With an unquenchable thirst for chaos, Sacramento’s Trash Talk are on a mission, attracting unlikely admirers and plenty of haters along the way.
When Crack enters Trash Talk’s dressing room at Bristol’s The Croft just after soundcheck, everyone’s gazing at their laptop screens, sipping beers and trying to get in touch with slightly dubious weed contacts.
Spencer Pollard, the band’s bassist and auxiliary screamer, is watching a freestyle by Houston rapper Riff Raff and drummer Sam Bosson swivels his MacBook towards us to show off the pair of boots he’s lusting over. “How fucking tight are these? We’re meeting some Doc Marten guys in London tomorrow, they’re giving us discount”. The whereabouts of guitarist Garett is unknown, so Trash Talk’s frontman Lee Spielman hands Crack a tinnie and suggests that we go ahead without him. We begin by chatting about the triumphant festival slots they’ve played this summer. Trash Talk adapt well to the big stages, Lee climbing over the barriers to engage with the crowd, but really it’s the sweaty club shows that they’re renowned for. So what’s their preferred set up for a Trash Talk show? “No security, no barrier, a three foot stage and miscellaneous things to dive off in the room”, Lee tells us.
It just so happens the venue they’re about to play perfectly matches that description, and the gig that follows our interview is fucking mayhem. As soon as they launch into their first tune, a berserk moshpit breaks out and there’s a constant flow of stage- divers for the duration of the set. Under the band’s instruction, crowd members climb on top of the PA speakers and dive headfirst into the pit. During the breakdown of Explode, everyone gets the same idea and so many of us rush the stage that Sam’s drum kit topples over. The band appear highly impressed. “That was the most stage dives ever off of the highest point of the room. Thank you Bristol. You are fucking crazy”, Lee tweets the next morning, along with an affectionate salute to one particularly impulsive audience member: “Shout out to the kid who almost made me black out choking me. You woke me the fuck up”.
Pretty much any account of a Trash Talk show will report the band’s relentless energy and determination to whip the crowd into a frenzy. Their touring schedule reveals a band constantly on the road, and although they’re looking pretty drained during our conversation, they show no symptoms of fatigue when they perform. But surely when they’re feeling especially rough they must dread the chaos that awaits them? “Yeah, for sure”, Lee admits. “I’ve definitely been about to play and said, ‘fuck, I just cannot do this right now’. But you feed off the crowd. If it’s poppin’, you’re just like ‘Oh shit, it’s going down!’”
Trash Talk formed in 2005 and as you’d expect, they’ve accumulated plenty of war stories over the years. But there’s one gig that remains Lee’s all time favourite. “This one time we were supposed to play at this festival in Santa Barbara but the cops shut it down, so we played out of the back of a U-Haul van in the parking lot. People were diving off the top of the U-Haul and shit”, he grins. “I could just see bodies flying from over me. Some crazy ass girl climbed up the fire escape of this two storey building and dived off, that was the illest moment for me. And it was just fucked, the gate was locked, so no one could get in and no one could get out. The cops couldn’t do anything, so they were pissed. It was fucking gnarly!”
This summer, Trash Talk have toured once again with their buddies OFF!, the old-school hardcore revivalists fronted by former Circle Jerks singer and founding Black Flag member Keith Morris. The guys in OFF! are highly respected veterans who, despite being well into middle age, still make thrilling punk records and go hard as fuck at their shows. According to Sam, OFF! act as mentors on tour. “They’ve all got their crown jewels, their achievements, they all know a lot and have been around for a long time, so it’s interesting to hear their take on things. I particularly like talking to Mario (Rubalcaba, formerly of Rocket From The Crypt and Hot Snakes) because he’s been in some really awesome bands, he’s a great drummer and a great fucking skater. And Keith, he tells some great stories man …”
Trash Talk are on the verge of dropping their new album, 119, named after the address of the warehouse space where they rehearse, sleep, skate
and party. For the release of 119, they’ve combined their label Trash Talk Collective with Odd Future Records. Trash Talk first hooked up with Odd Future at SXSW two years ago, and their friendship with the LA rap crew is documented in pictures of them goofing around together, posted online. At a recent New York show, Odd Future crashed Trash Talk’s set with Tyler providing vocals for a hardcore rendition of his ignorant teen angst anthem Radicals while Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean and the rest of the gang wiled out onstage. It’s a ritual which occurs when both crews are in the same town, and it once got so out of hand that Tyler ended up in handcuffs.
When Crack brings up Trash Talk’s affiliation with Odd Future, Lee explains that their relationship transcends genre boundaries and that it’s an inclination towards DIY ethics which brings them together. “We’re all like-minded individuals. We all skate, some of the Odd Future dudes listen to punk, a lot of us listen to rap, we all live in LA, we’re all from California. It just kind of makes sense. The thing that’s really cool about it is the Trash Talk Collective is a label we started and built up on our own, and Odd Future records is a label they started and they’re building up. So it’s like both of our fucking empires together, you know, shit we’ve put everything into and we feel very passionate about, so it’s cool that it mixes up.”
Although Trash Talk’s music sounds slightly more polished every time they release a new record, they’re still faithfully committed to creating intense, metal-infused punk. That said, they attract a far more diverse fanbase than most hardcore bands. They’ve introduced themselves to hip-hop crowds through their Odd Future connection and their tour with Spaceghostpurrp. They also find themselves billed as the heaviest act at festivals with predominately indie and EDM line-ups. In conversation, you’re just as likely hear Lee rave about Real Estate or Toro Y Moi as some
underground band that makes death metal or thrashcore. So considering the tribalist nature of punk subcultures, do Trash Talk feel increasing levels of resentment from the communities they originated from? “Oh yeah, we’ve experienced it with every record,” Spencer tells us. “Every time we put something out, people talk shit on it”, he shrugs.
Sam claims to be unphased by the barrage of abusive comments posted by disgruntled hardcore purists and bored adolescents on the band’s YouTube videos and Facebook page. “On the internet there’s this faceless way to talk shit without any repercussion. It happens with all kinds of music, but especially with the hardcore community for some reason. It’s definitely commonplace for someone to be like [adopts a whiny voice] ‘Oh this definitely isn’t their best release, I liked their early 7 inches much
better’ on the internet. They don’t really think too much about it because it’s nothing to them, just a few clicks on a keyboard. But we don’t really give a fuck. You can’t please everyone all the time. As long as we truly believe in what we’re putting out, then I don’t have any problem with it.”
“I think that expanding and playing to different types of audiences is tight”, adds Lee. “There’s that 16 year- old kid who talks shit, he goes crazy at the first show and then he’s way too fucking cool by the second show. But then the random dude who listens to SBTRKT or The xx or something, that guy will probably come back because he’s not there to be part of any kind of scene, he’s there because he likes what he hears and what he sees.”
“But let it be known that Trash Talk will always be a hardcore band”, Sam chips in, reaffirming the band’s loyalty and ruling out the possibility of any chillwave influences on 119.
By this stage of Crack’s conversation with Trash Talk, the dictaphone has been on for 25 minutes, we’re running out of questions and we can sense that attention spans are wavering. We do, however, manage to instigate a debate about Lil B, which leads to Lee hilariously re-enacting the Basedgod’s signature ‘cooking dance’. “I feel very blessed to have seen Lil B play live a few times”, he says sincerely. “We went to see him in Hollywood and he actually took the time to shake hands with every single person who came to the show. I think that is fucking awesome.”
Words: David Reed
Illustration: James Wilson