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Joey Chiaramonte on Long Island Life, The EP That Preceded a Pandemic, and Koyo's Future - Interview

Written by Jennifer Moglia

Photo by Judy Lawson

No matter how many favorite bands you have, something will always hit you differently about bands from your own stomping grounds. Personally, this was the initial appeal of Koyo, a melodic hardcore band from Long Island, New York, and the closest thing that the alternative scene has to a super-group today, with members from some of the genre’s most exciting acts right now. About seven months since the release of the band’s first EP, “Painting Words Into Lines”, we were lucky enough to be able to ask Joey Chiaramonte a few questions about how the band came to be, how they’ve dealt with the current COVID-19 pandemic, and what we can expect from them in the future.

Jennifer Moglia: So, to start off, let’s just get your full name and where you’re from?

Joey Chiaramonte: I’m Joey Chiaramonte, and I’m from Stony Brook, New York.

JM: Next, give me the origin story. How and when did Koyo form?

JC: Koyo formed around August of 2019. Everyone had some time off from touring and we wanted to make the most of that free time by forming new bands within our friend group. Thus, Koyo (and our other band Soul Provider) came to be. The music for both of those bands was written within that period of time as well.

JM: I know you guys are in other bands in the same general scene/genre as well (SeeYouSpaceCowboy, Rain of Salvation, Typecaste, Adrenaline, Hangman), so what makes Koyo different or special for you?

JC: Aside from the fact that playing in Koyo allows me to make music with lifelong friends, the big thing that makes it special to me is it can be whatever we want it to be. I love playing in my other bands, as does everyone in Koyo, but the other types of hardcore bands we play in come with certain limits of what you can write where it’ll make sense for your band. Like, literally speaking, you can write whatever you want, but part of the beauty of hardcore music is its simple form, at times, serves it well. An incredible hardcore band doesn’t need to have paramount musicianship or songwriting, it just needs to be something that invokes a feeling.

Where Koyo differs is that, despite wanting to maintain the prior sentiments of provocation, we are at liberty to make our band sound like almost anything we want without it being too polarizing. That’s at least how we see it. It doesn’t mean we really intend to write anything too far out of our wheelhouse, but there’s no real pressure to micromanage our own music and be like “we can’t do that, that’s not Koyo”. We decide our own fate sonically with almost no bias or concern and that’s a liberating thing I’ve never gotten to experience before this.

JM: What was the process of recording the EP like?

JC: Recording the EP was a really special time, right around the holiday season when we got in there. Leading up to it, almost every minute of every day was spent obsessing over recording this EP, what it’d sound like, what we’d name the songs, and so on. Our buddy Chris Rini tracked, mixed, and mastered the entire thing, and he killed it.

In large, it went really smoothly. The only aspect of it to me that wasn’t seamless was just the amount of sessions we had to hit to get it all done. Everyone had really opposite and conflicting schedules so sometimes it’d be hard to pin down a time to get more than one person’s parts for a song or two done. And that’s no person’s particular fault, just the nature of the project.

Long Islanders already know this, but if you’re in the tri-state area and need an affordable great recording of your band, go to Shellshock Audio. Chris and Evan are both responsible for a large portion of Long Island hardcore releases in the last three years, and we have so much love and respect for them both.

JM: What was it like having the industry/practically the world shut down right around the time when you released the EP? I'm sure it's more of a negative than a positive, but were there any silver linings?

JC: So this is an interesting one because in large, it was extremely negative for most everyone’s lives. I was managing a tour for Vein and had a busy year planned with my other band Typecaste. Watching everything I love crumble initially hurt pretty bad.

As for releasing the EP, I think it actually helped our band’s visibility. It was released about a week before everyone was stuck inside their homes, and people were already giving it some ample attention. Having everyone at home with nothing to do gave people all the time in the world to listen to it over and over again as much as they wanted with no distractions. There are typical day-to-day events that prevent people from checking out new music, which impacted our release less because there wasn’t much of anything to do.

I think in some bizarre twist of fate, it helped get our band rolling a little faster. But who’s to say? Maybe playing shows supporting the EP would’ve treated us just as well, if not better. We’ll never know now! (laughs).

Anyway, the other positive from this is Koyo had no plans of touring prior to the shutdown. The original plan was to play when we can, do some small shows on weekends. The world is still a messy place, live entertainment is mostly still on pause, but the time to reflect on our lives during quarantine sparked a newfound interest in making Koyo a priority. So in whatever context, to whatever extent, when touring comes back, Koyo will be at it full time. I hope that day comes sooner than later.

Photo by Sal Argento

JM: I was supposed to see you guys at Creep Records in Philly with Anxious in May, so bummed that was one of the shows that got canceled! Do you think that show/lineup will happen at some point when things are back to normal? Do you have any other bands/venues you'd like to play with/at in the future?

JC: I’d like to think so! All the bands that would’ve played that show are dope, and I’m pretty sure none of them are going anywhere. Some bands I’d love to play with when things get rolling are Vein, Modern Color, Higher Power, Regulate, Life’s Question, Victory Garden, Pain of Truth, and Somerset Thrower. Most of those are kind of a given since we’re close with them, but reconnecting with friends is the highest priority in my mind once shows can happen again. Venue-wise, I just want to play some VFW halls. Long Island was supposed to have some new halls for shows prior to the shutdown, and I miss that type of setting for gigs more than anything.

JM: Vein and Higher Power are some of my favorites, would be so cool to see you with them! Speaking of Long Island, it has such a rich history of hardcore and emo music, and the surrounding areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn have that as well. That influence definitely shines through on "Painting Words Into Lines" (I absolutely love the “Tell All Your Friends” alt cover!).

Were there any other bands from Long Island or New York in general besides Taking Back Sunday that had a big influence on the band/EP, or just bands from the area that you really like? How has being a part of the local scene here played a role in your life and/or your music?

JC: Taking Back Sunday aside, the EP was also very influenced by The Movielife and Silent Majority. I really wanted to make music that drew inspiration from all my favorite parts of the more melodic Long Island hardcore bands, like Capital, Crime in Stereo, Glassjaw, Heads vs. Breakers, and so on. Beyond that, I think a bunch of other outside influences and things we like just crept their way in naturally.

Long Island is a unique place, whether you love it or hate it. It can be life stunting, trapping, seasonally depressing, the list really goes on. On the other hand, it’s also visually inspiring, nostalgic, filled with countless friends and loved ones, and it all exists within the same radius of about 45 minutes or so. It’s a place of so many ups and downs. In fact, most people growing up tend to take a hard stance of “I’m staying here forever” or “I’m getting the fuck out at 18 and never looking back” with very little in-between. I identify as the in-between, but that’s a really rare thing. I see both sides and I exist in a mental limbo of sorts.

All of those radically polarizing qualities inspire Koyo both in terms of how I want our music to sound, what I write songs about, and even the vibe I want some of our art to have, which is all done by our guitarist Harold. Good hardcore music is a reflection of a person’s reality, whatever it may be. That’s all I ever want from this band, and living on Long Island has given me a lot to pull from to make that happen.

JM: I totally agree with all of that, and it’s super cool and refreshing to hear someone say what so many of us angsty Long Island kids are thinking. (laughs) Other than being seasonally depressed or bored here on LI, what have you been doing to keep busy during the pandemic? Any plans for new music, for Koyo or for any other bands you guys are involved with?

JC: We’ve actually been very busy! We’ve been writing so much new music, working on art, just making almost every minute of every day about Koyo in some capacity, big or small. We’re going to be dropping a special tape soon on our friend Lumpy’s label Daze. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’ll be an opportunity to hear some new Koyo prior to our next formal release. That should all be in motion by November.

Aside from that, there’s more new music in the works, I just can’t talk about exactly when or what yet! As for our other bands, Hangman dropped a new song on the One Scene Unity compilation, Rain of Salvation dropped a new EP in June, and SeeYouSpaceCowboy recorded new music pretty recently, for any interested parties.

JM: All of that sounds so exciting, really looking forward to it! To go back to “Painting Words Into Lines” for a minute, what's your favorite track on the EP, and why? Mine is “Heaven So Heavy!”

JC: I’m inclined to say “Heaven So Heavy” as well! That was the first song we wrote for the band and it came from the most urgent place for me lyrically. It was an itch that just needed to be scratched. “Dreaming in a Wasteland” is potentially the runner up, pretty slept on track in my opinion. (laughs)

JM: Thank you so much for doing this with me! To finish up, if there's anything you want to plug/promote or anything you want to say to anyone reading this, here's your chance to do it.

JC: Thank you for inviting me/us to do this! We just did a merch drop via All In Merch, which has a new shirt, our first hoodie, and a dad hat. We’ll have “Painting Words Into Lines” pressed on 7-inch vinyl coming from Life and Death Brigade coming soon, and we have a special new tape from Daze out now as well. As for parting life only in ways that satisfy you, in whatever context that is. Obviously you have to hold yourself down, exist in reality and take care of responsibilities, but life is drastically too short to be dissatisfied with how you're living it. Peace out!

Photo by Tyler Andrew

Huge thanks to Joey for allowing us to pick his brain about all of this and taking the time to talk with us. Equally huge thanks to all of the members of Koyo for everything that they’re doing in the Long Island hardcore scene as well as the genre at large right now.

You can keep up with the band and all of their exciting plans for the future by following them on Twitter @KoyoLIHC. If you liked this interview, let us know by tweeting us @lgndsoftmrw and feel free to tell us who you’d like to see us sit down with next!


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