Nothing's a sure thing, but a reliable formula for a great punk rock album might look something like: Band members with 11 solid years of playing together + Ken Casey (of Dropkick Murphys) producing + Brett Gurewitz (of Bad Religion) mixing + Lars Frederiksen (Rancid) and Dicky Barret (Mighty Mighty Bosstones) on guest vocals. Add that up, divide by the common denominator, hard work, and you get the UNSEEN's State of Discontent (Epitaph/Hellcat Records). Check it out, but be forwarned: at a time when most punk releases are sounding more melodic, these guys came out swinging harder and faster than ever.
Why did UNSEEN get started?
Out of boredome really. We're from Hingham, Massachuesetts, which is a suburb outside of Boston. There weren't many punks in town, so the four of us who liked punk music got together. We would play after school, at night, whenever we could. Except for 1 guy we lost along the way, it's always been me, Mark (vocals), Tripp (bass/vocals) and Scott (lead guitar). Our drummer, Pat, has been with us for about 2 and a half years. So it's basically still the original lineup.
Without a local scene, where did the initial interest in punk rock come from?
Back then was before the internet, so we listened to the punk music we could find in the records stores: Bad religion, The Exploited, Operation Ivy, Black Flag, Sex Pistols, Minor Threat, the Misfits. Later, me and Tripp started going into Boston to see shows. I remember getting to see RANCID! come through and play a small venue- before they got really big.
Who does the writing?
I write the majority of the lyrics but Tripp sings too and we all write together. We get a riff and a chord going and then add in the drum beats. I tape it on this little shitty tape recorder, then listen to it over and over with a notebook in hand, putting in lyrics. Basically every song we've done was assembled that way.
You guys have charted a lot of shows recently.
Yeah, we've been out out on the road now for three months straight. Tonight is our last show. Then we'll drive 20 hours to get home, take 6 weeks off, and then head out on the Warped Tour for two months. Awhile back we went to Europe with the Dropkick Murphy's and we toured Japan about 5 years ago. In between we've been playing shows across the US pretty much constantly.
There are heavy political tones to your lyrics. Is that a big part of what the Unseen is about?
We've always been political. I think that if you're in a punk band, you have to at least be aware of politics. I write about what's affecting me personally or what's affecting the world- the way I see it. There a song on the new record, "Force Fed", it's about resisting what companies are trying to push down your throat. Tripp wrote, "Weapons of Mass Deception" and that one is about the Bush administration and what's going on world today with the war in Iraq. "The End Is Near" is about how I see war and how the people in charge aren't willing to head out there themselves and fight.
Yes. Thanks to Tim Armstrong and everyone at Hellcat Records, and check out www.unseenpunks.com.
By Andrew Huberman
THRASHER MAGAZINE (October, 2005, issue #299, p. 190)