Some twenty years after the genre burst on to the hardcore scene with clean living ideals and positive attitudes, you may be hard pressed to still find bands carrying the youth crew torch. But if your efforts have failed you, then I’d say you’re not looking hard enough. Today you won’t need to look further than Milwaukee, Wisconsin, or this here blog post, to find the aforementioned virtues in hardcore. Here’s our interview with youth crew band FOCUSEDxMINDS.
Can you tell us about how the band started? How long have you guys been playing together?

Focused Minds started in August of 2010. The band started after Drew, our guitar player, and I attended This Is Hardcore. After seeing youth crew style bands all weekend I looked at Drew and asked, “When are we going to start a youth crew band? You on guitar and I’ll do vocals.” He was into it and it was brushed to the side for about ten minutes and I said to him, “No seriously, when is Focused Minds going to practice?” He asked if that was the name and we hit the ground running. Drew and I have been playing in bands together since I was 18 years old. In the two previous bands we were in together I had always played bass and he played guitar. The band has been without a bass player for a year and half and we’ve been making due with friends filling in and helping with touring. Like all things circumstances change, and so do people, so we just roll with the punches because it’s something he and I are both very passionate about.

You guys are scheduled to start recording an LP soon, right? What are you looking forward to most about releasing some new material?

Yes! The Fact Remains will be out on 6131 records in the very near future. To be honest, I’m excited for everything about this record. Recording could not have gone smoother. Stylistically and how it’s written, I think it’s the best thing we as a band have ever written. Nick Jett, of Terror, is mixing it and he has such a good ear for music, it’s hard not to get excited. We’ve also been on such a long hiatus writing this record that I’m most excited to get back on the road, start playing new material, and to get behind the mic again.

What’s it like being in a hardcore band in Milwaukee? Is there a lot going on there musically?

Being in a hardcore band from Milwaukee is great, it’s like being from any smaller market Midwest city. When we first started the band the scene wasn’t doing much but a lot of kids have really stepped up supporting and contributing to the scene. Within the last year, a lot has started going on musically for the scene. With our band going strong and Expire all relocating here, the city has been able to get a lot of interest from touring bands. A lot of cool newer bands have started popping up like Falter and our old drummer’s new band Cross me. There is a lot of struggles for a scene that doesn’t get offered every tour package that rolls through the Midwest, but we make the most of it. Shows are always a lot of fun.

How would you describe the band’s sound and message?

We’re a hardcore band. We play fast riffs and fast fills. We draw a lot of influence from the youth crew movement but we’ve never wanted to just be that. We all like so many different styles we just want to write music we’re proud of. As far as the message, we are a straight edge band. We are all vegan and we are all progressive in the way we see this world. This band is a mouth piece for that, and I think it’s important that more bands do it, hardcore was born out of radical activism in the punk scene. No need to forget that now.

With straight edge being such a monumental part of hardcore for a lot of people, I think it’s important to stay in conversation with the role it plays in the scene. Why was it important for you guys to identify explicitly as a straight edge band? What role does that identity play in your own lives?

We identify as being a straight edge band because we ourselves are straight edge. It is something we are all very proud of. It is a comittment and it’s not an easy one. That’s where I think its perception has gotten skewed and that is why it’s under criticism. It is 100% an outward reflection from something that comes from within. We are outwardly spoken about our decisions because we are proud of them. The fact of the matter is we live in a world that tells you what to wear, what to be, and how to fit in. Straight edge to its core is a rejection of all the ideals and it is something that should be celebrated. In my own life I identify it exactly the same. I have plenty of friends who drink and it’s not like I’m pressured by them or anything every time we go out. It is something for me and my friends are aware of it and in that fact I’m just allowed to be my own person.

How would you respond to criticisms that straight edge is counter intuitive to building a more communal attitude in hardcore?

First off I think anyone who uses straight edge as a means to ostricize anyone in the hardcore scene doesn’t really understand what hardcore is really about. Hardcore punk has always been a place for misfits and I definitely believe anyone who is apart of it, straight edge or not, is a misfit. The whole “kill your local drug dealer” or “straight edge means I party sober” mentality is all bull shit. LIke anything else, any form of militant idealogy will always get in the way of the bigger picture. If you’re straight edge that’s cool to me. If you’re not, then we’re still cool. Like I said in the last question, claiming edge was a decision I made for my life, it could not care less to me if it works for you or not.

You guys have toured pretty extensively outside of the midwest, which can be a challenge with either coast so far off. Do you have any sort of vision for the band’s future? More touring?

The vision of this band is to play as many shows, in as many places as we can, to as many people as we can. So that means international touring, more US touring, literally wherever we can go. More immediately we are about to embark on a 7 week tour where we will be meeting up with The Mongoloids and Wrong Answer to tour up and down the east coast, hitting Breast Fest, Heart Fest in Canada, and then ending it by making the trip out to Seattle for Rain Fest.

Tell us a funny FOCUSEDxMINDS story from your last tour.

A funny story from last tour, hmmm that was almost six months ago. I think the funniest was probably the first night of the tour, believe it or not. We met up with Bent Life in Minneapolis and after the show on the first night we played Ultimate Stakes Uno. If you’re not familiar with what that is, it’s when we all play UNO and loser has to do something intense. That night we all hand drew flash, put it in a hat, and loser got tattoos of what we pulled. It ended with a heartagram on my hip bone, a juggalo tattoo on our friends ass, and a pot leaf tattoo on our old drummers foot, his first ever tattoo.

And lastly, what else have you guys been into lately? What other bands from the Midwest should we be checking out?

As previously stated, we’ve been working on this record. Now that it’s finished we’re going to hit the road again with a fury. Outside of music it’s always work. Besides that a lot of working out and hobbies like D&D and board games. As far as music in the midwest, literally anything you can get your hands on. Bent Life, Black Ice, Cross Me, Forever Young, Out of Time, Another Mistake, and that’s just to name a few.

You can pick up FOCUSEDxMINDS’ EP on bandcamp, and a bunch of other merch from their webstore. Make sure to check them out on Facebook to keep an eye out for their coming LP and tour dates!