Viking will tell you their first show wasn’t particularly
memorable. But what happened after the gig, in a Cortland
hotel room, might make a band eligible for a metal merit
badge in debauchery.
were 30 people in our room,” explains lead singer Nate
Danker, a fellow whose off-the-wall personality, scruffy
beard, and bearlike nature make him a slimmer match for
Zach Galifianakis from The Hangover, “and we only invited
half of them. After about 45 minutes, the lady is like,
‘Get the fuck out of here.’ ”
had been kicked out of their first hotel room after their
very first show.
think Josh was wearing a pillow diaper,” says bassist
Dan Cramer, a polite, businesslike young man with a marketing
degree from SUNY Binghamton and a real-person job during
was after consuming an extraordinary amount of beer,”
says drummer Josh James, an English and philosophy major
at Adirondack Community College, sounding slightly embarrassed,
that’s when we knew,” jokes Danker.
have changed since the first show—as of late, the Schenectady-based
band have become notorious for tearing the hell out of
venues across upstate New York with rowdy sets that include
rafter-climbing, banana suits, brutality, and out-and-out
metal swagger. These are five young, angry, horny young
men learning about themselves, their love for music and
the kinds of things that can happen when you drink too
much—way, way, too much. Or, as Cramer would put it, when
you “go on a fucking rager.”
Viking are at their idyllic suburban practice space in
Niskayuna, surrounded by T-shirts they are organizing
for their next few gigs. The family of a friend allows
them to use the basement of their suburban home as a practice
space, and feeds them, as well. James discusses the virtues
of Bubblicious gum while contrasting it to the taste of
the Fruit Stripe I am currently jawing on.
Dan Cramer bemoans the tardiness of guitarist Madison
Peruzzi. “‘I love the funk.’ That’s all he would tell
you if he was here anyway,” Cramer assures me.
weren’t always steak and Fruit Stripe for the band. As
James tells it, everything started in a trailer in Burnt
Hills in the sweltering heat of July 2007, after certain
band members were unceremoniously ousted from a pop-punk
band. Since then the Viking have steadily built a fan
base by promoting themselves on the Internet. But, James
says, that kind of promotion led to only a “nominal” crowd
at shows. It wasn’t until they paid to record their first
album and started printing copious mounds of T-shirts
that the buzz started growing.
want to be able to sing along with the lyrics,” says Danker.
And Cramer says that their wide selection of shirts has
paid off, with die-hard fans buying multiple copies of
each one they have printed.
to the album, which is available in physical form as well
as on iTunes and a number of other reputable online music
vendors, and it may strike you as almost hysterical that
the band’s chops were forged in the flames of the pop-punk
scene. (James and Winchester both played in On the A.M.;
Cramer, Winchester and Danker at one time all played in
the Renowned Army.)
members of the band admit to still being or having previously
been die-hard Blink 182 fans. “And that’s on the record,”
Danker adds. They list influences as disparate as John
Coltrane, Nas and Regina Spektor. Danker also digs the
new Passion Pit album, a taste not all his bandmates can
band’s non-metal sensibilities seem to be what links them
all together. “We all played in pop-punk bands. We all
liked hardcore music and listened to metal all the time,
but we never thought to play it,” explains guitarist Jesse
Winchester, who studied music business at Schenectady
County Community College. Winchester shares Cramer’s businesslike
poise but seems to be the man in the group who always
has music on his mind. As absurd as the mood in the room
can be when the band members get together, they are clearly
serious and thoughtful about the music they play.
had their own sound,” says Winchester. “Madison comes
from a very strong funk background. I play classical music
at school, and I like hardcore. Madison has the blues
and funk take. I write a lot of the core parts and when
Madison gives his take it is totally something different
from what I wrote. It’s a different idea all together.
But it really meshes.”
says his experience in punk-ska group Monkey Gone Mad
gives him a different take on metal music. “But I think
we try to play serious music in the metal genre. I like
to think of it as real music in the metal style,” he says.
opposed to fake music,” interjects James. Laughter ensues.
then the air of seriousness lifts just as quickly as it
could call us progressive, progressive hardcore,” says
Winchester. “We definitely have metal elements.”
progcore,” someone says. “Grindpop!” Winchester offers,
smiling. Then they throw out more additions to their ever-evolving
genre: “”Hyper pop-hip rock!” James adds before shushing
labels and constrictions,” says Cramer. And things get
serious again—for a moment.
you need a reference to sort out all of this madness,
perhaps the closest comparison would be Every Time I Die.
But while the two bands sport similar Southern-style sludgy
riffs and hardcore abandon, the Viking are far more technical,
displaying the progressive inclinations of a band like
Between the Buried and Me, as well as a bit of the art-house-sludge
leanings of Daughters. And the Viking are heavier than
Every Time I Die have ever dared to be.
songs have names like “Bonnie Gets Lyme Disease,” “Human
Tuba,” and “Class Action Pant Suit.” Sabbathy sludge gives
way to punk speed, followed by sparkly Dream Theater-style
solos that collapse into Dillinger Escape Plan-style jazzy
hardcore breakdowns that make crowds hit each other.
can watch the crowds go wild for the band on YouTube.
Tickets to their shows are selling, shirts are selling,
the album is selling, and the band are scheduled to open
for yet another national act, Protest the Hero, on April
30 at Valentine’s. They say they would like to be able
to tour as much as possible. They are investing in a van
and plan to do a tour of the Northeast this summer. They
don’t want to oversaturate the Albany market, and are
flirting with what exactly it would take to get themselves
a genuine record deal.
everyone knows what happens to successful Albany metal
bands. They break up—sometimes more than once—and everyone
in the metal scene waxes nostalgic for them before venturing
out to see the new band featuring the ex-lead singer,
and the “fans” are just disappointed the new group won’t
play covers of the singer’s old band.
Viking boys claim that is not going to happen for them.
Despite their wild live shows and lifestyles, the band
say they have their priorities straight.
most important thing is that we’ve all known each other
for a long time. The petty bullshit does not hinder us.
We all just tell each other to shut the fuck up, and it’s
over. It’s squashed and it’s never brought up again,”
is then mentioned that two of the band members are “Eskimo
brothers,” a term explained by Urbandictionary.com this
way: “When two males acknowledge having been intimate
with the same female and remain on good terms, the men
are now bonded by having shared the same igloo at one
time or another.”
at the moment seems particularly quiet. “How is it that
the lead singer has been the quietest guy this entire
time?” I wonder out loud. I am assured that Danker would
be “ultra chatty” if there were a woman in the room. He’s
then scolded by members of the band for being a man-whore.
Danker refutes the charges, saying he is no man-slut.
gonna be somewhere playing a show one day and you are
gonna be like, ‘Guys, it hurts when I pee,’ ” scolds James,
who insists he is the lamest member of the band, being
in a steady relationship; his nights after shows consist
of “a couple of beers and Tylenol PM.” James is undeniably
the group’s deep thinker.
a discussion erupts about which band members have kissed
each other. After a few moments it becomes clear that
they know they have strayed beyond the material they had
wanted to discuss.
has finally arrived, and it is time to rehearse. It’s
hot in the cellar practice space, and the band quickly
wear themselves out tearing through numbers. The practice
set ends and they are drenched in sweat, tired and ready
to go home.
gather again in a living room area next to their practice
space. The mood is much calmer than before. Everyone has
work or school in the morning. Two of the band’s members
work professional jobs during the day. I’m forbidden to
mention the name of at least one of them, should the article
contain any damning evidence. James is proud to announce
that he works at a liquor store.
begins discussing his excitement about a philosophy class
he is taking. Cramer and Madison jump into the conversation.
James brings up Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes. Dante’s Divine
Comedy is briefly discussed, as are Derrida and deconstructionism.
It might seem more shocking than the discussion of Eskimo
brothers or intraband make-out sessions, but it isn’t.
are smart young gentleman using metal music to make a
statement: It’s the window dressing on their bigger ideas,
their angst, anger, philosophy and bond as longtime friends.
And besides, it’s a great way to meet girls, get people
to show up to buy beer, pay money for shirts and punch
each other in a circle pit. The Viking represent, in a
lot of ways, the best of what Albany can hope for: bright
local students playing weird music that builds a scene.
It may all sound crazy and hedonistic—at times it may
sound a little bit like a high-school field trip to Hooters—but
there is a distinct logic to the Viking, and there is
no denying they are living the dream.
Viking open for Protest the Hero at Valentine’s (17 New
Scotland Ave., Albany) on April 30. Tickets for the 7:30
PM show area $14. For more information, visit valentinesalbany.com
or stepup presents.com.