Attack in Black
In Between Days
On a Thursday night in Hamilton, Ontario, about an hour outside of their hometown of Welland, Attack in Black unceremoniously strap on their guitars to begin their opening slot for the Weakerthans. Having spent most of their early career playing eight-band hardcore shows and opening for the likes of Death by Stereo and Every Time I Die, here, the band’s music seems like a perfect fit — aggressively honest, passionate and vulnerable. In front of a sold-out all-ages crowd, their performance is mesmerising, an inwardly-focused blend of punk, folk, and Crazy Horse rock’n’roll. The reception is mostly positive, in that "politely waiting it out for the headliners” kind of way. Attack in Black charge ahead to crossed arms and a few bobbing heads.
In one week, the band will go from opening for pioneering indie rockers Built to Spill to screamo superstars Billy Talent. Having spent their teenaged music career in legion halls populated by youth crew-influenced hardcore and haircut-inspired metalcore, Attack in Black began their life within that same musical culture, and while still steeped in the aggressive sonic aesthetic and work ethic of their punk past, the band’s sound has taken a left turn toward Twice Removed and the Springsteen discography in the last two years. They have yet to prove themselves to a more mature audience, who see the band as more aligned with Alexisonfire than Joel Plaskett; younger crowds, while occasionally supportive due to ringing endorsements from other screamo stars, haven’t quite connected with the band’s all-ages-punk meets grown-up-rock sound. "I don’t know what’s going to happen, or who we’re going to end up catering to,” says singer and guitarist Daniel Romano. "If anyone.”
Formed from the ashes of two popular Welland-area hardcore bands, Attack in Black began their life as a straight-up melodic-hardcore outfit. Already established within Welland’s close-knit hardcore scene, AIB had an audience right out of the gates. "We had very small, local hipster status because we had been in bands that had played so much in our area,” says Dan Romano. "This particular band didn’t have to suffer — we’ve all ‘paid our dues,’ or whatever. When we started, people were already interested. Not a lot, but a few in our little city.”
Originally comprised of Daniel Romano, guitarist Spencer Burton, Dan’s younger brother Ian, and bassist Oldie WhathisnameTK, the band produced one EP for Grimsby, ON imprint Skate Ahead Records. Shortly after its release in 2004, Oldie WhathisnameTK quit, replaced by another Welland-area hardcore-junior vet, Ian Kehoe. "There was a point where the other bass player was still in the band, and I was coming over to help Dan write songs,” Kehoe says. Immediately, Kehoe and Dan’s songwriting partnership began taking the band in new directions.
Shortly after Kehoe joined, AIB headed out on a tour to Victoria, BC and back; having booked the tour through established connections from old bands, Attack In Black got their first taste of outsider status, sticking out like a rock’n’roll thumb at the same hardcore shows where their old bands had thrived. "We ended up playing with bands that — I’ll say it — were really, really terrible, ” Kehoe says. "We played an eight-band hardcore show in Calgary, which was packed, and we were the only band that no one watched.”
The band didn’t connect musically, but the trip brought home other touring realities quite harshly. "Our van started burning oil so much that every 40 minutes we’d have to pull into a gas station, and while one person went inside to pay for gas, we’d pull the van up as close to the gas station as we could and kick containers of oil under the van while someone inside the van grabbed them and tossed them inside,” Romano says. "We would steal six or seven containers of oil every chance we got.”
When they got home, new songs continued to pour out of the new partnership, and performances honed their sharp musical attack. It didn’t take long for a former St. Catherines punk promoter to take notice. Joel Carriere, whose work managing Alexisonfire and Bedouin Soundclash has elevated his music biz status, had just founded Dine Alone Records, home to Alexis, Moneen and City and Colour; he offered to put out their next EP."We signed with Joel and Dine Alone early, when we were vulnerable,” jokes Dan Romano. "But if we had waited until later we still would have done it. We grew up with Joel. When he was like, ‘I like your band,’ we were just like, ‘We’ll do anything! We don’t know what we’re doing and if you’re going to help us out, cool.’”
"We haven’t even signed a contract yet,” adds Kehoe. "It’s all in good faith. We plan on royally, royally fucking him.”
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