Sickshit Is New Jersey's Next Great Hardcore Band (Just Don't Ask Them About Bon Jovi)
Watch their new video for "Better" and read their thoughts on hardcore bros, assorted devils, and why Governor Chris Christie is a jabroni.
I fucking love being from New Jersey, and seldom get to work that fact into my work here at Noisey (which is a terrible, terrible shame, I'm sure you'd all agree). We tend to cover bands from the other side of the river more frequently, but when I came across Hightstown, NJ hardcore punks Sickshit, I knew I'd struck gold. They caught my attention in a way no other hardcore-adjacent band since G.L.O.S.S. has managed to pull off—I usually prefer my tunes blacker, or doomier, or crustier, but please believe me when I tell you that Sickshit is some good shit.
Their take on hardcore is incredibly abrasive; gang chants crash into powerviolence, grinding noise usurps bottom-heavy grooves, dirty punk beats careen past peppy bursts of crust, and vocalist Sami's manic shriek oversees the violence, spitting brutal poetry like snake venom. In short, it fucking rules, and the band's latest EP, Reclaimed, is an absolute beast.
We're premiering their new video for "Better" below, and I popped off a quick Q&A with Sami, Bobko, and Zach to find out more about my new favorite hardcore band, and couldn't reisst quizzing them on a couple extremely Jersey queries whilst I was at it.
Noisey: There's not a ton of information out there about you guys yet, so can you give me some background info on the band?
Zach: We started writing songs together about 2 years ago. Bobko and I have known each other since middle school, and had been putting off starting a band together for years. One day we just kind of decided it was time. He's the main riff-writer, so he can tell you what his influences are.
Bobko: Infest and Youth of Today.
Sami: I joined the band six months into Sick Shit existing. I have known Zach, Bobko, and Ricky for years and we are all from the same home town [Hightstown]. I would definitely say that the song Numb by Lincoln Park is a major influence in my music and life. Also I am really inspired by Justin Pearson from The Locust and Retox.
What was your first practice like?
Zach: The first practice was in Bobko's basement, as a two-piece with just him and myself. I think we may have written early versions of "Spit" and "Dirt" that night. There's a good chance Sam was there as well, just watching. The idea of her being a vocalist or even having a vocalist did not occur to us at that point.
This is vocalist Sami's first time singing for a band, but you'd never know it from hearing her vocals. Sami, how did you find your voice? What's been the most challenging thing about singing for this band?
Sami: Painful. I was uncomfortable, nervous, sweaty and embarrassed because I was almost 100 percent positive that my voice wouldn't sound right since I never screamed before. I didn't know how to do it and I was scared to try. My first attempt was me sitting down wearing noise-canceling headphones with Zach playing drums, and I physically couldn't produce noise. I then gave up and was really disappointed in myself. I tried again a couple weeks later after the old vocalist officially left the band and Z and B were in the process of recording the album Softcore. Out of necessity I jumped right into recording and just kinda forced myself to get over my fear and do it. It felt really good to overcome myself and my anxiety and I've enjoyed it ever since. The most challenging thing is my social anxiety. This is such a great platform for me to express myself but given my introverted nature its definitely hard sometimes.
The lyrics are brutally personal, and more inward-facing that we've come to expect from the majority of hardcore. Is there any kind of disconnect between the physicality of the music and the vulnerability of your lyrics?
Sami: No, I think the emotionally aware lyrics and violent nature of the genre mix perfectly. It is definitely different than the "FUCK SOCIETY" broey, insincere bullshit that a lot of hardcore bands perpetuate. I write poems about being sad or mad or anxious and turn them into lyrics and I also try to be as theatrical and animated as possible when we perform.
Is that where Softcore came from—your willingness to open up, and be "soft"?
Zach: To me, it's a reaction to how "tough" the hardcore scene pretends to be. Why not put out a pink tape with the word Softcore on it?
Sami: Yes, definitely. And again, I really like challenging that dumb bro-windmilling-agro atmosphere that is present in the hardcore scene. Fuck all that.
Do you think hardcore is fundamentally emotional music?
Sami: I definitely think hardcore is extremely emotional, or at least the hardcore bands I tend to like are. I'll always take raw emotion over talent and complexity. There's nothing worse than a band whose songs don't seem to mean anything"
Bobko: Yeah, for sure. Growing up and listening to hardcore and punk, that was the first thing I could identify with—the rawness of the music combined with the brutally honest and confrontational lyrics about political and social issues. It was an outlet for dealing with my own problems I faced as a kid.
Coming from Jersey, you've already got a slight stigma compared to "cooler" NYC bands; there's still that "bridge and tunnel" bias that it seems like a lot of bands from outside the city face. Why does Jersey get such a bad rap? What are New Yorkers missing out on across the river?
Zach: Trenton area pizza
Sami: Air that doesn't smell like wet garbage
Bobko: All the great people, bands, and shows. Like Not Just A Boy's Club that Michelle from Death Vacation runs (shout out to Michelle and the dudes in Death Vacation!). After going to the first one last year, I started seeing a lot more people besides straight white males going to and playing in bands at hardcore shows which is great!
As NJ residents, what are your thoughts on the way Governor Christie has conducted himself over the course of the past year, from his involvement in the Trump campaign to the Bridgegate fallout?
Bobko: Christie is a jabroni and a snake. He's lucky I don't break my foot off in his ass.
Are you interested in Bruce Springsteen's new book? How do you feel about the Boss?
All: No comment
What about Bon Jovi?
All: Never heard of him.
Have you ever seen the Jersey Devil? (My grandma swears she has).
Bobko: No, but I have seen an alien in Burlington.
Sami: No, but I've seen Bobko and he's a alien-potato-devil from NJ.
Since you're from North Jersey and I'm from the Pine Barrens, we're basically mortal enemies, but Softcore won me over, and now the new EP sealed the deal. What's next for you guys?
Zach: Luckily, we're not really a North Jersey band. We all went to Hightstown High School in Mercer County and most of us live in Pennsauken now, so we can totally be friends! Hopefully, we can keep up the frequency of shows we've been playing and maybe find a way to put out vinyl and tour a bit. We've never really had any major goals as a band, and everything we've done so far has been a slow, organic process.
Bobko: Just to see where this goes and have fun with it. Playing music and going to shows has always been a great constructive stress reliever. As for goals, covering "Africa" by Toto is high on the list.
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