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SeeYouSpaceCowboy are chasing happiness through hardcore

With their new album, SeeYouSpaceCowboy are exploring their influences beyond screamo and sass. Read an interview with vocalist Connie Sgarbossa. Continue reading…

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SeeYouSpaceCowboy appear in our 2023 summer issue, which you can buy here.

“I just want SeeYouSpaceCowboy to represent creative freedom,” vocalist Connie Sgarbossa says. “It feels like so many bands are stuck writing for their scene, their genre, their audience. I want Cowboy to prove that you can explore.”

Across a series of splits, two albums and one compilation record, the Californian hardcore band have already shown they’re not afraid of taking a few risks. Their upcoming third studio album sees them once again looking to shake things up. “It’s always worth a try… even if it doesn’t work out,” Sgarbossa grins.

Read more: Bring Me The Horizon albums ranked: From worst to best

SeeYouSpaceCowboy are currently supporting Silverstein on their North American tour, and Sgarbossa is talking to Alternative Press from a tour bus in the middle of the Las Vegas desert. The shows so far have been great. “It’s fun being the heaviest band on the bill. There’s definitely a lot of people at these shows who have never seen a band that acts like us before,” Sgarbossa says, as the group spend their set throwing themselves and their instruments about the place with a giddy sense of recklessness. 

That physical reaction to their own music is winning over new fans every night, which has been “validating.” “It means pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion doing all this shit is worth it,” she says. When Sgarbossa, her brother Ethan, fellow guitarist Timmy Moreno, bassist Taylor Allen, and drummer AJ Tartol finally get to return home at the end of May, after a tour of the U.K. and Europe, they’ll have been on the road for well over three months. And then there are already exciting, ambitious plans for the fall.

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[Photo by Joe Calixto]

SpaceCowboy’s intense music is typically suited for small venues without a barrier. The band originally formed in the vibrant Californian hardcore scene and quickly developed a reputation for doing, and saying, whatever they wanted. “Don’t just protest trans kids, fight their oppressors” reads an early T-shirt, which says it all really. “Playing bigger stages is still weird for me,“ Sgarbossa admits, who’s spent most of her adult life playing rooms where the stage isn’t as tall as she is. “But we’ve learned how to utilize them. You’re not necessarily going to tell people to front flip off the stage or fuck each other up, but it’s fun getting people to put their hands in the air or clap along with us.”

“I hope we’re a gateway for people on this tour to explore heavy music,” she continues. “Even if you’re not necessarily into the heaviest shit, you’re going to hear a breakdown, bounce your head and get excited by it. There’s power in the music, and it’s cool watching other people realize that, especially since it’s a genre that’s been important to my life for so long.”

Sgarbossa’s love affair with the scene started when she was 10 years old and got into ’80s hardcore. “I was an angry kid,” she says, explaining that she attributes much of her rage to her biological father leaving her and her brother, Ethan. “Then we got adopted by a new dad, and he taught us how to skate and introduced us to hardcore.” 

The scene immediately became an outlet for her, and as she got older, exploring the various subgenres of screamo, emotive hardcore, and metalcore provided an escape from the real world. “School sucked, but I could hop on a bus and see a show at our local venue,” she explains. It wasn’t long before she was involved with the community that came with it. “Learning how to do sound, door, and cook for the various touring bands has always been so important to me. Being involved in the left-leaning vegan collective that ran the space [I often saw shows in growing up] really instilled this idea of belonging in me.” It’s little wonder she’s so excited to introduce more people to that world.

And the world at large does seem to be paying more attention to hardcore. Breakthrough acts like DRAIN, Scowl, and GEL are speaking to a new generation; Turnstile racked up a trio of nominations at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards earlier this year ahead of a tour with blink-182; Knocked Loose recently dominated their debut Coachella appearance, with footage of Billie Eilish vibing to their music side of stage going viral.

Sgarbossa believes it’s social media that’s helping spread hardcore music. “Videos of shows are going viral, and kids are discovering it through those. Not everyone just stumbles into the scene or has an older sibling to introduce them to it. There’s a lot of history, a lot of subgenres, so it’s a hard thing to dive into,” she explains. “But if you see a video of a show that looks sick, of course you’re going to want to get involved.”

The hardcore scene may feel revitalized, but SeeYouSpaceCowboy have always attracted a different kind of audience. “We have hardcore kids, art kids, and queer kids. It’s a glorious hodge-podge,” she says.

So while the band aren’t writing music to speak to this new hardcore wave, the wider interest in the scene has started to shift the band’s ambitions. “Maybe there are more possibilities than being a niche band in a small scene forever,” Sgarbossa says. 

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[Photo by Joe Calixto]

For their entire career, SeeYouSpaceCowboy have existed under the sasscore label, or “sass and metalcore combined.” Now, though, the band identify more with post-hardcore and the myriad of bands that encompasses the genre, from Saosin to At the Drive-In. The bands who originally inspired the group like the Blood Brothers, the Red Light Sting, and Hot Hot Heat are also still “incredibly important” to what they create, but Sgarbossa insists, “We’re more than a grindy band with breakdowns.”

Still, SeeYouSpaceCowboy don’t seem to be playing it safe with album three. The band finished recording the currently untitled record shortly before the Silverstein tour, and it features the group exploring their influences beyond screamo and sass.

This time around, the band were heavily influenced by 2000s dance-rock bands. “We wanted to take from Bloc Party and Foals and capture that driving rhythm they have,” Sgarbossa says. “There’s a persistent sense of dance in everything those bands do.”

SeeYouSpaceCowboy have never written the same album twice. 2019’s compilation album Songs for the Firing Squad was pure sasscore, while their debut record, The Correlation Between Entrance and Exit Wounds, was pure metalcore. 2021’s The Romance of Affliction saw the group dabble with post-hardcore. “We’re not afraid to really dig into what we like. All three of us grew up listening to Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm, Interpol’s Antics, Two Door Cinema Club’s Tourist History, Vampire Weekend — and those bands fucking rock.”

Lyrically, SeeYouSpaceCowboy’s new record will also see the band pivot away from hyper-confessionals. A week before they went into the studio to record The Correlation Between Entrance and Exit Wounds, Sgarbossa’s girlfriend died, so “every lyric on that record became about that gnarly time.” “I was writing about death, mental health, and what it means to truly try and help someone you care about when you’re also struggling,” Sgarbossa says. 

Their follow-up The Romance of Affliction once again explored mental health, alongside the very real themes of addiction. Two weeks after that album was recorded, Sgarbossa overdosed. “I was a complete mess, and I had been for three years,” she explains. “I needed to be completely honest about everything I had been dealing with.”

That directness resonated with countless people. “People typically talk about addiction when they’re clean or during a eulogy. I wanted to talk about it while I was still dealing with it,” she continues.

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[Photo by Joe Calixto]

However, Sgarbossa has been sober for several months now, so when it came to writing lyrics this time around, she didn’t want to focus on the past. “I was tired after how confessional and emotional Romance was. I wanted to stay away from topics of addiction and mental health. I wanted to write about how I feel now and figure out a way to blossom that into something that goes beyond my personal journal.”

The result is something Sgarbossa describes as “storytelling,” with the band “crafting a little world” where different characters could interact. “It felt more validating to craft something that wasn’t as gnarly,” she says.

Because of the band members’ identities and the audience they attract, “there is an inherently political side to SpaceCowboy that will never go away,” Sgarbossa says. “I’ve always viewed my existence on the stage as a political statement because you just don’t see many trans people doing what I do.”

She used to write overtly political songs back when the band first started out, but they’ve since become less of an overt focus for SpaceCowboy. “I know it’s an ongoing battle, but I’m also just a normal person,” she explains. “There’s more to me than being a trans woman, and I don’t want to fixate all my energy on writing songs about fighting the power.”

Now, she’s putting her energy into songs that offer a sense of release in a different way. “The whole reason I started doing music was because it was cathartic. That hasn’t changed,” she says. “Now, I find it more cathartic to dance around than try to write the gnarliest breakdown imaginable.”

She knows the band could have comfortably kept writing the same record over and over, especially after the success of Romance, “but it wouldn’t be satisfying for us,” she explains. “The new album is still SpaceCowboy, but there’s a prominent urge to include everything that makes us happy.”

“It has strings, horns, and fucking piano on it,” she laughs. “There’s riffs and things that we’ve never fucking done before.” Despite getting used to those big stages, Sgarbossa says SeeYouSpaceCowboy aren’t really interested in numbers or fame. “I just want this new album to open the door to more adventures.”

Source: altpress.com

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