Striking Justice is a five-piece dutch hardcore-band from Hengelo. Consisting of Rens (vocals), Nick (guitar / back-up vocals), Pieter (guitar), Joost (bass) and Jesper (drums). They’ve released a split-album and an album called Building. Since 2010 they’ve toured Poland, the US and most of the European countries. This summer they’re going to tour in the US once again and then make their way back to Europe by fall. They will also release a new album this summer called De Verharding (The Hardening). I asked them about their touring, their upcoming record, the purpose of their band, politics and much more.
Have you been playing in any band prior to Striking Justice? And why did you choose that particular name?
Back in high school I played in some bands but nothing serious. About four years ago we changed genre and line up, so we thought it would be a wise idea to change our name since the old name didn’t fit anymore. We decided to keep the abbreviation SJ, that’s why we chose Striking Justice.
What up-and-coming bands would you recommend in the area that you originated from? What band/bands have been the main influence for Striking Justice?
Hardcore is not really big in the Netherlands, but there are some pretty kick ass bands around. We’d really recommend to check out: To The Test, This Routine Is Hell, Screw Houston Start Screaming & So Called Celeste. We have various influences, but I think for our sound I’ll have to break it up in two parts. The work on “Building” derives it’s sound from bands like No Turning Back and Down To Nothing while the new work, to be released this summer, sounds more like Modern Life is War, Gallows and Have Heart. More melodic riffs, but the groovy/rock vibe will maintain.
Building is about the process becoming more than a local band. The process of building songs, building better friendships within the band and always looking for the next step up.
You have plentiful merchandise that you’ve designed yourselves? Which one are you most proud of and what item sells the most?
Nick and Rens have a graphic background, therefore we do most of designs ourselves. But we also turn to friends to help us out, it’s nice to have different styles and input from outside. I think the best selling item must be the sunglasses, they sold out after only two months (don’t worry we ordered new ones already). The project we’re most proud of is the record “Building”. The whole product was a result of teamwork and shows what you can do with only little budget. Nick and Rens took care of the design, we asked two friended photographers to help us out with the pictures. Me and and two friended sound engineers took care of the recordings.
What do you prefer to do when you’re not occupied with the band?
I’ve got a job at a audio company called Decilux, and going on tour with other bands sometimes and do their sound/tourmanagement/driving/merchandise..whatever they want me to do.
The general feeling of your website and tour-posters seem somewhat apocalyptic. Is this also a general theme that inspires you? If so – why is that?
The poster and websites are styled in the artwork of Building. The songs on “Building” are written between 2008 and 2010. In this period we were searching for our sound and niche within the hardcore-punk scene. Building is about the process becoming more than a local band. The process of building songs, building better friendships within the band and always looking for the next step up. The artwork (on the cover is Hengelo’s trainstation) is a metaphor for this process, and at the same time showing our roots, industrial Hengelo. As for the new work we’re aiming for ordinary and uncomfortably close to what we might be growing up to be. So for every record a matching style I guess.
What do you think about your local hardcore-scene and which scene do you believe is the best at the moment?
Hardcore is not really big here, when playing here we mostly end up in-between metalcore/deathcore bands. There are some pretty cool venues though, for example Innocent in our hometown Hengelo is a great place to check out the major American bands but also the occasional Slovenian-experimental-vegan-grindcoreband. Unfortunately the draws aren’t what they used to be. That’s the reason why we’d like to go and play outside of the Netherlands. What we’ve experienced is that Poland and Czech Republic are really up-and-coming, good draws and enthusiasm from the first band till the last, big or small.
Up until now you’ve released a split-album and an album called Building. Are you working on anything new for this year?
We’re working on a new record, to be released this summer. The record will be called “De Verharding” (in English The Hardening). It’s about the fact that we live in an age where individualism has led to anti-social and ignorant behavior. The record is about this trend. And with this record we try to give a counter signal: No polarization, but compromise, no pedestals but floors.The record is more themed and conceptual than “Building” the songs are more melodic and the vocals a bit more emotional but the groovy/rock vibe will maintain.
When you’re on tour and stuck with each other 24/7 there is always some friction about minor things, but at the end of the day you only remember the positive things and the good times.
What kind of music would you play if you didn’t play hardcore? The given one would be metal, but apart from that genre?
Probably a melodic punk-rock band or something experimental like Explosions In The Sky.
You’ve also got a YouTube-channel where I found some pretty funny clips. What is the funniest memory you’ve had so far when you’ve been out touring and playing? And which one have been the least funny?
Last summer we were looking for our place to sleep and got lost somewhere in the woods. Our Polish booker who had one to many drinks, thought it would be a wise idea to ask a dog for the directions and he was dead serious about it. When you’re on tour and stuck with each other 24/7 there is always some friction about minor things, but at the end of the day you only remember the positive things and the good times.
According to your MySpace site, right now you’re unsigned. Why are you unsigned at the moment and what label are you going to partner with for upcoming releases?
That’s right, this was our first full length so we didn’t really look around. We just wanted to release it and along the road we found some distros and labels that were willing to sell “Building”. Beatdown Hardware (Germany), Cross Fire Cult Records (Holland/Belgium), Holding On Records (South East Asia). For the new record the pressure’s on. We just finished the recordings and it will be mixed by Jay Maas (Defeater/Getawayrecordings) in May. Then we’re gonna try to release it before our upcoming US and Russia/Ukraine/Belarus dates. We’ll see if a label is interested and otherwise we’ll release it ourselves, we’ll find out what the future holds for us.
What venues have you been playing at that were the best and which venues have been the worse?
The best venues were in the US. We like underground places and the US is filled with DIY venues, garages, basements, etc. Playing the Gilman (Berkely, CA) was a dream come true cause it’s rich history of great bands growing up there. (AFI, Rancid, NOFX). Generally I would say it’s about the vibe, so something old and worn out is good and a fancy new place would be worse venue but than again it’s also about the music, the show and the crowd, so you could have a crappy show in a venue with an awesome vibe and vise versa.
If you needed to check the condition of the hardcore-scene as it is now – in a global sense – is it more alive than ever or the complete opposite? What have changed over the years?
I wasn’t there in the eighties and nineties (unfortunately), but I think hardcore has been pretty stable over the years since I’ve been in it, where genres like metalcore and deathcore have their peaks, hardcore remains pretty steady and I think that’s a good thing.
Which track that you have put out are you most satisfied with? Also, which one of the albums that you’ve released are you most satisfied with?
The album we’re most satisfied with would be “Building”. The record and the songs are a lot newer and thought threw than the split we put out. For the songs counts pretty much the same, “break even/last breath”was the last song we wrote for Building, it’s one of the newest and comes closest to the direction.
In the countries you’ve toured through, which one of them did you think was the best? How was the scene in the different countries?
That would be the US, not only because of the country but the whole experience. We supposed to tour with a local band, but they cancelled, while our tickets were already booked. We got 2 shows confirmed when we flew out. When we got there we bought a van, got gear we contacted dozens of bands and venues. In the end we got 22 shows in 5 states and even got a chance to play Sound & Fury, a dream come true. What I like about the US is the DIY vibe. In Europe, especially the Netherlands we’re spoiled with professional venues and sound systems. I love how people in the US get creative with little to no budget, in houses, basements etc.
When I checked out some of your clips it seemed rather political too. Do you think it’s important to be political if you’re involved in the hardcore-scene? What role does it play for your band in general?
We don’t want to get involved in politics, but we have some political lyrics though. I think it’s inevitable since politics are so wrapped up in our daily lives. In hardcore there is sometimes only a fine line between left and rightwing ideas we feel like we have let people know that we are an atheist band and definitely don’t want to be associated with any racist, sexist or homophobic behavior.
The first songs were about personal frustrations from the past, the newer songs are about the future, afraid of making the wrong decisions and maybe even afraid of growing up.
It seems like you’ve gained a lot of fans. Do you have any die-hard fans as of now? People traveling far and wide to visit your shows? Or any other anecdote worth mentioning?
We try to play as many places as we can, so most of the time people can see us pretty close to their home. But sometime people drive for hours to see us. In 2010 we played a really remote town, Council, ID (population 800) People drove from Oregon and the other side of Idaho to come and see us.
Right now you’re out on a tour. What show have been best up until now and do you have anything interesting to tell us about it?
We just did a show in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic. That was the best by far, great turn out, people moving around, stagedives, from the first band on.
Where do you think you’ll be a year after this interview? What plans do you have for the year 2013?
We have no clue, we’re first focusing on the new record and the tours this summer (US Westcoast in july and Russia/Ukraine/Belarus in August) We got some wild ideas for other continents, but we have to see what’s realistic and how we can fit this in our personal lives, school, jobs etc.
Could you explain the general theme of your tracks? What would be the general feeling that you’re putting out there?
Some songs are about religion, others about the frustrations in our daily lives. But I think the general theme in our songs is the process of growing up. The first songs were about personal frustrations from the past, the newer songs are about the future, afraid of making the wrong decisions and maybe even afraid of growing up.
What band do you think I should interview next and what would you want me to ask them?
We’d really like you to interview Strike to Survive from the US, we’d like to know when they’ll be coming to Europe.
Band Striking Justice
Photo credits Erik Luchtenberg, Marek Koprowski