State Of The EZ Union: A Discussion of the Easycore Community and Sophomore Slump Fest

Easycore is a relatively new subgenre in the punk community. While most of its lyrical content revolves around positivity and coming together, it usually only receives flack for not taking itself seriously enough. Recently that has changed after media exposure that revealed unacceptable behavior and dangerous rhetoric from a prominent figure in the scene. This reveal caused impressions of the scene to turn sour and eventually triggered the indefinite postponement of Take It Easycore Fest, the world’s largest easycore-centric festival. Following the soft cancellation, Sophomore Slump Fest was announced in Ashville, North Carolina on Aug. 5-6, the same dates as the original TIE Fest. In an attempt to reveal the positives, I held a focus group and sat with down with members of Knockout Kid and Action/Adventure to talk about their take on the situation and the transition between festivals, and also Michaela Kramer of Cup Check, who is also prominent in the easycore scene to talk about their experiences in the scene.

Babetalk: If everyone just wants to go in a circle and introduce yourselves and what you do.

Wade Hunt: Hey, Wade here! I sing in Knockout Kid.

Jake Fuerst: Hi, I’m Jake, I play guitar and also try to sing, scream, or yell in Knockout Kid as well.

Brompton Jackson: I’m Brompton and I am in Action/Adventure and I do some music stuff involving pieces of wood and my voice, so that’s cool.

Blake Evaristo: I’m Blake and I sing in Action/Adventure.

Michaela Kramer: And I’m Michaela and I sing in Cup Check.

BT: Just to start off, how did some of you go from being on the Take It Easycore Fest to being on Sophomore Slump? How was that transition for you?

JF: Uncomfortable.

BJ: It was kinda random. It wasn’t really expected. Basically what happened is TIE Fest got cancelled, we were kinda bummed. Us and Knockout Kid have a tour pretty much scheduled around getting down there to that fest. We ended up really being like “well, what are we gonna do now? Our tour ends three days early, and they have three random days off on the East Coast. Originally we were trying to find shows in Philadelphia or like Georgia or something. We ended up being able to hop on this new fest and it’s really awesome because it sticks with the tour routing and it really kinda shows the strength of the scene in general.

JF: Because most people probably have the gist of what happened. The original TIE Fest kinda fell apart in the wake of a number of just really horrific comments made against LGBTQ and other marginalized peoples by the promoter of the festival and the community kinda came together and said “So many bands and so many fans and friends are coming from across the country to North Carolina to do this thing. Those hateful voices are such an extremely small percentage of the situation and we’re not gonna let that ruin it. The least we can do is do some positive stuff in the wake of the negative, because in general the scene is overwhelmingly supportive of each other.

BP: the whole thing that happened before and the comments that were made are really not representative of the scene in general. Really it’s fairly simple to issues that are happening in other music scenes and other facets of music. The only thing that was different with this situation is that the offending parties were people who unfortunately were bigger voices. There are certain things where you say “that’s just wrong.”

JF: There are people who say “a joke’s a joke,” but if you’re in a position of power, you have a voice, and you have influence over people you have to be careful what you say. We’re hoping that all of our voices here hold some position of power. We can’t undo what’s happened, but we can at least start a conversation in the right direction, because this archaic rhetoric and hateful language still happens all the time.

BP: If we can kind of just get people to be a little more open-minded and really see that this is about the music and making connections with people based on common interest, that’s what’s important. The fact that this festival was basically able to be organized in a week and a half is amazing and really shows the strength of the scene.

BT: Would you say any of you guys received backlash as artists for being involved in the fest?

JF: I think every Easycore band received a level of backlash simply for being guilty by association.

WH: There were no personal attacks though that I can recall.

JF: yeah, I don’t think any of really got personally attacked for it. I think there was some call for almost every easycore band to make a statement and be feelsy about it. If anything we caught flack for not responding fast enough, but really it was about not yelling louder while everyone else is yelling and not adding fuel to the fire. You can’t listen if everyone’s yelling.

BJ: we didn’t get a lot of personal attacks or anything, it was a lot of everybody urging everybody who was on the fest to drop it. It was a bummer because, it was just one person. It was just one promoter. I understand he had a voice, but when you look at the 26 other bands that were on the fest, there are a lot more people involved and behind-the-scenes. It’s not just about that one person. The cool thing about this new festival, which is obviously not related to TIE Fest at all, is that these are bands that are from all over the place that don’t usually get to play shows together and really only know each other from the Internet. They wouldn’t normally be able to see all of these bands in one place. It really gives people a chance to put this on festival for two days and really just make this happen. We didn’t necessarily get individual attacks but there was a lot of people pushing for us to speak out against TIE fest. But I’m not against it. I’m against the hateful and terrible things that were said. I completely support the idea of bringing everyone together for the sake of this awesome genre that’s done so much.

JF: I agree. Separating easycore as a community from the extremism is critical. In every group. *video feed cuts out*

BT: I love the Internet.

*everyone laughs. Tony is funny.*

JF: I’ve been a sound guy for five years, I’ve never seen people stay from the first band to the last band the way people do for easycore and pop-punk as a genre. They really come together in a way I don’t see in other genres, including metal which I’ve played in for a while. So while Easycore has always been a joke about just being with your friends, it’s really about making new friends honestly and that’s something we didn’t want to lose. The fest was always supposed to be about the music and the community, not about a political statement. But now that it has become political, we don’t want to be silent. We have to stand up and say something about: we don’t support any of what has been said. We just want to play music and do something positive.

BT: What’s one thing you hope people that are going to Sophomore Slump Fest will take away from it at the end of the day?

JF: Uh, hopefully our merch.

BE: That’s the thing though, it’s so DIY. No one understand that. They see all the flyer and don’t know who any of these bands are, but that’s the thing. These bands are so grassroots and are going way out of their way for this festival and that’s the thing. We’re all in this scene to get together as one. It’s dope.

BJ: It’s really cool. I want people to look around like “wow the local scene is starting to thrive again.” It’s not just bands that are on labels*cough* KNOCKOUT KID *cough* but y’know.

BE: It’s giving small bands a chance.

JF: We just want people to take away that the whole scene is a place for girls too. It might just be me but I feel like, not so much that girls aren’t allowed, but that the scene’s not being as inclusive as it could be. The bands and artists that do have girls are killing.

BE: Cup Check!

JF: I think what happened with TIE is that there was a lot misogyny put into the music scene but most professionals in the industry can tell you it’s really nothing like that. We love everyone.

BJ: A lot of people are saying things about easycore not being tolerant of people with other lifestyle choices or other races. If you look actually look in the community, there’s a little bit of everyone. If you look at our band, we’re all minorities, there’s not a single white person in our band. It’s really funny to me because people are always like “the scene’s so intolerant” and I’m like, then how are we even existing?

JF: I’ve always wondered that though, do you guys ever experience anything negative for the way you look?

BJ: Honestly, no.

BE: They love it actually. There was one time that after the set this girl came up to me and said “I loved your guys’ set! You’re like the Asian Wonder Years!” and afterwards I was like “Badass!”

BJ: It’s 2016 man, people want to make an issue sometimes. There are so many things going on right now that need our attentnion, but people want to stop and say hurtful things and that’s a bummer, but the scene is awesome. They’re all really accepting, I’ve only had good experiences.

JF: It’s sad when you get that one person who just says something that goes against everything you believe in, saying basic click-bait stuff. It’s that typical hateful language that gets everyone riled up and makes people think an entire group of people are hateful because I really haven’t seen that in any other community.

BT: How are ways that you guys contribute to fighting against bigotry and misogyny in your everyday life, either in or out of the music scene?

MK: Personally, I haven’t really experienced much of that against me. But when I see people saying or commenting shit about how the community sucks I always try to defend the people that I know are right. My views are not the same as his [Josh Mason] views, and Brompton’s views aren’t the same as his views. The whole scene being attacked for that wasn’t cool, and I try to make sure that people understand that.

JF: I agree with that. What I kept seeing was people saying “Why would you agree to do a fest with someone who openly has those views?” and the answer is: no one really knew he had these opinions, but the fact that we had this opportunity to bring all these people together for this positive community was so massive to us. The cool thing originally about TIE Fest, and now Sophomore Slump Fest, is that it’s allowing the community to come together in a way that it never has before.

BJ: Yeah, I didn’t really sign up to hang out with this promoter. I signed up because I wanted to hang out with a bunch of my friends that I haven’t gotten to meet before or hear bands that I love that I’ve never had a chance to see live before because they’re in California or the East Coast. To me it was a little insane that the festival itself was so closely intertwined with one person’s point of view. When you look at everyone involved, that’s 26 bands with an average of 4 people per band, that’s over  100 people, not to mention everyone else working on it. He’s literally less than 1%.

BE: I think going back to the question, when the news broke out about TIE Fest, everyone was real down about it and a lot of us wanted to talk down about us. But a lot of people including us, we were there to listen. We weren’t trying to defend the festival, we trying to talk to people and say “Hey we understand you’re upset, this is why we feel this way.” We just want to push things forward and progress, but sometimes you have to sit back and listen. I wasn’t bashing people and telling them that they’re wrong. You really have to create conversation and leave things open.

JF: Exactly. We’re just as hurt and confused by this too, so the best way to handle it is to talk about.

BE: And that’s the thing, we didn’t come in just trying to defend anything. We just listened and said “What’s up?” Because sometimes people don’t want to listen and things don’t go anywhere.

JF: And we’re not here saying “oh this festival is so much better than the other festival.” We’re just saying that this festival really just defines everything that’s good about this scene. It’s literally so overwhelmingly positive. The community is unique. We don’t really say that we’re an easycore band anymore, but we don’t want to see the genre ruined by one person’s words.

WH: I’ve never met Josh, most of the bands have never met him. So for him to somehow be some representative voice is kinda weird. So us doing damage control on this one guy that we know nothing about is strange.

BT: You get all these people on the internet and you see one guy on your newsfeed who’s been posting in all these groups and doing so much for a scene, they kind of become an embodiment of a genre. So when you see this person suddenly spewing hateful language, it gets really disorienting and gets taken by storm.

JF: Yeah, after it all happened, I kinda went back and looked at his profile and everything and saw indicators where if I had maybe vetted him beforehand I might have seen throught the cracks. But then again, we’ve played so many shows, and 99% of them, there’s never been an issue, so I guess with something this big we never thought this would’ve happened. But we’re not trying to make excuses. This isn’t going away, it happened. Only time can heal it, but easycore as genre itself is not the root cause of this. It’s not logical.

BT: What are you first experiences in easycore?

JF: City Lights!

MK: Twins.

WH: I’m old school, New Found Glory

BJ: New Found Glory for me too. Wade, we’re old man.

BT: How would you describe easycore?

JF: Isn’t it just pop-punk with breakdowns?

BE: Dude it’s such an umbrella term now because easycore has evolved man. There’s so many subgenres now it’s insane. But I like that there’s so many facets, because no one is like an “EZ Elitist” like “Oh no, that’s EZ Crab!” or “That’s EZ 1.0!” But like you said, at the end of the day, it’s just pop-punk with breakdowns.

JF: Easycore fans are so open-minded. I love it.

BT: How would you describe your experiences in the easycore scene?

BJ: I think it’s great.

JF: I can’t think of a bad example honestly. It’s just a bunch of kids having fun. Like when I go to a show, it has the pit but none of the violence.

WH: I’ve never seen any fights or scrums ever.

BJ: Never.

JF: Honestly, I hardly even hear about people getting robbed.

BJ: Yeah, everyone’s really there to hang out with each other.

JF: At easycore shows, I always meet the most people.

BE: My favorite thing is where easycore and the Internet community come together and everyone listens to everything. I’ve noticed that in this community, we will listen to any band that’s really trying and really wants to make it.

JF: when people ask how to get more support the answer is: support other people. I found out first-hand, the more I started participating in the scene, the more it came back, which is really how it should work.

WH: We’re not much different from the pop-punk community, because that’s what we are at the core.

BT: Speaking of, easycore is sort of the midway between hardcore and pop-punk. How would you say the shows differ?

BJ: They really don’t.

JF: They both get pretty rowdy and hardcore is pretty inclusive, but the difference is in hardcore if you break your nose in the pit, no harm no foul. In easycore, you probably just won’t break your nose. [laughs] I grew up in metal and while I still love it, easycore has all of the positives of metal minus the elitism, violence –

WH: and the B.O.

BJ: yeah, people don’t usually stink at pop-punk shows.

JF: and pop-punk is still working on being inclusive, but metal definitely has a bigger problem with it, so it’s good to see easycore being  a step ahead in that sense.

BJ: What I didn’t understand was people were calling for the disbandment of the entire scene and I’m like, you want everyone to stop what they’re doing. I devoted my life to this and you want me to just stop?

WH: and all because of some guy who doesn’t even play music.

JF: Which is why we want to talk. Here’s one dude who has hateful and shitty opinions, but here’s five who don’t. We want everyone to be involved.

BE: Back to the question, the shows are the same, but our merch is definitely different [laughs] no tree branch logos.

BT: How would you describe the easycore community locally?

BE: Chicago is nuts

MK: It’s pretty cool here.

BE: It’s funny cause people say easycore doesn’t need any reviving, but if you look at the bands that are here now and weren’t a couple years ago then you know: it’s happening.

JF: I think every music scene is pretty cyclical but easycore is on the rise again and I think it’s something people thought would go permanently, but no it’s never gonna go away. It’s the same way with pop-punk. I think a lot of people thought it was gonna die and that’s why we got Defend Pop-punk, but no, it’s not gonna die. We won’t let it happen.

BE: I’m seeing a lot of easycore bands popping up. Before there was a few bands that kinda fizzled out when it became uncool, but now so many bands are starting to get their traction. More bands are starting to add breakdowns, intentionally or not, and some are starting to just change their overall sound and it’s like “are you going easycore on me?”

JF: But like we don’t hate that. We love it.

BE: No I go crazy over it. Like Neck Deep had a song and they were like “YES!”

BJ: It’s so much more fun playing two styles of music as opposed to just one.

WH: We can get away with going out into the crowd and crowd killing. Having the hardcore mentality as a frontman, coming from post-hardcore, metal, hardcore bands, no matter what genre of music I play. I could be playing bubblegum pop and I’d still be in there.

MK: Being female, in this scene, there aren’t a lot of bands with girls in them. The only time I was ever offended by anything didn’t have anything to do with me. It was this one band called As We Once Were, from the south suburbs. They have a female drummer and somebody called them “The Other Band with the Girl in It.”

JF: Yeah, and why should that even matter? As long as you’re good at what you do, and even if you’re not good, it shouldn’t matter who you are or what you look like.

MK: Yeah, do what you wanna do. Fuck the haters. Why should their opinion matter? But seriously, you guys are so supportive of me personally. Of all the bands in the scene here, and I can’t get back to the merch table because y’all are bombarding me with compliments and it feels so good like I’m not a minority in this scene. Like the comments I remember are the ones the band members give me because you guys make me feel safe and like I belong and in this scene and that’s super cool.

JF: Thanks, and no offense but we don’t just do that because you’re a girl.

BJ: Everybody should feel safe, everybody should be equally included. There shouldn’t be some weird gender divide or anything like that. And I love our scene because I see tons of girls come out to our shows or in our pit all the time. It’s awesome. It’s really a cool thing. There’s a decent amount of girls that are into easycore, because they’re into pop-punk. You see a lot of that; people are into pop-punk because they’re into easycore or they’re into easycore because they’re into pop-punk. But here’s the thing: they’re the exact same thing, one of them is just more aggressive.

BE: And that’s the thing, everyone wants it be one or the other but like ¿porque no los dos? It’s almost like you’re only allowed to like one, but no dude.

JF: I don’t anyone who listens to just easycore or just pop-punk. Who even listens to just one thing?

BT: So as a whole you would say Easycore is a pretty inclusive genre?

BJ: Yeah, and unfortunately it gets a stigma because the vocal minority like to scream really really, really, really loud so it seems like there’s more negative people with that mindset. But I don’t think that’s how the scene really is, and I think that they’re just the true minority. We’re about to leave on tour with Knockout Kid, and if I didn’t feel safe, there’s no way I’d be travelling in the van across the country with a bunch of other minorities to go to these shows where we’re not welcome. I’ve never felt uncomfortable or out of place or none of that. It’s one of those things where you do because you enjoy doing it and if people love then good, it’s what you need to keep going. I’ve never run into a situation where I’ve been discriminated against. I’m sure it happens in all genres of music, but I think I’m lucky enough to not have experienced that and I’m grateful for it because my local scene is really great. We’re all a bunch of friends.

BT: I’m not too familiar with all of y’all’s touring experience but where else have you guys seen the Easycore scene booming outside of your local scene?

BJ: Ohio and Indianapolis

MK: Indianapolis for sure.

JF: Cleveland, Columbus Ohio.

WH: Long Island, New York, Southern California, even Canada.

JF: Canada has a shockingly good community. They’re really EZ.

BE: What’s cool about these communities is that they’re really niche. But when you find people, you find so many people that are in it. 

JF: It does seem like the people that love it really love it.

BE: And you don’t see it in the forefront but when you see it, you see it everywhere.

BT: As an opportunity to just shout out people you see really busting their asses in the scene, who have you noticed that are just on the rise?

BE: Nick Collis!

WH: Nick Collis.

BJ: Nick Collis…..

WH: There are a few buddies of mine in a band called Legend of You from Queens, New York.

JF: Abandoned by Bears. They’re from Sweden, they’re the sweetest dudes. Bad Case of Big Mouth is making their mark for sure.

BE: Not an easycore band, but Tiny Kingdoms.

WH: Okay, just one more: Capstan out of Orlando blew me the fuck away. Some of the best dudes I’ve ever met.

BT: What is one last thing you want to say to the naysayers who still think that easycore is bogus.

JF: Honestly some people have been personally offended and we’re sorry, but with some we can’t fix it. The only thing we can say is that we’re working to make sure that these mistakes don’t happen again. But I guess the only way to prove that is through time and action.

BJ: Give everybody a chance. Not everybody in the scene holds or even remotely agrees with those views. That’s why I think Sophomore Slump Fest is so important in bringing people together and unity and being around people who share similar interests. It’s like a family.

JF: The internet brings out the vocal minority so don’t take one person’s opinion too heavily.

BE: Give the music a chance. Everyone wants to make this easycore thing all about politics and it’s unfortunate that this happened, but at the end of the day, we’re just dudes making music. Just take a minute to listen to the music.

Sophomore Slump Fest will be held Aug. 5-6 in Ashville, North Carolina and all Take It Easycore tickets that have been purchased will be honored at the doors.

Last modified: August 2, 2016