SPOTLIGHT: Sharptooth

SPOTLIGHT: Sharptooth

By Louis Kerry

Nov 15, 2020 15:58

How often does a band come around that dares to challenge not only the generic conventions of a genre but the whole ideology of one? Baltimore heavyweights Sharptooth have reared their ugly heads into 2020 with their second album ‘Transitional Forms’. The band chat with Punktastic, breaking down the constructs of their politically fuelled hardcore album aswell as their reactions to the upside down year the world has been having so far.

Sharptooth are unafraid to kick doors down. From calling out presidents to raising cautions around topics like racism, toxic masculinity and fake feminism; every track from the band offers an education with a slap of sarcasm for good measure. New album ‘Transitional Forms’ takes it a step further with a lack of subtlety and a leave-no-prisoners attitude (read our full review of the stunning album here).

Going well beyond the level of depth you may have become adjusted to with hardcore bands, the band take a more punk rock stance on their output by speaking up for their social and political beliefs without hesitation. Channeling influences including the likes of Rage Against The Machine, Dead Kennedys and their own mentors in Anti-Flag, guitarist Lance Donati explains how each member’s values and ideals aligned in forming Sharptooth.

“I became discontent with the hardcore scene from another band because of its lack of availability is politics. It was discouraging listening to a bunch of the same white dudes in bands complain about the same things over and over without any concept of the rest of the world around them. We focused on positivity and trying to bring a better outlook as best we could before Lauren (Kashan, singer) joined. As soon as Lauren joined, and knowing she was on the same page as us politically, we just set off doing that. We would have practice in Baltimore during the protests for Freddie Gray and speak about all the issues going on between songs and decided we would get more involved, which got me stoked in the genre again.”

Bass player Peter Bruno adds where he sees Sharptooth in hardcore scene and how they do things differently.

“The genre has become heavily depoliticised over the past twenty years, and that is reflected by how rare it is to see bands in our various scenes speak up in ways that might alienate potential listeners. However, I think we recognise that progress isn’t linear, and that we want to help inspire people to be more active in engaging with the world around them, as opposed to just trying to escape it. While I would say that our band all shares a similar spectrum of beliefs, it’s definitely not an echo chamber. We still challenge each other on occasion.”

The band’s ambition to create discussion is never more prevalent than on their single ‘Say Nothing (In The Absence of Content)’. The accompanying Katy Perry-esque super pop video, ironic lyrics and furious breakdowns had the scene buzzing on social media. Making light of their contemporaries’ empty words in a time where it couldn’t be more important to speak up socially and politically, Donati explains their thought process behind the inspired hardcore song.

“For many years we’ve been hearing the classic ‘shut up and play’ or ‘keep politics out music’ tropes. This was our response… It’s just a big kind of ‘yeah well, here’s a freaking pop video for one of our heaviest songs about how you have nothing to say, sit back and hate watch’… It lightened the mood for us and allowed us to ease the stress of taking everything so seriously. We’re really trying to just be ourselves in all this. Genre and labels don’t mean shit to us. We hop around the planes of music existence for several reasons. And catering to people who want to classify us in a department of what they’re familiar with definitely isn’t one of those reasons.”

Bruno adds, “It’s about the gatekeepers of heavy music who have lost complete touch with the roots of the genre. I’m not sure if we expected any other reaction outside of making some of the right people angry, which I think it has. Beyond that, it’s been nice to see folks resonating with the meta commentary and being able to laugh at ourselves in the process.”

None of this of course would be without Lauren, whose crushing vocals and passionate lyrics have helped create such an inspirational collection of songs. The sheer velocity of her screams matched with the calmness of her meticulously placed singing creates a distinctive tone that’s unrivalled in the scene. Lance spoke about the brilliance he saw in front of his own eyes during the recording process.

“Lauren was actually in the middle of the process of moving and driving back and forth between Baltimore and Boston, which was pretty wild how she pulled it off. She’s spent many years perfecting her vocals and I think she finally has it dialled in now in how she wants to achieve it. Brian (McTernan, producer) would always comment ‘I have no idea how you’re pulling this off.’ It’s almost like a super fine arts skill where it’s just natural for her and she has mastered her craft.”

It’s certainly been a tumultuous year for Sharptooth. Not just due to their new album, but releasing it in the midst of a global pandemic, lockdown and a huge political crisis in America has meant their current circumstances are far from what any of them were expecting. Bruno expands on what the new album cycle has been like amidst the lockdown situation brought upon them.

“We’ve missed out on almost a year of being an active band without any foreseeable future in sight. I’m thankful that we were able to finish our music videos before the pandemic started, but apart from releasing new music, it’s been very hard.”

Matt also adds “The record has been going over really well which is awesome, but I would love to be on the road playing it for people every night. You really lose a whole other side to the album when you can’t play it in front of a crowd.”

With the US Presidential Election spiralling in every direction, Sharptooth have always been incredibly vocal about President Donald Trump and the state of America today, something they feel no shame in attacking. Bruno shares his thoughts on the current political crisis and what it means for their band’s future inspirations.

“I think there is a legitimate question about whether or not Trump will leave office if he loses this election, but he is certainly doing everything possible to suppress voting to stop that from even being a possibility… My feelings on this election is that it is a lose-lose scenario and that our mission will be similar regardless of who wins (both will need to be dragged towards accountability, and any forms of meaningful progress will come from outside of the presidency).”

Matt cheerfully adds, “The rich get richer and we live in hell.”

Lance finishes up with one message he hopes their fans can take away from Transitional Forms while we all adapt to a new normal in many ways.

“Just listen to people. Absorb the information and relate it to your own trials and tribulations in life. Neglecting the human experience is why I believe we’re seeing too many issues in the world right now… I just want us to leave the impression on people’s minds who listen to us that there’s someone on your side. We see what you’re going through and we want you to know, were going through the same shit, day by day. Just know we’re right next to you when you’re frustrated with the world, when you’re crying, getting bullied, and or bad. It’s exactly why you relate to the lyrics and the power the music hits you. It’s nothing mysterious or magical. We’re just like you.”

For a band only two albums in, Sharptooth present themselves like veterans. So confident and proud to share their political thoughts in a disengaged scene, matched with such jaw-dropping creativity, they could well be the gorilla sized voice that we desperately need.