I was reading an article recently stating an opinion that music genres are basically meaningless these days. And while I’m sure a lot of individuals will beg to differ, it got me thinking about how we speak of the bands we love when we’re trying to describe their sound. Then it got me pondering more and I thought well, why is it our first instinct to shove them into certain categories or peg them into one genre forever? Sometimes I think we just have to sit back, enjoy and remember that their sound will forever be changing. The moral of this banter leads me to a band that I couldn’t quite put my finger on when it came to their sound. Sure they could be alternative and I could compare them to a few bands I had in mind, but this time I just said f*** it and just jammed. The band in question is a two-piece from Louisville, Kentucky called Feral Vices. Let’s head to the bluegrass state for this one and see what this dynamic duo has to offer us. Before we dive into the music, let’s introduce you to the members of Feral Vices. The band is made up of only two members, Justin Cottner and Alexander Hoagland. The two have known one another for years and even worked together at every emo kids candy store, Hot Topic. They both knew one another from touring in separate bands and then came together when this project, not called Feral Vices at the time, lost a few of its members. They continued to play and create music together. In 2019 we see the first single from Feral Vices called The Talking Heads. A very catchy and lyrically conscious tune. We see another single in the same year and an EP called Mirror You. They stay very consistent with their sound, but every release just gets more and more polished. 2020 hits and we get three more singles. Pipe Bomb, The New Machines and Eat Me Alive. These three are a bit heavier in sound and in lyrics. Fast forward to the present tense and we are gifted with their latest EP, With Offerings. They gave us a little taste back in October with the track Mass Produce Your Revolution. When I first listened to this track I was blown away with how much they’ve grown with their sound since 2019 and then lyrically it stays very honest, raw, and mindful. The whole EP is phenomenal and keeps your attention from start to finish. It seems once again that another gem of an EP has come out of The Gradwell House and of course has Nik Bruzzese’s stamp on it.
I recently had Alex and Justin answer a few questions to give us a little more detail about their background, their major musical influences, and working with Nik!
- Now you guys have putting out music since 2019, but I’m sure you have been playing together much longer. Can you tell us how you guys know one another and give us a little history lesson on Feral Vices and how the band came to be?
Alex: We know each other from playing in bands over the years and we also actually worked at a Hot Topic in a mall at the same time but I think we only interacted once or twice at that time. Anyways, we just had played a lot of shows together over the years and then 2 of our old bands went on a short tour together and I think that kind of solidified us knowing each other. So, when my last band’s drummer was kicked out, we needed someone to fill in and that was that.
Justin: I’ve known Alex as long as I’ve been a part of the music scene in Louisville. We’ve always played shows together but never in the same band until now. Fun little fact, I was never officially asked to be a part of this project. This project was originally under a different name and they needed a fill-in drummer for a local fest they were playing. At that time one of my good friends Andy was playing guitar and asked me to fill in. I played the show and then Andy and Kalina left the band and Alex just kept showing up to practices and I just went with it. That’s when we changed the name and really started focusing on Feral Vices.
- Now with your sound being very unique, who would you say are some of your biggest musical influences? And what got you guys into playing and writing music?
Alex: On my side of things, when writing for Feral Vices I take a lot of influence from The Jesus Lizard, Refused, Biffy Clyro, Showbread, and probably a bunch of other influences that aren’t intentional but end up sneaking their way in just by virtue of me listening to them a lot. I got into playing music because I come from a very musical family. My mom was a music pastor for many years and my dad was in her choir. So, all of my siblings play instruments and sing. I never was sure what I wanted to do and because we didn’t have a lot of money growing up, it was hard to try things out. You basically had to choose something and stick with it. So, at some point I got into the bands Starflyer 59 and Rage Against the Machine and was so blown away by the guitars on their albums, I was sold on playing guitar at that point.
Justin: Oof, that’s always a tough question for me because I feel like I have so many influences. I grew up on classic rock in the car with my dad. Some of my earliest memories of music I’d say are Bon Jovi, Guns N Roses, AC/DC Ect. But what really got me into wanting to make music was the metal/metalcore scene. Specifically Slipknot, The Devil Wears Prada, August Burns Res, and Oh, Sleeper. Those bands made me feel emotions from music I hadn’t felt before. I remember the first time I heard ‘Wait and Bleed’ by Slipknot and I was like “Fuck, this is good”.
- It seems Nik Bruzzese has had quite the following since he hit The Gradwell House, you guys included. Did you guys always want to work with Nik? How was the experience at The Gradwell House and working with him?
Alex: I actually had no idea who Nik was before Justin introduced him to me. Justin was really into Nik’s band Man Overboard and I remember about a year or so before we decided to record with him, he somehow found our band on Instagram or Spotify and followed us and kept liking our stuff but never really reached out or anything. When it came time to record, Justin suggested we look at what he did as it seemed like he was already at least somewhat into what we do and it just worked out. Recording with Nik was absolutely incredible. The dude knows what he’s doing and is super passionate about it. I think our music is a little out of his comfort zone so he was able to flex a lot of creative muscles he doesn’t get to flex very often and because he’s from a world I’ve never really been a part of, he pulled me out of my comfort zone and we were able to really make some incredible stuff that we’re all super excited about.
Justin: Man Overboard was the band that really got me into Pop-punk. I remember my brother had their “Real Talk” record and that was always on repeat. I never really thought of working with him until we were looking for producers to work with. I had talked it over with Alex and I know he really wanted to work with Matt Goldman and we were trying to decide between the two once I brought up Nik. We had a phone call with Nik and we just felt like he was going to be our best fit for where the band was currently at. I think that was the best decision we made as a band because that was the best studio experience I’ve had by far. Nik was so great to work with and he really pushed us to be at our best. I will be hearing “HIT THE SNARE HARDER” for the rest of my life.
- You just dropped an EP called “With Offerings” and let me just say it is fantastic. Amazing job. Was there a certain track you guys enjoyed recording/writing the most?
Alex: Thank you! For me, the coolest song was easily the title track With Offerings. While recording that one we had so many little things we added or thought of and just kept adding to it or changing things and were having these, “Oh shit!” moments. It’s still my favorite track on the EP.
Justin: I say it was “Lay Down” for me. I knew when we were writing that song in my parent’s basement it was going to be a banger and I just really enjoyed playing the drums in the studio to that one.
- lastly, if you could team up and record an EP with any band or artist who would it be and why?
Alex: I think it would be pretty cool to team up with another two-piece band, specifically Death From Above 1979. They have a bassist and their drummer sings, so we could basically just be a full band for a song or EP. That would be super fun and I think our collective knowledge on making things sound bigger than they are could be used in really cool ways as a four-piece.
Justin: Will Yip. Without any doubt, if there’s somebody I can make a record with it’s Will Yip. He’s put out all of my favorite records and I would love to have the opportunity to work with him even if it was for just one song.
When it comes to Feral Vices, their sound is seriously so damn unique that I feel we can’t just lump them into one category or genre. And I think that their sound will continue to grow and change in years to come and I can’t wait to hear it. Music, like anything else in this world, is something we have to keep an open mind to. Like us, it is forever changing and growing. And after all, isn’t that the reason we love it so much? It has the ability to grow with us, change with us and most importantly be there for us. With Offerings gives a refreshing new sound and lyrics to keep your mind’s eye open. These two gents have a bright future ahead of them and I can’t wait to see what offerings they have in store for us next!
Article By Kristen Hernandez