Habits, fashion, trends, historic phenomena, etc. are all cyclical. This has been the case for me as of late. At some point, like most of us do, I was seemingly beginning to fatigue from the typical media I consumed frequently, and was overdue for change. In the midst of this fatigue, I found myself slowly reverting back into the heavier side of music- namely hardcore, a genre I seldom reference or have a working knowledge of, but infinitely respect and enjoy listening to. 

Through listening to bigger run-of-the-mill names like Trash Talk, Knocked Loose, and Gouge Away, I developed a thirst for branching out from the familiar space of rap’s underground, as well as the popular punk bands I was accustomed to and wanted to start smaller. Thus began my search into the more aggressive side of underground music, hoping to discover what an emerging hardcore sound is like. By chance it seems, I found this emerging sound. In a world of City Morgue, King Yosef, and Nascar Aloe,  a quick perusing through headlines can lead one to a general consensus: this new landscape of rap is punk’s comeback. 

Whether that’s true or false is one thing, but the fact of the matter is the traditional punk/hardcore sound is still as compelling and captivating as ever. As for creating such compelling sounds, I had the chance to talk with Punishment Suite, a self described up-and-coming band from Flagstaff, Arizona, to discuss their journey so far and the release of their newest (and first) self titled EP. 

As usual, the basics come first. Who are you, where are you from, and what do you guys consider yourselves to be?

Punishment Suite is a hardcore/metalcore band that started in Flagstaff, AZ back in October of last year. Our bassist and guitarist are actually from Oregon but after a long time of wanting to start a project we finally made the jump, got together and started writing music.

As someone predominantly ingrained within the independent rap scene, I’m still surprised that Arizona as a whole has such talented and diverse individuals bubbling up. Considering the way a band functions, what was it like coming up as a unit in this landscape? Were there any doubts, or stretches of time where it was harder to connect with like minded locals? 

From the start we kinda just did it. We’d get together every week and just played music and wrote songs. Our vocalist, Christian, was the one who was able to start getting shows booked for us. Him and our bassist Justin have been in the DIY scene in Flag for over a year now and all it took was finding people to play with us. What’s cool about Flagstaff is there are a lot of kids who just show up to shows no matter the genre. We’ve played a few shows with mixed bills but the turnout has still been great and lots of fun.

What can you say to the uninitiated about Arizona hardcore?

Being from Flagstaff, we don’t catch ourselves down in the valley at shows that often. Prior to this pandemic, we were scheduled to play a show with Incentive, Life and Limb, Same Son, and Icebag Injury down in the valley. It doesn’t hurt to make friends in the scene. The shows are loud, violent, and a ton of fun. There’s a good amount of respect for each other, and the music is good. Easy Money and Gatecreeper have represented AZ well on the bigger stage. Pointbreak, Skin Ticket, Arm’s Reach, Exit Wound, and Construct are some heavy hitters that have been doing it for some time. Tucson’s got a killer scene down there and has hosted some crazy shows. We kind of fall in the category of new up and comers– Incentive, Life and Limb, and the homies from Prescott NRWHL are three bands to look out for. We were pretty intimidated to purge our way into the scene, but everyone has been so sick. Penalty Box used to be Flagstaff based but moved down to PHX when some members finished up school. They gave us a shoutout and thats when we felt that people would fuck with us. Go to a show and check it out yourself. It’s a lot of fun.

Obviously, as of early March, COVID-19 has presented challenges for all creatives. For solo artists, it seems like being inside doesn’t pose as great of a threat to the creative process. As a band though,  how has it affected your guys’ workflow? What motivates you?

The whole COVID-19 has been a huge bummer for everybody. We had a show in Phoenix with a couple really cool hardcore bands get cancelled that we were really looking forward to. We’ve just had to stay positive and work through it. We got a chance to focus on getting our EP out and now we’re just continuing to write more material for when we are able to play live again.

Are there any other challenges as a whole you guys would like to shed light on after having overcome them?

As far as challenges go for us, writing and second guessing everything was a big factor. We just had to not worry as much and do it. We actually thought about scratching the last track on the EP “Reason” because we just weren’t feeling it as we were writing. Luckily playing shows and seeing how people reacted to our songs helped us realize “okay maybe it’s not that bad.”

I discovered your self titled EP through UG veteran King Yosef, who is featured on the project, and is also an artist that’s been highly successful in blending both punk and rap worlds together. Do you have any sort of relationship with the “underground”, or has hardcore mainly been the focus?

2/4’s of the band is actually super into the underground hip-hop scene, but hardcore has always been the main focus. One of us knew Yosef from years back and went back and forth through social media. When we tracked our demo of Cliff we reached out to him and asked if he would be interested in helping. Since then we’ve become great friends. He’s truly good at what he does and genuinely cares. 

The self titled EP, not just by virtue of being incredibly heavy music, but by the lyrics as well, seem to revolve around heightened aggression and vulnerability. What inspired the creation of the project that you manage to convey emotion in such a raw manner? What musically inspires you?

As far as the music goes it was more of writing something we thought sounded cool and keeping it going. Christian then took things that are important to him and wrote about them. A couple songs took political stances while others were about things like heartbreak and losing a loved one to addiction. There are a lot of different genres of music that inspire us individually though and we all just have something to bring to the table when it comes to writing. For example, Fuming Mouth’s latest record really inspired the overall sound and tone as we were working with Yosef. We also derive our sound from the heavier side of hardcore; Vein, Full of Hell, Snaction and of course bands who have been killing it forever, shit like Foundation, Every Time I Die, Bleeding Through— just loud and aggressive.

A glance at your Spotify shows that aside from some demos, the self titled EP is your guys’ only project. Is this the first project of yours to come out since the band’s genesis, or can we expect more to come out the vault? Whether or not it is the first, can you share your thoughts on how it feels to have a realized project finally out for people to hear?

This EP is only the start of what we have in mind. We are currently in the early stages of writing for a full length album. It feels really cool man. We didn’t expect to get any recognition and now that we are it feels good, it makes us want to continue working hard and continue pushing and seeing how far it takes us.

Following that, while projects seem sparse, your social media shows that you guys frequently play live, something that I’ve noticed is typically the inverse for budding rappers–a lot of music, but not a strong emphasis on shows. What is performing like for you guys? 

Playing shows is just the coolest thing for us. It’s something we all wanted to make happen. Seeing everybody react and get super involved in the crowd is a great feeling. The energy is high and everybody is just having a good time. We actually played a show not too long ago in a basement packed full of people and it was by far the most fun we’ve played yet.

Despite the world closing down on us due to the pandemic, what is your guys’ next step? Any immediate goals?

Like I said earlier, we’re focused on writing for a full length, not being able to play shows right now definitely sucks but we’re keeping our heads up and taking this time to think about how we want to grow as a band and how we can each take this time and improve our writing individually. So when the world does open up, we’ll be back swinging.

Are there any plugs or shout outs you guys have?

Major shout outs to the people that have supported us by coming to our shows, buying our merch, and streaming our music. We want to take the time to thank all of our local friends we’ve played with. A Continent Named Coma, NRWHL, Life and Limb, Bad Image for driving up from Prescott/ Phoenix just to hang with us and put on great shows. We also gotta shout out our founding member and drummer Austin Rueda for his credit on the EP and continuing to support us from Texas. We would not be here without him. Huge thanks to the man himself, King Yosef, for making this EP release possible and just showing us so much we didn’t know. 

Follow Punishment Suite on Twitter and Instagram here: @punishmentsuite