First off I want to express my condolences to everyone suffering from Hurricane Harvey.
Thanks man, appreciate your thoughtfulness. Yeah, it's been a long time since a storm hit where Harvey did. While there was a lot of rain and wind in Austin, we're lucky because we're 200 miles inland and also just out of the path of the really bad stuff. Our friends in Houston and along the coast, however, definitely were not as fortunate, and I was really worried about them for a few days. But, it seems like everyone I know made it though okay. Although, some lost their homes and all of their belongings. They're used to storms and floods there, but no one has ever seen anything like this. Hopefully we never will again. We're going to do what we can to help everyone there get back on their feet. I feel that Texas, though this tragedy, has been given a chance to show the world what we're actually about and who we really are. A lot of help is needed down on the coast and in Houston, but we're going to do our part as well.
Can you please introduce yourself and tell us your role in Unexpressed?
Well, my name is Jordan. I've lived in Central Texas and the Austin area for most of my life. I do vocals and it's definitely my first time fronting a band. I'd been going to shows, booked shows and been involved in various ways in the scene for a while. But, I never saw myself being in a band until my best friend (and our guitarist) Marko Angelo Del Toro convinced me to front a band with him. I'm very glad he did, because I have a lot of things to say and a lot of energy inside that I need an outlet for. But, my cautious personality and overall shyness would often get in the way of expressing those thoughts and feelings. It's kind of the reason why I loved having Unexpressed as a band name. It's the title of a Turning Point deep cut, but also captures the overall theme of what we're trying to do with the band.
Where would you say Unexpressed is from? In the tags on your bandcamp there are a couple of different cities tagged.
Well, officially we are from Austin and the Rio Grande Valley (the farthest south part of TX, right next to Mexico). Marko, Gunner (our bassist) and I currently live in Austin; while Jessie (or drummer) is in the Valley. However, Gunner is originally from Houston and also Marko is from the Valley as well. So, we're ultimately just a Texas band!
I have to say that Unexpressed is my favorite track off the demo. When I read the lyrics while listening to the song. I didn't want it to end. I had to put it on repeat. The words of the song can be applied to any aspect of life, not just hardcore. Which is why it is special to me. Which song on the demo has the most meaning for you?
I'm really glad you like that song. I really like how it starts off the album and how it has a catchy but expansive sound. I wondered how people would react to it at first, as it (lyrically and vocally) exists in a purgatory between being an intro (in the traditional instrumental sense) and a song. The words are kind of a mission statement, with four lines that each capturing a different idea that I feel is important in living a life that is good to others and also to yourself.
It's kind of difficult to really pick one song over another right now, as the songs are still new to me and I put a lot of myself into the lyrics. Each song reflects a theme that's important to me in a different way. Maybe the song I feel most attached to is Another World. It's certainly a political song, but I tried to write it in a way that won't become dated with time. It was cool that a lot of bands in the 80's called out Reagan for being a piece of crap, but it's hard for me to get that into a song written specifically about him in 2017. The same will be true of any songs that mention Trump by name 20 years from now. While the people in power in this administration are horrible ghouls who are absolutely terrible in every way you could imagine, they are not in and of themselves the entire problem. The problem is the structural racism and white supremacy that still infects this country at every level today and enables people like them to amass power, no matter how much people want to think (or wish) it does not. The problem is horrific economic inequality. The problem is a country that actively oppressed Latin America (and later, the Middle East and Southeast Asia) for decades and then tries to slam the door and criminalize people when come here to seek the opportunities that the United States helped to deny them in their countries of origin. The problem is a justice system that imprisons Black, Brown and Indigenous Americans at rates far greater than White Americans that commit the same crimes (and also fails to acknowledge the roles that racism and inequality play in those trends as well), all so private prison companies can deliver bigger profits to please their shareholders. The problem, honestly, is unfettered capitalism, with few getting obscenely wealthy while many struggle just to get by. These problems go beyond our borders and our lifespans. These problems will still be there when the Trump Administration is finally over. They'll still be there even with Progressive Democrats in charge. They have to be challenged and fought at every turn and on every level until they are abolished and a new and better system can be constructed. One that honors everyone as equally human and equally deserving of a dignified existence. That's the message I try to convey in this song.
Also, I love this song a lot musically. Style wise, it is totally my vibe and my ideal favorite type of hardcore song. I just really love Marko's riffs. It helps that we almost entirely like the same music.
Also the song Elevate stuck out to me too. I love the unity aspect of hardcore. I just hate how sometimes people are afraid to stand up for whats right. The lyrics "Never compromise. Or give up your ground. Stand up for inclusion and they won't be around. Never compromise. Don't walk away from this fight. I won't apologize. For speaking up for what's right." are a breath of fresh air. I hope kids hear this song and take action and stand up for whats right when the time comes.
There was a point in my life where I realized that I don't really believe in unity among the entire aggressive rock scene as something aspirational or even technically possible. That doesn't mean I don't believe the principles of "unity" shouldn't be applied in your daily life or within your local community. It's absolutely key to being a decent person and not an asshole. It's just that there are actual huge cultural and political rifts within the scene, and essentially I believe being inclusive and welcoming to anyone regardless of the person they were born to be takes precedence over the idea that I should have a sense of unity (a.k.a. tolerance) toward those who don't believe in that (a.k.a. the intolerant). It's a less extreme version of the debate that is playing out in the political hellscape of the United States in 2017. As much as "hardcore" wants to think it's a separate culture from the greater culture we live in, it's really more of a microcosm of it. If that wasn't the case, we still wouldn't have Nazis forming punk bands. The key is to keep that crap out of the part of the greater hardcore/punk scene that you and those in your community consider to be yours.
Okay, I went off to the side a little bit there, so now to talk about Elevate. Dress Code already wrote the best song ever questioning the entire narrative around unity ("I Disagree"). Thus, Elevate is more about facing down the intolerant, backward, outwardly violent and dis-inclusive elements within the scene that need to be addressed. Also, it can be interpreted to be about the larger issues we face and a call for action right now in the age of Trump and the rise of American Fascism. Because, as I mentioned earlier, hardcore reflects the good and bad in society. My hope is that it can do as much as it can to reflect the good, so much that it becomes an actual tangible force to fight against the bad on a larger scale. I've seen some noticeable signs of that happening in the scene where I live in Texas, especially since the election, and it gives me hope.
I'm really into the cover of the demo. Who and where was this photo taken?
It was taken at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. About 60 miles north of El Paso, Texas. A truly incredible place. I love the American West. Marko and I made a detour to stop there on a road trip to California last year. We stuck around for sunset and got some really awesome photos, including that shot of me which he took. It was a day I'll never forget.
You can buy the demo on https://unexpressed.bandcamp.com/ but will there be a physical release of the demo? Maybe some sweet shirts?
We definitely plan a physical release in the near future. Not sure yet who we'll work with on that, or what format it will be in. One of our goals is also to do a 7" sometime within the next year. We will definitely have shirts and with the design talent in the band (Marko and Jessie both kill it) I'm hopeful that they will be sick. We wanted to get the album recorded and play a few shows first before making merch, but we're definitely talking about doing things our own way and creating our own visual vibe with the stuff that we make. Looking forward to it.
Do you have a first show planned?
Technically, we've played 2 shows already right at the start of summer. Our first show was in Austin, booked by Victor from I Hate I Skate (the sickest little HC/Punk label in the world, honestly) with the almighty O.N.E. and some of the best bands from our area: The Real Cost, Nosferatu, Enemy One and Sass. It went pretty well I think considering it was our first show. A lot of our friends made it out and it was at Barracuda, which is a chill downtown venue that has been unexpectedly kind and helpful to the young punk scene here in Austin. The second was a pretty random show a couple nights later at a punk house in Third Ward, Houston after the first day of Summer Breeze (which is low key already one of the sickest fests in North America) that our friend Derek from Houston put together. It was...an experience, but a good experience, personally, because I'm used to house shows with a bunch of weirdos from growing up around Austin. So I just let myself have a lot of fun during our set. After that we all split to different parts of this gigantic state for the summer, and decided to record the demo before playing a lot of shows. Now the demo is done, and here we are. Our first show in a while is a benefit for hurricane victims on Saturday, September 9th in San Antonio with some of the best bands and people from that wonderful city (I've been a huge Spurs fan pretty much entire life, so that helps boost my feelings for the place, also).
I know there are only four months left in the year. What are the chances of seeing Unexpressed in Southern California before the end of the year? Or do you have plans for 2018?
The chances are decent, actually! We want to do a California run during the Winter Break, right after the holidays. I have a lot of friends in California, it's the only other place I've lived in my adult life (Los Angeles, for a temporary job) and the people I've met in the state (especially Southern California) have always shown me almost unconditional acceptance and extraordinary kindness. Also, a lot of my all time favorite bands are from Southern California. Our original idea for Unexpressed was to mix our two favorite hardcore vibes: Turning Point/Wide Awake type stuff and 80's/Early 90's Orange County Hardcore. CA is absolutely the first out of state area I want Unexpressed to go and we can't wait to rock with my friends there.
I love Texas hardcore. RIP TRUTH
I ask you from time to time about what new Texas bands I should keep an eye on. I think it is that time again. Who should we be listening to from Texas?
I'm glad you asked about new bands, because the hardcore scene in general really needs to return to focus on helping young bands and young people in the scene grow and thrive so that it can persist in the future. A great thing about the HC/Punk scene in Texas is that we have several thriving scenes in different cities that are diverse in almost every respect. Not just different styles of bands, but also with greater than normal involvement of POC, LGBTQ persons and women in our scenes. A solid majority of TX bands have one or more POC members. And hardcore kids here tend to be socially aware and progressive, which is good because the hardcore scene here definitely needs to contrast with and stand against the right wing shit show that is Texas politics. It's also great that the different local scenes in Texas all support each other and there are many friendships between kids in different cities.
I'll start with Austin, because the scene here has really become something else. It's strongly punk focused, so we're connected more with some places in the HC scene than others, but we also have a lot of different styles among the new bands here. You should definitely check out anything on the I Hate I Skate roster. Victor consistently finds the best young bands in this city to boost. THE REAL COST have meant a lot to Austin in the past couple of years, and they're part of a new era some of the sickest bands ever: NOSFERATU, ENEMY ONE, ARMY, SASS, LITTLE FISH and SKELETON are all badass in their own way. Since Austin is different, you'll find most their demos on Youtube instead of Bandcamp. Also, Juan Carlos from IMPALERS and STRUTTER puts on a sick fest every January called This Is Austin, Not That Great that is absolutely worth traveling for. And, of course, GLUE is still one of the best bands ever.
Houston has been absolutely killing it lately. Some of my favorite recent and new bands from there to check are DRESS CODE, THE POSE, ERUPT, PRIVATE EYE, SKOURGE, NARROW HEAD and GUTZ. San Antonio has the eternally underrated AFFLICTIVE NATURE and the almighty BLOODHOUND along with THE UNIT, SURPLUS, STACKED AGAINST, SUDDEN ATTACK and some new bands in the works to look out for. DFW (North Texas) is kind of in a rebuilding phase right now, but KEPT IN LINE, CREEPING DEATH and RAZORBUMPS (Denton in general) are holding it down up there and I'm sure it'll have more good stuff soon. Also, our drummer Jessie is in a new band from the Rio Grande Valley called ARACNIDO that I'm pretty excited about. The Valley is awesome. A lot of bands don't tour down there unless they're going to/from Mexico, but they should.
And, while they're not from TX, a lot of us think of O.N.E. (OVERLOAD OF NATURAL ENERGY) as an honorary Texas band and their 8 song demo on Advanced Perspective is totally my favorite thing that's been released this year. It's so sick that Unexpressed's first show was with them.
I want to thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. If you want to plug anything. The floor is yours..
Thanks for hitting me up man! I'm really stoked on the rest of 2017 and especially 2018. I'd like to say that, while people can get a weird perception of what Texas is like when they've never really been out here, a lot of people here are really good. And, the younger generation here is way different than the older ones politically and culturally. It's that youth-driven desire that's giving us a huge break with a lot of the cultural negatives that this state has had over the years. Organizations like Workers Defense are doing a lot of real intersectional work to help lead that change. Our major cities are very diverse and firmly anti-Trump and it's only a matter of time before this manifests in real change in this state. People elsewhere who write us off as some kind of backward wasteland are in for a real surprise in the near future.
There's a lot of talent in the scene in Texas. Musically and artistically. Isaiah Castillo (from Bloodhound) and Jessie Morales (our drummer) are great artists who can do sick cover art and merch designs for your band. Marko's brother Ted Del Toro (who did the Edgegazer zines) is set to release a magazine called Drifting / Falling that will chronicle the story of Turning Point members after the band broke up and their other projects (that also happen influence Unexpressed in some ways), as well as newer elements and bands in hardcore that they influence today. It's gonna include a lot of anecdotes and photos that people haven't seen before. Looking forward to it dropping in the near future.
Also would like to plug some of my favorite newer bands and friends from California: THE SURGE, DIZTORT, WISE, PROPOSITION X, INITIATE and of course STEP-4-CHANGE
Also, if you're in Austin; You've got to hit up Arlo's and The Vegan Nom, get some sweets at Cap City Bakery and ice cream at Sweet Ritual. Those spots are all vegan, but you should try them even if you're not. They rule hard.
Thanks for doing this interview with me! See you in California this winter!