This year’s Black and Blue Bowl in New York City is just around the corner. With that, it made perfect sense to touch base with one of my favorite New York Hardcore bands, Indecision. Indecision were pioneers of the gritty, articulate, hard hitting NYHC that many bands today attempt to emulate. The band is also a great addition to round out this years BNB. I took the chance to talk to singer and friend, Thomas Sheehan, about the band’s history with BNB, as well why for him this year is a dream come true.
The interview is followed by an older interview and write up from Tom that first appeared in New Morality Zine Issue 1. For the first time available online!
Indecision was recently billed on the Black and Blue Bowl roster this year. What history do you, have with this world renowned hardcore show?
We actually played our first show “back” at the BNB Bowl in 2006. We wanted to play a show to raise money for a friend’s cancer treatment and we got offered this show. We really had no idea what to expect, but it ended up being pretty insane. I have gone to all but one since they have been happening in NYC. It is a great time, an actual hardcore show not a social media meet up.
I know you and I have talked about counting the days of Indecision (which I’ll keep counting for as long as I can), but what is so special about BNB Bowl for Indecision this year that you guys were willing to make it work?
We would play way more often if we could but families and careers make it difficult. As an older band, I feel like we play shows for the experiences more than trying to win over a new crowd. We have been able to play shows intermittently across the U.S. and in the U.K. and they have all been such great times. I think with BNB, it just all worked out perfectly. Personally, I have like a bucket list of bands I would love to play with and Gorilla Biscuits were definitely one of the last ones left. It is a great lineup, perfect mix of new and old bands. The last time we played it in 2013 with Judge and Kill Your Idols and it was probably the best show we have ever had.
What would be your dream BNB Bowl lineup?
Leeway (original lineup), Quicksand, Burn, Unbroken, Undertow, Inside Out. I don’t want to play, I just want to be a spectator since you always miss stuff when you are playing a fest like this.
Any future plans for the band?
Really hard to say. I think we will continue to play a random show or two every year when we can. We had talked about doing a new 7 inch but that has become increasingly difficult these days. I would hate to wear our welcome, so we shall see.
What follows is an interview and article that was featured in New Morality Zine Issue #1. In in, I get the chance to talk to Tom about some of basic hardcore favorites and facts. Tom was then kind enough to contribute an article titled ‘Touring In The Stone Age’, a brief history of life on the road pre-Internet.
Interview and Article Featured in New Morality Zine Issue #1
Name: Thomas Sheehan
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Occupation: I currently run a Forensic Psychiatry Court Clinic in Manhattan and I am a licensed attorney.
What is your favorite hardcore/punk record?
Incredibly tough questions. Hardcore: SOIA – Blood Sweat and No Tears/Minor Threat discography. Punk: Descendents- Somery.
Favorite New York band?
Sick of it All
Most recent hardcore/punk show?
Gorilla Biscuits/Bouncing Souls/Turnstile. Before that, Infest.
What drove you to become involved in hardcore/punk?
It really just made sense to me when I was introduced to it. I was into like Anthrax and Metallica and stuff like that. A friend of mine gave me a tape with SOIA/Minor Threat and Dinosaur Jr on it. That was it for me. I never drank alcohol or did any drugs, that life never made sense to me. Hearing Minor Threat put those feelings into words was all I was looking for. It took over my life.
What is one thing you value most about hardcore/punk that might not exist in any other subculture?
I would say the work ethic of hardcore. Also, I think hardcore and punk has this amazing network that does not exist elsewhere. There is no other type of music where a smaller band could find a place to play across the country/world. Some EDM dj or some rock band isn’t touring across the US while there are 10-15 hardcore bands on the road at one time.
What would be one thing you’d change about the current state of hardcore/punk? Why?
I would like it to be more diverse. I feel like, while there are a ton of great bands, there is a lot of similarity in the bands. Also, I wish there were more girls in bands. That has never been a strong point in punk and hardcore and that is one of the few weaknesses.
What’s your favorite BURN song?
Trick question, all of them. If I had to choose, I would say either Shall Be Judged or The Last Great Sea.
Touring During the Stone Age
Where to begin? Punk rock and hardcore bands touring has changed so much over the years. We used to always listen to “Get in the Van” by Henry Rollins while driving to shows. His stories of touring with Black Flag in the early 80’s were insane with all the fights and dirty punk rock places they played and stayed. These stories seemed like another planet compared to touring in 1996 (only a short 12 years later). So now, 18 years later, touring has come even further along.
A major difference I have noticed is the just the amount of touring bands. I feel like there are tons of bands touring in 2014, which is great. If you have the chance to see the country and the world with your friends, you would be an idiot to forego that opportunity. In the late 90s, I feel like there were MAYBE 15 hardcore bands that toured on a regular basis. There were the big bands like SOIA, Strife, Snapcase, Earth Crisis and then the rest of us. The playing field appears a lot more even these days, which is great.
There was a book in the 90s released by Flipside Magazine called “Book Your Own Fucking Life”. It literally had phone numbers and mailing addresses for people across the country that booked shows. I think it came out on a yearly basis. If you wanted to play a show in Santa Fe, New Mexico, you would be able to find a contact in BYOFL. I can’t say that we (Indecision) used it too often but it could have definitely been a helpful tool to other bands.
During our tours in Indecision and some of the earlier Most Precious Blood tours, we didn’t even have the advantage of GPS. During the indecision days, we actually used a MAP. Pretty crazy to think of how antiquated that sounds now. We would have to retrieve the torn up Rand McNally book of maps from beneath one of the seats to figure out where we were headed next. All too often we would arrive in a town and literally look for people in hardcore shirts and follow them to the venue. In the early 2000s, we would literally print out Mapquest directions from venue to venue for every single show. I would have a binder with like 40 sets of directions to begin a tour. Times changed for the better, I would say.
Cell phones weren’t really a thing either. On New Year’s Eve 1996, Indecision and Tripface broke down on I-95 right near Miami. Amid the celebratory gunshot sounds, the guitarist from Tripface busted out a giant cell phone to try and call his father for advice. I can still picture him freaking out in the middle of a field because he couldn’t get a signal. At that time there was probably 5 cell phone towers. He was the original ‘can you hear me now” guy.
A relic from 90s hardcore was called a “dialer”. The original purpose for the dialer was to store phone numbers. You would put the dialer up to the mouthpiece of a payphone and it would dial the number for you. Since hardcore kids are ingenious, someone figured out a way to hack it. So rather than dial the numbers, the dialer would be hacked to make the sounds of different coins entering the pay phone. So you would be able to call home from the road for free, using this dialer. You would have to hit the button on the dialer erratically, as if you were putting coins in because if you were too steady the operator would come on the line. Crazy to think about that now but it was everywhere in the 90s.
I think technology has had a great impact for hardcore bands on the road currently. You can find vegan food options within 5 seconds on your phone. We would subsist almost exclusively on Taco Bell, burritos, and pizza. Quite the healthy lifestyle. Though it was harder, touring in the 90s really instilled a work ethic and an ingenuity that I wouldn’t trade for the world.