Dedicated. It’s a word that gets thrown around haphazardly these days which has lessened its impact. However, in the case of hardcore / punk bruisers La Armada, this term describes their ethos better than any other. Formerly of the Dominican Republic, La Armada moved home base to Chicago and soaked up many more of metal’s extreme sub genres leading up to their first full proper full length in 2012. Their follow up EP and second full length are even more devastating while showcasing better songwriting and more of their Latin infusion which makes them stand out and sets them apart in a crowded hardcore scene. But, their dedication doesn’t stop at their song craft. The band is fully focused on social issues such as immigrant rights, globalization, and class struggle just to name a few. Where the dedication comes in is through their tireless efforts to spotlight these issues, help out wherever they can, and lead by example. This year the band will be releasing a series of songs titled Songs of the Exiled and the first of which is coming up this month. Links are contained below so bookmark them and be ready, trust me here – you don’t want to miss out. For now, read up on how the band responded to our Profile questions as they offer great insight into their inner workings.
How did you first get into playing music, and have you achieved the level of success that you hoped for?
Live music was always a part of our childhood and adolescence. You would hear it and see it played in street festivals and parties in Santo Domingo and for example Mani’s (our bass player) father still plays weekly in an impromptu salsa ensemble so, the influences were always there.
We picked up instruments around age 12 through 14. When the band started, our drummer was 13 and we went hard at playing live from the very start. We organized DIY shows, in spaces like car washes, abandoned offices, living rooms, anywhere!
What’s the most you have ever debased yourself to get your band onto a show, into a magazine or otherwise promoted, covered, and praised? (If you don’t have a story, please tell us any funny/embarrassing story.)
I don’t think we’ve ever done anything embarrassing to get an opportunity aside from just shamelessly asking. What we have done is said yes to things and figured it out afterwards. For example, the first time we went on a national tour as a support act and played on actual stages (as opposed to basements and DIY spots) we were invited because a band dropped off. We got asked on a Friday afternoon and if we were to say yes, we would have to commit to picking up the headliners’ trailer, and drive it 8 hours to meet them for our first show of that tour, on the following Monday. At the time we didn’t even have a van but we still said yes. We spent the weekend frantically looking for a van to rent on Craigslist, two people quit their jobs, and off we went by Monday morning.
What do you see as some of the great things happening in metal and what are some of the worst things happening inside the scene right now?
We enjoy seeing new bands that leave an impression. We live in Chicago and locally we see some great new and exciting young bands with some serious talent. Bands like South Arsenal and Sarin have made us pretty excited about local metal. In the Dominican, metal is huge, and the talent is out of this world, sometimes we collaborate with friends from there on fun stuff like this Death cover. So we try to stay in tune with metal by going to a show or jamming, and then letting that influence the writing.
On the not-so-brighstside of things, we still hear too many dumb comments. For example, recently heard a dude condescendingly mansplain to our guitarist Jonathan’s wife who Kerry King was, just assuming she had no idea. Since we come from the punk scene, we may be a little more aware of situations like these. However, we like to see it as an opportunity. When we take the stage at a metal show, it’s cool to say our part and maybe expose the crowd to ideas and positions they may have not considered before, and it usually goes over well. There was only one time, in Indianapolis, where someone at a metal show tried to get violent because of our messaging.
Aside from that, It’d be cool to see more bands in metal and punk break out of the traditional models of operating. The music “industry” clearly doesn’t function the same way as it did 10 years ago so, for example, why are bands paying for all their recording, promotional costs, etc. and then letting a label control the digital streams and revenues? If you look at the hip hop model, even in the underground, they are clearly doing the exact opposite.
It seems that now everyone has a passion for some cause and that those people are very open about displaying their passions. This is probably a very, very good (and progressive) thing socially. What are some of the most important issues (social/political) for you and how do you insert those issues into your music?
There’s a broad range because of our life experiences. I think as a band in the last few years we have been focusing on two: the decolonization of our minds and bodies, and immigrant rights.
Regarding the former, we’ve been talking about taking a hard look at our daily lives and asking if the decisions we make, the information we consume and even if the food we eat, is contributing to our personal growth and the growth of the communities we belong to. Regarding the latter, there is an obvious attack on immigrant communities in the US and across the world right now, promoted by the rise of alt-right. As a band of immigrants, what can we do both artistically and tactically to bring the issues to light but also to help? So, for example we have been touring with a zine / limited 7” made by us and our friends in Thulsa Doom and Disaster Strikes, where 100% of the proceeds go towards the ACLU. Or we have brought in grassroots organizations to table at our shows and receive a portion of ticket sales.
What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? How did your family take the news?
I think we all got into metal around the same time. Our bassist Mani played in a black metal band very early on. Metal was just always around us back in the DR. There really wasn’t much punk or hardcore in the early to mid ’90s down there. So everyone we looked up to locally was in a metal band, and extreme metal at that. You’d see dudes walking around in full leather and face paint in 90 degree weather. All that exposure to the genre at a local level made a big impact on us and from there we would seek out music and eventually learn about bands like Death, Slayer, and At the Gates. Our moms were crushed, it’s a very conservative country.
As we toured in the American underground, we discovered a whole different subset of metal that also influenced us. Genres like powerviolence and grindcore had an immediate impact on what we were doing.
What advice do you have for aspiring music critics and outlets out there? How can we all better serve the genre in the eyes of a hard-working musician?
Look to the underground. What newer bands are trying to add something to the genre and not just rehashing the past. Who has something new to say and is being authentic?
What’s your goal? You guys thinking world domination? Maybe saving a continent? Maybe invading one? Any interest in starting a cult? Do you guys have day jobs or hobbies you want to share? Whatever it is, please let us know.
One of our goals is to be one of the most explosive live acts you will see. We enjoy the chance to make a difference through our music. Sometimes that difference comes by influencing someone’s way of thinking and hopefully how they view or treat others. Other times it comes through someone in a minority community seeing us play and feeling represented. When people express any of that to us, it feels very gratifying.
As for jobs, we all have one, of course, but our singer Casper is an archeologist. Right now he is in Guam digging up the corpses of POWs. That’s pretty metal.
When you’re not obsessing over your own material, what are some of your favorite albums to listen to currently?
Albums we have brought up recently are Sepultura’s new one, “Quadra.” Chicago’s Through and Through released a record called “Our Side ” that we enjoy because they really captured their reality of their experience of growing up in the city’s South Side. Then there’s a whole wide range of music like the Griselda Records releases, which is hip hop, Tigran Hamasyan which is jazz, and newer Caribbean music like Riccie Oriach. All of these are recent releases we have been enjoying and sharing amongst ourselves.
What is the 12-month outlook for you or your band? Any specific events on the horizon that the masses should be aware of?
We are going to be releasing a series of “mini-eps” throughout the year under the name “Songs of the Exiled.” Each part of the series is dedicated to a place we have lived in. The first one is dedicated to Chicago, with the first track being released in late February. It’s a great creative challenge for us and a good way to stay relevant and active. Aside from that we will have some regional shows in April and May then a European tour in June where we will play small shows and bigger festivals like Jera On Air, with bands like Meshuggah and Killswitch Engage.
The second half of the year is being planned right now but it will include more of the same. Writing and recording and playing shows.
Summarize your band in exactly one word.
Many thanks to La Armada for their time!
The Songs of the Exiled series will be available beginning this month and throughout the year on the band’s Bandcamp page. For more information on La Armada, visit their official website and Facebook page.