Breakdown; Madball; Raw Deal; Kill Your Idols: arguable institutions of New York hardcore throughout the last 25 years. It's a lineage Backtrack have been mindful of since forming in January 2008, long after the seeds were already sown for a distinct strain of hardcore with rougher edges and sometimes unusual, esoteric ideologies (granted, you' re not likely to find any right-wing principles or Krishna hymns amid Backtrack’s noise). After all, it was easy to gauge the band's appreciation for NYHC heritage from their 2008 demo, a standout gem of the late 2000s Long Island hardcore scene that helped quickly amass a local and not long after, national following.
But as the band have progressed from there, releasing records on notable, reliable hardcore labels like 6131 (2009's Deal with the Devil EP) and Reaper (2011's Darker Half), while touring the globe with veterans like Comeback Kid, Terror and Cold World, and played multiple festivals along the way (This Is Hardcore, United Blood, an infamous Sound & Fury 2010 appearance), so too have their musical ambitions.
"We're definitely influenced by all different types of hardcore bands," says guitarist/vocalist Ricky Singh, who documented his five favorite albums of 2013 in a recent year-end feature (he primarily recommends Take Offense's United States of Mind and Down to Nothing's Life on the James), “but] tons of bands that aren't hardcore too. And it shows a little bit in the music.”
Granted, their latest statement, 2014's Lost In Life remains firmly entrenched in traditional hardcore structures. Backtrack may not be coloring fully outside the lines, but the album assuredly has its share of tastefully stray marks (check the surprising chorus harmony on “Wash Away”, or the spooky atmosphere clouding the intro to “Tortured”), while sharpening the band's hard sound into a dynamic, hook-laden overdrive. Thanks to a reconvening with Darker Half producer and Terror drummer Nick Jett, Backtrack were able to concoct a collection of material that proves more memorable and striking than past efforts.
"He definitely helps with vocal hooks and patterns," Singh notes. "It was something that we were going for. I wouldn't say it's a necessity, but we wanted the songs to be stuck in people's heads and have them singing along, knowing the words a lot easier."
Lost In Life also takes more of its creators' varied opinions and tastes into consideration. “It's definitely hard having five people come to the table and getting everybody's ideas down,” Singh explains, “and trying to compromise ideas with other people and making shit work, so that was kind of a challenge.”
Such communicative outreach and prolific songwriting (the band wrote upwards of 20 songs and self-taught computer demo recording techniques in preparation) seems to have affected themselves for the better: Fans will likely find Lost In Life more accessible than its catalogic predecessors, but revel in its nonetheless hard demeanor contrasted by frontman James Vitalo's open-dialogue themes of personal identity, social alienation and finding solace in struggle and challenge and Singh's increasingly indelible, crunchy riffs.
In partnering with Bridge Nine, Backtrack looks to benefit from the wider exposure and take advantage of the label's rounded full-time focus. “Bridge Nine is cool because [it's a] whole department of different people together [getting] shit done, Singh says. “We want somebody who's going to really push the record and be able to have the time to do that.”
With that, the only thing left for Backtrack is fulfilling their world-traveler ambitions. “At first we didn't really have any goals,” Singh recalls of the band's formative period. “We just wanted to tour and put out music that we liked, and I guess as we toured more and started putting out more records and stuff, we just wanted to start playing in different places that we haven't played before.” Backtrack's looking to visit South America, Hawaii, Mexico and Russia in support of Lost In Life, and make new appearances at previously unplayed festivals in Europe. “Touring with different types of bands that we haven't toured with before is always something that we'd like to do,” he adds as well. As the band continue to grow into a leading role as ambassadors for the modern wave of NYHC revival (with a subtly creative flair), they'd be faithful and powerful delegates.
Vitalo - Vocals • Ricky - Guitar • Chris - Guitar • John - Drums