w/the Blood Brothers, Harkonen, Playing Enemy
Sat June 15
Showbox, $10, all ages.
"It's funny, because people listen to our songs without ever seeing us and they're like, 'Whoa, these guys are pissed!'" observes Dave Verellen, whose soft-spoken presence on the other end of the phone is about as far as it gets from his glass-gargling-screamer persona as lead vocalist for local hardcore-metal heavies Botch. "They think this music is so angry, but in reality I think that once we write the songs it gets all those emotions out and we're really good-natured people. It's not like we have these huge problems--we're all from middle-class America, so it's not like we can complain about life being rough," he laughs.
You couldn't tell it from their music, but the guys in Botch--Verellen, guitarist Dave Knudson, bassist Brian Cook, and drummer Tim Latona--have always liked to joke around, which is evident in everything from their inscrutably long song titles to their well-known pranks. ("Our first [real] tour was with Botch," explains Ben Weinman, guitarist for New Jersey's Dillinger Escape Plan and an old friend of the band. "I remember leaving a turd in their van [near] the end of that tour. It was all downhill for us after that.")
That sense of humor has served them well, and in the volatile world of hardcore, where the variables of youth, low-paying gigs, and relentless touring often cause bands to implode or burn out prematurely, it helps explain how Botch has survived fully intact for nine years. Or rather, how they had survived. After nine years, Botch is finally calling it quits: Their June 15 show at the Showbox will be their last, capping off a career that has seen them rise from a humble teenage rock band--Verellen was just 15 when they formed in 1993--to one of the most influential bands in the modern hardcore scene. Speaking about the band's breakup, Verellen explains levelheadedly, "We've been a band for so long that basically, we got to the point where we weren't being very productive and we decided, mutually, that it probably would be better just to break up and leave it on a high note rather than drag it out and become like a hardcore version of Spinal Tap."
Along with such other forward-thinking bands as Dillinger Escape Plan, Boston's Converge, and Missouri's Coalesce, Botch carved out a new path that many heavy guitar-based outfits have since followed. Like those bands, Botch had their roots in hardcore, but they moved beyond the rigid musical constraints of that genre and into something that was, and still is, a little tougher to categorize--hence the use of silly terms like "noise-core," "mathcore," and "deathcore" to describe them. Botch gave in to the whole genre name game and came up with their own self-classification: "evil math rock." It's a good enough description of their sound, with its blend of straight-up metal-grade heaviness, acidic noise-rock dissonance, and left-of-center drumbeats designed to keep you guessing where the next punch is coming from.
"Lots of hardcore bands just get kinda stale, you know what I mean?" the vocalist adds. "There's always kind of one particular sound and one particular idea, and it got boring and old for us. So we just ended up tryin' to experiment and do things differently, so that [the music] was still rockin', but without being exactly like everything else that was out there."
Botch's 1998 full-length debut, American Nervoso, was different enough from everything else out there that few labels were even interested in releasing it. The one label that did, Massachusetts' Hydra Head Records, has since become known as the trendsetting label in the noisecore field. "I actually wasn't around at the time Botch fucked up and decided to work with us," notes a typically sarcastic Mark Thompson, the label's vice president. "But I think it's safe to say that Botch were one of the few hardcore bands at the time who were already doing something totally different, even at such an early stage in their career."
In terms of their future, or what's left of it, Botch does have one last EP forthcoming, which will include the four new songs they've recorded since their second full-length, 1999's We Are the Romans. Also on the horizon is a full-length CD of compilation and seven-inch tracks, including their classic metallized cover of the B-52's' "Rock Lobster." Guitartist Knudson has moved on to working with indie rockers Minus the Bear.
Meanwhile, Botch's music continues to hold a prime spot in the world of evil math rock. "What I love about Botch's story," summarizes DEP's Weinman when asked to assess the band's "legacy," "is that they were kinda underdogs when they started. They didn't have members from some cool band to help pave their way into the music scene. They've just played together since they were very young and they stuck together. Botch was always clever about their music, but never sacrificed energy and passion."
Taking his turn at answering the same question, the (admittedly biased) Thompson is even more to the point. "Botch are amazing. Live or on record they slay, and they will always be remembered as doing so."