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State Of Mind

State Of Mind started playing groovy hardcore about five years ago. Their latest effort, 'Mental Gold' made quite an impression on me, so I called singer Emile to talk about the band, the music and the future.

By: Thijs | Archive under punk / hardcore

First of all, could you tell us how it all started for you; who or what got you into hardcore?
Actually, I kind of got into it by myself. I started visiting shows in '94, when the Willem II venue in Den Bosch was programming a lot of hardcore. That place was really nearby. My first show was Black Train Jack. The interest in the harder genres in music was always there and I had one friend who occasionally went to shows with me, but mainly it was me checking out which shows to visit. And doing that, I got to know people and started visiting even more shows, not only in Den Bosch, but also further away.

It's a shame that the Willem II stopped putting up hardcore shows, I personally really like the venue and atmosphere.
Definitely. It was great for me, only ten minutes away on bike. It could be that they're going to put up some hardcore shows in the near future, so let's hope so.

A lot of people in the hardcore scene have their own band(s), was that something that you wanted when you first got into hardcore?
No, not really. I have been involved in a couple of bands for a while without being in a band myself. I've never learned to play an instrument which may have kept me from starting a band. But I've helped No Turning Back with their merchandise and drove them to shows, and was roadie for a couple of other bands too. This way you get to know a lot of people and at some point I was asked to sing in a band. That band was State Of Mind, which actually evolved out of another band. Their singer and bass player decided to quit, so the other guys asked me to step up to the microphone. We chose a new name and started playing. That was about five years ago.

There have been some line-up changes, right?
Yeah, the line-up today is completely different from when we started. Our guitar player and me are the only ones left from the original line-up.

Do you see this line-up as a stable one?
Yeah, the current line-up consists of friends of mine, and everyone is enthusiastic about playing in State Of Mind. After our previous full-length we sort of took a break because our guitar player went abroad for a couple of months. When thought we would start rehearsing again when he would come back. We would release the record and start playing shows again. But when he returned three out of five members decided that they didn't feel like rehearsing, playing shows and doing the same thing they did before the break again. Both Gijs and I wanted to continue playing and the same day that those guys decided to quit the band we managed to assemble a complete new line-up. So we released that record and started playing shows.

Since then, it went really well for the band. But criticism that I read in a couple of reviews was that the vocals weren't up to the level of the music. How was that for you?
Yeah, I know. Well, I never said I am a great singer. I always try to do something different and to continue to grow as a singer and try new things. I'm glad that since the first release my vocals got better. As for the new record, I still sometimes hear that the vocals are its weak point, even though I am very satisfied with the result. I guess that's something that remains open for debate. But don't expect me to take singing lessons or to become a great singer, I just work with what I got.

About the new record, musically speaking, what would you say are the main influences?
Pfff, hard question. When we started, we were a groovy New York hardcore band. But I think that we developed our own sound and style. The groove is still an important aspect of the sound of State Of Mind. And along the way, we incorporated less and less fast parts in our music. It's hard for me to pinpoint the influences that caused us to head in this direction. When we started I listened a lot to the older Maximum Penalty, the groovy parts of Leeway, Fahrenheit 451, so those bands influenced the band at that point.

band image

That last band you mention incorporates hiphop elements into its music, and I know you're a big fan of hiphop, is that something you think shows in the music of State Of Mind?
Yeah, our guitar player Gijs and me, we listen to a lot of hiphop and you'll probably hear some of that in our music.

Musically speaking, is there a song on 'Mental Gold' that you think signals the direction State Of Mind will be heading in?
I don't think it's one song, but the overall sound on this record. I think that while 'Mental Gold' doesn't have that much fast parts and as a whole is mainly groovy hardcore, is pretty diverse. That is something we pay attention to, we don't want to write the same song ten times, it gets boring if you do that. I think for us the challenge is to push the boundaries, maybe write songs that are even more melodic than what we've written up to now.

About the lyrics, you tackle some heavy issues here and there, but what stands out to me is the positive outlook that shows from most lyrics.
Lyrics are important to me, they provide the possibility to get things off your chest. Generally I don't like lyrics that are very direct but I definitely have a message that I want to get across with my lyrics. I can write about how I hate everyone and everything but I'd rather search for some positive undertone in addition to the things that are less pleasant.

Hardcore has always been a genre that's closely connected with politics. Some say that nowadays there aren't as many bands that are politically aware as there should be. What is your stance on that?
I think political awareness in hardcore is really important, because hardcore is more than just music. And when we're on stage and I have something to say, I won't hold back and say what I want to say. But I'd rather do that in a short speech on stage than in my lyrics because politics are hard to write about. Although it's not something that I consciously avoid, it's hard because the lyrics get very direct really fast while I think our music is more suited to have lyrics that are less direct and allow the listener to have its own thoughts on what they are about.

You've also released a video, can you tell us more about that?
At the time we were approached by guys from the HKU (an art school in The Netherlands, red.), who wanted to do a project for school that involved shooting a video clip. But it was not just the video, they had a whole trajectory they had to complete and because of that, the video was finished long after it was recorded. Actually, it was ready just before our new record got released. And the song is off of the previous record because we hadn't recorded the new songs yet. So we see the video as a nice extra, but not something that we really wanted to push. We just got it on the internet, but we knew that it wouldn't make it to TV, and we never intended it to. One thing I noticed is that on the internet, if a song is accompanied by images, people will click on it sooner. It looks like it's a big deal to have a video to a lot of people while it's really not. But in the end it was cool that we got to do that.

And what's about to happen with the band now? Can we expect a lot of touring?
When the record was released, we played a lot of shows and went on tour. During the summer it was pretty quiet. And now, we as a band are figuring out what to do next. I recently found a job so planning a tour isn't as easy as it used to be. But it would be nice if we could tour with an American band so we can take this band to another level. It is up to us to think about how to do that. So we don't really know at this point if we're going to write another album or maybe an EP, we're still considering our options.

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