D.C. punk and hardcore always seems to be categorized by highs and lows: great bands starting and breaking up, venues opening and closing, etc? It's been that way since the days of Minor Threat and will probably continue to be a constant, a reliable seesaw over time. Regardless of the change, new bands will always rise up from the ashes of the dead, and Police & Thieves is no exception. Scene Point Blank recently talked with Carlos Izurieta, vocalist of the up-and-coming melodic hardcore band.
Scene Point Blank: I know it has to be one of the most unoriginal questions you can ask, but I've always been curious, where did the name Police & Thieves come from?
Carlos Izurieta: Haha. No worries man. A lot of people ask us if it is from The Clash song, but the reggae artist Junior Mervin originally wrote it. We had a hard time deciding on a name and on the eve of our first show we had not come up with anything, so Michael our guitarist suggested ?The Law,? which to us was quite possibly one of the most unoriginal names, plus he was in law school and that made it seem even lamer. But hey, none of us could come up with anything better, so we decided to keep it until we had something better. We had finished recording the demo and Tad, my old band mate from Worn Thin, was doing the artwork for the demo tape/CD. When he brought us the artwork he suggested we change the name to Police & Thieves, after the Junior Mervin song. We were all pretty stoked on the name, especially Michael who is a reggae DJ, plus we are all pretty big reggae and Clash fans as well.
Since then I have gone back and re-read the lyrics and I think they are still relevant today, as is the name and the connotation the name carries. Living in D.C. for pretty much all my life, I got to experience firsthand the inner workings of politics and government. I?ve gotten to see how outside sources with vested interests can curry favor with politicians/authority figures that are supposed to be serving the people, when in fact they are ultimately looking out for only themselves.
In that sense you begin to see how unfortunately not everything is what it seems, and just because someone is in a position of authority it does not mean they will do the right thing. As we have found out many authority figures are just as corrupt or even worse than the people they rail against.
Scene Point Blank: You all have a record coming out on Youngblood Records, what can you tell us about it?
Carlos Izurieta: It was recorded live, last May, at Minimum Wage Studios in Richmond, Virginia with Lance Kohler (Government Warning, Cloak/ Dagger). On our last two recordings, all the instruments were done individually, which gave it a cleaner sound. We wanted a more raw sound for this for this recording so we decided to work with Lance and do everything live. The instruments and vocals were finished in May but I wasn?t feeling the vocals/lyrics I had written so I decided to re- record them. Over the summer I went through some trials and tribulations that inspired new lyrics for a few of the songs.
The new record is a four-song 7? inch titled Amor y Guerra, which for those who don?t know means "Love and War." It was a lot of work but in my opinion they are some of the best songs we have written. There is a good balance of mid-tempo and fast songs but still in the same style of songwriting we had in the past. The CD version will contain our first 7?, Amor y Guerra, our demo and two unreleased songs. All of this will be available as well on iTunes.
Scene Point Blank: Police & Thieves seem to be a pretty distanced departure from Worn Thin, slower and more controlled. Was this the goal in the beginning, or did things just end up like that?
Carlos Izurieta: It?s funny you say that, because when some of my friends heard our demo, they said it reminded them of something Worn Thin would have written if we were still around. I tried to make a conscience effort to separate the two, but ultimately being the singer it?s hard to change your voice for this style of music and sometimes that?s a really identifying factor in music. As well as on the last Worn Thin record, the songs were more mid-tempo and melodic and I think we were starting to go more in that musical direction. Before Worn Thin broke up I saw Rich, our bassist, and Dave, our old guitarist, and had mentioned I wanted to start a band with them after Worn Thin broke up that was influenced by bands like Dag Nasty, Embrace and Rites of Spring.
Scene Point Blank: Being from D.C., are you influenced at all by the 80's Dischord scene, or is that totally out of the picture?
Carlos Izurieta: I sort of answered some of this question up above. I mean I definitely set out to start a band that was similar to some of my favorite Dischord bands from the 80?s. It?s a bummer that the term ?emo? has become so bastardized by the mainstream media, as these were some of the first bands that were categorized that way because of their lyrical content and performances. They started as a reaction to the tough guy mentality that was prevalent back then. But what struck a chord with me was the lyrical content as well as the way the words were delivered in this sort of singing/screaming approach. It was a fresh approach to singing in hardcore, at a time when the norm for bands back then was this drill sergeant like barking.
Scene Point Blank: What are your thoughts on the D.C. scene right now? The Warehouse Next Door, one of DC's premier DIY venues, has closed its doors, and Mass Movement of the Moth, arguably one of the premier D.C. punk bands, has broken up. Is D.C. experiencing a recession right now, or is it just the flow of the scene?
Carlos Izurieta: It?s really unfortunate about bands like Mass Movement of the Moth and Set to Explode breaking up, but the D.C. scene is still vibrant and growing, there are so many good new bands coming out and still around. And as you know necessity is the mother of invention, as we have seen so many new venues pop up and then sadly disappear. It?s pretty cyclical so to speak, as you find a place to have shows, then for one reason or another it will get shut down or stop having them, then another will pop up and then disappear just as fast. Right now we have a bunch of houses in D.C. that consistently have shows as well as other spaces like Bobby Fisher, St. Stephen?s, The Velvet Lounge is now doing all ages shows, as well as The Black Cat having started more hardcore shows.
Scene Point Blank: To go along with that question, the new hardcore bands that are starting up in the area, namely Coke Bust and Juice Tyme, are playing very fast and aggressive forms of hardcore. I'm sure you don't feel the pressure to change your sound, but does it make things harder to play a more controlled type of hardcore?
Carlos Izurieta: I think it?s great that there is diversity within the D.C. hardcore scene. I mean, imagine if we all sounded the same. That would make for some really boring shows. I love playing on bills with bands that play different types of music. For example a few weeks ago we played a show at the Black Cat with two bands that were really different than us, but I could see that they came from the same place as us influence wise. It was also cool because I think it gave people a chance to see bands that they might not have heard of otherwise.
Scene Point Blank: What can we expect with Police & Thieves and touring? Will you guys be hitting the road once the new record comes out?
Carlos Izurieta: It?s funny, a while back I was talking to a friend who was telling me about this English singer-songwriter who set up a tour made of only house shows. I was pretty stoked on the idea and told our friends Lion of Judah who were into the idea as well, so if anyone books shows at their house get in touch with us. Right now we are going to try and do a week in the spring as well as two weeks in the summer. Unfortunately since we all have pretty serious jobs it?s hard for us to tour the country. But we?re going to try and do it in bits and pieces. We really want to play the Midwest as well as the Westcoast and we are currently trying to book some Northeast shows.
Interview by Cory.