Though I've apparently not covered them before, Drowning is one of the relatively small number of modern hardcore bands that I've followed for several years now. Something always intrigued me about their contemporary take on beatdown hardcore with unique and readily identifiable vocals boasting a touch of a hip-hop edge, and with sophomore full-length 23—out this week through Fast Break! Records (U.S.) and Demons Run Amok (Europe)—they've really kicked down the door and taken everything to another level.
The growth displayed herein reminds me quite a bit of E.Town Concrete circa The Renaissance in that the core Drowning sound is still right there, but the songwriting openly displays markedly improved diversity and skill while confidently exploring a wider range of influences that have the potential to ruffle the feathers of less adventurous listeners along the way. On the other hand, combined with the group's hard-working nature, that willingness to branch out could absolutely see Drowning start to pop off and achieve a farther-reaching degree of success.
Beyond the hip-hop-tinged beatdown roots of "Burnin' Alive," "My Response," "U.A.S.H.," etc.; hard-hitting grooves and roving basslines are peppered with hints of thrash or grinding death metal riffs ("World of Snakes," "Fake," etc.); some traditional hardcore ("Uninspired"); as well as the nu-metal-esque melody and hooks of cuts like "Gods" and "Run It." I'm impressed. It really gives me a new level of respect for what they're doing, and I'd love to see 'em run with this potential….
Stream 23 below, followed by a quick chat with vocalist Bryan Grantz:
Some of what I've read about 23 thus far continues to predominantly classify Drowning as a "beatdown" band, but that really looks past the fact that right from the start this album branches out into some significant new directions. When that "Gods" video came out, I was just like, "Holy shit!" I was taken aback—though pleasantly surprised—by such an openly catchy, melodic chorus. That song in particular—along with tracks like "Run It"—sort of fuses the ultra-crushing grooves for which you're known with a borderline nu-metal type of angle. It's a really interesting—and gutsy—move. How did this shift take shape, and—though I imagine you're completely unconcerned—do you foresee any "backlash" at all?
We all decided to really get in touch with our influences growing up. We have been playing straight beatdown music for the last six years. We felt it was time for some more influences and to think outside the box. We love Egotrip, our freshman album, but didn't want to write the same album back-to-back. We are a beatdown band and will always have the violent, heavy edge; but we also wanted to intensify some of our hip-hop influences as well. We know our hardcore fans will get what we are going for and why. It's to bring that hip-hop element to the forefront. We have had a list of mixed reviews, but I feel there's not too much of anything on the CD. Something you can pop in no matter what mood you are in.
That being said, the bulk of the record offers plenty that will appeal to longtime fans of your work. It is, however, a much more diverse affair, injecting more tempo variation and energy into the foundation of Drowning's past efforts. Beyond being comfortable exploring a wider range of influences, how would you say the band has progressed as songwriters in general?
We have just really stepped outside the box with no chains attached. Last album, we were playing heavy beatdown while implanting our signature hip-hop style. This CD, we decided to explore and really come into ourselves. We pride ourselves on doing our own thing and not being a cookie-cutter band like many others. I feel like our musical abilities have increased as well as our songwriting abilities, and that's something we wanted to improve from CD to CD.
Other than Jesse Adkins from Cold as Life, I don't think I've seen any of 23's guest spots credited yet, but that's something else that has interested me about Drowning: that collaborative aspect of having had a diverse roster of contributors hop onto a number of tracks throughout your discography. Talk about that element of your material—how you approach it, what it means to the group, etc.
I've always really liked guest vocalists on an album. It goes back to many hip-hop artists featuring on albums. It intrigued me. I let every guest artist write their own part, so it comes out very genuine to their style. I feel like it's just fun to see different artists collaborate, and that's why we do it. You can catch Jesse Adkins, Unkle Slump, The Ewokk, Chris Ruben, Samoan Rob (Crowd Deterrent), Cameron McBride (Methwitch), and Eric Diaz all bringing their new styles and influences on this CD.
Despite terms like "beatdown" and all of the anger and aggression that would typically be associated with this form of music, it seems like you all are having more fun than ever now.
This is definitely a way of getting aggression out, but you can't be angry all the time, right? I hit on subjects and express my anger, but it always comes with a smile. A lot of bands take a persona too seriously. My goal is to have a blast with everyone and to share smiles. Drowning is a special type of band because we are who we are: four dudes who like to play crazy shows and who genuinely enjoy playing music.
I know that wider success is something that's generally not really top-of-mind, but what are your plans after Europe next month? In front of the right crowds, it feels like Drowning could potentially make a real run here…
We plan on doing a lot more touring and just having fun with it. Already thinking about the next time we will be hitting Europe. Success and a run would be amazing, but right now we are just focused on our upcoming Euro tour. I'm excited to make many new friends and see the culture provided by each country. I really want to get in there and see how the locals live. At the end of the day, we do this for the passion of music, and when we aren't having fun anymore, that will be the end. Until then, we are having a blast and can't wait to see what the future holds…
Pre-order 23 on three color variants of LP—100 gold/black (A-side/B-side), 200 transparent purple with gold splatter, and 300 black—or CD via Fast Break! Records (U.S.) and Demons Run Amok (Europe). Orders start shipping this week. Keep up with Drowning on Facebook and Instagram to catch them on tour.