Thursday, 7 December 2017

Top Tens: Jacopo from Ships Down's Top Ten Punk Rock Influences


​Hi Colin and hello everyone! Thank you so much for asking me to write this piece! I am a big fan of your blog's Top Tens series, especially the Top Ten Influences. I read them all with great interest, mostly because they give an unprecedented insight into what characterises a given band's sound - a 'behind the scenes' of a band's creative process, if you will - but also because they're a precious source of new bands or artists to listen to. Secretly, I've always wanted to write my own Top Ten Punk Rock Influences list; mind you, not because I think my choices will be particularly interesting! But because I kinda just wanted an excuse to look back at the music I've contributed writing and ask myself, which bands do I owe a tribute to? Who were the artists that really, deeply struck a chord in me and that I, consciously or not, was borrowing from when I wrote anything for my band? That, and frankly it's pretty fucking cool just be asked!

Without further ado, then, here are my Top Ten Punk Rock Influences.

Actually, one further ado: the following bands do not necessarily represent my 10 favourite bands or even punk rock acts (although they're all pretty great bands imho); nor, I should add, are these necessarily the other members of Ships Down's punk rock influences - we all actually come from rather different backgrounds and I wouldn't be surprised if we came up with 5 almost completely different lists.

Ok, here we go - THREE, TWO, ONE, GO!

First there was Fat Wreck Chords

Judging by the number of NOFX hoodies and t shirts that I see whenever I go to a gig, it’s not hard for me to believe that Fat Wreck bands have influenced most of us who dig punk rock nowadays. NOFX are possibly my favourite band of all time, however I don’t think I’ve ever been greatly influenced by NOFX in my songwriting. However, there are two bands with a signature Fat Wreck sound that definitely appear in my mind when I’m writing a song: No Use For A Name, and Strung Out

No Use For A Name

OK, maybe No Use For A Name are my favourite band ever…how can you really tell?! NUFAN, led by legendary – and gone-too-soon – Tony Sly, had a unique style in their songs, which combined linear simplicity with impact and heart, which characterised them all along their career spanning the good part of two decades. The ability to produce bangers never went away, despite the marked evolution in their sound that they went through. Favourite song (virtually impossible task that I’ve assigned myself): Slowly Fading Fast.

Strung Out

Just like NUFAN, Strung Out were one of the first bands that Fat Wreck put out since launching as a label in the early 1990s. Despite having been introduced to some of their most famous songs by my friend Dario more than 10 years ago, only relatively recently I converted to the cult of this Californian band. Maybe surprisingly, it was their newer albums that made me fall in love with them, and that kickstarted a reverse process of discovery of their discography. It’s the combination of biting vocals and sounds, fast drums, technicality and intricate melodies that does it for me; I wish I could write half as well as they do. Favourite song: Too Close To See.

Listen, we all flirted with emo at some point...

I’ve never considered myself an emo kid, but I did play in an emo band for a couple of years and it was what introduced me to a lot of the bands I still listen to, as well as to heavier sounds and more passionate lyrics. I don’t disavow that period of my life at all, and actually I think emo has and still does influence in my songwriting. Below are two bands which can be defined, broadly speaking, as emo, and that I still listen to on a regular basis.

Silverstein

A more appropriate definition of Silverstein might be post-hardcore, but in reality Silverstein have consistently made wide-ranging music reaching to different styles even within each individual record. Many of their songs are catchy as hell, but they’ve also never shied away from heavy breakdowns and faster, heavier tempos when necessary. Their guitar lines are often very creative and they introduced me to different ways of playing that I hadn’t considered before. Favourite song: Replace You.

Atreyu

I’m not going to apologise for this: Atreyu fucking rock. I know metalcore gets a bad rep, but honestly these guys knew how to write a banger! Great riffs, sick breakdowns, catchy choruses, and some swanky solo here and there. And how often do you see a drummer sing that well? Favourite song: Our Sick Story (Thus Far).

A new school of punk rock

I was still a largely incompetent guitar player when I started joined a melodic hardcore band at the age of 17; a newbie at the time, with limited access to a decent internet connection, I had no idea that something was changing in the trademark Fat Wreck™ sound that I had spent thousand of hours trying to replicate in my room. Indeed, my new friends introduced me to what among us we called “new-school melodic hardcore”, which, drawing inspiration from other genres and in particular East-Coast HC, was coming up with a fresher, more innovative sound. Little did I know at the time how influential some of these bands became for me.

Ignite

It is not unusual to see Ignite’s name pop up in an all-hardcore festival or even standalone gig. In fact, I would argue that if you took out Zoli’s voice – but why on earth would you want to do that? – it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the same rhythm section accompany a New-York-HC-style vocalist à-la Freddie Madball. Through a combination of sound and great riffs, Ignite manage to marry perfectly simplicity and impact, giving Zoli the space he needs to express his amazing skills. Favourite song: Three Years.

No Trigger

My friends know that recently I haven’t been able to shut up about No Trigger. The thing is, they are one of my favourite bands, and it seemed as if they were done, but instead they came back with a new EP and a tour, and I got to see them for the first time in August with Colin. And it was insane. The other thing is, they write simple songs that make you want to sing every syllable of, and combine simple punk rock tempos with more epic and unusual rhythms and chord progressions you don’t expect. Criminally underrated. Favourite song: My Woods.

Comeback Kid

Technically more under the hardcore umbrella than the punk rock umbrella, Comeback Kid have nonetheless always drawn audiences from our scene, and unsurprisingly so. Right after Wake The Dead came out in 2005, they became the leaders of a more melodic branch of hardcore punk, so that so that everywhere you turned your head there were bands trying to replicate their sound. And you know what: I don’t blame them. Favourite song: Wake The Dead.

Sicilian Punk Rock

I know it gets thrown about all the time in punk rock, but if there’s one thing any decent punk rock fan must do, is to support their local scene. I have always considered myself extremely lucky in that I found an extremely receptive and welcoming UK punk rock scene which adopted me the moment I moved here. The bands I’ve had the privilege to see, and sometimes even share the stage with, have blown me away, and I’m glad to be able to see with my own eyes a small but uplifting resurgence of this genre from a privileged view. And one of the best things that happen when you listen to your mates’ bands and go to their gigs is that you start influencing each other, and like that the scene becomes more than the sum of the bands that compose it.

Undoubtedly, the sounds of the many bands that composed the scene in Palermo, where I grew up, still influence the way I write songs. This is why, even though I’m somewhat cheating here, I’ve decided to use this space to honour the many bands that I share a past with, and why not, recommend them all to British readers who might find their next favourite band, so go check them out! Values Intact (New School HC) / Magilla Gorilla (Ska-Core) / A Last Failure (Emo) / Fingerbang (Skatepunk) / Almost Monkey (Ska-core); The Economist (Power Pop); Again I Hear (Skatepunk); Whales' Island (Skatepunk)

Faster, harder!

A Wilhelm Scream

Ok so another band I wasn’t able to shut up about recently are A Wilhelm Scream. I still remember the moment I listened to one of their most famous songs, The Horse, thinking: “what the hell, I didn’t know that you could write songs like that and still be considered punk rock!”. I mean, what the hell, I thought punk rock was for people who were to lazy to learn how to play their instruments properly! AWS however don’t just bring technicality to their music, their songs are catchy as hell, and they never sound dull. It’s no surprise that there is now a whole current of skatepunk that tries to replicate their sound, and that’s just great. Favourite song: We Built This City! (On Debts And Booze).

Darko

I don’t think anyone from Darko has ever made a “top 10 punk rock influences" list for this blog, but I wouldn’t be surprised if A Wilhelm Scream showed up in their list too. So why am I listing both in here? Well, first of all, Darko have a pretty distinct sound in my view, not at all the same as AWS’s – although clearly inspired by it. In fact, Darko’s gloomier sound is more naturally in tone with my own tastes. But on top of that, Darko have been an enormous source of inspiration in the last couple of years for me, for a reason that goes a little beyond the music itself. Darko were the first band I saw that made me realise that writing complex, ambitious, awesome and touching music is not only possible, is at the reach of any guitarist’s fingers. More than any other band in my life before, Darko made me want to try and be a better guitarist, and a better songwriter, as what I was seeing at that gig was not some intangible band from a remote place, it was a bunch of guys that achieved that quality level starting from where I’m starting too. So what excuse do I have? Favourite song: Timepieces & Lock Shaped Hearts.

Jack plays guitar for Ships Down. Check out their music here and like the band on Facebook here.