Debtor is a band that is making waves in the East Coast hardcore scene. In an area that is by all means mainly devoid of a Christian hardcore or punk scene, Debtor is leading the way for Christ into the scene. Being from the Philly area where Debtor is located, I know first hand that bringing their message to the scene is an uphill battle, but one that needs to be done. That being said, Debtor is a hardcore band that has a really unique sound, hardcore mixed with a little punk, and sprinkle in a little post hardcore sound ala Quicksand style and voila, there you have it. Debtor recently signed to Blood & Ink Records which is carrying their first album called “Deliverance,” you can get a copy of their album by visiting Blood & Ink Records.
Interview by Doug Hurt – Contributor to HXCChristian.com
Music Style: Hardcore/Punk
Location: Philly Burbs
Q: Tell me about the band: How long have you been together? Who are the members? How did the band start?
A: Well, I began the attempts to form this band as far back as Spring of 2006, but it didn’t become a full band until October 2007. That lineup was together for about a year, and then we were on hiatus for about another year before reforming in December 2009 with new members. The new lineup is Jon Eirich (guitar), Jason Warner (guitar), Skot Rudy (bass), Josh Galloway (drums), and myself, Alan Popoli (vocals).
Q: How long have you guys been going to shows?
A: We’re all in our mid-20s, so we all went to our first shows as young teenagers. Average is about 10 years ago.
A: Lots, but probably not bands that anyone has heard of. Jason and I played in Prevail (now Ancestor). Jon has played in a ton of local bands over the years…some recent ones were Sincerely Monroe and Subcolour. He still has a side project called The Rescue. Skot played in some punk and hardcore bands from central PA: Heads Held High, The Standard, and Make It Count.
Q: Tell us about the scene in your area and bands from that area.
A: I love the greater Philadelphia area scene. Bands like Blacklisted and Reign Supreme have put Philly back on the map in recent years. But I grew up in the scene around the city, primarily going to shows in Lansdale, Doylestown, Collegeville, etc. We’ve had plenty of struggles and setbacks, but there are dedicated people here who care deeply about keeping hardcore going. I’m proud of this area. The standards are higher here than what I’ve seen in many other scenes. I have seen bands come and go who never got recognition but who were far better than whatever was happening in the “mainstream,” if you can call it that.
Q: You guys are on Blood and Ink Records, How does that label treat you guys not just as a band but as people? How long have you been with the label?
A: We signed a deal with them July 2009, so we haven’t been with them long. So far we’re very pleased. I have long respected and enjoyed B&I bands like xLooking Forwardx and Ten 33, so I was stoked to work with them. I’ve found that Sean knows good music, and is sincerely invested in improving Christian hardcore. On the personal level, it can be difficult to hang because of the long drive between us, but we’ve spent hours on the phone and have had good times chilling over falafel and beans.
Q: Have you guys been on any tours? if so, alone or with other bands? Do you guys handle your own booking?*
A: I’m sorry to say we have not yet been able to tour, no. We all have full-time jobs or school, and two of us are married. On the bright side, we are blessed to be in an area that has lots of venues and scenes within 2 hours of us. And yes, we do our own booking.
Q: What is the best show you have played so far? Tell us about a horrible time that you have had as a band.
A: The best show has to be our comeback show last December. There were a lot of old friends, and it was the best reaction we’ve gotten yet. Just an all-around good show.
We haven’t had anything too terrible happen to us. The worst show would be back in 2008, when we opened for an indie band in Doylestown, nobody was there, and I tore the butt of my jeans wide open. Really the horrible thing we have to fear is that one of us will get too hyped and ball-tap somebody.
Q: Name some of your band’s influences: Tell us about some bands that we should all be on the look out for.
A: We all like different music. For example, Skot is really into New York style hardcore, while Jason’s favorite band is Living Sacrifice. I write the music though, so what you hear in Debtor is mostly a result of my influences. I think “Advent of a Miracle” by Strongarm is the best record ever made. I literally talked to a guy once who said, “The first time I heard that album…I got saved.” I also love fast, gritty hardcore like American Nightmare, and more emotional stuff like Verse. Another big one is Derringer. They were a great band from central PA that definitely did not get the recognition they deserved. If you like Debtor, do yourself a favor and find a way to get a hold of “Rock & Roll Tragedy” by them.
Bands to look out for:
hardcore (or close enough):
metalcore (or close enough):
A: It needs to be said that (with a few exceptions) I don’t intentionally approach most songs as “messages.” They are first and foremost individual prayers about spiritual struggle. Yet, a theme seems to have emerged from many of our songs: our dealings with the “problem of evil.” If I had to state it briefly, it’s that suffering, depression and the like should not drive us away from God, but towards him. When faced with evil, the proper response is not to hate God, but to run to him. To run to God in the midst of trial requires humility; to spit in his face shows bitterness and spite. Easier said than done, obviously. The question of evil is as old as the Bible, and we don’t pretend to be able to answer it. The hope is simply to wrestle with it openly, honestly, and faithfully. I believe this is a specially necessary task in a scene where the experience of evil is exactly what has caused almost everyone to reject God.
Q: How do you feel about booking agents and booking agencies in hardcore?
A: I have mixed feelings about them. I love the D.I.Y. ethic, and I believe that spirit is necessary for good hardcore scenes to thrive. But the reality is that there is no authority or standard to appeal to, so the definition of “D.I.Y.” is pretty flexible and arbitrary. So, I think all I can really say is that for my own band, I’d rather book shows myself, but I don’t see how I could condemn a band that uses an agent. There is no standard to denounce with. Bottom line: hardcore D.I.Y. isn’t a hill I’m
prepared to die on. We’ve got enough of those as it is.
That being said, we just silk-screened our own patches last week.
Q: Being in a hardcore band and being individually a part of this scene, how does it make you feel when you hear about Christian bands using the Christian hardcore scene as a way to gain popularity before taking a step into mainstream “hardcore stardom”?
A: I feel very much the same way as I do when a Christian brother or sister leaves the faith. In fact, from what I know of these cases, the people in question either have lost their faith, or never had it in the first place. Like Satan, those people have chosen their own glory over God’s glory. It’s devastating. The temptation is to get mad, but that doesn’t help. The truth is it’s a tragedy, and sadness is the appropriate response.
Q: Have you guys ever demanded a tour rider, deli tray, assorted candy or a specific number of red bulls and imported beers before agreeing to play a show?
A: Every show, man, but the promoters just don’t seem to care enough. What has happened to our scene??
Q: As you do not intentionally go into writing a song with a specific message, you have songs that have strong tones concerning certain topics that kids can really relate to. Most bands can only and will only write about girls or will talk about politics. Some other bands will write lyrics that sound like praise songs from the 80′s that don’t quite mesh with what today’s hardcore crowd will accept… When you show up to play a show, do you have people there that will debate your lyrics and what you guys are about; or is it mainly people talking trash just because they know you guys are a Christian band?
A: Hah yeah…well first of all, if a band isn’t going to say something worth saying, they absolutely should not be screaming it. In truth, if there’s no fire in your belly – if there’s no seed of discontentment with the status quo – then it’s just a matter of time before you phase out of hardcore and blend completely into the rest of the world.
As for responses from non-Christians, it’s a very mixed bag. On the negative side, there is a large segment of our local scene who reject wholesale the idea of Christian hardcore, and it can be difficult even to get on a show with those bands. For people like that, we don’t count as hardcore, just as Christian music, and it makes more sense for us to play with Christian metalcore bands than with atheist hardcore bands. On the flip side, there are those who don’t much care about beliefs and just want
to rock out. We don’t preach from stage or give any kind of altar call, and they like our music, so they don’t much care that we’re screaming about God. Some flat out disagree with our beliefs, but sing along to certain parts anyway. As an aside to Christians who are in bands or considering starting them: I think the average hardcore kid cares a lot less about beliefs than he may say; what he really cares about is being bored. I think you can get away with a lot more boldness than you might think, so long as you’re not boring while you’re doing it.
Unfortunately, we don’t get as much debate about our lyrics as I’d like it. If people have a problem, they generally express it by trash talking via the internet or when we’re not around, or just ignoring us. I would love to see greater numbers of people debate with us! The best responses, though, are the odd/obscure threats, as in a recent fun case where a metal band took the
stage after us and commanded the Christians in the room to “fall on my hammer!”
Q: If you could go back to any year, and you had 24 hours to do anything at all… what would you do?
A: First choice: meet Jesus or Paul and listen to them. Second choice, go WAY back, and tame a Velociraptor.
Q: Which is better… XBOX 360 or PS3? Hockey or Football? Chicken or Steak? Dr Pepper or Mr Pibb?
A: Don’t know, Hockey, Chicken, Dr. Pepper.
Q: What would you like to say to those reading this, especially the ones that have never heard of your band or maybe stumbled across our website by chance?
A: That’s tough. I guess if I had to say anything, it would be that there is nothing worth living for but God.