Sharptooth at Punks Against Trump tour - Denver CO (Interview)
By James Cook
Sharptooth puts their raw voice on a day of demonstrations
On the morning of January 20th, downtown streets across America were packed with woman and allies alike, marching for equality and change. Only a few hours after those marches had ended, Denver’s Summit Hall began to set up for Punks Against Trump; a night of punk and hardcore, both Denver locals and national touring acts, ready to make a statement of their own. The energy of the day was not lost at Summit Hall that night. On the contrary, the packed set list (which included, among others, Cheap Perfume, Stray From the Path, and headliners Anti-Flag) seemed to add further significance to the morning’s demonstrations.
Baltimore Hardcore group, Sharptooth, took the main stage early in the evening, slotted for a short 20 minute set. They wasted no time, bringing the crowd into it from the first massive chord and chest-thumping kick drum. Lauren Kashan, Sharptooth’s lead singer, stepped to her stage throwing punches. Kashan instantly had her toes hanging over the stage and demanded the crowd’s attention. She got it, and delivers with a raw, powerful growl and a commanding on-stage presence. Between songs, Lauren Kashan spoke with the audience, stirring dialogue on the politically charged subjects that run through their 2017 LP release, Clever Girl (out now on Pure Noise Records). The band behind her brought the same intensity, utilizing every corner of the Summit Hall stage and cohesively moving through ferocious hardcore songs.
After their set, and a long line of fans at the merch table, Kashan took time to answer a few of my questions.
Q: You guys aren’t shy on how you feel about the current state of things in America (track #4 of Clever Girl is entitled “Fuck you Donald Trump”), what does it mean to get together with all these bands, making this statement tonight?
LK: It means everything, it’s really a privilege to be playing with all these bands that believe in the same things that we do. We don’t always play shows where I feel safe saying and doing what I did tonight.
Kashan held nothing back at Punk Against Trump, speaking powerfully on issues such as transparency around mental health, equality for women, and embracing those in the LGBT community. As Sharptooth’s closing song, “Clever Girl”, counted in, Lauren Kashan shed her jacket, as well as the bra underneath. Her chest and stomach read “Femmes to the Front”, black tape covering her breasts in between.
Q: I wanted to talk about the title track, “Clever Girl”, specifically the end chant - “Dead man tell no tale. Dead man talk no shit.” What do you hope your male listeners take from your lyrics?
LK: Clever Girl is our way of asking straight men to stop and listen. Previously, this has been a very white, male scene. But when there are other voices on stage, it’s time to listen. It’s time to listen to people who look and sound different than you
Q: The Baltimore Punk scene doesn’t always get a lot of attention out here towards the West, what’s going on there?
LK: It’s small and close knit. It was quiet for awhile, but the past couple of years has definitely seen some growth. Baltimore has so many different groups and ideologies represented, there’s a lot of diversity. That’s what is so important to me, representation for multiple groups of people.
Q: In the song “Rude Awakening”, you talk about a place where you found your voice, and even a person who lead you to speak so directly on these issues. Is there a specific club, or a mentor, who you were talking about there?
LK: Being a woman in heavy music, I’ve had to fight twice as hard to get half as far. When I went to shows, I had to mosh twice as hard; I had to work to earn respect to show that I belong. With Stray to the Path (also on the Punks Against Trump tour), I just went to every show I could. When the time came, they said to us, “You guys have supported the shit out of our band, we want to put you on tour.” Now we’re here, on tour with them.
Clever Girl is Sharptooth’s first full release, which they followed with a national tour that has brought them to the Mid-west and Western states for the first time as a band. That night in Denver, they appeared more than ready to show the crowd the real heart and musical chops. The riffs on this new album span from rowdy, thrash-punk sections to groovy breakdowns, with a slew of lines for the crowd to chant back. Phil Rasinski’s bass playing stands out in particular, anchoring the myriad of riffs with a powerful, gritty tone. There’s something very proto-punk about the simplicity and fury of Sharptooth’s sound that makes it a fun and energetic listen. The band is not short on brutal, even technical metalcore riffs, however, and show that they’re right on the forefront of an emerging modern core sound. Lauren Kashan’s voice on Clever Girl is, like her live performance, commanding. Her vocals sound natural and fully express the zeal she embodies on social issues. While I appreciate the candid tone of her lyrics in Clever Girl, I’d like to see future releases entail more storytelling and poetic elements.
Sharptooth has stepped right into their political agenda, both in their lyrical content and the persona they adopt on stage. The span of issues they cover, as well as the openness that lead singer Lauren Kashan speaks on them, is ambitious for a band just making their place in the national scene. After seeing them perform only a couple of songs, at the Punks Against Trump stop in Denver, it was evident that they’re ready to back up what they say. Kashan speaks honestly to her audience and emphasises care and inclusivity between them. Their set on January 20th left Denver’s Summit Hall feeling empowered with a strong sense of unity. Sonically, Clever Girl is great hardcore - heavy, danceable, and full of toughened Baltimore spirit. That energy is well-translated on their recordings, but really seems to come from a strong identity that’s been cultivated on the live stage. If you’re looking for some hard-nosed inspiration in the Trump-era, check out Clever Girl and better yet, see Sharptooth live as soon as you can.