[Photo by: Ellie Mitchell]
After a number of member defections, Old Wounds have returned determined to raise post-hardcore to a much-needed, long-overdue, next-level status. After much fan speculation, frontman Kevin Iavaroni has returned to the band; and to further cement their conviction, Old Wounds teamed up with the Widow Brothers directing team of Michael R. Garcia and Michael Elinn to deliver a video for a new song, “Only Your Enemies Leave Roses,” which AP is premiering today.
Listen to “Only Your Enemies Leave Roses” and watch the music video below:
The last 11 months have been a wild ride for the New Jersey-based post-hardcore outfit, thanks to plenty of hairpin turns and ejector-seat member changes that began last November, when the charismatic Iavaroni left the band quickly and without much explanation, citing a desire to attend cosmetology school. Undaunted, the band soldiered on with drummer Brandon Gallagher (the band’s original vocalist) re-assuming the frontman position and guitarist Matt Guyre moving over to the drumkit. By this past July, however, Gallagher announced his resignation, setting the scene for Iavaroni to return to the band. Then on Oct. 16, the band’s final original member guitarist Zak Kessler, abruptly quit, citing an extreme displeasure with Old Wounds opening for two dates in support of metalcore avatars Eighteen Visions. Kessler’s problem was with a member of one of the other supporting acts on the bill, who he named as being abusive to women in the underground music community.
Iavaroni spoke with Jason Pettigrew about all the activity surrounding the band in the past year, including (but certainly not limited to) why he left 11 months ago, how the band are addressing Kessler’s sudden departure (as well as the attendant political and ethical situations) and why his heart says Old Wounds—Iavaroni, bassist Michael Weintraub, drummer Matt Guyre and new guitarist Ben Waugh (from Canadian hardcore act Exalt) and additional live guitarist Lumpy (of Long Island metalcore outfit Sanction)—is where he should be right now.
“We’re playing a show on Halloween with Motionless In White,” Iavaroni says. “It’s a cool show that I’m really looking forward to. I need to let off some steam, and I have some stress that needs relieving. That will mark my return to the stage. I’m looking forward to it. This has been a long, exhausting year for me.”
“Only Your Enemies Leave Roses” is a sweet document on where Old Wounds are right now. It captures everything the band are about while taking it up a notch.
We wrote the song right before I decided to leave the band. There was some arguing amongst the bandmates over whether or not it should be released. There’s a sung chorus in there—something we had never done before—but I like to sing and it’s something I’d like to do in some of our newer songs. When I told the band that I wanted to start playing shows with them again, I jokingly told them we’d have to use “the song that has that singing part in it.” [Laughs.] I’m really pleased with the video, too. Before that, all of our videos were just of us playing live. I am incredibly grateful that [the directors] were willing to fly in from California to work on it with us.
This brings up a point: Is there an overarching mentality in modern hardcore where the fans want, maybe demand that their bands stay frozen in amber, artistically?
As far as a lot of our contemporaries go, they kind of shun the clean singing vocals style over hardcore music. But I’ve always liked bands who didn’t write the same record over and over again. Those bands were about trying something that [was] new, fun and interesting to them. I’m sure a lot of bands make fun of us. I’m not the best singer in the world by any means, but I can do some things so I wanted to try something new.
Let’s rewind back to November when you announced via social media that you were leaving Old Wounds. You put in the psychic and sweat equity doing Warped Tour, then the Beartooth tour and then you were gone.
I was purposely vague in my post and there was a lot of stuff going on in my life that I didn’t feel the need to make a public announcement about. We did a tour with Aiden, we did Warped, we did the Every Time I Die/Beartooth tour. We did four or five consecutive tours where we didn’t take a break, ever.
I’m not trying to hit you with a sad story here, but I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when I was 5. I’ve been in and out of hospitals since that age. [On tour], I felt myself getting sick. I hadn’t taken my meds for quite some time. I wasn’t in a good place physically or mentally. As soon as I made the announcement that I wanted to step down from the band, I was hospitalized: I made the announcement in late December and on Feb. 1, I was hospitalized. I had so much inflammation, my colon actually turned on its side and I had to get emergency surgery. I had my second surgery this past August.
Me and the guys in Old Wounds come from a long-term friendship. They were telling me, “This isn’t the same without you. Can we find a way to make this work, with both your health and going to hair school?” I was thinking about this. I grew up listening to punk rock music and going to shows. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to play in a band. I’m 25 years old, and I felt that I don’t want to be in the biggest band in the world, I just want to see the world and have fun with my friends, you know? I don’t want to be some huge successful dude [in music]; I want to write music that’s important to me and hopefully helpful to other people and others. It’s very therapeutic for me to let out my aggression. I don’t do drugs: Going onstage and performing is my release.
When you resigned from the band, did you get a lot of resentment from fans? Like, “Why’d you leave and ruin my favorite band?”
Not at all. I got messaged pretty frequently from fans who wished I was still in the band. When I was hospitalized, I made a post about my surgeries. Hundreds of people messaged me wishing me well. I didn’t know most of them. This is why I owed these people to get back on my feet and give them some new music. Once I finish barber school, we will be touring and we’ll have a new record. There was stuff left unsaid and things I still wanted to do with Old Wounds, so I felt it was pretty important for me to come back.
What was the dynamic like when Brandon was still in the band? He seems to be happy where he is right now, doing design work playing in new bands and working with his publicity company.
I’m going to be real, and I’m going to be honest. For the longest time, Brandon and I always butted heads. There was always this tension and friction between us. People didn’t see it from the stage—how could they?—but in the van or backstage, we had our quarrels. I’m going to be very respectful in saying this, but I wish him well. And even if he doesn’t wish me the same, it’s all good. I’m going to keep the PMA. Even though he and I aren’t eye-to-eye with this, I hope he finds success and happiness in what he’s doing now. I’m feeling a sense of rebirth: I’ve had two serious surgeries this year, and I’m not going to dwell on the fact that he and I couldn’t get along. I respect him; he has a great work ethic, but his work ethic is not mine.
Speaking of work ethics, Old Wounds wrote and recorded “Roses” and did a video. There’s a new Old Wounds album next year. You have new members and the dynamic is different. So how do you think the album will turn out? A continuation of what the band are about, the proverbial next-level vibe or taking a hammer to the reset button?
Honestly? It might be a bit of all of that. We’re not going to change who we are at the core: an aggressive, chaotic, horrific [Laughs] bunch that are gonna get up onstage, play for 25 minutes, not say much between songs and make it the hardest, heaviest, fastest thing you ever heard. A lot of the new stuff has a lot more melody on it. We’re looking to get into the studio in spring, so I can complete cosmetology school, then we could have an album released sometime next summer or fall. We’re working hard; the schedules are a bit trickier, but this is the most fun and the most organic we have ever been as a group. I really enjoy the stuff we’ve been coming up with, and I hope other people will, too.
Then just as you made a stunning video, Kessler decides he’s going to leave the band. The internet warriors have plenty of opinions why, but nothing resembling facts.
I don’t want to go into any specifics because whatever Zak’s feelings are, they have absolutely nothing to do with myself or the members of Old Wounds. We’ve always been advocates of women in the punk and hardcore scenes, and we’ve always chosen to handle things in a responsible, non-violent way.
When I wasn’t in the band, Zak had upped, moved to Boston and got married. That raised some eyebrows with other members of Old Wounds, even when I was undecided if I was going to reclaim my position in the band. It was disconcerting to the other guys that the distance thing gets in the way when we want to practice, get together and write new songs or whatever. When I finally decided to rejoin the band and get the gears in motion, Mikey, Matt and I worked very, very hard trying to get new songs together, lyrics written, artwork ready to go and get the video shot. We did a lot of things and Zak was very absent. We felt that it was important that we continue this band without him. Which sucks, because Zak is one of my best friends. We felt his presence was stagnant. And as much as I—and everyone in Old Wounds—loves him dearly, it was best to continue this without him. Otherwise, we would have remained stagnant.
What you’re explaining sounds like he was working the “you can’t fire me, I quit” vibe.
I haven’t talked to him in quite some time. I’m not going to say harsh things about him like he tried to do with us. I love Zak. He is one of my best friends. I hope one day we can speak again. Right now, I feel really hurt by his way of letting the world know he’s not in the band anymore. There are always two sides to every story, no matter the story, and his story is very self-serving and vindictive. Old Wounds have always stood up for equality in the DIY scene, and that hasn’t changed. That will never change, no matter what show we will be playing. I’d like it to be known that we will always handle things in a professional and respectful way with all parties’ permission.
In light of Zak’s allegations regarding the member of Tourniquet whose behavior is questionable, how are Old Wounds addressing that?
No matter what you do, you’re not going to please everyone. When Eighteen Visions asked us if we wanted to play these shows, we agreed without even looking at the lineup. Eighteen Visions have influenced the sound of this band: Why wouldn’t we want to play a show with them? When the shows were announced, we had seen the lineup, we all voiced our opinions on the matter. I don’t know the story [regarding Tourniquet]. When I don’t know the story, it’s not my story to tell and bring it to light. I’m the type of person who is very hands-on: If I have an issue, it will be addressed in person. It won’t be brought to the internet’s light—that’s not what I do.
Zak had an issue. We addressed the situation and came up with a game plan. We were planning—and still intend to—donate the proceeds from these shows to various women’s shelters. I have communicated with many different outlets who deal in abuse and helping people who have been victimized in any way. I’ve talked to numerous counsellors and they have all voiced their opinion that what we wanted to do was the responsible route without bringing one story to light that is not ours to tell. I have no room to really talk about this because we’re not involved. We want to help all parties seek any kind of help. Zak had agreed and the next day, brought all this attention upon himself. We all agreed to go about it one way and he basically went on his own to do something. I still feel we can help people, regardless about how Zak feels about it.
There are still evil people in this world. Even in a community where they say, “everyone is accepted, we don’t put up with this, this and this,” there are still people who don’t support that, and they are not good people. I was planning about talking about this at the shows without throwing anyone’s name in the fire. We are doing everything we can to communicate with people, to make this a learning process for everyone, so if there are people that need counseling or some sort of help, we’re going to show them outlets where to reach out.
I’ve worked really hard to get this ball in motion. Mikey [Weintraub] has lost so much sleep over getting this back to where it should be. We’re not letting any bump in the road be a damper on what we’re trying to do. We always wanted to be the band where everyone at the show was accepted. That’s not changing. We intend to be the band that is always going to help people and do the right thing.
Last question: Was there a particular point in the last few months of the band where you were hanging with your bandmates and something clicked in your head that made you think, “Old Wounds is where I have to be right now?”
Absolutely. I spent a week-and-a-half in the hospital after my first surgery. Two days after that, I went to hang out with the guys in the practice studio. It’s this tiny room with no windows, no air conditioning—it’s the hottest, sweatiest room you’ve ever been in. Even when you’re not playing, you’re just sitting in there, sweating.
We were talking, and somebody said something stupid and we were all laughing our asses off. And it just felt right to be around those guys. We played some of the old songs. I probably shouldn’t have done this, but I had just gotten out of the hospital and wasn’t being very cautious. I could’ve ripped a stitch. Once we all came together, it was really cool. I was home. alt
Catch Old Wounds on tour through 2018. At Starland Ballroom in New Jersey, Kevin will take the stage for the first time since rejoining the band. Check out the tour dates below:
11/25 – Sayreville, NJ @ Starland Ballroom
12/14 – Baltimore, MD @ Baltimore Soundstage
12/15 – Worcester, MA @ Palladium
12/17 – New York, NY @ Gramercy Theatre