saint and has been working at a grocery store this whole time.
Anything else you would like people to know who may not have heard Ghouli before?
Sam: Check us out on Bandcamp if you like dark and fast punk!