This interview with Chris Bavaria of the Baltimore, Maryland’s Straight Edge band Mindset was originally published in Bulgarian language in the fourth issue of Tigersuit Zine. Mindset is one of my favorite out of the new wave of straight edge bands from the US. Check them out on React! Records.
Let’s start with an introduction to your band, who are you and what’s the idea behind Mindset?
Mindset is a hardcore band from Baltimore, Maryland. Dfang (Daniel Fang) plays drums, Mike plays guitar, I (Chris) play bass, and Ev sings.
Can we talk about a revival of the Youth Crew hardcore and why do you play that particular style of hardcore/punk? What is the thing that has attracted you in Youth Crew?
We all love Youth of Today, that’s pretty much it. Mindset started as Mike’s brainchild and he just wanted to start a band that sounded like Youth of Today. I think the term youth crew has kind of a negative connotation these days and people tend to think of it as some kind of gimmick. But seriously Youth of Today were bad ass… it’s fast, it’s angry, and they are actually singing about tangible things. I think those are the three things we want to do with Mindset. So when people write us off as just another youth crew band singing about “their crew” or some dumb shit like that, I don’t think they have even actually listened to us.
What does it mean to be DIY and hardcore today? We are talking about Youth Crew revival, but obviously the things are pretty much different than in the past, when Youth of Today have started in the 80’s there was no facebook, youtube, iPods, React! or B9 message boards.
Obviously it is a lot easier for bands these days, but I think there is a balance that you can do with using those things and still be a DIY hardcore band. I’d like to think that Mindset is definitely a DIY band. React! helps us out a lot, but they are just a group of our friends. There is no contract or anything like that. We still book all our own shows, make our own t-shirts, etc. No one is making any money off Mindset.
How many pairs of Nike shoes do the members of Mindset own? How is this possible, the symbol of corporate power and the first corporation that started the whole brand mania to co-opt even a counterculture like the hardcore scene? There’s a long tradition of Nike targeting the poor communities of people of color through basketball and hip-hop, telling them that their pair of shoes is not a product but a way of life, an attitude, a set of values, of ideas. So the poor kids would kill, steal, or sell drugs just to buy a pair of Nike shoes and become more popular among their peers on the street and more successful in hip-hop or basketball, cause of the whole myth around the Nike brand. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous to see hardcore kids branded with the Nike logo and I can’t accept any justification of people in the scene not only wearing their shoes, but actually collecting them and having dozens of pairs of Nike shoes in their wardrobes costing them thousands of dollars. I wish every kid in the hardcore scene will read the book “No Logo” by the Canadian journalist Naomi Klein… Will we ever see a Youth Crew band writing Anti-Nike hardcore song?
I totally agree with you. Speaking solely for myself, I would never even buy one pair of Nikes. Obviously I can’t control what everyone else in my band does all of the time though (I’m the only one who is vegan!). But I will say no one in Mindset buys crazy amounts of shoes or collects them. It’s a thin line buying shoes these days as most of them are made overseas and we don’t know by whom. But I guess you have to choose your battles.
What does straight edge mean to you? I’ve read an interview with you where you said that the hardcore/punk kids who drink alcohol and do drugs are the same as everyone else, just in different clothes, and if you really want to “fuck up the system” or do anything worthwhile you have to have a clear head to do it. Do you think hardcore or straight edge has ever had any potential to really “fuck up the system” or can have a positive impact on someone’s life? After all, aren’t we just a bunch of punk-rockers, outsiders with no future?
Yeah, I stand by what I said in that other interview. I definitely think people have a lot more potential if they have a clear head. You could take “fucking up the system” a bunch of different ways. Whether you are protesting in the streets or planting a community garden you are doing something to change the world for the better, and you are going to do a 100% better job if you are sober. The US government is so tied in with the alcohol and tobacco companies it’s ridiculous. The band Dropdead played in Philly awhile back and there singer went on a huge rant about how smoking is not punk. It’s totally true, and I think by not supporting those companies you are fucking with the system.
What does it mean to be positive or to live a positive lifestyle? What about the people who are poor, abused, tortured, or deprived from their dreams and humiliated because of their beliefs and ideas, do you think they can be positive and live a positive lifestyle too?
No one is going to be positive all of the time. It’s just not in human nature. There are people who live hard lives across the globe, and my heart goes out to them. I think positivity and hope are sometimes the only things people can do to lift themselves up and out of some bad situations. Being pissed at the world for giving you a bad hand is not going to fix anything. It’s fine to be pissed, I am a lot! But at the end of the day the only way you are going to get over something is if you look to the future and hope things will get better. I’ll admit it is easier said than done.
Do you ride bikes, skateboarding, or something like that? What kind of things do you do as an outlet for your energy besides playing in a band, screaming, jumping, and stage-diving at hardcore shows?
I ride my bike almost every day. It really is a great release for me and gets me pumped for the day. I stopped skateboarding a few years ago because I got older and it hurt too much when I fell, haha. I wasn’t that good, so I fell a lot. Dan is a workout nut. He is in the best shape of anyone I know. I’ll wake up when we are on tour and see him upside down against the wall doing push ups, he’s nuts!
There’s a song called “Mindset” by the legendary hardcore band Chokehold dealing with the religious hatred towards homosexuality. You have a song called “Words” also touching the subject of homophobia. It’s obvious that there is a large number of people going to hardcore shows who are narrow-minded and intolerant towards other people’s sexuality, but the people and bands who stand for equality still remain silent and prefer not to spark a discussion on the subject. What was your reason to write such a song and what kind of actions or attitudes do you think are useful in our daily lives to do something to stop the abuse and humiliation of children, women, or people with different sexual orientation when we see it?
People just need to stand up for what’s right and not have a blind eye to it. I think a lot of people are just apathetic to it and when someone says an inappropriate comment they just ignore it. But it’s wrong! You got to get in their face and tell them they are being an asshole. Ev wrote those lyrics because he was sick of hearing people say ignorant comments, especially at hardcore shows, where it is supposed to be a safe haven outside of the shit in the real world. Everyone should feel welcomed, not insulted.
Thank you for the interview. I hope you would like to impart some positive message to the people who are reading this. Is there anything important you would like to tell but I didn’t ask you?
I really hope we can make it to Europe at some point, we’ve been talking about it for years but it just hasn’t worked out. Check out Remission from Santiago Chile, they are probably my favorite band right now. Also Rearranged, Noose, Sacred Love, and Face Reality.