New Jersey Hardcore Act Ninety-Six Discusses Their New EP
N.J.’s Ninety-Six is a hardcore band trying to bring a bit of an old-school hand to modern hardcore. Lacking the metallic edge of a lot of today’s hardcore, Ninety-Six uses the influences of bands like Madball and Sick Of It All to craft their sound. They are a young band, having only released two EP’s for free on Bandcamp. They have performed alongside Suicidal Tendencies and Sick Of It All, and have a show with Cro-Mags coming up later in October. I had the chance to speak to guitarist Pat DeFrancisci about how Ninety-Six started and the advantage of using sites like Bandcamp to distribute music.
What got you into music? What made you want to pick up a guitar?
Pat DeFrancisci: Basically, Metallica. The thing that happened was that I was the oldest in the family and my older cousin was a huge Metallica fan. He took me to a concert back when I was 13. I started listening to them and Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield got me really into it. It’s really the reason I picked up a guitar. I started listening to them. I was really into metal when I was young, and then eventually, it just transferred me into my passion for hardcore as well.
When you first playing and joining up with bands, did you play in bands that sounded like Metallica or did you always play hardcore music?
My first true bands were more like metalcore bands. I started that out. I was in my first band when I was 16 or 17. This is actually my first time being in a hardcore band. It was just one of those things where I always enjoyed all the music, whether it was metal or hardcore, and I just eventually gravitated more towards hardcore as I got a little bit older. That was really it. I’ve been in and out of metal and hardcore since I was about 16.
Was there a particular hardcore album that got you in that style of music or did you gravitate towards it by other people around you?
One of my favorite hardcore records of all time is “Death To Tyrants” by Sick Of It All. That really got me into them. My heart was into a lot of N.Y. hardcore when I was younger, like Madball, H2O, Sick Of It All, Agnostic Front; bands like that. Actually, how we got this band together was me and my singer and my guitar player were at a Terror show. They were playing with Foundation, and I’m pretty sure Gravemaker, and my singer comes up to me after the show and said, ‘I want to start a hardcore band. Are you down?’ I was like, ‘Abso-fucking-lutely.’ That was about a year ago and now we’re here.
Where do you think 96 fits into the hardcore genre as a whole?
I feel like a lot of the bands that have been coming around locally are more like the metal hardcore bands, with the really heavy breakdowns. We wanted to do something different. We wanted to go back to the old-school and keep the attitude going without being overtly heavy. Make the riffs mean more than the actual breakdowns. We wanted to be fast as fuck and tear shit apart that way.
Did you feel that’s a problem with a lot of modern hardcore, that they tend to lean towards the heavy breakdowns instead of the riffs themselves?
Yes, I do. There are a lot of bands that do it well, but I feel like a lot of bands coming out are Hatebreed rip-off bands. I love Hatebreed a lot, but it’s just not the sound that we’re going for. We’re really trying to be fast, bring it back old-school wise and really try to work it out that way.
Tell me about the creation of the band’s first EP “The Blizzard,” which came out earlier this year. What went into composing those songs on the EP?
Those are the first songs we ever wrote as a band together. My singer and my guitar player had never been in a band before and stuff like that. We got together and it just clicked. Whatever the songs were, whether it was me giving Marc, our guitar player, a song and then him adding onto it, or vice versa, we clicked really well once we started writing. We wanted to get music out as fast as possible, so we were like, ‘Fuck it. We’ll throw out this four-song EP and let’s just do it like that. Then we’ll keep writing and play newer songs live and then eventually get another EP out.’
Now we’re working on a full-length. The chemistry was just there once we started playing together. It was really great. It was really surprising. I had known these kids forever, but we actually never got together and played music before. This is the first time we’ve all done it. So I was really happy with how all the songs turned out and everything has really turned out with being in this band for about a year now.
Do you feel with that click you guys have as a band and as musicians, that the songs are coming out a lot quicker than you expected?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s so much easier because I’m a firm-believer that the only thing that’s going to help you progress is time together. I feel like even now with the new EP (“D.O.T.D. Dogs Of The Day”), not so much that it came out quicker, but we were all on the same page more often than not. I feel like it was really easy writing these songs and we’re all really happy with how they turned out. Like I said, it was really a chemistry thing. We feel that the chemistry is getting better and better the more we play together.
There wasn’t much of a wait between the EPs, with this new EP coming out in September. Even with the short timespan in-between EPs, do you think there’s been a progression in how the songwriting has come out?
Absolutely. I think so. I feel like we got a little bit more comfortable with what we wanted to sound like. Like I said, we’ve been banging out songs and keep writing when we are in-between practicing for shows and seeing how the crowd reacts to certain songs instead of other ones. We’re trying to keep it fresh. We don’t want to harp on the four songs from that EP (“The Blizzard”). We don’t want to bleed out those songs for everything they were worth. We felt like the new songs that were coming out were better, a little bit more together, and gave us a better idea of what kind of sound we wanted. So we were like, ‘You know what? We’re just going to throw them out and see how people respond.’ People have been responding pretty positively. I’m very happy with how the new EP did, especially being a brand-new band.
There’s a pretty big difference going from recording an EP to a full-length album. How has the band been handling getting the material ready and preparing to record a full-length?
How we’re going about it hasn’t really been that different. We actually just had a member change. We got a new drummer about a week or two ago. What happened is that our old drummer is playing with us until we play with Cro-Mags in October. I’m pretty sure we’ll be practicing the set with him, but practices with the new drummer have solely been songs for the full-length.
Me and Marc have so many song ideas that have just been in the bank that we’ve been meaning to write, but being that we weren’t going to be with this old drummer, it wouldn’t had made sense to try to write them with him when a new guy was coming in. With this new guy, he’s more on the same page as far as work ethic and where we want to go with this band. We feel like the songs are coming out a little bit tighter and with the new guy, it’s just quicker because things have been clicking very well.
Do you think the band has started to find their core sound or is there still room for tweaking?
I think there’s definitely still room for tweaking. This is our second EP, but that’s only eight songs that we have recorded. I feel like we’re still experimenting with new stuff. We were working on some new songs the other day. One song came out a lot heavier than another one did. We feel like the attitude is there, and that’s what I feel like people are going to grasp onto. Regardless if this songs sounds much more different than this next song, it still has the same attitude all of our songs have.
The band has both of their EPs on Bandcamp for free download. What does a site like Bandcamp do for an up-and-coming band like Ninety-Six?
I feel like right now, we’re in a position where we just want our shit to be out there. We want anybody and everybody who is interested in it to get their hands on it, spread the word, and come to the shows. If they really like it a lot, then we’re hoping they will buy some T-shirts or sweatshirts to support us. As far as the music goes with the EP, we do sell them. We are printing them out. We have sold them at shows for like $3 or something like that. I feel like we’re in a stage right now where we just want everybody to have it with all of it for free. It’s a much better way to do it as a new band, rather than start selling it so that the people that don’t have money won’t have it. We just really want everyone to have that.
Do you notice the music industry is leaning in that way, with artists trying to get their music out anyway they can, and hoping that people come to the shows, which is where the real income is when people buy merchandise?
I feel like right now the power is in the artist’s hands. Labels aren’t really taking chances on bands anymore. They basically want to see the finished product before they sign you and help you out with all this stuff. We just want to push the DIY attitude really hard and we’re still going with it. Like I said before, people have been responding pretty well to it. I feel like it’s better for us, because we get to put our product out how we want to put it out, instead of having someone tell us how to put it out.
You guys recently played with Suicidal Tendencies and Sick Of It All. How did you guys land a spot on that show?
Basically, it was networking. I had a friend that was in an old band and their manager was someone that worked at Starland Ballroom, where we played the show. This is what I’m assuming happened, but one of the opening bands dropped off about three weeks before the show. For whatever reason, he liked our stuff when my friend gave it to him. He emailed us and he was like, ‘If you sell a certain amount of tickets, we can get you on this show with Suicidal and Sick Of It All.’ I was like, ‘Fuck yeah. Absolutely.’ Sick Of It All is top five favorite band for me.
It was a great opportunity, and even though I don’t really agree with the pay-to-play type thing selling tickets, we really couldn’t just let this opportunity go. So we hustled. We sold as many tickets as possible, which they were happy with. We had a good show. We had a really good showing of people. It was an amazing experience.
Compare that show to the first show you guys ever did.
Our first show was one of the best shows that I’ve ever played in any of the bands I’ve been in. We drew about 100 kids to this small DIY venue called the Meatlocker in Montclair, N.J. It’s this really awesome basement, punk show type place. We drew a lot of kids. We had a lot of support from friends of ours that wanted to see us do well. We had a great show our first show. I’ll remember that show for the rest of my life. A lot of our friends learned the words - we sent them stuff - and they were really responsive. It was really cool. The difference was we were playing on a huge stage. We were basically playing for more new people at the Starland show than we were playing at the first show. That was the main difference, I feel like.
If you could tour with one band, past or present, who would it be and why?
That’s fucking tough. There’s so many. Right now, we’re really big fans of Cruel Hand. We really like what those guys are doing. At least present-wise, they are doing a lot of awesome tours, them and this other band, Take Offense. Past, I would say H20 and Sick Of It All would be a dream for me. It would be a dream to be able to fucking tour with those dudes, even though they don’t do much touring anymore, I would love to do something like that. That would be an amazing experience.
Any final thoughts?
Support local hardcore. Support your local bands. Support your local shows. Really support what people are working really hard to do, because they are putting their heart and soul into it. If people are not supporting that, then we have no way to keep doing what we want to do to make everybody happy.
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