To reduce this down to only five records is painful. In a band that started with five dudes and had member changes and has in the end introduced two completely new members for the writing and recording of our latest record, it’s impossible to really hone in on THE five records. As Cities Burn has never been a band to do the same thing from one record to the next, so who the hell knows what it means to be “shaped” by a record, because it seems that we are in a perpetual state of shapeshifting as artists. To the best of my ability – and more importantly based on whether or not I have a somewhat interesting thought or anecdote – here are the totally non-definitive five albums that shaped As Cities Burn.
The Moon Is Down – Further Seems Forever
Common interest and influence is so important when getting together to try and make music. I had not yet met anyone in As Cities Burn when I first discovered this record, so it was a joyous event when I learned that they were as stoked on this record as much as I was. I remember the first weekend I went down to Baton Rouge to meet and “audition” for the band in May 2003, Cody was sitting on the stairs in their apartment noodling on his Telecaster and we discussed how The Moon Is Down was the greatest record we’d ever heard. It felt like a “perfect” album at the time. It was genre defining, and it helped us see that there was a different way of writing that could be cool. You don’t have to play power chords only. You can jazz things up even in a hardcore/punk track.
When our first record came out, the common comparison from those in our camp was that we sounded like Strongarm – which of course was the hardcore band with all the dudes from Further Seems Forever minus Carrabba. Makes a lot of sense seeing as how we were ripping everything off from the musical playbook of The Moon is Down – especially the drums, my God there was so much drum beat plagiarism on Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest. Grateful that nobody really seemed to notice and we sold a bunch of records. Thank you FSF.
Plunder, Beg, And Curse – Colour Revolt
The second show I ever played with As Cities Burn was in June 2003 in Gulf Port, MS. There were three bands from Jackson on the bill with us – Plastic Glasses, Jonezetta, and Fletcher. The latter of the three, had me questioning everything I was doing in music. I simply could not believe how fucking good Fletcher was. They were truly original and they could really play. The drummer, Len, was this beautiful man that played with his shirt off and hit the drums harder that Dave Grohl, all while grooving in and out of impossible to count time signatures and tempos. Their singer Jesse, sung with the passion of a hardcore screamer and had the stage presence of a seasoned pro. THIS was a band. What are we? Throwing guitars, facing backwards while we play, dropping drum sticks…
Fletcher changed their name to Colour Revolt, went on to have all the opportunities in music that I would kill for and never, ever compromised on their art. The idea that we were friends with them, and they treated us with respect as peers seemed ridiculous to me. To this day I maintain that Colour Revolt is the best fucking band of the last 15 – 20 years. They never got their due, but they did influence the sound that Brand New would sustain their career off of for a decade. Plunder, Beg, And Curse was their first full length. It didn’t come out until 2008, so maybe it didn’t shape our band but Colour Revolt as a whole did. They set the bar for what it meant to be a great band in the Gulf Coast indie scene.
Bless The Martyr And Kiss The Child – Norma Jean
I did NOT understand the appeal of this record when I first heard it. I had just joined As Cities Burn and was becoming acquainted with the culture of South Louisiana and the world surrounding the band. There really was a great scene in Baton Rouge at that time. And EVERYONE was obsessed with this band. Everyone was trying to be them. Everyone was trying to throw down like Norma Jean, get hurt on stage like Norma Jean, throw all caution into the wind for the sake of the performance. There was so much fucking blood on stage in the early days of As Cities Burn and I blame it solely on Norma Jean. You would have thought we had a sign on the wall of a locker room that we would tap as we headed into a tunnel towards the stage of a legion hall or DIY venue that read “If You Aren’t Bleeding, You Aren’t Trying.” Oh that was another things…stages? Fuck stages. We PLAY ON THE FLOOR LIKE NORMA JEAN. STAGES ARE FOR ROCKSTARS.
I later came to understand how special this record was. I listen to it now and I realize how great of a songwriter that Josh Scogin actually was. That dude has always had a clear vision and even more importantly he makes sure that the vision is executed. He has a co-producer credit on Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest and he really made the vocals work on that record. He executed OUR vision.
Adam D produced Bless The Martyr And Kiss The Child and it’s like the “shittiest” he’s ever made anything sound and I’m pretty sure that was mandated by Norma Jean. Also, Daniel Davidson is a beast. Coolest drums on a hardcore record ever, by far. COOLEST. Not best. COOLEST. Because that’s what Norma Jean was. That’s why everyone was trying to be them. They were fucking COOL. Long live girl jeans, black hair, and Southern hardcore music.
Futures – Jimmy Eat World
I think Cody had mentioned that we put Bleed American on this list, but I have to push back and go a different direction. It’s not an issue of which record is better or more influential to our songwriting. Jimmy Eat World flows through our creative veins indefinitely. At this point, we have consumed so much Jimmy Eat World that I’m not even capable of writing a drum part that isn’t lifted from one of their tracks. Essentially, they have all the parts that I need already recorded, I just have to sift through and match them to Cody’s guitar and BAM! we have a song.
The thing with Futures and how it shaped us has more to do with the essence of a period of time in our lives as a band. When it was released in October of 2004, we had basically been on tour for a year straight and were at that time out on the Solid State Youngbloods Tour with The Chariot, Showbread, He Is Legend, and Far Less. I was 21 years old, and everything meant so much. Everything was SO important. I was living out a dream, consumed with Arrested Development (pun intended) while all my friends were sitting in classrooms preparing to have successful adult lives. I’m failing right now to communicate what it is I’m trying to say, and that’s partially because most people haven’t had a similar experience of touring 250 days a year.
I mean, can you imagine the first time hearing Futures wasn’t in your bedroom, or in your car driving to work at Best Buy, but instead while you were riding in a van with your friends on the West Coast, mountains in the distance on one side, the Pacific Ocean on the other? The chill of fall, the warmth of a pumpkin spice latte, and the ethereal sounds of Jimmy Eat World? That shit sticks with you and I can’t think of a better word to use than “shaped.” Did it shape our music? Sure. But mostly it shaped memories and now every time I listen to it, it’s like opening a time capsule. Vivid, heartwarming feelings of a simpler and frankly, happier period of life. Before my best friend committed suicide. Before there were bills to pay. Before your band breaks up a bunch. Everything was looking forward with hope.
The pumpkin spice latte thing is made up. I was probably drinking a fountain drink from a gas station.
Full Collapse – Thursday
There are way too many records/bands I wanted to drop into this last spot. Control by Pedro the Lion. Catch For Us The Foxes by mewithoutYou. The Shape Of Punk To Come by The Refused or Stay What You Are by Saves The Day. And good lord, those are all three insanely great records. Insanely COOL records. I wish I could be very chill and hip and tell you that Long Gone Before Daylight by The Cardigans is the real inspiration behind everything this band is. But we have to be honest here – and it’s not like I’m embarrassed to say it or anything. It’s just a reality. Every band like us, no matter the label or the location or the scene, Christian, atheist, vegan, tough guy… every screaming/singing band owes it all to one band – Thursday.
It’s impossible to claim that you weren’t influenced by this record. Even if you’ve never heard it, if you are screaming and singing, you were influenced by Full Collapse. It’s like how they say every band was influenced by The Beatles, even if you don’t like them. Which really means you were influenced by Motown. Which actually means you were influenced by Jazz and Blues, which actually means that screamo bands stole our sound from the great black musicians of the past, just like The Beatles but I digress.
Anyways, I remember the first time I heard Full Collapse at Vino’s Brew Pub in Little Rock, AR. My high school/college pop punk band was opening for Ace Troubleshooter and the sound guy had put it on as the house music before the show. I wasn’t really into any screaming music at the time, but I was taken a back by how much their sound appealed to me. It was another one of those lightbulb moments when you realize that there are bands that are really pushing the boundaries of what a genre can be. Back then, I was still in that era of my “career” where we were basically just copying what we had heard other bands. And I don’t mean that in the way that I said I lift drum parts from bands. I mean like just a carbon copy. A lower quality version of whatever band it was that I was listening to.
Full Collapse inspired me to broaden my horizons in regards to what I was willing to listen to. I didn’t love the screaming, but I was like “Damn, they are really doing this in their own way and it’s cool.” I thought I would always just play in pop punk bands. My dream was to tour with The Starting Line and New Found Glory. I think if I hadn’t gotten into Thursday, I would have dismissed As Cities Burn as something I wasn’t interested in dropping out of college and moving to Louisiana for. Because of Thursday, I was able to “get” was ACB was trying to do, even if it was just a carbon copy. I think we figured out how to be ourselves fortunately and the greatest accomplishment I could imagine is that somebody would react to one of our records, the way I did to Full Collapse. A true turning point in inspiration and life trajectory.
Scream Through The Walls, the new album from As Cities Burn, is out now via Equal Vision Records.