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Don’t we look happy? End of a Year get crazy in their basement practice space.

photo: Joe Putrock

Nice and Hard
Taking their cues from the fabled D.C. scene of yore, End of a Year strive to infuse their hardcore with emotion and exuberance—but not anger
By Kirsten Ferguson

End of a Year singer Patrick Kindlon paces vigorously in short circles between an amp and his bandmate, guitarist Mike Five. He doesn’t have much room to move in the confines of Five’s basement practice space, and the shaggy-haired singer with tattoos ringing his thin neck nearly trips over a cord as he shouts out the harried lyrics to “Anxiety.” After the practice, I mention Kindlon’s near-spill. “It’s usually one of the other guys’ feet that I trip over,” he laughs, apparently no stranger to the pitfalls of high-energy performances in cramped basement spaces.

After a photo shoot that requires End of a Year to crouch around an oddly placed urinal in the ’70s-style, bar-equipped basement, the five members of the band regroup in the living room of Five’s tidy Troy house. As interview subjects, these guys couldn’t be better: They talk in depth about their music and about their conflicted thoughts about the state of hardcore music, without devolving into the sort of in-jokey bandmate ball-busting that can render a band interview more entertaining than productive.

Although End of a Year perform with a loud hardcore churn and the manic stylings of Kindlon’s agitated shouts, they want to separate themselves from the violence and aggression that characterizes much of modern hardcore music. “I sang for a very aggressive hardcore band,” says guitarist Hans Liebold, who formerly played with Albany’s Burning Bridges. “I’d see a lot of other people who were angry on stage. After the show, they’d change into their nice clean clothes and get into their brand-new van. I’d wonder, ‘Why don’t you be real?’ That genre requires you to be angry and bitter and not nice. I’m a nice person—that’s not me. I’m not a time bomb. There seemed to be a set amount of topics for hardcore bands. You’d have to be a psychopath to really be that angry. You can only keep your fists clenched tight for so long before you forget why you’re doing it. When you see us move onstage, it’s not out of anger. I’m not angry when I play. I’m happy.”

“It is exuberance, not anger,” adds drummer Eric Busta, who also plays in the Capital Region band the Switched On.

End of a Year instead have an affinity for the music and politics of certain Washington, D.C., hardcore punk bands who flourished in the 1980s: bands like Rites of Spring, Fugazi and Ian MacKaye’s post-Minor Threat group Embrace, who brought emotionally charged lyrics and politically minded activism to hardcore music. End of a Year even take their name from a song by Embrace. “Stylistically we’re not that different from Minor Threat and bands that have actual melody but are aggressive,” says Kindlon. “We’re far from metal-influenced hardcore. I used to go to hardcore shows—”

“But now it’s an event like a hockey game,” Liebold breaks in.

“I feel it’s more like NASCAR,” cracks Kindlon. “Kids go just to see wrecks, to see who will fight who. I just can’t have anything to do with kids stepping on other kids’ heads.”

End of a Year first came together a year and a half ago when Kindlon, who splits his time between the Albany area and New York City, and guitarist Mike Five discovered their mutual fondness for the D.C. sound on a message board run by Albany hardcore label Equal Vision. Five, who at the time played in the now-defunct local act Madeline Ferguson, mentioned his interest in playing music that retained the “high energy and honesty” of the types of bands found on Dischord, MacKaye’s flagship D.C. hardcore record label. Liebold, Busta and bassist Steve Hegner—who had all played on various bills together in other local bands—were soon on board, united by their mutual taste in music.

“Mike and I were both feeling boxed in by where most of the music we listen to had gotten us,” Kindlon explains. “There’s this intense ‘love it or leave it’ attitude in hardcore. Something that was intended to be freeing can be so badly limiting. A lot of kids want something that’s very simple and has very rigid rules. In upstate New York, you can feel alienated from everyone at your school and job and you get around kids in the [hardcore scene], and they can be just as closed-minded.”

“It’s all [President] Bush’s fault—I think there’s a direct correlation,” quips Hegner. “Bush said ‘love it or leave it’ about the country.”

Kindlon’s lyrics tend to cover such themes of alienation, in a complex, introspective way. Unfortunately, the singer’s well-composed lines are not always heard over the din of the band’s live performance, but Kindlon sometimes passes out lyric sheets at gigs. “You never hear a hardcore band talking about sex in any sort of adult way,” Kindlon says, talking about the lack of frankness in most hardcore lyrics. “Let me break down the average hardcore show: You’ve got a bunch of kids, mostly dudes, between 14 and 20, that are so intensely hormonal, all they can do is yell and punch each other. Nowhere is anyone saying, ‘I’m a human being.’ You’d think sex would be on their minds, but you never hear about it. You hear about regional loyalty, and how fucked-up the scene is. I’m past the point where I want to hear about what some dude is angry at.”

As they draw inspiration from their D.C. hardcore mentors, who espoused the importance of having fun and being sincere, End of a Year take a spontaneous approach to their live performances. “It’s rare that we’ll play anything to recording,” says Busta. “When we play live, someone in the band may be doing something that’s fun for them in the moment. There’s no set list. We sometimes write songs on the spot. It’s very organic that way.”

“I never know what they’re going to play,” Kindlon adds. “I have to recognize the first note. I’m like a weird marionette. It makes it dangerous for me. I’ll trip over things. It keeps me on my toes. My biggest fear is that someone will come to our shows and think it’s supposed to sound perfect. I get afraid people will think I should actually hit notes.”

“Pat disappoints a lot of classically trained singers,” jokes Hegner.

The band’s most recent album, Disappear Here—which follows a demo CD, Warm—is slated for release next week on Albany’s Losing Face Records. Five’s own label, oneohfive records, will release the vinyl version. The band members recall feeling nervous at the time they recorded Disappear Here, which they say is reflected in the album’s tense sound. “We were under a lot of stress at the time. We were still in other bands and our jobs and certain social situations were getting to us,” explains Five.

“It’s also politics. The current state of American politics would make anyone anxious,” adds Kindlon.

Locally, End of a Year find kinship with certain local acts like Rockets and Blue Lights and the High Socks, bands who also aren’t easily categorized, and they feel most comfortable playing DIY basement shows where restrictions on age aren’t imposed and the shows aren’t highly priced. “I feel alienated from shows that are expensive,” says Kindlon. “Because I can’t pay for them, I wouldn’t want to play them. It’s sort of bogus to keep art out of people’s hands.”

“We’re not out to make money,” Liebold adds. “Music is such a business now—it’s become about who has the sickest merch. All I really want to do is play music. If we were in this to be millionaires, we’d all be on the Stairmaster and taking music lessons. We get called elitists, but we’re actually sad because we know what the [hardcore scene] was. It’s not out of pretension, it’s out of frustration. We just love music, so we’re opinionated about it.”

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