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Geoff Garlock Is An Abstract Impressionist of Hatebreed, Tragedy and more With Your Vice

Geoff Garlock is either a hilarious musician or a musically gifted comedian, depending on your frame of reference. For me, Garlock is a musician I met in NYC who came up as part of insanely influential screamo greats Orchid, and went on to play in the heavily slept-on Panthers. Since then, Garlock has played in a succession of excellent bands such as Low Estate (ex and current members of Red Sparowes, Made Out of Babies, Sannhet) and now Your Vice, proving that the better your riffs are, the more likely it is that the simpleton masses out there “just don’t get it.”

In the writing and comedy worlds, Garlock is known as a 15+ year veteran of Upright Citizens Brigade, where he taught, wrote and performed. Garlock’s credits also include work with IFC, Adult Swim, MTV, and SNL Weekend Update. He has a similarly long list of current podcasts like The Cannon Canon podcast, the What’s That From podcast, the Docs Till Death podcast and the 106.9 The Hawk Val Verdes only Classic rock station podcast.

What does all this mean? It’s clear that Garlock knows his shit and is hilarious. It makes sense that he decided to work on a new project with musical partner Jay Green called Your Vice. Back when the pair were in Panthers on Vice Records, someone at the label asked for documentary music and the duo cranked out several songs inspired by different but important bands to them. The songs were recorded by Brendan Tobin (also Low Estate), submitted, but sat around for more than 10 years until they were finally revisited by Garlock. Seeing patterns in what he wrote and parallels to some of his favorite bands, he decided to dig in and make a tribute record… of original songs.

The result is Is A Locked Room, a sixteen track LP that nods to everyone from Bold to Deathreat to High on Fire and all stops between, acting as a puzzle for the reader to identify the band, a hilarious statement on genre and a love letter to all those records Garlock jammed over and over. Check it out below along with a few questions we had for him about the project.

Hard Noise: This seems a bit of a softball question coming from a Hard Times affiliate, but why is hardcore such easy pickings for parody and jokes?

Geoff Garlock: Hardcore is such easy pickings because it takes itself so serious. Always has, always will. The classics of the genre were created by 17 year olds screaming about how they would never change. Holding onto the totally mentally unhealthy belief that they will never give in and never forget the struggle or the street and won’t sell out.

And then they go to college. Or literally anything in life happens to them. Or the absurdity of these young people yelling with the world view of a middle aged person who has been burnt by the world and constantly stabbed in the back. You don’t even know what being stabbed in the back is really like yet at that age. One of the greatest types of comedic characters (until Trump made it into too much of a reality) is the committed idiot. “True Till Death” being screamed by 16 years olds is just a variation on that. And yet I will continue to yell “True Till Death” because it’s the greatest song ever. 

The cover of Is A Locked Room is clearly a nod to Greg Anderson’s old band Brotherhood, a relatively small band in the hardcore world that left a huge mark as far as influence, and one track is a nod to classic Richmond band Four Walls Falling, similar in size and influence. As someone who came up playing punk who now has a family and “is an adult” do you still seek out older hardcore bands from the same eras when you started listening? Is that still a constant search for you?  

Definitely Brotherhood (also vaguely the Ray and Porcell seven inch, if you can lie to yourself that it is a good record…Brotherhood rules). I also played with just doing “Break Down The Walls” and “True Till Death” but went with the starkness of the Brotherhood LP partly because I always loved them and the album cover is so simple and perfect. But I just recently realized how extra tough they are musically, as I have been listening to all of my LP’s in order during the pandemic.

I am always listening to music and spend a lot of time going down rabbit holes of old bands. And new ones. And have been forcing myself to go on these tears to re-evaluate bands I used to love (Strife “One Truth” holds up…Snapcase “Lookinglasself,” in spite of it being my high school yearbook quote, does not). I never want to high school quarterback it with “those were the best times and music never got better than that.” We all follow people who are older than us saying the entire Rev catalog is the pinnacle of music and we all know that is not true. Listen to a little more Genesis and a little less Supertouch.

But I am also doing it to really listen to bands that I thought I listened to or never gave much time to. Mostly because I want to actually verify that I still don’t like them, but as a 42 year old with perspective. So I love you picked up on the Four Walls Falling because I think that came from me talking to my two friends and realizing I could not tell the difference if you paid me between Four Walls Falling and Falling Forward (and hell let’s throw in Split Lip/Chamberlain and Endpoint). And that conversation happened the exact week I was writing lyrics to that song so…fit the theme.

In each track you lampoon a different band, some major names in hardcore but also metsl Grammy-winners and crust favorites. One band that definitely gets a couple nods is Hatebreed. What do you love about Hatebreed and why do you think they are an easy target? 

First off, I am CT hardcore born and raised. Jamey Jasta booked almost every show that wasn’t at the Tune Inn that I played in high school and I saw Hatebreed every weekend. We would let them borrow equipment and I bought the 95 demo before there was anything else out, on a Radio Shack tape bootleg from Rick Ta Life. So it is in my blood. Satisfaction Is The Death Of Desire is still the “new record” in my mind.

That being said, familiarity breeds the ability to see the ridiculousness in Hatebreed sometimes. Their commitment to form and lyric style is both their strength and weakness. And I wasn’t alone growing up. You finger point enough you start yelling out “I’M GONNA TAKE YOU OUT…FOR DINNER” to “Filth” (which was written in the original lyric sheets when the first “Under The Knife” tape came out.)

So me and Jay and our high school friends would make up fake Hatebreed lyrics all the time. You could probably make a Hatebreed lyric generator pretty easily. And when I realized that the weird convoluted inspirational saying my mother in law had up on a piece of driftwood in her house that she probably got at Pier 1 just sounded like Hatebreed lyrics. Well. As I would teach in my sketch classes on parody, if you are going to write parody it always works best from a place of love. And I really really love Hatebreed.

From Wolfbrigade to Dystopia to Tragedy/Deathreat/From Ashes Rise, many bands are also targeted along the way. What are some of your favorite releases within those lanes and what makes those ultra-serious LPs so funny and compelling to this day? 

I mean I truly love all of those bands. I listen to every Tragedy record on the regular. As well as His Hero is Gone Fifteen Counts and Monuments to Thieves and that first Deathreat LP, and the From Ashes Rise seven inches and that first LP. And Dystopia Human=Garbage and the Backstabber seven inch. Forget about it. And on and on. They are still on heavy rotation and I have moments of “is 42 too old to start a D-beat band…or a funeral doom band…or a depressive black metal band?”

That being said, especially the Tragedy/HHIG wing has always felt sooooo serious. And I don’t know them personally, but the uber seriousness always felt like it clashed with ridiculous lyrics like “His Hero Is Gone,” “Iron birds in the sky: who decided we should fly?” Really? Against planes? I get the sentiment, but you don’t tour Europe?

Not to mention Deathreat using a full color gatefold on a very expensive printing to have a picture of a giant hot dog machine with some metaphor about how we are in the hot dog machine? Or maybe we are the hot dogs? Or is it mustard? It’s…absurd. And the key to comedy is pointing out the absurdity of the world. Which they are also doing in their lyrics, and being absurd as well in the rigidness. But that is also what is so appealing? And makes it timeless? If that makes sense.

I mean hell, I wrote a comedy hardcore record. A world of hardcore I don’t even really like, has no staying power and is the opposite of timeless. By the time you are reading this, probably you have a vaccine and forgot that we were locked in for a year as you eat in a restaurant. Or are in an iron bird in the sky and hey dude, who decided you should fly?

But all in all, let’s not forget that Anti-Cimex is pretty funny at times.

One song is about the lockdown and the fact that you’ve never had a drink but you thought about it while we were all in quarantine…. Can we unpack that?

The pandemic was the first time I thought to myself, “When the hell do I get an award for not drinking during this hellscape we are all living in?” Which is ridiculous. Straight Edge is very important to me and I also know it is totally stupid and meaningless in the grand scheme of life. I can sing along to every word of “Path of Resistance” and also know that I didn’t “win” anything by not drinking.

But I’m still straight fucking edge so watch your back.

In all seriousness, I truly commend anyone who is struggling with addiction and kept themselves sober during all of this. I am very proud of my friends and family who did. I’m just a dumbass who wants to be contrarian to the world by X’ing up and yelling about how the 24th letter bears all I am (deep cut Culture reference)

Of all of the genres that you dip your toe in across Your Vice, the only one that has a strong sense of humor is the AmRep-y bands. Who do you think were the most wild and funny throughout that stable? Did that translate to playability for you or did you have a different favorite?  

Yeah I think there was a lot of humor in that whole world. Which was refreshing when you are inundated with humorless hardcore. The biggest problem, always, was that it could quickly dip into hyper “ironic” masculinity and hyper “ironic” racism. Which is harder and harder for me to deal with as an older man/in the world we live in.

The ones that worked the best were when they could do something I felt I couldn’t pull off. Being super heavy and abrasive but also finding a way to be really funny all at the same time and not offensive for offense’s sake? They are more adjacent, but I will always say KARP/The Whip/Big Business/Tight Bros from Way Back When etc etc. Basically anything with Jared Warren. Greatest dude and bro but also one of the best lyricists in the biz (big).

But Jesus Lizard/Scratch Acid/David Yow was always super funny and enviable. Shorty/US Maple. And much like a lot of that stuff, they now feel too “ironic jerk”  but OXES was super funny at the time. That OXES/”Arab On Radar” split. Even if they were being total jerks ya GOTTA admit it was a funny bit

I’ve noticed a strong parallel that exists… straightedge people love stoner music. Why do you think that is the case? Does it hold a certain kind of aura for you?

Look, stoner culture is EXHAUSTING. The Take Me To Your Dealer of it all is so dumb. But Sleep’s Dopesmoker can really get you into the closest place I am going to get as a non-weed smoker, where I am borderline losing my body and my mind is going “other places” in the hypnotic aspects of it. It can sometimes get into the same realm that the black metal I like does, where basically it is acting as minimalist classical and might as well be heavy Terry Riley.

That, and I love riffs. I just love riffs more than anything. Always have and always will, in all genres. And Stoner rock has tons of riffs. The riffs is king. The riff is god. This is why after all these years I never got into Corrupted. Not enough riffs. Slow is boring. Slow with an actual riff is godly.

But also, if you can’t see something funny in the fact that Bongzilla has had like a 20 year career and they only sing about weed and their name is Bongzilla, then you just don’t get life. (Bongzilla also has some great riffs)

What’s up with an Orchid reunion? (that’s a joke, but how often do you get asked that?)

BREAKING NEWS….IT’S HAPPENING….Shit I forgot to type never. Damnit.

It comes up a surprising amount. Anyone who brings it up brings it up like they are the first person to have ever thought of it. Sometimes it is borderline offensive, like if it is “you should reunite. You will open for another band that is reuniting.” Most of the time my answer is “check out the other music we have all made. Even together. It’s all great. Have you heard Ritual Mess? or my new project Your Vice?”

Trust us people…you don’t want an Orchid reunion. I don’t know any of the songs anymore.