Punk isn’t dead …

… it just sounds different

 By Tim Anderl

Photo: The Tillers performing at Fitzgeralds Nightclub in Chicago

In 2013, with an immense world of music just mouse clicks away, what was once considered punk is almost completely irrelevant. While tenants of the ideology still exist, the punk sound often barely resembles the aggressive, three-chord racket made famous by Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Black Flag or even Fugazi.
Earlier this summer, two Ohio bands released records demonstrating just how divergent the punk roadmap has become; Dayton’s Mouth of The Architect released their devastatingly heavy experimental metal record, Dawning, while Cincinnati’s The Tillers deliver old-timey, Appalachian holler via Hand on the Plow. While both bands possess considerable punk pedigree, which shines through distinctly in their respective output, these records are also clearly distant cousins of the ’70s counterculture sound.

Dayton City Paper caught up with Mouth of the Architect vocalist Kevin Schindel and Mike Oberst (vocalist/banjoist/fiddleist/harmonicaist/kazooist) of The Tillers, asking a couple questions about each of the records. This is what they told us.

The Tillers

 The Tillers don’t just sing and play their homegrown brand of joyful, driving old-timey music – they holler, stomp, swagger and swing, fearlessly throwing themselves into the music and winding up in the hearts of their audiences. But they’re not your typical folk revivalists – the self-described recovering punk rockers balance the drive and grit of their roots in Cincinnati’s hardcore scene with the country traditions of their old-time material. Hand on the Plow, which dropped via Muddy Roots Music Recordings in July, shows a band who are at once heirs to the tradition of Appalachian songs of protest, and relentless innovators of the genre.

When did you begin writing the material for your most recent album?

I began writing on Jan. 1 2012 as a project to write a song a day. I only made it through 14 days, but in that time period came up with the lyrics for “Shanty Boat,” “Tecumseh on the Battlefield” and “Willy Dear.” It was definitely one of my more prolific time periods! The music came along a bit later. -Mike Oberst

Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?

In the time these songs were written, we were working hard and playing harder. Endless amounts of time booking shows around the country and trying to keep up with being a do-it-yourself (D.I.Y.) band. Think of the album as an anthem for all the bands like us working hard and sweating it out on the stage every night for the love of the good, old-time music – a music that may not be the most popular, but that is real and true and one that can be loved by any age or race. “Keep your hand on the plow and holding on” is what we’re talking about. Keep on keeping the music from the heart! -MO

Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?

We started playing these songs for small shows in Cincinnati almost immediately after writing them. Half the process of letting a song find its own way is playing it live. The emotion you feel within a song while trying to give it to another human being really helps to shape what that song will turn into. -MO

For more information on The Tillers, please visit the-tillers.com.



Mouth of the Architect

 For decades now, the members of Mouth of the Architect have been deep in the trenches of Dayton’s punk, metal and hardcore scenes. Their current endeavor, MOTA, has reached post metal cult status, and deservedly so. Dawning, the band’s most recent full-length is a fully realized, triumphant record that has earned high accolades since its release via Translation Loss this summer – including a glowing review from Pitchfork. The band recently returned from a full-court-press of tour dates in support of the album, including a support slot on Intronaut’s headlining tour, and their own headlining romp in Europe.

When did you begin writing the material for your most recent LP?

We started writing in 2011. Steve Brooks was living in Detroit, so he’d come down and we would jam for quite a few days at a time. Sometimes we would be working on a couple songs at a time. We’d go home, work on our individual parts and then bring our new ideas to the table. Steve was the brain behind most of the songs. We would write the riffs together and he would come up with the arrangements. -Kevin Schindel

What did you hear when you experienced Dawning in its finished form?

When I hear the album, I find the soundtrack to a post-apocalyptic nightmare. It’s extremely violent, angry and depressing, while hinting that there is still some kind of hope. -KS

The touring for Dawning just recently wrapped. Where has the band been and what has the reaction been?

MOTA recently finished up a tour with Intronaut and went straight to Europe for a headlining tour, playing shows in Russia, including Moscow and St. Petersburg; places the band had never been before. It’s all been extremely exciting for everyone. Of the new material, I’d say “Sharpen Your Axes” is one of our stronger songs live. It starts out mellow and mysterious, and then ends with one of the heaviest moments on the album. –KS

For more information on Mouth of the Architect, please visit mouthofthearchitect.com. 

 Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Anderl at TimAnderl@DaytonCityPaper.com.


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