But ask any of the members why they keep at it, and you are bound to get the response you get from most hardcore bands: they just love what they do.
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Growing Older On The Road
Title Fight aren’t all about heavy blast beats and screaming into microphones. The band members are young – the oldest is 22 – but they’ve been at it since they were 13, releasing 7-inches from the confines of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a city more known for its proximity to a certain fictional paper company in a real town than anything else (hint: Scranton, PA).
“I definitely think we aren’t a stereotypical hardcore band,” bassist and vocalist Ned Russin agrees. “Some people think hardcore is something like Hatebreed: the toughest stuff, [with] people beating the crap out of each other. There are hardcore bands like that, but at the same time, hardcore is a lot more than just being tough, de-tuning your guitar, and playing breakdowns.”
As a quartet of 13-year-olds listening to both Blink-182 and Gorilla Biscuits, Title Fight combined all the music they enjoyed into one tidal wave of hardcore authenticity. That hardcore ideal is what fuels incessant touring, even when the going gets tough and the road gets even longer.
“A lot of the inspiration for [Shed] came from us being on tour and us growing up the last couple of years on the road – [which is] pretty much in the most unconventional way possible.”
— Ned Russin, Title Fight bassist and vocalist
“On our first European tour, on our last day, I got a call that my grandmother passed away,” Russin recalls. “Anything you miss out on is something you can never go back and fix. So even if it is… ‘Oh man, I wish I could’ve seen my friend’s band,’ [or] spending one more day with my grandmother, it sucks no matter what.”
Russin is a self-proclaimed hardcore kid at heart and those DIY ethics come hardcoded into his DNA. While he appreciates bands that are able to write lyrics containing stories or political themes, he chooses to write from a more personal approach because that is what he knows best. The lyrics on Title Fight’s latest album, Shed, clearly come from the point of view of someone who has been in a band most his life.
“We just write about what we know,” Russin says. “A lot of the inspiration for the record came from us being on tour and us growing up the last couple of years on the road — [which is] pretty much in the most unconventional way possible. It is just a weird experience.”
Growing Community At Home
In his hometown of Wilkes-Barre, Russin and friends have had a hand in starting a new venue after the last all-ages venue, Café Metropolis, closed down in September 2010. Nobody from the city showed any sympathy to the local arts community, Russin says. As is often the case with all-ages venues, even in large metropolitan areas across the nation, the city failed to realize the importance of providing a space for youth to congregate.
“There are venues if you want to call them that, but they are just bars that are having open mic nights. If you are a 13-year-old kid and trying to go see live music, it doesn’t make any sense to go there,” says Russin. “We just took the initiative because we realized that nobody else was going to.”
Russin and a few others opened up Redwood Arts Space, an all-ages venue modeled off of the famous Berkeley venue, Gilman St. They poured their own money into the venue, painted it, and installed the PA system to give youth in Wilkes-Barre a place to go and bands a place to play.
“When we were growing up that was the most important thing for us,” Russin recalls. “We are just trying to carry that tradition. I’m really proud of where we’re from and what is going on.”
Right now, Title Fight appear to be proudly carrying the banner of the only non-hardcore band that hardcore kids adore, serving a role similar to that of Lifetime and Jawbreaker in the ’80s and ’90s. Much of this adoration comes from the DIY approach that Title Fight bring to the table, but the band also play a brand of hardcore that speaks well to the special misfits segment of the population that listens.
Russin grew up in a small down removed from standard tour routing, and does not take anything he’s given for granted. As someone who has participated in a non-mainstream arts scene for most of his life, he realizes how crucial a vibrant arts scene is to an entire community.
“Not everybody wants to go play football, and not everybody wants to go to a bar and get drunk,” Russin says. “I don’t see why you don’t help to give kids and adults an opportunity to have another positive outlet. I think it is really important. That is why we had no problem funding the venue, and supporting the venue, and booking shows. Because I think it is such a crucial asset to a community. And I hope other people feel the same way about it and continue to support it, too.”