Formed in early 2013, I Recover is a four-piece scattered between the German cities of Cologne and Leipzig that combines elements of DC-style hardcore bands like Dag Nasty, Rites of Spring, and Embrace with our favorite punky emo of the late ‘90s and early 2000s. While Flo, Daniel and Tobias have been part of the German hardcore punk scene for a long time (in bands like Blank, Schmutzstaffel, Shimetsu and others), I Recover also features Dan Afrika of US outfits like Punch, End On End, Under a Dying Sun, and a hardcore band I’ve loved ever since I read their interview in the last issue of HeartattaCk zine called Bullets*In, even though they only had two short EPs from 2005 and 2006.
The first time I heard I Recover was shortly after they released their self-titled 7-inch in 2016, but the band has been working at a slow pace ever since, releasing their first full-length LP just now in 2023. Until I Wake Again is out on I.Corrupt, Crew Cuts, Boslevan, STTW, Hi Liberate, Sakanade and Extinction Burst Records, and I’m really excited to do this interview with I Recover’s singer Daniel Destroi.
I Recover started ten years ago, can you give us a brief history of the band? Why did you choose this name, is there a specific reason for it?
Hey man, how are you? First things first: Thanks for doing the interview with us! Much appreciated.
The band started as a three-piece outfit. Before I joined in 2014, the songs that ended up on the first 7-inch were already recorded. I knew Tobi from around and he told me that his band was looking for a singer. In the beginning, the others had the plan to play fast hardcore with harsh vocals. As they continued writing songs, things became more melodic and they realized that the harsh vocals didn’t fit the sound very well. One thing came to the other and I ended up fronting the band. It’s been the four of us ever since. The funny thing about it is that I only got to listen to the instrumental tracks before we came together for the first time. These recordings sounded a lot like early emo stuff to me. No harsh-vocals-vibe at all. I think this was the beginning of the I Recover sound that we’re known for today. Not only the early songs but also the band’s name already existed before I joined. Dan came up with it as a pretty cool reference to a song from one of his favorite records; “Oh, City of Graves” by Slang.
Over the years, we released two 7-inches in 2016 and 2017, a split-tape with our friends in Daiei Spray from Tokyo and now we’re finally dropping our first full length called Until I Wake Again. Cologne is the city where it all started. It’s the band’s hometown where we’ve played tons of shows. I moved to Leipzig in 2019 because of my then girlfriend. Unfortunately, love didn’t last but the band still does and we’re proud to celebrate a decade of I Recover this year.
The band is based in Germany, but Dan is from the United States and has played in fantastic bands such as Punch, End On End, and Bullets*In, among others. Was he the main reason for playing this kind of ‘Revolution Summer’ influenced hardcore? Why do you love this particular style?
To be honest, the four of us have a very diverse taste in music and there are not too many bands we all can agree on. So, it’s kind of funny that we ended up playing this style of hardcore. As I mentioned before, when I joined the band, I tried to give the vocals a more melodic vibe and the others seemed to like it. This was arguably the push to the right direction. I adore the ‘80s Dischord stuff you referred to a lot, so I started writing more personal, emotional lyrics inspired by the Revolution Summer sound. When we worked on the songs for our second 7-inch, Praise just released their outstanding Leave It All Behind LP. This record became one of the few tunes we all could agree on, for example.
If you talk to Dan about music, it won’t take too long to figure out that he’s a big fan of the ‘80s emo sound as well. You already mentioned his previous bands. He’s a crazy good guitar player and when we joined the emo train, he came up with incredibly great riffs that remind you of One Last Wish, Rain, Hüsker Dü or Dag Nasty, just to name a few.
Until I Wake Again is your first full-length after a couple of EPs, can you tell us more about the songwriting and lyrics on the record? Are you happy with the way the album turned out and is there anything you wanted to say and communicate to the listener that isn’t so explicit in the lyrics? Is there a certain concept behind the album?
It took us quite some time to finish the record, so there wasn’t a real concept behind the making of. It simply grew over the past few years. After we finished the Searching For You 7-inch in 2017, we continued working on new material. Unfortunately, the Covid years made it almost impossible for us to write further stuff. However, we took the Pandemic years to record the songs we had so far. Until I Wake Again can be seen as a collection of the music that we wrote during the years before the virus hit.
As you can see, some of the tracks already exist for pretty long. But hey, there’s a reason why our Instagram bio says something like ‘taking things slowly ever since’. Don’t get me wrong, we all love playing in I Recover but life doesn’t always make it easy to focus on band stuff only. I moved to the other side of the country, we all work full-time jobs, Tobi has two lovely kids, Dan’s running a print-shop, Flo just got married… The burdens of the adult-world keep us off-track ever since.
When you listen to the LP, you might figure that we kept the songs short and on point. Though, I’d say the tracks do appear calmer and more considered than the older stuff. The lyrics deal with personal issues and hence follow up the previous releases. The songs are about life, love and regret (to quote one of the greatest bands of all time). I try to articulate thoughts and feelings that occupy my mind. I think that fear of what tomorrow might bring, loss of friendship and not being able to keep up with society’s standards are the main themes. At the same time, I try to deliver some kind of positive outlook. In a certain way, the lyrics can be understood as a call to reflect on yourself and your surroundings. If I had to sum up the message of the songs I’d say: ‘try to stay sane in today’s insanity’.
How difficult is it to write meaningful lyrics for a hardcore band? Do you think it’s more difficult to write them from a more nuanced personal and emotional perspective instead of singing about general political issues or straight edge songs, for example?
Writing lyrics is extremely difficult on many levels. I don’t know if people dig my words and what I write; it’s up to the listener to decide. But I try to honestly proceed with stuff that’s on my mind and turn it into some kind of general experience that people can connect to. I’d argue that it doesn’t matter in the first place if your lyrics are about politics, personal issues, how hella Straight Edge your band is or about how much you hate the world. The line between meaningful, profound lyrics on the one hand and trivial, insignificant lyrics on the other hand is quite thin. Everytime I listen to new music, I try to connect to the words and I have to admit that there are lots of bands that don’t stand my personal expectations. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect hardcore bands to reach the Morrissey-league of song-writing but I want to be able to feel what’s on the singer’s mind and heart. I think that authenticity is the key to good lyrics. ‘Why be something that you’re not?’, if you know what I mean…
Let me give you an example. One of my favorite hardcore bands is Foundation. The music is freaking hard but at the same time the lyrics are incredibly smart. It’s the symbiosis of both, brutal riffs and profound words that create feeling and meaning. When you listen to songs like “Hang Your Head” you feel hurt and despair, but by the end of the record all that pain turns into positive energy. This dialectics is what makes hardcore special. Another great example is High Vis. I mean, the band’s success speaks for itself. But it’s the honesty and the weight of the words that makes this band so unique. Graham, the singer is wearing his heart on his sleeve and in doing so, he’s reaching out to a feeling that lots of people can unconsciously connect to. Hereby, a simple line like ‘Tears on my Gore Tex’ reveals the desperation of a generation and it proves what power well written lyrics imply.
In my opinion, talking about emotions and being open-hearted is a deeply political act. ‘Your emotions are nothing but politics’, as we know from Embrace. Hardcore lyrics helped me to find my place in this world. I learned a lot about ethics, morals and politics through music and I hope that my words in I Recover do their part to shape our community for the better. Long story short: I think good, emotional lyrics should combine vulnerability and a positive outlook; Rites of Spring like story-telling with a Youth of Today-like energy. That’s my personal ideal and I hope that the I Recover lyrics shoot in this direction.
On the last song “Reality Principle” you have guest vocals from Kinya of the Japanese indie/emo band Bacho. Your album is also co-released by Japanese labels Sakanade and Hi Liberate Records, and you had a short split EP with Japanese band Daiei Spray in 2017. Can you tell us a bit more about the Japanese connection?
The whole Japan thing came about through Dan. He’s been around in the hardcore game since forever. Thereby, he’s friends with a guy named Uchu from Tokyo who’s drumming in this sick late ‘90s hardcore band called Endzweck. Uchu in turn runs Cosmic Note Records and helped us with the first two releases. In 2017, he invited us over to Japan. We paid the flights, he booked the venues and we ended up having the time of our lives! We played six gigs in different cities, spent a couple of extra days in Tokyo and had the opportunity not only to travel Japan the DIY way but also to get to know the local punk/hardcore scene. We played most of the shows with Daiei Spray and became friends with the kids from Tokyo. First and foremost with Masa, who’s the singer of Low Vision and the most helpful dude around. He’s also fronting The Breath who released a rad demo on Quality Control Records. Anyway… Masa picked us up from the airport, organized the whole tour for us and also joined one of the gigs with Low Vision. The friends we made in Tokyo are the reason why the two Japanese labels got involved in the release of Until I Wake Again. Hi Liberate is run by Masa and the head behind Sakanade Records is Kyo from Daiei Spray.
The year after we toured abroad, we hit the European roads with the band you mentioned; Bacho. Kinya is an awesome frontman. When we worked on “Reality Principle”, we weren’t completely satisfied with the result and wanted to evolve the song structure. It was Flo who had the idea with the additional vocals. When we asked Kinya to join, he immediately said yes and started translating the actual lyrics. We’re really pleased with how this idea turned out! The Japanese vocals give the final track of the LP a very special vibe and the way it translates back to English sounds really poetic: ‘With every emotion that passes through your heart, good night’.
All in all, our Japanese connection proves how unique the global DIY hardcore network is. I was just raving about it with Masa when I met him in London at the Damage is Done Fest last November. We should really appreciate and sustain what this community has built since the beginning. It’s literally special to the core!
The hardcore scene seems to be thriving in Germany with melodic and Straight Edge bands like Drink Deep, Spark, Tides Denied, Spirit Crusher, Remain, and Eat My Fear. Can you tell us a bit more about your local scene and the bands you like in 2023?
The German hardcore scene is alive and well. There are tons of great bands around at the moment. You already mentioned a few. Somehow the label ‘Deutschhardcore’ became a thing. At first, the name sounds a little silly but it simply refers to a bunch of bands and a group of friends from all over the country. In the past few years, lots of DHC-kids moved to other cities through which we created a great network. This network makes it really easy to book shows and support each other as best as possible.
When it comes to the German scene, you should check out the roosters of STTW-Records, DBNO-Records and Collective Memory Records. Justus—who runs Collective Memory and sang in Tides Denied—made the artwork for our LP. He’s one of the creative brains of the DHC-Gang. STTW is also responsible for the release of Until I Wake Again (as well as a pre-tape including two top secret cover-songs). Other great bands from the label are Placid, Wedding Songs, Lethal Hate and Slon.
Well, I could chat about local hardcore bands for hours but I leave it with a little bit of name-dropping. Go and check out newer DHC-outfits like Force Of Denial, Fragment, Phase, Echo Chamber, Pluto The Racer, Suspect, Face Your Fears, Blockage, Desire Line, Phiz and Mortal Form. I heard some rumors about new Spirit Crusher material, too and I’m really excited for the upcoming Drink Deep 7-inch. And not to forget the rest of Europe. What about all the Scandi bands like Killing Frost, Speedway, B.T.Y. and Feels Like Heaven? Or Mindwar and Feverchild from Belgium? Care and Protein from Poland? Lifelike from Prague? Desorden, Verdugo and Arma X from Spain? Okay, I’m going to stop now but you get the idea, don’t you?
The last one is up to you, feel free to share whatever you want and whatever we may have missed.
Okay, you asked for some random thoughts so you’ll get them… One thing worth mentioning is that we’re going to play a couple of shows in the next few weeks. In June we got invited to the UK to play at the ten-year anniversary of Crew Cuts (one of the British labels involved in the release of Until I Wake Again). We’ll play shows in Brighton and Plymouth. In July we hit the European roads for six further shows through southern Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. I’m really looking forward to all these gigs! Talking about the Czech Republic in July: I just realized that this year’s Fluff Fest will be the last one ever. I have been to almost every Fluff since 2009 and even if I totally understand the promoter’s decision to call it a day, I’m quite sad that this era is coming to an end. Especially because we never got the opportunity to play this one-of-a-kind fest. Fluff Fest is one of the coolest things that ever happened to the European hardcore-punk scene.
Well, the sun is shining, I got a day off, I think I’m gonna go for a walk now, listen to the new Never Ending Game record and find myself some ice-cream! Thanks for taking your time for us and your interest in the band. And especially for keeping up the great work and your support for small DIY hardcore bands. Much love!