By Daniel Romeo – Contact Contributor
“Some bands write songs about the losers, but like, we are the losers” says Tarek Ahmed, founding member of Connecticut outsider hardcore outfit, Intercourse. As we sit at a small table of empty beer bottles at a local wateringhole in his hometown of Waterbury, two of the members of this four-piece share how the sh*****r side of Connecticut inspires the band’s lyrics and aesthetic. “We just made slightly better decisions” says drummer and fellow Intercourse bandmate, Caleb Porter. Laughing, Ahmed agrees “yeah, we just learned to not do heroin.”
Together with their friends, guitarist Jay Barnes and bassist Tim Leonard, they make up one of the most original-sounding groups I personally have ever had the pleasure of getting into. Thanks to my good friend and artist, Dion Vega, I have become a huge fan of this band and their one-of-a-kind aesthetic. After meeting them a couple of times at their shows, I hit the guys up and brought Vega along to sit down for drinks with Ahmed and Porter, looking for some background on what has become one of our favorite bands. Starting out with a different sound and personnel, Intercourse have found new success with their latest lineup and writing talent, bringing an abrasive edge to the band with their 2016 EP, Pissing Into The Abyss.
“When I joined Intercourse it was a completely different band,” said Porter, “I didn’t start writing for the band until we asked [an original member] to leave”. When the band asked a member of their founding lineup to leave, the member did not want the band to play any of the material he wrote. “We had shows lined up…so Pissing Into The Abyss we wrote in a couple of months, and it all just fell together and it was completely natural”. Porter and Barnes found common ground in their writing and musical interests and began writing all of the instrumentals for Intercourse since starting work together on Pissing. When it comes to vocals, that’s Ahmed’s demented wheelhouse.
With a blistering 9 minutes of hardcore punk bliss, Pissing Into The Abyss was the band’s first EP with their new lineup, and set the precedent for where their sound would go. Opening with “Multiphobic”, the standard for Intercourse’s new mathy sound is set by time signature changes and tonal heaviness. With Barnes’ screeching feedback and low tones pairing well with driving bass lines of Leonard and energized blast beats of Porter, Ahmed’s vocal delivery and lyrical style has remained the same, if improved, from the band’s earlier material. “Earth Dudes Are Easy” (a personal favorite of mine) finds a character sexually objectified by aliens, all while being a banger of a hardcore track worthy of some dedicated headbanging.
While having elements of dark humor and satire, this is far from a joke band. Ahmed’s ability to wind together ridiculous and provocative lyrical concepts with surprisingly revealing honesty behind it all makes him stand-out as a true original. “Not only are we really good friends, but I actually do really like his writing…” says Porter on Ahmed, “…it’s incredibly honest, if jocular, it’s always like a drunk monologue”. Inspired by the works of bands like Deadguy, Daughters, and Black Flag, the band have a solid foundation of inspiration in the realm of noise and hardcore, while also managing to make something almost wholly original in the process.
The day I was introduced to Intercourse, Vega sat me down and had me watch the chaotic footage of the band’s record release show from their first LP, 2018’s Everything Is Pornography When You Have an Imagination. What my eyes were exposed to was an impressive display of not giving a f***. A tiny bar in Waterbury crammed with people all going crazy for a loud, borderline nonsensical, yet completely enthralling group, I was hooked from the get-go. Mathy instrumentation, impressive levels of performance ability from all members, a very rowdy moshpit, and a crazed frontman on the loose, all made up what I can call one of the most awe-inspiring examples of a Connecticut hardcore band doing things the right way, their own way.
“That was the night there was a fight outside and one of the bikers inside [the bar] came outside with the thing of bleach from behind the bar for the sidewalk to get the blood off” says Ahmed about that crazy night. When I asked the guys about the enormous man who lifts Ahmed onto his shoulder as during the video, they revealed they still don’t know who he is. “That dude was massive,” says Porter to Ahmed, “I remember just looking up from my drums and you’re right up to his face talking about your d*** or something like that”.
Having seen them live twice now myself, I can confirm this level of wackiness always seems to follow an Intercourse concert. But a show is only as wacky as the band playing it and when you have band members like these, you turn heads. “My favorite thing you ever said while we were playing a show was at the birthday show in New Haven,” recalls Porter of Ahmed’s antics. “It was halfway through the set, people were really starting to move around and mosh, you were taking your shirt off – I think you were only in your underwear at this point – and before the song started you just went ‘treat me like s***’ and we went right into the song. It was f*****g incredible”.
On their first LP, the band brought that same level of intensity in their shows to their studio sound. Intercourse flexed their writing muscles more, with entire fictional narratives and even some personal anecdotes from Ahmed make up the lyrical content. Everything Is Pornography is what I would call the essential listen for any incoming curious listener, with memorable and surprisingly catchy tracks throughout. Opening on “Piles”, Intercourse weave fast odd-timed drum patterns and driving riffs to Ahmed’s confession of self-loathing to a counselor, with an odd anecdote to complete the package.
“The thing with the hot dog really happened to me,” says Ahmed on the lyrical mention of being bullied outside a mall at 14 for eating a hot dog wrapped in a pretzel, “a lot of those lyrics came after our Pissing Into the Abyss release party. I had to go to a wedding the next day. They made me drive, I was too hungover, I missed an exit. The thing about this wedding was we introduced the couple that got married but we missed the whole ceremony. So we got there, and we are just standing there just some miserable hungover pieces of shit.” This track is shortly followed by the darkly hilarious fiction of “Cuckold The Family Ghost”, completing the dichotomy between the band’s more honest messages and their satirical side.
The LP is full of tracks like these. Winding drum patterns, riffs heavy enough to get anyone’s arms flailing, and a manic madman on the mic spitting words like acid, Intercourse are the full package on Everything Is Pornography. From Ahmed reminiscing about getting threatened in school after 9/11 for being Middle-Eastern on “The Kids Are Alt-Right”, to telling a true crime inspired fiction about drugged up furries on “Too F****d To Yiff” (Porter’s favorite song he has ever instrumentally written), the band keep the listener guessing while also beating their brains to mush with abrasiveness and shock without overdoing any of it. The album even ends on a track inspired by Metallica’s infamous Some Kind of Monster documentary, a wonderfully hilarious cap to a standout record from last year. But my favorite part of the Intercourse experience has without a doubt been their live performances.
This past March I first met Ahmed and Porter at Intercourse’s show in Somerville, MA. The venue? A Greek Community Center. “That was one of those shows where we drive past the venue and go, ‘is that the venue?’, and we all just go”, says Porter, facepalming. I remember thinking the same as I approached the small little fluorescent lit, white-tiled rec room with instruments opposite a tiny bar. From the second they started playing I knew I was witnessing something that may get some real traction. They have a following as it is, but their on-stage presence and sonic output was like a gut-punch. In this tiny little room I was watching Ahmed going haywire on the mic, Porter showing that china cymbal who’s boss, Barnes piercing ears with his guitar attack, and Leonard leaning back on me as an old Greek man stands inexplicably holding a lit candle. It was bizarre to say the least, but only added to the fun that surrounds this band and their blast of an aesthetic.
The second time I caught Intercourse was their opening set for The HIRS Collective at NG2BC in New Haven this past May, a set that surprised me quite a bit. Opening the entire set with new music, little did I know what I had heard was the entirety of Intercourse’s new 2019 EP and latest reason to check them out, Bum Wine.
“Bum Wine is about being a Naugatuck towney,” says Ahmed, “when I was a kid, to get alcohol we had this homeless guy buy it for us. Most of these weird homeless people – well i don’t even know if they are homeless, they are just kind of bums. They would just buy you booze and you would just buy them of a forty or something”. Their latest saw the band bringing things to a more mature level than before, seemingly darker in their tone, but still as ridiculous and sporadic as expected.
The inspiration for Bum Wine came from a number of places, but the oddest is perhaps the internet. “I found this website, bumwine .com, I was like ‘let’s write a sludge album about it’” says Ahmed “…I had this whole crazy concept I was gonna write, it was gonna be a story. But when writing, it doesn’t always work like that. You can’t just think of a story and make songs out of it, you have to be inspired for something to come out.” Weeks passed with no success until Ahmed had a moment of clarity. “One day I was at my job and I was cleaning a toilet and I thought to myself. Well, wait, I’m a f*****g bum,” he says to laughter around the table.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the details on Bum Wine is the origin of it’s opening track, “Jake’s Backyard”. A track made up entirely of a recording of Ahmed from 2000 vomiting, the track actually has a surprising backstory. After suggesting he vomit in the booth for the EP, Ahmed remembered he had a recording somewhere of him vomiting as a teenager. “I was at a party in high school and I was video taping but I had to puke. So I ran outside to the back with the camera still on, but it was too dark, so it couldn’t pick up any video and all it got was audio.”
When looking for the recording at home, Ahmed came across a tape and watched it. “It’s me outside of my high school with two of my friends smoking cigarettes. One of them OD’d on heroin, the other one shot herself, but she didn’t die immediately. She was in a coma for like 3 days and then she died, so immediately I put this thing in and it’s just a f*****g bummer. It’s just awful”. Ahmed goes on to reveal that the titular Jake had also died of suicide. “It’s f****d up enough when you’re 20 and your friend hangs himself, but now at 35 I’m just like ‘you’re so young, you don’t even know what the f*** is going on.” After digging through the depressing background, he found the puke clip and it made it onto Bum Wine. “It’s like this loaded story you don’t know when you hear the audio” says Porter.
Bum Wine happens to be on repeat for me daily since it’s release in May, and is some of the band’s favorite and best material to date. They have more new music on the way and a handful of shows coming up this summer. They just announced they will be opening for Eyehategod at the State House in New Haven, CT on September 4, so be sure to try and see these guys and check out their music on Spotify or Bandcamp. To these ears, they are the next big thing in CTHC, and are certainly the torchbearers for outsider hardcore you all need to be acquainted with.
Listen to Bum Wine by Intercourse on Bandcamp and Spotify below: