Sharptooth – ‘Our targets on the new record are a little bit less obvious’

Words: Miljan Milekić

If you’ve been involved in the hardcore scene in the last year or two, you had to stumble across Sharptooth. Fronted by Lauren Kashan, they are one of the most energetic, most powerful, and the most honest bands around, while their debut full-length ‘Clever Girl’ is one of the most talked-about records in recent years. The band is currently on their first-ever European tour supporting Comeback Kid, and we used the opportunity to get in touch with Lauren for an interview.

So, how are you? How’s the tour going so far? How are the Comeback Kid guys treating you?
Lauren: Oh, today is the first day of the tour, so we just met everybody, and we haven’t played any of the shows yet. But, everybody seems really nice, so we’re really looking forward to it. And we’ve never played here before, so we’re really excited.

Next weekend, you’ll play at the Groezrock festival in Belgium. I guess you’re looking forward to it, but do you have any expectations of that show?
Lauren: Oh, I’m super excited, but I have no idea what to expect. A lot of my favorite bands are playing it, which is really cool, and I’m looking forward to getting to see them as well that weekend.

You recently played Kerrang! Magazine‘s K! Pit. What can you tell me about the experience and, how different was it from what you normally do, with all those cameras and stuff?
Lauren: It wasn’t too different for me, I just played it like a pretty normal show. You know, that’s kind of what our shows are like. We’re always crazy and all over the place, so what you see is pretty much what you get. It was a really fun show, and Kerrang! was awesome to work with. They’ve been so wonderful to us, so we hope we get to do more stuff with them.

I would like to touch on a Tweet you guys posted a few days ago, saying your new album is basically done. What do you think, when can we expect it, and where will it stand compared to ‘Clever Girl?’
Lauren: Um, hopefully, it’d be great to have it out in the Fall, but we’re not totally sure yet. We are done recording, and it’s definitely a lot heavier, and a lot darker than ‘Clever Girl.’ It’s also a lot more personal, in certain ways, so I’m really excited to see what people make of it. I can’t wait for people to hear how different we sound, and how different I sound on it, compared to ‘Clever Girl.’ I’m very excited about that.

‘Clever Girl’ was in some ways groundbreaking, and almost two years after its release, it’s still one of the most talked-about records in hardcore. Do you feel any kind of pressure, because, you’re definitely being looked at differently after that album?
Lauren: Oh Gosh, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of pressure to be talking about kinds of things that the people are eager to hear more about, in regards to social issues. I talk about a lot of really personal things on this record, but I think I talk about them in ways that make them universal and global so that people can understand where I’m coming from. I think I get into some topics that are very nuanced and complicated and I invite people to explore the nuance and the complicated nature of themselves. If anything that we have done has been groundbreaking, I’m seeing that very flattering. I hope that what we’re doing in our trajectory continues to make people continue to question their society, their government, the roles that they’ve played for their entire lives. To question themselves, and work to be better.

How would you describe your work with Pure Noise Records so far? Are you happy with the way they treated you so far? Do you think you will continue to work with them for the new records and in the future?
Lauren: Oh, absolutely. We love them. They are such a wonderful label, and they treat us so well. Um, they really just let us be ourselves, and are so supportive of everything that we’re doing musically, and with the content that is in our music. They’re absolutely wonderful, and I’m very excited to get to continue working with them for these next few records.

Even your earlier works, and especially on ‘Clever Girl,’ you weren’t afraid and didn’t hesitate to say whatever was on your mind, and even confront some people and some things that rarely anyone does. Did you ever have any problems because of it, and is it something you will continue to do as a band?
Lauren: I absolutely intend to keep doing that as a band. I think we do a lot of that on this record. We do not pull any punches. I think that our targets on this record are a little bit less obvious. You know, I might not be taking shots at Donald Trump on the new record, but I am taking shots at aspects of our society that people often don’t really want to look at. And I think I’m taking shots at some of the aspects of ourselves that we often don’t want to look at, which might be one of the hardest things of all. It’s pretty easy to point the finger at other people, and a lot harder to look at how you are contributing to those problems yourself.

It’s been challenging, being a confrontational band. Obviously, they’re going to be things that I say or things that I believe that people aren’t going to agree with, or they are going to have a reaction to. And I’ve never really found that surprising though, because just as a woman existing in the world, there’s always been things that I’ve done or said that people had a reaction to, because I’m a woman saying it. So, yeah, I’m pretty used to that. Um, I hope that at the very least what we do as a band is opening up the conversation. So even if you don’t like, or agree with what I have to say, I hope that it’ll at least get people starting to talk about these issues more, so that people can find their place in this music the same way that I have.

I’m kinda glad you’ve brought it up, as I’ve always seen, or at least wanted to see the punk rock and hardcore scene as kind of a safe space, and community that’s more open and more inclusive than the society in general. Is it something you would agree with, at least in your experience?
Lauren: Um, I think in some ways it is, and I think in some ways we still have a long way to go. A lot of hardcore has a background in very straight white, male, hyper-masculine type of culture.Um, there are a lot of aspects of that culture that have always resonated with me. Like, I’ve always felt like I have some masculine traits and I loved that I can express them here, particularly anger. But yeah, it has been challenging just being a woman in hardcore. I feel like very often we have to work twice as hard to get half as much respect. Even if it’s just as a person going to shows and just being a part of the scene.

Sometimes, in my younger years, coming into the scene, I’ve definitely felt pressured to look a certain way, talk a certain way, act a certain way. Since then, I’m a lot more comfortable with just totally being myself, and people can take it or leave it. But, I know that there are many people of different ages, and abilities, and gender identities, who have had that struggle too. I do think it’s getting better, and the more that we continue to talk about it and draw attention to it, the better it’s going to keep on getting. I’ve seen a lot of struggle in that department, but I’m so optimistic, and I have so much hope and belief in the power of this scene to change people and to change our culture. I’m very hopeful.

Up to a few years ago, I don’t really remember the Baltimore scene as a big thing, but in the last five or ten years, it looks like things have drastically changed. Apart from you, we have bands like Turnstile, Angel Du$t, Trapped Under Ice, and a few more. How do you see the scene at the moment, and its growth?
Lauren: Oh yeah, in recent years, I feel like there has definitely been a substantial amount of growth in the underground hardcore scene. Especially with smaller, local bands, like bands that are even smaller than ours. They are super active, and really busy, and putting themselves out there. It’s cool to see Baltimore on the map. We’re kind of a rough and tumble place, we like to take care of each other, and we take care of our own. So, it’s nice when you get to see your friends and bands that you respect getting the recognition they deserve. So it’s cool.

When you were starting the band, did you ever thought you would get to the point where you’ll be touring all over the world, playing with so many different bands? Like, you had a long tour with Anti-Flag, who are one of my favorite bands, and now Comeback Kid…
Lauren: Yeah, I love them! They are amazing.

Did I ever expect that? But uh, how good does it feel when you look back and see what you accomplished in like just four or five years?
Lauren: Never in a million years did I expect that! It’s pretty crazy. I joined Sharptooth thinking that it would be a side project of mine. I didn’t really think; I never had any ambitions to be a serious touring musician. That just wasn’t something I thought would ever be possible, so I didn’t even have that expectation. So, to get to do this is very blindsiding and exciting. I’m just taking all of it for what it’s worth because this is an opportunity that doesn’t happen for almost anybody who’s a musician, let alone a musician who’s a woman, and talking about sociopolitical issues. It’s really crazy, and I’m so grateful for all the opportunities that we’ve been given, and all the people that we’ve been able to connect with throughout that.

So, what do you think, what the future holds for Sharptooth? Obviously, touring and the new album, but anything besides that?
Lauren: Probably just doing the same thing, touring a bunch of new places and getting excited about it. I’m excited for the conversations that I’m going to get to have with people about the concepts that are on this new record. I think it’s going to be really interesting seeing how people react to it, because of how diverse our fan base is, and because of how much heavier and darker and more complicated this record is. I think it’s going to be very interesting, and I’m looking forward to touring a lot more and getting to meet any of the people who connect with this music.

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