Band: Knuckle Puck
Label/Vertrieb: Rise Records/BMG/ADA Warner
Since forming in Chicago’s south suburbs a decade ago, KNUCKLE PUCK – vocalist Joe Taylor, guitarist/vocalist Nick Casasanto, guitarist Kevin Maida, drummer John Siorek, and bassist Ryan Rumchaks – have become one of the aggressive pop-punk genre’s preeminent forces thanks to a relatable lyrical approach and similarly engaging musical sensibilities.
But while audiences have filled venues around the world and the main stages of the Vans Warped Tour and Slam Dunk – not to mention their playlists – with the passion-soaked, ire-fueled songs of the quintet’s debut release, 2015’s Copacetic, and 2017’s sprawling follow-up, Shapeshifter, even Knuckle Puck themselves admit the heady introspection of their music has, at times, been a bit crushing.
“Not every song has to be an existential journey,” Casasanto says wryly. “We went into this album wanting to make people feel good about who they are and not upset about who they aren’t. There’s so much to be angry about right now, and rather than contribute to it, we wanted to give people a reason to feel good. I want people to want to listen to this record.”
Although the songs on the band’s much-anticipated third album, 20/20 (due out May 22nd, 2020 via Rise Records), at times contain the most sentimental and subdued elements of the band’s career, there’s still plenty of bite – just more deliberately placed. While Shapeshifter was the sound of the band spreading their sonic wings, mining Midwest emo influences like American Football into more expansive material, 20/20 harnesses those steps forward into more tightly calibrated packages.
“Shapeshifter was a burst of energy,” offers Taylor. “We wanted to take that energy and make it clearer, just a little more controlled.”
So while “Earthquake” leverages its buoyant bounce and ebullient lyrical sentiment into the most joyous Knuckle Puck song ever, and lead single “Breathe” (ft. Mayday Parade’s Derek Sanders) stands up as the perfect positive mantra for our current times, there are still enough subversive tactics – from diminished chords to surprising falsetto in the otherwise seething “Tune You Out” – that prove Knuckle Puck haven’t lost their edge.
In fact, 20/20 is in many ways a companion piece to Copacetic – filtering the same youthful, wide-eyed energy in a more mature, understanding way. Most importantly, it’s an album that, at its core, urges listeners to live in the here and now.
“Why sit around and think about what’s going to come?” Taylor asks rhetorically. “You’re literally watching the hands move on the clock. Get up and enjoy as much time as you can. Live more in the moment – less in the future and the past.”
Both Taylor and Casasanto will be the first to admit they themselves have been guilty of not appreciating the past few years, whether it was the particularly daunting and stressful process of making Shapeshifter or the two-plus years of touring they embarked on to support it. They each point to a song on 20/20 (“Into The Blue” and “Miles Away,” respectively) that’s reflective of how their mindset of not just being in a band, but staying afloat in today’s ADD-addled world, has changed.
“For a while, I wouldn’t pay attention to our tours,” admits Taylor, who was distant during much of the writing of Shapeshifter after the passing of his grandmother. “I couldn’t wait to go home, and soon I woke up and three or four tours had gone by while I was on autopilot. This record is a reminder to shake yourself awake and take advantage of the time you have.”
Now, three albums deep, Knuckle Puck are seemingly unconcerned with the future. They came out of the process of making Shapeshifter – an album that grappled with the idea of identity – with the clearest realization of who they are as both individuals and a collective.
With this newfound confidence in tow, they’re able to spend less time fretting about what’s to come and more time celebrating the right now: the moments that might seem inconsequential but actually impact us far more than life’s infrequent, shiny tentpoles.
This attitude has permeated every element of their lives, from the music they make to their desire to use their name and position as one of the genre’s heavy hitters to elevate younger acts. Three albums into their career, Knuckle Puck are in a rare and enviable place, capable of commanding the respect of their scene idols like New Found Glory, The Wonder Years, and Mayday Parade – all while nurturing the next generation of underground acts, for whom they themselves have become influences. (“We’re about to be old,” jokes Taylor.)
“We have a responsibility to be pushing bands forward and into the spotlight that we saw in our younger days – a responsibility to make sure it doesn’t go unheard,” Casasanto says. “It’s so cool that we have the respect of people we looked up to and can also bring new people into the picture and help make them the future. It really just makes me much more appreciative of everything we have.”
Infos zur vorherigen VÖ:
Band: Knuckle Puck
Label: Rise Records/BMG/ADA Warner
In early 2017, Knuckle Puck entered the studio to record the follow-up to Copacetic—their 2015 breakthrough that debuted in the Top 10 of five different Billboard charts, earned a nomination for Album of the Year at the 2016 Alternative Press Music Awards and launched them from the Chicago suburbs to a place among the most beloved acts of the modern pop-punk genre.
But midway through the process, the band (vocalist Joe Taylor, guitarists Nick Casasanto and Kevin Maida, bassist Ryan Rumchaks and drummer John Siorek) realized they were on the wrong path. They weren’t only making the wrong album for Knuckle Puck—they were making the wrong album for themselves. They knew they had no choice but to start from scratch.
“Having such a struggle and being so disconnected in the recording process felt wrong,” Casasanto explains. “It felt so wrong, and we were all afraid to talk about it. There was some denial when we realized what was unfolding.”
Discouraged but undefeated, the band changed producers, eventually landing back with Copacetic producer Seth Henderson, and began rebuilding the songs they’d written from the ground up. Knuckle Puck’s first attempt would have produced a fine album, but their second created the right one.
The result is Shapeshifter, due October 13 on Rise Records. Despite its title, the album isn’t a reinvention for the band; rather, it’s the sound of Knuckle Puck taking their best qualities and honing them to make them even sharper. The songwriting became tighter and more deliberate, the lyrics more introspective and urgent—without losing an ounce of the sweat-soaked authenticity and passion that made Copacetic so captivating. Above all, it’s an album that proves the band are unflinchingly unwilling to compromise when it comes to their art. That’s a sentiment reinforced throughout Shapeshifter’s main lyrical theme—the importance of identity—which was only magnified during their first studio session.
“When you reach early adulthood and start to see your life take shape, it’s also important to shape your identity and break yourself free from anything that might be holding you down,” Casasanto says. “That was a glaring parallel between what was going on with the record and what we were writing about at the time. Although it was tumultuous, I truly think we wouldn’t have written the same record without going through what we did.”
Throughout their struggle, Knuckle Puck grew stronger and more confident in themselves, something the band ultimately want listeners to take from Shapeshifter.
“I hope the album instills a little bit of hope in people,” Casasanto says. “You look at politics and how fast the world is now, everything the internet is bringing to the world. It’s difficult to form an identity when there’s so much in your face. I hope people realize they should consume the things that really speak to them. Through that, I feel like it’s the most satisfying way to be who you want to be.”