Screamo is having a bit of a moment. The subgenre of punk that built a large community in the 80s and 90s has seen a new resurgence that recently made the Washington Post take notice.
Infant Island is a screamo four-piece from Fredericksburg, Virginia that largely finds themselves part of the Richmond scene. They’ll visit much of the South for the first time on an upcoming tour that brings them to Birmingham on March 4. Daniel Kost is the band’s 25-year-old vocalist, and before their visit, he spoke more about his local scene and the sudden rise of the genre’s popularity nationally. He also offered up a beginner’s guide to the Godzilla franchise.
The self-titled record is the first official release, but you have several older releases on the bandcamp. You’ve been pretty prolific in a short period of time. How did you decide that this collection of material would be the first official release?
To us, the full-length seemed like a long time coming. We’ve all been in other musical projects before; our bassist, Kyle (Guerra) was in a band for 2-3 years before that, Alex (Rudenshiold, guitar) was making his own music. When we got together, we just basically wrote that record within a couple of weeks. It went by really quick; we were all really creative in the process. We were all going through different experiences, different stuff; hard [expletive] growing up. We played the whole record live for a long time, it seems, up until recently when we just released it in August of last year. But all of those songs are a year to a year and a half older than when it was released. We had a dry spot with creativity during touring, but recently, we ushered in a new drummer and it led to a lot more creativity; a lot more organicness. We didn’t really know what we were doing for a second. We were excited; wrapped into touring and playing shows, playing songs that we had played for the longest time. Finally, it kind of hit us. So we have a new record coming out later this year. There are some other songs that we’ve been playing as well. It’s all a natural process for us; a culmination of soaking everything in and realizing that we’ve had a lot of stuff happen to us; a lot of growth and other things in life. This is the next step in the process of continuing to write music and having others inspire us.
The full-length is the first official release, but it was also the first step in perfecting our sound and knowing where we wanted to go after that.
Infant Island was a fictional location in the Godzilla franchise that was subject to radiation tests that left only four survivors. Are you, in essence, those four survivors?
I guess so? I’ve actually never thought of it like that. [laughs] We’re all huge Godzilla fans. None of the lyricism deals with any Godzilla fandom or fiction, unfortunately.
At our first band meeting, we were like, “Hey, what are going to call this project?” And a couple of names were out there, but for whatever reason – and I don’t know what that reason was – Infant Island kind of stuck. A couple of us were really excited. Some people will jokingly call us ‘Infant Annihilator’ which is another band with Infant in the name.
That’s funny. I guess we’re all infants screaming music; screaming loud stuff.
What are the top five Godzilla films of all time?
I’m not going to speak for anyone else in my band. I probably don’t even know their top three, but mine would probably be:
- Godzilla: Final Wars would be my number one pick. It’s kind of weird; it’s a newer one from the 90s. It’s like if you mix The Matrix with Godzilla. It’s ridiculous; it’s really fun. It has really good fight scenes.
- Then I’ll probably go Godzilla vs. Megalon after that. It’s a really cheesy one from the 70s. It was probably the first Godzilla movie I ever saw.
- Then…that’s a hard decision. You’re putting the pressure on. I enjoy all of them. Kyle’s favorite one is Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla. We all typically enjoy the entire franchise. It’s just something we find joy in.
How did Richmond, Virginia become a screamo mecca?
That’s a good question. Richmond is kind of a hub; a central point for anything. Punk, metal, screamo. It’s this amazing city where a lot of amazing, creative people are making awesome [expletive] all the time. There’s some bad [expletive], too, but it’s a creative city. Screamo has a long history there, for sure.
For me, we heard about bands like Pg. 99 and Majority Rule from the more Northern Virginia area. City of Caterpillar – I think members of that band were from Richmond. I just started listening to screamo, in the broad sense, in late middle school or early high school. So we’re probably talking about 2008 or 2009. Growing up, when I got involved in DIY and going to house shows and experiencing music at a smaller setting – a more intimate setting – I found out about this collective called Great Dismal. It was a group of people that would run house shows all the time for touring bands. They would host charity events and raise money for important political things that were going on; marginalized people, people of color, women’s rights – stuff like that – important [expletive] that needs to be brought to people’s attention. There were awesome, really [expletive] heavy screamo house shows that they would host. Being a teenager, and into my 20s, that’s what got me into the screamo scene and adds to the legacy of what Richmond has brought. I see the screamo in not just Richmond, but in Virginia, has its own sound compared to other places in the world. I think it’s unique and it’s really cool. It feels at home.
It’s kind of intimidating – a lot of people think of Virginia as a “screamo capital (of North America).” I know it’s been said in places like Noisey. It’s cool. You’ve got big bands and hardcore in there, like Avail and Municipal Waste, even Lamb of God. It’s just kind of a center point where it’s almost hard to not involve yourself in some kind of aggressive music. It’s cool and I don’t take it for granted.
How close is that scene connected to the punk and hardcore scene in D.C.? Are they completely independent of one another or do they lean on one another a bit?
I don’t see too much interaction between people that book shows in Richmond and D.C. D.C. is kind of weird. We’ve only played there once before. It’s kind of hard – from a local band perspective – to play D.C. unless you’re a bigger touring band. It’s kind of different energy. The shows there are good, but it’s a lot less frequent that we run into a really consistent or good screamo or punk show. It happens, and then you don’t hear about anything for a second. I don’t go to too many shows in D.C. There’s not as much there for me as there is in Richmond. A lot of bands that I pay attention to are generally in the Richmond area. That’s the spot.
Screamo became a bit of a lost art. Is the scene still alive and well and what sustains it today?
I think the punk and screamo scene is the strongest its ever been, in terms of community and networking. I think everyone is doing their part to be proactive – booking important bands, doing mixed bills. I’ve noticed a big emphasis online, especially in the internet age, with a revival going on. For me and a lot of people I know, that’s a bit foreign. It seems like a lot of people are just joining the party. It’s been going on for a while. The community is strong. You had dry spots where sometimes it’s hard to get people out to shows. I don’t book a lot of shows, but overall, the punk community is as strong as it’s ever been. The people that put in the work shine through most of the time. Infant Island has made sure to acknowledge that we wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for a lot of other people helping us out. We’ve always tried to give recognition and make people aware that these are the people pulling the strings and these are the people that make these things happen.
Has the current state of the world drawn people back in to release their angst?
Yeah, I think so. Everything is a mess. There needs to be more participation. If you’re going to shows and involving yourself, it can be cathartic and a way to release energy in a positive and safe way. It’s definitely a show of the times. I’ve noticed a decent amount of more attendance at DIY shows, and not just house shows – actual venue shows. Bands are getting more political and being more straightforward. For the longest time, you’d see a lot of bands that didn’t have a certain agenda. Maybe they’d be political, but there wasn’t a dialogue that was established as well as it is now. People are willing to talk about that stuff now because there’s so much [expletive] going on, no one really wants to take it anymore.
Infant Island comes to Firehouse on Monday, March 4. Birmingham’s own In Snow and Fauxdeep are also on the bill. Admission is $8. Doors open at 8 p.m., while the music begins at 9 p.m. The show ends promptly at 11 p.m.