Back in 2019, Shin Guard took the world of screamo/post-hardcore by storm with two of the year's best albums, 2020 and the Death of Spring split with For Your Health. That made the anticipation very high when the band started teasing a new album, but then the pandemic hit, Shin Guard cancelled their tour, and 2020 ended without any sign of a new LP. Now, new music is finally here, but it's probably not what you expected.
Shin Guard as we knew them are no more. They've changed their name to Hazing Over, shifted their lineup a bit, and they've got a much heavier sound. They amicably parted ways with guitarist Alex Walsh, and while Shin Guard frequently featured various members trading vocals, Hazing Over finds bassist/vocalist Jake Yencik handling all lead vocals and turning bass duties over to new member Shantanu Vyas. "It's like the halfway point between a new band and not a new band," guitarist/songwriter Owen Traynor told us.
As for what they sound like now, they've moved away from '90s-style screamo and they're now embracing the 2000s metalcore and deathcore influences that they showed off during their quarantine presentation on Summit Shack's Minechella livestream in April - the bands that got them into heavy music in the first place.
"If you listen to Jake's vocals in our music, you can tell Jake did not get his screaming chops from, like, skramz," Owen said. "Yeah, totally not," Jake added. "I grew up listening to like, Suicide Silence, stuff like Chelsea Grin and those bands."
"The truth is we're doing the stuff that screamo bands our age used to be into," Owen adds. "As time goes on, people are being less ashamed of liking the music that came out when they were [younger], stuff that came out like ten years ago. When that stuff came out, people were shitting on it. People despised it. And to this day, that is some of the heaviest fucking shit."
The first Hazing Over release will be the Pestilence EP, due February 19 via Acrobat Unstable (pre-order), and the first single is "Jock," which should give you a very good idea of what to expect from Hazing Over. After a synthy red herring of an intro, Hazing Over dive head first into blasty, mathy metalcore chaos that rivals what Converge, Botch, and The Dillinger Escape Plan were doing at the turn of the millennium, and by the end of the two-minute song, "Jock" evolves into a half-speed deathcore breakdown. The song comes with a video featuring the band performing in a room, and the clip really helps introduce you to this new era of the band, showing off Jake in his new frontman role as well as the increased technicality of the rest of the band. Judging by this video, whenever concerts return, Hazing Over are gonna be a force to be reckoned with on stage.
"We're kind of using the word 'jock' not necessarily as the noun, or someone who is a jock, but it was kind of me and the rest of the band sort of commenting on how elitists in music can hold back, like, genre development," Owen says of the new song. "Like I see people getting upset and saying like 'all these metalcore bands are jocking hardcore riffs' and I'm like, 'alright, like what are you gonna do about it?' Like we're not traditional people, we're gonna do whatever we want. And anyone who gets in our way is gonna get fucked."
"In the other songs, there are a lot of themes that are similar to that," Jake adds. "A lot more straight-up, in-your-face lyrics compared to what we would have in Shin Guard. I don't usually write lyrics for this, Owen writes most of it, but it's a lot more harsh than the lyrics for Shin Guard, not as passive and more direct. There's a lot of 'fuck you' attitude in the lyrics overall, but it's well-deserved, it's not just us being dicks."
Owen says that Hazing Over plan to just keep releasing EPs "until, I don't know, we get on like Pure Noise or something," partially because of the pandemic-induced inability to get the whole band in the studio at once, partially to help introduce the new sound, and partially to deliver their strongest batch of new songs without overwhelming listeners.
"Where I wanna head with this is something much bigger," Owen said. "There's not a lot of upwards mobility with what we were doing. We had this great sound, but now it's time for the next stage. If you don't evolve, no one's gonna wanna keep up with you."
"I literally like wrote a whole Shin Guard album, and for the most part we scrapped a lot of it," Owen continued. "I think one of the worst things you can do as a band -- unless, like, you're big -- is just keep putting out albums. 'Cause what's gonna happen is you're gonna have all these tunes and you're not gonna be big enough to give them the attention they deserve."
"It's like, would you rather have a Shin Guard album that's pretty good, or would you rather have a Hazing Over EP where all the songs slap really fucking hard, and it's only a few songs?"
For more on what to expect from Hazing Over, read on for the rest of my chat with Owen and Jake...
BV: Can you talk about the name change?
Owen: We're sort of establishing a change in direction, a change in lineup. There's been a lot of changes since we last put out music, and we're not really going to return to what we were doing before. We started this band when we were in high school, we didn't really anticipate taking it as seriously as we are right now.
Jake: Yeah, we even kind of planned to break up at one point, because everyone was going to college. And that was like right when 2020 came out, and we were like "oh shit, this is actually a thing now, I think we should keep doing this." But yeah, it's not really like a new band.
Owen: It's like the halfway point between a new band and not a new band.
BV: How does the current lineup compare to the one on 2020?
Owen: There's one more member, Alex Walsh is no longer in the band, unfortunately, but we're still super tight with them. Now Jake is doing vocals full time -- like on this new EP, I don't do any vocals at all, it's all Jake. It's gonna be a different sort of presentation live. What we had before was fun, it was great, but there was a little bit of restraint in terms of the technicality, and with all of us playing instruments we couldn't go off as hard as we wanted to.
BV: Is "Jock" indicative of how the rest of the EP sounds?
Jake: Yeah, pretty much. There's still some somewhat melodic stuff, but it's a lot more on the metal side of things now.
Owen: Yeah, from this point on, I can comfortably say we're sticking to the metal. We're kinda going back to the music that got us into metal, like all the deathcore and hardcore we listened to. [...] We're caring less and less about what people think, like we're gonna do whatever we want. I definitely do not give a fuck what people think of what we do.
Jake: That's how you end up making music that actually sometimes will set you apart from everybody else. There are a lot of bands that definitely do try to fit into a genre before they even like -- a lot of times before they even start writing music.
Owen: The biggest mistake that people make when they make music is being like, "Oh, I'm gonna take, like, the influence of '90s Touch & Go bands." Like, that's all it's ever going to be. Like don't be a fucking elitist, and just do what sounds good. I think if you're just gonna think of everything in terms of specific genres and whatnot, that's all it's ever going to be. It's not gonna be anything important, ever.
BV: This EP is coming over a year after the last two records in 2019. What kind of effect did the pandemic have on the making of the EP?
Owen: A pretty profound effect, honestly. Everything has taken a hundred times as long as it should take. We were not all together when we recorded this, either. I pretty much went to everyone individually.
Jake: In the past it was like we were all -- usually when we recorded vocals, we would all be there, and it would just be the full session of us kind of taking turns going up to a mic. But I did all the vocals this time, it was just me and Owen sitting in a booth pretty much, and that was how it was like with everyone. Like a lot of times when we recorded in the past, either the whole band or most of the band would be there. And this time it was all one-on-one sessions and that was it.
Owen: It felt a little weird. The move for us from now on is we're just gonna do EPs until, I don't know, we get on like Pure Noise or something. It's a lot easier to do individual recordings when it's less songs. I think if we recorded the whole album like this, there would be some magic that would be gone.
Jake: Also just going in a new direction and changing our sound, I think it was easier to take that on with a short release and not just try to go into it with a full-length album yet.
BV: Five biggest influences on this EP?
Jake: Job For A Cowboy, Kaonashi... there's this grindcore band called Escuela Grind, and I guess like, Botch.
Owen: What about Coaltar of the Deepers?
Jake: Yeah, there's this band called Coaltar of the Deepers, and they're like the coolest band I've heard in my life. They're like shoegaze and metal and dream pop and all these crazy things. We covered one of their songs on our quarantine presentation.
BV: When tours finally return, what's a dream tour for Hazing Over? Is it like, 'put me on a package tour with Pure Noise bands,' or is it like play screamo shows and freak everybody out, or a mix of both?
Jake: I think a mix of both.
Owen: A mix of both. We're not afraid to tour with bands of other genres. Like, I wanna tour with rappers, emo bands, hardcore bands...
Jake: One specific band I definitely want to tour with is The Fall of Troy. They won that song bracket we made for a song that we're gonna cover, and they've been messaging us a little bit, and I think they gave us a shoutout on Instagram or something. And that just made me think of the possibilities, like - since we haven't been able to play a show for so long, where would we be with touring right now? Would it actually be a realistic thing getting on a bill with them?
Owen: I think also a band that's gonna be, like, legendary, like one of the greatest punk bands ever, is Soul Glo. We had plans to tour with them in 2020, and that got called off. But I really hope when touring comes back that we can do something with them. They're one of the greatest.
Jake: And we had something planned with The Callous Daoboys, but that also got cancelled. So maybe sometime in the future when touring does come back, we'll be able to do something with them, which would be sick. They're one of my favorite bands.
Owen: They're so sick. That band is so insane, it's awesome. And they got the eight-string recently, which is badass, and also it makes me feel less alone in the DIY scene using an eight-string.
BV: When I first heard Shin Guard, one of the first bands I thought of was The Fall of Troy.
Jake: [Laughs] We used to get that a lot.
Owen: I fucked up, because I didn't listen to The Fall of Troy until after people compared us to them.
BV: Jake, you just put out that Blood Menace EP. Was there any debate about if a song could be a Blood Menace song vs a Hazing Over song, or was it just always separate?
Jake: At the time I started writing it, which was like a year and a half ago, it wasn't as similar to Shin Guard. It started because I really felt like making a lot heavier music than what we were doing, but now at this point, our music [in Hazing Over] is pretty much just as heavy as the shit I'm making for my solo project. Like I've been coming up with some riffs recently that I actually debated putting small parts of them in Blood Menace songs. There's definitely starting to be some crossover now. But when I started making the Blood Menace EP, I wasn't even aware yet that the new Shin Guard stuff was going to sound this heavy, because we hadn't written a lot of it yet. So I think in the future, when I start making more Blood Menace stuff, I want it to be more different than Hazing Over. I don't wanna just have a band and then another project that's really the same type of shit.
Is there anything that you'd want to add that you want people to know when they get introduced to Hazing Over?
Owen: If you don't like it, that's a you problem.