To see Los Angeles hardcore band Trash Talk live is to witness a force of unstoppable and cathartic destruction.
When the band performs, singer Lee Spielman spends precious little time on stage. Instead, he dives headfirst into the orgy of adrenaline, writhing on his back across club floors and swinging his microphone like a lasso. Meanwhile, the audience goes along with the madness: Footage of a show used in a Pitchfork documentary about the band depicts an overzealous fan escaping the pit at one show with a grisly gash on his arm.
The explosive atmosphere must seem intimidating to outsiders and first-time listeners, but the group's energy is infectious, particularly in person. As Spielman breaks down the fourth wall and performs among the audience, the ferocity intensifies and your own inhibitions tend to melt away.
Still, for the band, every show is just another day at the office, so to speak.
"The show and the intensity is what we are," says drummer Sam Bosson. "It's not like we sit down and say, We have to be so intense we scare people.' We've been playing in hardcore bands since we were teenagers. So, people jumping off the rafters is just the kind of thing that happens at a hardcore show. It brings people out of their comfort zone. But it's kind of the norm—it's what we were brought up in."
It's hard work pulling off an incendiary live show while keeping the music tight, though. Before Bosson, Spielman, bassist Spencer Pollard and guitarist Garrett Stevenson entered the studio to record their new album, 119— which came out on Odd Future Records in October—they kept to a rigid rehearsal schedule.
"On this record, we really took our time," Bosson says. "We practiced every day, four to five hours a day, and did that for two months before we went into the studio."
With 14 tracks crammed into 21 minutes, 119 is the longest Trash Talk album to date. That's practically an EP by any other measure, but by the band's standards, the new record is positively epic: It finds them covering a lot of ground, spanning from the Black Flag-style, three-chord hardcore of "Eat the Cycle" to the grungy and hook-laden "Reasons," which is reminiscent of early Nirvana in its chunky, power-chordheavy approach. Meanwhile, slow-moving, bass-heavy doom-punk dirge "Blossom and Burn" features guest raps from Tyler, the Creator and Hodgy Beats of the famously bratty hip-hop collective Odd Future.
The record came out on Odd Future's eponymous label. Trash Talk had previously self-released their music via their Trash Talk Collective imprint, but they became friends with the hip-hop collective after meeting them in Austin at South by Southwest and struck up a partnership afterward.
"We had started to record, but we had no idea what we were going to do with it," Bosson says. "We haven't been working with labels for a pretty long time. But with the Odd Future thing, there's not really a difference from what we've been doing, aside from the infrastructure they set for themselves. We were in complete control."
Though different stylistically, Odd Future and Trash Talk have a lot in common. They have explosive live shows, share a love for skateboarding and have a do-it-yourself background—they've both released much of their own music without label support and garnered large fan bases through grassroots operations. Likewise, for a hip-hop group, Odd Future has a decidedly punk ethos, thumbing their noses at authority and making nihilistic declarations like " Kill people, burn shit, fuck school."
Trash Talk used to be based in Sacramento, but they recently relocated to Los Angeles, since they typically use the city as a launching point for touring. When they got to Southern California in 2011, the band rented a warehouse south of downtown L.A. and turned it into a makeshift live-work space. It currently serves as a practice space, recording studio and home for several members of the band. The band also built a skate ramp there. Its street number, 119, lent the album its title.
The band's new surroundings have provided a source of inspiration, but their new neighborhood is a dark, gritty place.
"Living at the warehouse and walking around the neighborhood, you would see some crazy things," Bosson says. "You wouldn't want to be hanging around at night. People have gotten shot in the area. There are kids fighting in alleyways. Crack addicts. It really makes you think about your place in the world."
As many miles as Trash Talk has clocked or how many crazy things they've seen, though, precious little can stand in the way of the band's objective—putting on a good show.
"That's always the fun part for us," Bosson says. "What we do is play live. When we're putting out a record, we always think, What's the song that'll get kids moving? And I think that wouldn't ever change."
If that did, he adds, "we wouldn't be Trash Talk."
Trash Talk play with MellowHype, Antwon and Take Offense at Epicentre on Friday, Dec. 21. trashtalkhc.com