Hardcore upstarts Year Of The Knife have created a blistering debut full-length. ‘Internal Incarceration’ saw the group head into the studio with a scene legend, Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou, to create a brutally honest beast that reckons with loss, grief, and addiction across its breakneck 31 minutes. Guitarist Brandon Watkins tells us more.
How have you guys found 2020 so far? Bit of an odd one, isn’t it.
For sure, it’s a strange year. A lot of bad things, some good things. Overwhelming…
Are you missing being able to perform live?
Touring and playing music live is a huge part of all of our lives, so obviously we feel that absence heavily. Definitely looking forward to getting back out there once we are able to.
Had you finished ‘Internal Incarceration’ before coronavirus kicked off? What was the timeline like?
We finished before it started being a big thing in America. We left Delaware to stay in Salem MA at God City the night of 1st January, 2020 and returned home on the 10th or 11th. I watched COVID’s development in China via Twitter. Pretty scary shit.
Did you have to move the release back?
Yes, we were planning on touring and releasing the album in May.
It feels like now more than ever is a good time for a record that’s concerned with struggling, do any of the songs feel more pertinent to you now than when they were first written?
For sure. Every track on this is super personal to Tyler [Mullen, vocals]. I find new things I can relate to every time I listen to it, and I think despite it being really personal to all of us, it will resonate with a lot of people. A stand out track for anyone is ‘Virtual Narcotic’. Social media has made everyone fucking nuts.
Are all the tracks inspired by personal events?
Our music is based in reality, no bullshit.
What were your ambitions for this record when you first embarked upon writing it?
This record has been a long time coming. Originally Tyler played drums in YOTK. He and I used to write the songs together. We wrote ‘Nothing to Nobody’ in like 2016. We had a different singer then. As time went on and our band dynamic changed, the way we write has changed. Newer tracks like ‘This Time’, my intention was to really push our music in a more extreme direction while still incorporating our hardcore flavour. I think our range of influences is very apparent across this record. I just wanna play heavy, fast music.
To what extent is innovating important to you?
Ultimately I strive to create heavy, dynamic music that will hold up over time. I’m always listening to old shit, new shit, and my own shit and trying to push myself to write something better. If it ends up being something new that has influence on others, that’s cool, but that isn’t the driving force to my writing.
How did you team up with Kurt Ballou? What was that partnership like?
Kurt has worked on some Pure Noise bands in the past. We’re Converge fans. I heard ‘Jane Doe’ for the first time when I was 14, and it truly blew my mind. I’m 28 now, and I own almost all their records. They’re a perfect band. Working with Kurt was truly working with one of my heroes, and I know that’s true for most of us. It was really incredible to take the songs to Kurt and to have him really listen to them, make suggestions and brainstorm ideas to take the songs to a new level. Kurt truly is a God. Don’t even get me started on the tones of this record.
Is there anyone else you’d really like to get into the studio with?
Kurt was and still is at the top of my list. We would all love to work with him again. I haven’t thought much on working with other people, but I’m an open-minded person.
What’s next for Year of the Knife?
After ‘Internal Incarceration’, who knows? Whatever the fuck we want.
Taken from the August issue of Upset. Year Of The Knife’s debut album ‘Internal Incarceration’ is out 7th August.