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Year Of The Knife’s Brandon Watkins: “Our Friendship As A Band Is Very Deep”

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 6 August 2020 at 17.01

"It’s incredible to see something that’s so cathartic for you have such an impact on another person"

Year Of The Knife are gearing up to release their debut full-length 'Internal Incarneration' through Pure Noise Records. A callous and cutthroat take on modern hardcore, the album finds the band on ferocious form with vocalist Tyler Mullen leaving nothing to chance as he howls lyrics detailing his experiences of addiction and grief. It's a palpable, raw and utterly compelling listen from one of the finest bands the genre currently has at its disposal.

We caught up with guitarist Brandon Watkins to talk about how they have reach this point and why Year Of The Knife is so important to them...

How did you set about writing a full-length? After ‘Ultimate Aggression’ brought together all of the previous parts of your story, what was the first step in following that up?
“It’s kind of crazy. ‘Ultimate Aggression’ felt like our demo really because we had a different singer before and Tyler used to play drums for us. We recorded all that shit and had line-up changes and everything, but even writing some of those songs back in 2017 it was me and Tyler who were writing a lot of the music together. So a lot of the songs from ‘Internal Incarceration’ are also from that era with Tyler and me writing together. Even like the last track ‘DDM’, Tyler and me wrote that back in 2016 in my mum’s basement. It’s been a really long time coming.

“The interesting thing with some of the actual newer tracks, ‘This Time’ was one of the last songs that we wrote, everything kind of shifted as our line-up shifted. We have the twins in the band now, Aaron and Andy [Kisielewski], who play guitar and drums. The way that we write is that I will write a whole song or a lot of song out on guitar and I’ll send it to them and then we just take it all from there.”

The thing that has stayed the same through those changes though is what the songs represent and what Year Of The Knife represents. When you have a song that has been with you since 2016 but the core values are the same, you’re just waiting to find the right mould to present it in…
“Yeah, absolutely. When Tyler and me would make the music for the old shit, he would wrap up the lyrics because he just sits and thinks. He really takes the songs. It’s all about his shit ultimately but it really reflects in all of us.”

As a band, what has it been like sharing these stories and moments with each other over the years? There’s an awful lot of raw and real subject matter on this record…
“It’s been pretty intense, I’ll be honest. So Maddy [Watkins, Bass] and I are married. We’ve been together since we were 15 and we’re 28 now. We’ve been friends with Tyler since we were 15 as well. We know him really well, and a lot of the shit that he experiences we have been there for with him throughout. Especially on this fucking record, a lot of that shit is really heavy cathartic shit for him. We’ve been there. It’s not really a thing that we get together and talk about with each other. Something happens and Tyler gets it out of him system and says to us ‘Do you like this shit’ and we’re like ‘Of course we do, do you like it?’ That’s what’s important to us. When it comes to really personal stuff, it takes a lot to share that with someone. That speaks to the bond that we’ve formed. Our friendship as a band is very deep.”

Was it hardcore that brought you all together in the first place?
“Definitely, it was hardcore and extreme music in general. Delaware is a really small place. It’s only three hours long. Everybody except for me was from the top of Delaware. Maddy and Tyler were from Northern Delaware and I’m from Central Delaware. But where they lived they had this incredible venue called The Grange and it was one of the only venues in Delaware at the time when I was going to shows. That’s how we all met, going to shows and seeing different bands. It wasn’t exclusively hardcore, when you’re 15/16 you listen to bullshit, but you could see any kind of band at that venue. You’d see Terror one week and then something like Born Of Osiris or whatever the next.”

When you find an energy such as what hardcore can produce in a such a small place it’s something you want to grab on to and bring into your whole life…
“Absolutely. I think it’s something that we all tried to grab on to. A hardcore show is like going to a totally different world. Our bonds are strengthened by it. With hardcore as well, lyrically it’s incredible real shit. You take a band like Terror and a guy like Scott [Vogel], and you know that he’s speaking from his heart. It really resonates in you.”

So what exactly does ‘Internal Incarceration’ represent as a term to bring all of these songs together?
“Tyler came up with it. He can be very in his head. He is in his head at all times. With all the thematic elements and the lyrics he was writing, we knew that when he came up with that as a title that it was perfect. It describes how it appears to me that he feels. We had tonnes of songs written by that point and we hadn’t heard many of the lyrics. We just write a song, or a bunch of songs, and then Tyler puts his words over the top. It was almost like an unveiling when he showed us what he had done. For him it’s about those internal struggles and it’s something we all relate to it.”

When he is injecting his turmoil into these songs as much as he does, that energy transfers to the rest of you. You feel those feelings as vividly as he does…
“It just gives that much more feeling. It makes the energy that much more sincere. It just gives such a deeper meaning to those heavy ass parts. Anytime I write, I pick up my guitar because I’m bored or sad or mad or whatever. Then he is putting those feelings on top of my feelings. It just turns it in to something completely crazy.”

So how does it feel when you see those feelings upon feelings being felt by those coming to your shows and expressing themselves to your music?
“There is no way that I can even describe it. It’s incredible to see something that’s so cathartic for you have such an impact on another person. Seeing your feelings resonate with another person makes you feel such awe. It makes you feel like the world’s not that small. It makes you feel a lot less alone. It’s just a great feeling. Then you have the people who just beat the shit out of each other and that’s great as well.”

It’s only hardcore that has a contrast and a devotion like that, isn’t it?
“Yeah, it’s crazy. The twins used to play in other bands like Vicious Embrace and we’ve seen them since they were 15 playing hardcore shows. Year Of the Knife would play shows with them and they were always really excited to see us. Then they start playing with us. It’s crazy how things work out like that.”

What do you feel has changed the most in terms of what you want Year Of The Knife to be over the years that you have been developing?
“When we first started I was just sick of playing other people’s shit. I was sick of not writing for a band like Year Of The Knife. I learnt to play electric guitar so that I could play in Year Of The Knife. So playing bass, you don’t really get to write much. It doesn’t really translate the same as if I was using a guitar. So when we started it was like 'I want to be in a band that sounds like this’ or ‘I want certain parts to sound like this’. It was all things I wasn’t getting from playing in other bands.

“With this record it’s now ‘Well what the fuck do I want to hear?’ It’s not me writing because I don’t want to play someone else’s stuff. It’s now ‘What kind of music do I want to hear that I’m not hearing?’ There’s a certain heaviness and speed that I always look out for when I’m listening to new bands and old bands and I feel like Year Of The Knife is me looking for something that I haven’t heard before. I’m making that instead of listening to it. I find myself listening to my own band everyday. My band’s shit is my favourite shit because it’s what I’ve been looking for.”

You can pick up 'Internal Incarneration' from our mates over at Impericon from right HERE

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