Take this as a call to action if you need a powerful punch of dynamic music and fresh faces spruce up your playlists. Hailing from Chi-town with an aggressive sound, Knockout Kid is a genre-bending gang of brothers dishin’ out layers of blasted guitar sound that’ll rile up the masses. I caught up with guitarist, Jacob Fuerst, to discuss the current state of punk rock, growing up in Chicago, tattoos and more.
First and foremost, introduce yourself to our readers. Who is Knockout Kid?
At its core, Knockout Kid is an aggressive pop punk band with metal and hardcore influences but with an inability to replicate the sounds of our favorite bands. We signed to Bullet Tooth (Kid Liberty, Throw the Fight, Memphis May Fire) in late 2015 and released our most ambitious record to date, MANIC, digitally and in-stores February of 2016. The first limited edition pressings of MANIC, in blue splatter and gold, were released to over 60 record stores around the country (and Europe) on Record Store Day – Black Friday and contained an acoustic bonus track. MANIC demonstrated the dual-guitar, progressive-leaning but pop sensible sound we’ve been perfecting since our inception in 2010. It also showcased Knockout Kid as a band with something to say; MANIC attacked the taboo of bipolar disorder – first six songs being “manic,” and second six being “depressive,” in a relatable (and often painful) way. Knockout Kid does pop punk, metal, hardcore, and everything in between, so the next record could go in any direction. Knockout Kid has been, and will always be, Knockout Kid.
What do you perceive creates a live show that your fans will never forget?
Bands that get on stage and put themselves in danger, bands that are able to recreate their music sonically while absolutely throwing down, have been the inspiration for our live show (think Dillinger Escape Plan, Slipknot, Lions Lions, etc). As the guitarist, I’ll be sprinting across the the stage over and over, doing a roundhouse kick at our singer (he usually sees it coming)… sometimes I don’t land a move and end up on the floor. Fine by me. I did an entire tour with a broken hand; the doctor insisted I leave the cast on for another month, but I forced him to make me a splint where I could use two fingers to play the set. The bones never healed right, but that’s our live show attitude. On that note, our bassist, Nick, broke his ankle last time we hit the east coast and finished the set. It wasn’t Grohl-smooth, but it worked.
Wade, our singer, has, like, no regard for bodily harm. I’ve seen that motherfucker dive into the crowd, start a pit himself, climb rafters and the sides of stages, have his mouth bashed in while singing with the crowd… and more. No one in this band wants to put on a show where the crowd hears our music verbatim as we headbang lightly. Our music is intense, so we are there to capture your attention from the first three seconds of the set until the last note.
What is your perception of the current state of punk rock music?
To start, the next four years might be the best for punk music since Reagan. Otherwise, the scene is a copycatting, band-wagoning, inspiration lacking, money-necessitating lottery grab in which those with the right connections and songs with the most popular chord progressions make it to the top. But not for long, usually. Even though this clearly exposes how jaded I am on the subject, Knockout Kid will always take the path less traveled, regardless of how long it’ll take us to be “the band.” To be honest, trends within punk rock music come and go so quickly that we largely stay out of it and write the music we want. Our fans seem to support this. When we have fans with us since our first record 8 years ago, we know we’re doing something right.
But I don’t know. I’m sure we have a price.
Are you working on any new material that you can fill us in on?
We may be working on new material (we’re ALWAYS working on new material). By this, I mean that our next record, the followup to MANIC, is about 40 songs deep. While we don’t want to give too much away, the new tracks have a distinct pop punk feel to them that reminds us of some of the better stuff on IT COMES WITH THE JOB DESCRIPTION mixed with MANIC’s maturity but without its overall heaviness (it isn’t gone though). I will say, the lyrics follow another thematic path but they do not have the same heavy / negative vibe to them, as on MANIC. We haven’t been so excited about new stuff since… the last record.
Let’s talk tattoos. Tell us about your favorite personal pieces and the artists that brought them to life.
Jake: My favorite piece is my lower arm sleeve, done courtesy of Kevin Owings at Mind Crusher Tattoo in Chicago. It’s a red, black and dark blue piece with a snake wrapped around a broken dagger – except the snake’s head is more like a dragon. As it wraps around my arm, multiple mandalas with a skull within them continue the sleeve. It has the Knockout Kid “K brand” logo at the top. Kevin did it in two days, for about a ten hour session each, and it’s everything I hoped it would be. Mind Crushers Tattoo is Chicago’s best tattoo parlor, in my opinion.
Nick: I’m really excited to have started work with Fred Brown at Color Theory tattoo on an arm piece for my father who passed when i was 11, and instead of going with a traditional name and dates tattoo, I thought of a collection things that remind me of him so i choose to do a 80’s-90’s movie collage so the biggest part is the stay puft marshmallow man eating a blues brothers soul man record, with a pair of sunglasses that are in reference to men in black/blues brothers and a half pack of salem cigarettes (the brand he used to smoke) and on the top of the shoulder it’s all set behind the chicago skyline in a red haze. Still a lot of sessions left to go on this piece but i’m really happy the way it’s coming together.
And I also have to give props to the first tattoo i ever got in the middle of lansing michigan before a show, that is the title to my favorite album “…is a real boy” and that will always hold a special place in my heart.
What do you perceive has changed the most about the music industry ever since you came together as a band in 2010?
Genre trends have absolutely changed the most since we started, by that’s the nature of the beast, eh? The single most challenging thing has been the music industry’s embrace of easycore when we started, but when the wave of bands along the lines of TWY – Real Friends, etc – came along, easycore became a dirty word. We took the opportunity to make our sound less genre-based and more “us.” Have to be able to survive change in the industry.
How has growing up in Chicago influenced your artistry as a musician?
Four of the five of us – Wade (Vox) not included – grew up in and around Chicago and it certainly added to some of the aloofness, uncertainty about others. You can be completely surrounded by people in Chicago but still feel completely alone. That feeling made a huge impact on MANIC.
You have traveled and toured around the country. Throughout your travels, what has been your favorite “small town feel” experience?
Truthfully, our collective favorite is the smallest town in America (we think) called Centralia. It’s the basis for Silent Hill, and it lives up to its name. Without giving it all away, only 10 people still live there because of a raging mine fire beneath the town. It’s been going 50 years, and certain parts of blocked roads are smoking and caving in. And that’s not all.
Quaint, if you ask me.
What do fans of Knockout Kid have to look forward to over the next six months?
We’ve got an astounding 40-60 demos ready for vetting and then pre-production at our home studio, so a new record will be around the corner (although six months might be a little too close to call). We will be filming a music video for “Stay Lit,” off of MANIC, touring heavily and vying for support tours (January and February dates TBA), introducing a whole new line of exclusive merch designs, and doing a number of ridiculous videos that shouldn’t be explained out of context. We’ll absolutely be worth watching this year.
Last but certainly not least, any closing messages for your fans?
Aside from how grateful we always are for our fans, many of whom have been with us for years, we want to thank you for the response to MANIC, for driving distances to grab the first pressing of the MANIC vinyl, and for coming out to every show on our tour with Carousel Kings and Count to Four so far. We’ve always said you keep us going. Oh – the new record is going to fuck you all up. Pop punk or die.