August 7, 2014
by Ryan Barnes

The First Thing is a series of conversations meant to get to the heart of a musician’s origin story.

Brendan and I share a similar upbringing. We both grew up middle class on Long Island, both played the drums, both got into punk music at a young age. Brendan now lives in Brooklyn, and I had the chance to speak with him recently over a few drinks at a corner pub.

In this interview you’ll see a lot of names mentioned that I’ll do my best to put into context – the most prominent being a band called Subterfuge. Subterfuge were legendary in our scene growing up, and members Chris Mazella, Johnny Moore, and Rick Jimenez went on to be in bands like This Is Hell, Soldiers, and Extinction AD.

Do you remember the first album you ever bought or were given?

Brendan G: I remember the very first piece of music I bought was Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Greatest Hits, like the old one. That was on tape, everything was always on tape, that’s how fuckin’ old I am. I bought that on the way to Notre Dame, we used to always drive my sister to school there. It was a 15 hour drive and we used to stop at this truck stop, and it had one of those old tape rack things with all these cassettes. And then I bought the “Streets of Philadelphia” single, the Bruce Springsteen song. So those were my literal first records.

But my first hardcore record that I can remember buying is…well, I probably had some random punk records and stuff but the first hardcore record I remember getting is a Strife record, Truth Through Defiance. Which isn’t In This Defiance, it’s the rarities and b-sides and stuff. The story behind that is I first bought, in true OG poser fashion, a Strife t-shirt at Hot Topic when I was in like 7th or 8th grade. I bought that because there was a sick live shot on the back, and I was like “I should probably listen to this band now” because I’d never heard them before. I vividly remember buying it when I was visiting my sister with my mom at the huge Virgin Megastore in Manhattan. I remember listening to it right away because I had my Discman with me and thinking it was some really crazy shit, just extremely intense. That record is just a combination of B-sides and live stuff and it’s so heavy and raw. Rick’s voice sounds crazy on it.

Did you know about Strife from friends prior to that? Or just from seeing the shirt?

[Just the] cool t-shirt. I had been into local bands, like I would go see Subterfuge who were the local hardcore band. But my realm was like, Pennywise, who I was super into and that genre. And then I was into Bush [laughs]. But I think I had like Subterfuge’s tape (DOA). God I’m so old.

Do you remember your first local hardcore show?

The years kind of blur together. One of the first was seeing Subterfuge in the Smith Haven mall, at a store called Screeeeeam, with 5 Es. And then I remember I rode past this show at The Cesspool before I knew what it was. The Cesspool was this basement venue in Smithtown and bands like Subterfuge and Center Of Zero would play there all the time. I used to ride my bike around there, and I heard them playing so I went into the show. And that was 1997 or ‘98.

What was The Cesspool like?

It was behind the Smithtown fire department. It was just this house down a dead end street. I used to ride BMX, that was what I did all the time growing up. And I didn’t know if anybody lived there, I don’t think anybody did and it was just owned by the fire department. And somehow Subterfuge had access to the house and just put on shows in its shitty basement. But I found it because I was building a quarterpipe against its garage, and I just heard music playing. I had recently gotten the first Kill Your Idols record, and they were playing it. And somebody came outside, I think it was Chris Mazella who didn’t know who I was at the time. I remember I asked him “Is that Kill Your Idols?” and he sort of answered “Yes?” like, “Who the fuck are you kid?” And we started talking, but I was just using it as an excuse to ask if I could ride there.

Is that how you ended up meeting people and going to shows all the time?

Not really, actually. I didn’t really meet the guys from Subterfuge until a lot later. Before the internet, I didn’t know anybody. If you didn’t go to my school, you were dead to me, you might as well have lived in Afghanistan. Jared Fagan (of Up The Fury) was the only other kid who listened to hardcore. So I’d go to shows with him.

What’s funny though is I remember seeing all these guys I ended up being friends with later at shows from the time we were all super young. I wouldn’t go up and say “Hey, I’m Brendan” and you couldn’t do the whole Facebook thing. I guess I was shy, or I didn’t see the need to start conversation. So I didn’t really have any friends into hardcore. Later on, [I became friends with] Tym Barash (Daytrader), who was always kind of a little kid to me, and eventually Gary (Cioni of Crime In Stereo/Daytrader.) And Jared. That was it. I didn’t have any friends into that until I was graduating high school and going to college. I was very much a lone wolf there.

Did you play in bands in high school?

My first band was called The Unthinkables. Me and Jared were in it, and two other kids. We were really bad. Started senior year. We played some house parties. Really fun, made t-shirts. It was really cool, just REALLY bad. We used to cover “Clean Sheets” by Descendents. I was getting more into hardcore and everyone else was more into punk. I tried to force everybody to cover Strife and they were not down. We used to practice in my parents’ basement.

You were playing drums at that time right? When did you start?

Yeah I played drums. I started in 6th grade. I played the drums religiously until my senior year of college. And then I moved to New York and didn’t have a means of playing. When I started Incendiary I knew I didn’t want to play drums because it was a pain in the ass, and then I just sort of fell off. I can still play, I was jamming with Brian (Audley, of Incendiary) recently. It sucks when you spend so much time learning an instrument and then you just say “well, I’m done.” So I’m trying to get back into it. It’s really disheartening when I think about it.

Did you get into drums through school or on your own?

I always wanted to play drums because my next door neighbor played them. We had this pact when we were in 5th grade about how we were all going to play the cello, god knows why. So we all played it. And it SUCKED. I was jealous of all the kids who played drums in band. So I took lessons that summer and never looked back. I played drums in symphonic band in high school.

Were you a marching band kid?

No, actually my school had the other type of band nerd. Like wear a suit at your concert and play the bass drum. My school [band] was really talented and it was cool to be in that environment. And I even played in college for a while.

When did you get your first kit?

I got my first for Christmas around 6th grade. I had this tiny kit with a snare and a cymbal made of actual garbage. And the rest of it was half of this huge double bass kit.

Incendiary started in 2007, right? Do you remember the first show?

August 5, 2007. That was our first show. It was the tour kickoff for Soldiers and Last Conviction. We opened. We had to get a fill-in bass player actually because Dan Terr went to go see The Police [laughs]. We covered Snapcase, it was at Bada Bing in Port Jefferson.

How did Incendiary end up getting together?

I knew I wanted to do a band like that and I wanted to sing. I was sick of playing the drums. The original lineup was me, Bryan Barash, Drew Olsen and Greg Santoro, who were my friends from Smithtown and played in Up The Fury, and Dan Terr, who I knew from going to shows. We played I think one or two shows with that line-up. Then they were basically all like “Okay that was cool we’re moving to Boston.” So me and Dan kept doing it. I was in graduate school at Columbia at the time, and would come back to Long Island for practice. So the rest was kind of networking, Rob [Noble] (guitar) I met through a friend, and Stray From The Path actually recommended Dan Lomeli (drummer). We went through a couple different bass player changes, and with Brian Audley we just needed a fill-in and we sort of suckered him into staying.

Do you remember the first time you played a show that the crowd really went off and you had that sense of “hey, people really like us?”

We played at this venue called the Blackbox Theater on Long Island with Backtrack in 2009. There’s video online, I just watched it recently actually. I’m wicked fat, it’s really funny. We did really well at that show. It’s one of the first times I remember kids singing along and really paying attention.

It felt like Incendiary, for a while, would be put on this weird cross section of shows. I remember seeing you guys in a span of a month or two play youth crew hardcore shows and then also play in a dive bar with straight up metal bands. Do you think the scene sort of changed tastes as the band grew?

There’s a couple things with that. Number one being that we don’t tour full-time. And that shapes a band. The local band mentality is you play every time you’re asked to play, and that’s how it should be. So that’s what we did. We would take every show we could. There was no real rhyme or reason, we weren’t at a point where we were selective about what shows we would take.

The other thing was in 2007-2008, we were the opposite of what was popular at the time. You still had the Mental, Righteous Jams thing. It was the tail-end of that, what I call the dark period of hardcore. Not a fan but I’ll leave it at that. We were playing a style of music that wasn’t really popular then. We were a little older and influenced by bands like Snapcase, so it was coming out of left field if you were a 16 year old kid. I think we were just a product of not being in vogue at the time and playing wherever we could.

Do you remember the first proper tour you did?

The first time we went out was in early 2009. We did an East Coast tour down to Florida and back. We drove in Dan’s minivan with a trailer hooked up to it. First show was in Jersey, in a snowstorm. I remember driving on the BQE in the snow with the trailer and thinking “Man, this might’ve been a bad idea.” It was shady. But it was a great time. Some of the shows were really good. For Incendiary, a week is a tour.

When we stayed in Orlando, we stayed at this guy Josh’s place.  And Crime in Stereo had told us whatever you do, don’t stay at Josh’s house. So we roll up to this house, and words can’t do it justice, but it was essentially a party house that was overrun by feral dogs and cats. There were kind of mattresses everywhere. Picture the party from Can’t Hardly Wait. The previous night you had 1000 people over, but nobody ever cleaned it up. Like beer cans in the sink, for months or years. So we showed up and were like “This is going to be rough, we better get really drunk.” So went out with Josh and got absolutely hammered, and all crashed in our sleeping bags on top of these mattresses. And we wake up the next morning, the whole place reeks. The smell of animal piss just hits you in the face. I look over at Brian, and these two dogs that are probably covered in fleas have just made him his bitch and they’re just sleeping on top of him.

The Cost Of Living’s been out for about a year now. What’s next?

We’re going to record a song for a new LIHC 631 comp, which I’m excited about. And then hopefully that’ll spur us into another 7-inch. I don’t know that we’ll ever do another full length just because we don’t have time with jobs and stuff. Last time was just such a nightmare, but maybe someday. I don’t know that we need to record anything new right away.