As anyone who donned a pair of white high-tops or scratched out the D.R.I. logo on a biology class notebook in the '80s can attest, hardcore and metal have a considerable history of commingling. And while the most execrable examples of that stylistic collision have occurred in the past few years (see: metalcore), it doesn't take much to remind a fan of either form just how good those two genres can sound when combined by the right hands.
Currently, those hands belong to the members of local band No Friends. Consisting of three former members of now-defunct Orlando hardcore legends New Mexican Disaster Squad along with vocalist Tony Foresta, of hotly touted thrash revivalists Municipal Waste, No Friends is the sort of side project that's worthy of attention.
Foresta's main band is currently riding a wave of popularity as one of the best bands of the loosely tagged "New Wave of Thrash," with festival gigs, glossy-mag profiles and a considerable amount of metal-blog buzz, and the former NMDS members involved in No Friends keep busy with their own punk bands. Guitarist Sam Johnson heads up Virgins, drummer Richard Minino and bassist Alex Goldfarb play together in Gatorface, and Minino is also a member of the recently reformed None More Black. Thankfully, when it comes to songwriting and rehearsals, the band's chemistry more than makes up for any scheduling limitations — and the fact that Foresta lives in Richmond, Va.
"They practice down here and get tight, and I practice along with the CD at home. I do the same thing with the Waste, too," laughs Foresta. "I barely go to practice with them, either."
"But we really don't practice all that much anyway," says Goldfarb. "We only practiced like six times before we recorded the CD."
"Actually," laughs Johnson, "I think it was just four times."
While those practices didn't make the sound of No Friends perfect, they did hone the band's attack. The self-titled debut album packs 10 songs into a punk-rock-length 17 minutes, with a sound that hearkens back not to the crossover thrash of the mid-'80s, but to the pure hardcore scene that was peaking at the time. Foresta's vocals perfectly capture the cross-genre call to arms of the era, but it's the careening power of the music that pushes No Friends into more purely punk territory. Which, of course, was the point.
"You ever listen to a band and picture yourself singing for them?" asks Foresta. "I would do that when I listened to New Mexican … all the time. I know it's really weird, because I'm friends with them too, but I really loved what they did. I remember singing in the shower one time … OK, maybe that's getting a little too personal."
"That just means you can sing the songs better than Sam," laughs Minino.
"After NMDS broke up," says Foresta, "I was talking to `Minino, who is also a graphic artist` about doing some art, and we just started shooting the shit, and I was asking him what happened with the band."
"I explained that Brian `Etherington, former guitarist in NMDS` couldn't tour anymore, and we weren't going to do New Mexican without him, 'cause that would be weird," says Minino. "And Tony was like, ‘Start a hardcore band with me.' And it sounded like a great idea."
While the idea of starting a band with members separated by more than 700 miles (especially one with a member whose day job consists of fronting a progressively more internationally popular metal band) seems hardly plausible, the No Friends fit is natural.
"It works great for me," says Foresta. "My family lives down here, so now when I visit I've got something else to do; I can hang out with my friends and play music. It's awesome. We do what we want, when we want to. It's a really stress-free environment."
Don't expect No Friends' hybrid style to inspire the inevitable punks-versus-heshers throwdown in the pit at one of their shows, however. For one, the band just doesn't play that many gigs; their recent performance at Will's Pub was only their fourth ever. For another thing, a cursory listen would clue in even the densest metalhead that No Friends is much more a punk-rock operation than a heavy-metal side project.
"I think it can open up `some metal fans'` eyes to stuff like Dag Nasty and Bad Brains, hopefully," says Goldfarb. "That's where we're getting all our influences from: D.C. and early Orange County stuff."
"I mean, it'd be cool if people pick up on that stuff," says Minino, "but with No Friends, we really aren't trying to impress anyone."firstname.lastname@example.org