Growing up in Connecticut during the ‘90s, I was witness to a rock-solid local music scene, albeit one with a decided lack of variance in terms of style. Hardcore basically ruled the day. 100 Demons played an early version of metalcore, ultimately signed to Deathwish, Inc. and a had a video on Headbanger’s Ball (which apparently still existed in 2004). Hamartia had a huge presence in the scene, with members who eventually touched down in bands like Between the Buried and Me, Misery Signals, Bring Me The Horizon and Bury Your Dead. In Pieces wielded a powerful brand of screamo for several years before splitting into separate factions that would re-form into the straight-edge hardcore heroes With Honor and the synth-y alternative rockers Bear Hands. Of course, there was also Hatebreed, who I assume I don’t need to offer a description of. Just over the border in southern Massachusetts, Bane, Shadows Fall and Acacia Strain were stirring excitement with their respective breakouts. Then, in the mid-2000’s, it felt as if the floor just dropped out of the scene. The musical landscape was shifting, leaving neophyte hardcore and metal bands struggling to gain traction as they became less and less intriguing to local audiences.
Fast forward to the present day. After several quiet years some exciting bands are beginning to emerge from Connecticut once again, but in a colorful bloom of styles. Naugatuck’s A Will Away have received minor acclaim for their hook-heavy brand of pop-emo, which has breakout potential written all over it. This past July, Southington’s The Most released their new record At Once. While their unique, thoughtful and velvety-smooth take on math-rock may not suggest a future anywhere near the mainstream, At Once has garnered high praise from within numerous math-rock/post-punk circles. What would have already been a solid record is bumped to a higher level by the pleasantly surprising integration of saxophone, clarinet and flute – not exactly something you encounter every day in these particular subgenres. The album’s opener, “eaflat” begins with familiar clean math guitar tones before introducing a sax melody which leads into a riff almost reminiscent of Helmet’s cover of Wayne King’s waltz “Beautiful Love,” until finally the song uses its brass and woodwind section to transform the kind of angular, stabbing progression that would typically be right at home in a swaggering post-punk anthem. If that sentence leaves you sufficiently intrigued, I would invite you to investigate what else this exciting record has to offer. Many listeners have thrown the “jazz” label at them for lack of a better term (myself included), but they have a different manner of viewing themselves stylistically. I recently spoke with multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Nick Hasko about such classifications, as well as their formation, musical backgrounds, influences, touring At Once and their experiences within the Connecticut music scene as it is currently constructed.
(((o))): In recent years, we’ve seen a lot of “elements” bands (i.e. “post-punk with synth pop elements,” so on and so forth). On the other hand, you have a pretty even blend of math-rock and jazz, with neither taking the definitive lead. Can you talk a bit about how the band first came together, and what your base concept was for The Most during the formative process?
Nick Hasko: Yes, so many elements. People live to define things. We never sat down with a concept in mind, just played together and our range of interests came through. The whole jazz label is misleading though. We do use a lot of extended harmonies and the saxes make people resort to “jazz” but we rarely improv and don’t play heads. Our music is closer to through-composed jazz albums like The New Continent, and maybe Birth of the Cool, Time Out and other poppier records… but it’s still a stretch to call The Most jazz; we certainly don’t call ourselves a jazz band but it influences us tremendously.
(((o))): What are the musical backgrounds of the band members? Predominantly rock? Jazz? Something else, or does it vary by member?
NH: We came from the same hometown in CT where most of us played together in our schools’ orchestra, jazz band, musical pit, etc. We were also involved in a healthy local scene of hall shows, basement shows and coffee houses which led to our members’ participation in various DIY scenes of the North East – we’ve had a pretty fertile background. Several of us studied jazz, music education, and composition at some pretty dope colleges too. So jazz, punk, folk, hardcore, indie, emo, experimental/noise… all these things comprise our background.
(((o))): Do you have a particular categorization that you tend to use to easily characterize your sound, or is your definition more freely-morphing?
NH: It’s easiest to summarize our fray as “math rock” but often times “Yes condensed into punk songs” is more fitting.
(((o))): The Most calls Southington, CT home. When I was growing up in nearby Bristol the CT music scene was defined by a lot of hardcore and metal bands, but that seems to have changed. Bands like yourself and A Will Away are working in a much different realm of rock music, and making some splashes outside of the state doing so. Can you speak to the state of the CT music scene right now? Are there some other bands that people should know about that haven’t achieved as much recognition as of yet?
NH: Bristol! Played some great basement shows there back when. Every scene has fluctuations but CT’s on the up right now. There are a lot of people trying new things, with tons of encouragement to push further. Cheem keeps the rock ‘n roll alive in punk/emo. Jelani Sei, like The Most, is another “genre-less” group but I’ve heard “soul-emo” used on them, and it’s honestly pretty fitting. Space Camp is an exciting experience to watch, lots of dynamically mindful noise, lots of exploration. The no-holds-barred, bass-drums-vox-two-piece, Deathdealer dons a daunting set of horizontal 8×10’s that is 20 feet tall with a razor-sharp horn sticking out of the middle of its chest.
(((o))): You just finished up a tour. Can you talk a bit about that experience? Any interesting stories from the road, or bands you came in contact with that made a strong impression?
NH: Tour was inspiring. It’s refreshing to come into contact with so many positive souls, especially during a time when much of the real world relies on the shortcomings of other people. We’re just really fortunate to have access to such an interconnected and welcoming scene. We saw some cool stuff: witnessed an appliance store heist, smoked legal bud, cuddled foster kittens, hiked Mont Royal, saw the sun set behind Chicago via Lake Michigan, played the only (and very much alive) all ages venue in Omaha, took on Bourbon Street…
Our tour mates were tremendous – definitely check out Perspective, A Lovely Hand to Hold, Mid Atlantic Title and Messes. We spent some quality time with them. We played with Invalids a couple times, they played so well that someone quit cigs cold turkey. Philly showed us Christopher Walking – super Sirs-inspired, everyone could use more of that but Christopher Walking doesn’t have any internet presence and we’re about that. Body Thief has some of the most thought-provoking music out there. Ratboys are rock gods, Peaer’s got insatiable melodies, Lions are our life source…
(((o))): What’s up next for the band? At Once has been well received in math-rock and indie rock circles, particularly for how it differs from what a lot of people are accustomed to. How do you plan to continue pushing the envelope in the future?
NH: The reception’s certainly been encouraging! We may or may not have a follow-up EP in the works which may or may not explore more lyrical characters and effervescent senses of time.
Hopefully hitting the road again asap and working on tape and vinyl releases of At Once.
The Most recently finished up their tour for At Once, and are working towards new material.