INTERVIEW BY FRANK VENZOR
PHOTOS BY DAVID JEFFREY AND CHLOE MURO
If you’re into hardcore and you live in Virginia, you probably only ever hear Richmond or Virginia Beach bands, but Virginia is full of awesome hardcore bands from every region. For example, there’s TIEBREAKER and STEP OFF from Roanoke, REFINER from Front Royal, WIRETAP from Winchester, and last but not least, Harrisonburg’s TRUE WORTH, a real up-and-coming hardcore band. Their sound combines the speed of thrash metal, the anger of hardcore punk, and the crushing pit riffs of PANTERA. I am lucky to be able to call these guys my friends. I’ve decided to interview each of them separately, to get a more in-depth look into the workings of this proud Virginia band.
Zach Lantz (vocals)
Your lyrics have a certain feeling of loss and anger behind them; do you consider yourself an angry person? And who do you think of for inspiration when writing your lyrics?
Well Chris and I usually write the lyrics together. We have been best friends since 2009, so we share a lot of memories together. We think the same way, and that puts a lot of emphasis on what we write about. As for being an angry person, I don’t think I am. I imagine that a lot of people close to me would say that I am, but I’m actually just a hot head at times. I have a problem with not thinking before I speak, and that usually leads to trouble (laughs). Chris and I have both lost a lot of people close to us. We actually share a few friends that have passed away in the past few years, and it really helps cope with the loss by writing about them.
Who are your favorite hardcore and metal vocalists?
Hmmm…that’s a tough one. I guess I would say David Wood from DOWN TO NOTHING for hardcore because he’s from Virginia, and DOWN TO NOTHING rules. Phil Anselmo for metal because PANTERA.
Hahaha, “Because Pantera,” I agree. How often do you find yourself listening to VA hardcore? Who would you say is your favorite VA band?
I listen to Virginia hardcore every day. Not even on purpose. There are just so many good bands from Virginia. Does LAMB OF GOD count for my favorite band? DOWN TO NOTHING is probably my favorite [hardcore] band in Virginia, though.
Your new EP is different than your prior release. What prompted the change, and was there a different process in writing and recording this release?
When we started to write Fleeting Lives, we decided that what we used to play was just boring and not fun. As each of us is into different kinds of hardcore, we decided that we just wanted to play stuff that we enjoyed. We just wanted to play music that we all enjoy and can head bang to, to be honest. Plus, I don’t know if any of us enjoy much of what we used to write
What do you hope to accomplish within the VA hardcore scene?
I just want to write music that everyone enjoys and make Virginia hardcore even more well-known than it already is. I’m so happy to be a part of Virginia hardcore. Virginia hardcore is already on the map, and to me it’s the best scene in the country. From NOVA to Roanoke and from RVA to Virginia Beach.
Zach Jeffrey (guitar)
I know most bands rely heavily on the guitarists to write the music, but some combine their efforts. How does the writing process go?
For TRUE WORTH, writing has always been a group effort. Someone will say, “Hey, I have this sweet riff idea,” and the next person will say, “Hey, we could do this after or this.” The closer we get as a band and the better we get as a band definitely helps our writing as well. People in the band kind of have their own specialties and what they are good at writing, which also helps each member not get burned out on playing certain songs live.
What prompted you to change the writing of this new EP from your previous work?
On our last album Dark Days it was kind of a darker, slower album. We each had some stuff going on in our personal lives that helped write a lot of the songs and lyrics. Going into this new album, we kind of got all that stuff off our chests and decided to write something fast and fun. It’s definitely easier for us to write, and it comes a lot more natural.
There’s a definite southern feel to this new EP; where did that come from? When writing riffs, who do you look to for inspiration from?
Southern rock and southern metal has always been an influence. Chris and I started our first band when we were 14 or so and it was named after a MOLLY HATCHET song, so go figure. As we got older, we got into early NORMA JEAN and MAYLENE [AND THE SON’S OF DISASTER] and stuff like that. With this new album we really wanted it to be a mix of all the stuff we like: fast, heavy, and groovy. Personally, I listen to a lot of thrash and old school rock and metal. Most of the fast riffs that I’ve wrote were based on obviously PANTERA and CRO-MAGS type riffs. We all listen to some pretty weird stuff.
How did Party Foul Records approach you guys? And what are they doing for you all?
Party Foul found us after Chris sent out a ton of demos to random labels and people. We had a few hits, but no one that serious. Party Foul was really into our new album and also our older stuff. We talked and planned [with them], and now we have a 7” up for presale and a few shirt packages. It’s pretty crazy being at this stage; it’s taken a long time to get here.
What do you hope to accomplish within the VA hardcore scene?
I think True Worth’s main goal within the VA hardcore scene is just to have fun. Live life and don’t take yourself too seriously. If we can sell a shirt here and there and have kids tell us they really enjoyed our set, I think that’s enough. We just love making music, playing shows, and seeing friends. It would be amazing to continue to grow and become more and more popular in the scene. We all really want to tour and experience that life, but even if that doesn’t happen, we will keep playing shows with the same 40 kids until we are too old or too shitty to continue.
Chris Mueller (bass)
You used to be the vocalist of this band; what prompted the switch with Zach? How is being the bassist of a band differ from being the vocalist of a band?
I was the vocalist for about a year before I made the personal decision to leave the band. I was going through a lot of personal stuff and felt that I couldn’t contribute in a positive way, so I decided to step away. My leave only lasted for a few months, and when I came back Zach had already taken over as vocalist. I’ve been playing bass for like 12 years, so it was a natural move. Playing bass is cool because I get to contribute musically to the general sound and direction of our songs. There are things I miss about singing, but being a bassist comes much more naturally. I also think Zach fills the role well. People say he’s intimidating, which I guess is cool.
I remember a couple of months ago, you tweeted about carpal tunnel. I tweeted back at you with some tips since I struggle with it too, and I hope they helped. How’s your wrist feeling now, man?
I’ve been struggling with carpal tunnel for a little while now. I’m a bassist, a hockey player, and I work in an office, so I have a lot of factors working against me. I did take your advice, and I’ve definitely seen improvement. I sleep with a brace on most nights, and I’m careful to take better care of my hands. Nothing sucks more than having to drop my pick during a song because my hand completely quits on me.
Do you miss the old sound or are you content with the new sound you guys have going?
While I did enjoy playing our old stuff, I feel like we finally came into our own. We struggled to find our identity for a long time, but I think we’ve reached it with our latest record. We all have such varied influences, so it sometimes makes it difficult to truly focus on one sound. I think we’re in a place now where we’re all happy and excited about the music we’re writing.
What are some things you want to accomplish with TRUE WORTH?
Honestly, I’m happy just playing shows, writing music, and having a good time with my friends. I’ve made 90% of my friends through hardcore, so getting to see everyone and playing shows with friends is always refreshing. I feel like I’m getting old and I’m doing the “adult” 9 to 5 thing at work, so being able to release a lot of energy at shows and just have a good time is definitely necessary for my sanity. For the future, I just want to keep playing shows and writing records we’re proud of.
Where is your favorite place to play in VA?
My favorite places to play in VA are The Big Gay Shanty in Roanoke and The Hank Haus in Winchester. I don’t think anything comes close. Roanoke treats us like family, and we always get a great reaction when we play there. It’s also one of the coolest DIY scenes in the state. All of the kids down there have put a ton of hard work into their scene, and it shows. To see a scene come together like that with a lot of cooperation between a lot of people is amazing, and it makes me jealous that we can’t recreate that in our hometown. As for Hank Haus, it’s just pure insanity. It’s always packed full of the homies, and something crazy always happens. Never fails to give me a hardcore hard on.
Kienan Willard (drums)
After the show this weekend, I found out that both you and Zach Jeffery write for the band; where do you find your influences when writing?
Most of my inspiration comes from whatever I’m currently listening to and when I write it’s typically a riff that comes to my head and I just bang it out.
I gotta say man, I love that new EP. What is your favorite part about it?
My favorite part of the EP is that gnarly dive bomb in “Warpath”. It was kind of a joint effort from Zach J and I, and it turned out rad.
How often do you find yourself listening to VA hardcore? Who would you say is your favorite VA band?
I listen to VA hardcore a lot. I’d have to say that my favorite overall VA band is DOWN TO NOTHING, but I spin the UPPERHAND EP pretty regularly.
Where is your favorite place to play in VA?
Winchester, VA saw quite possibly our craziest set, but I also have to give a shout out to Roanoke purely for how often we play there.
TRUE WORTH put out a new EP on October 11th, 2013, called Fleeting Lives and it rips. You can download it for free on their Bandcamp and you can pre-order a 7’’ record here. Also catch them in Williamsburg with REALITY CHECK and more April 26th. For more updates on TRUE WORTH, be sure to “like” their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter.