When you’re involved in DIY hardcore, you get the chance to meet a lot of cool people. That said, Connie Sgarbossa, the vocalist of SeeYouSpaceCowboy and alum of skramz superstars Flowers Taped to Pens and the stellar René Descartes (who just released their last recorded material, which rips and you should listen to it immediately), among others, is one of the absolute coolest people I’ve had the pleasure of talking to. They granted me the opportunity to interview them for You Don’t Need Maps, and of course I jumped on that chance, because Connie is super talented and interesting to talk to. This was a great, enlightening conversation, and I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed having it. My questions are in bold; their answers are in regular font.
So, first of all, I’d like to ask you about SeeYouSpaceCowboy. I listened to that demo a few weeks after it was posted on bandcamp, and it’s very much a departure from your more melodic work with previous bands like René Descartes and Flowers Taped to Pens. What prompted this stylistic shift?
Well, I think it started from hearing releases like Bludgeoning Subculture Aficionados Demo Tape by The Cambodian Heat and the final Caust EP. I was enthralled by the return of this sound. [I’m] a huge fan of Me and Him Call It Us, Drop Dead, Gorgeous, and the Red Light Sting; along with that I had always secretly wanted to be involved in a metalcore project. So when I moved back to San Diego from San Francisco I met up with Taylor from Recluse and we started SYSC with my little brother Ethan, and then added Jesse from Letters to Catalonia.
It’s super interesting that you cite Drop Dead, Gorgeous as an influence right alongside Me and Him Call It Us and the Red Light Sting. I guess it’s become socially acceptable for DIY bands to admit they were influenced by scene bands. There are a few bands playing this style right now besides you guys, like .gif from god, for example; why do you think it’s being revived right now?
I mean yeah, totally, I think it’s tight that i don’t get as many weird looks for admitting I love Someday Came Suddenly by Attack Attack!, haha. Ummm, I am not sure, I guess people just decided that we all liked those bands for a reason and that it’s a great sound to build off of. On top of that nostalgia seems to be a very powerful thing these last few years, haha.
Yeah, if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about DIY hardcore, it’s that it’s super cyclical; things that were once for “posers” slowly become “authentic,” and trends come in go in phases. But for being part of a genre that seems to always be looking into the past, it seems like you’ve kept moving forward; just how many projects have you been involved in?
I think it speaks to how the superficial the scene/members can be in general. I think it’s ridiculous to even waste time assessing whether something is “authentic” or if someone is a “poser”, just make art and enjoy what you enjoy.
Well, counting some short lived high school projects, I have been in 7 projects that actually recorded and released something.
I know you just released the final recorded tracks by René Descartes; I thought they were all excellent. The bandcamp description said that it had been meant for a split, but that it never came to be; is there any story behind that?
Well, we recorded those tracks 6 months ago and they were meant to be a split with my friend’s band, but they never got a chance to record their side.
Did they break up before they could record any of their material?
From my understanding they just kinda stopped doing anything and started doing other musical projects, at least I think that’s what happened if I am remembering it correctly. I also just wanted the project to be done, so I asked if we could just release the tracks on our own and they were cool with it.
I’ve noticed that Flowers Taped to Pens seems to be the most popular of the bands you’ve been a part of; that band appeals to quite a wide audience, in my opinion, and I still hear people asking if there’s going to be new material from them. Do you have anything to say about that band’s legacy or their place in the scene?
Not really, haha, it was just a high school band we used as a way to cope with all the changes in our life happening/looming on the horizon. I mean I am happy that people are still into it and even liked it when we were around, but it’s kinda just a past part of my life at this point.
Like I said earlier, it seems that you’re always interested in moving forward. On the subject of the scene as a whole, to me, it’s always seemed like one of the more progressive scenes, but I’m sure it has its problematic aspects like any other. Do you ever feel pressure in regards to representation of queer and marginalized folks in your music or stage presence?
When it comes to representation, it comes down to a fine line between representation and tokenization. I don’t personally feel pressure to be involved in things as some form of representation and try to stay away “forced representation” scenarios, though I do feel like it’s important to do what you can to include marginalized individuals in the scene. Like I said it comes down to that fine line between representation and tokenization so I think it’s kinda tricky thing to address within the scene.
You said that there is a fine line between representation and tokenization. Would you care to elaborate on that?
Well when everyone talks about having more representation in the scene and bringing more marginalized individuals, there seems to be two reactions, one being people (usually people who are not marginalized) will say that there already is representation/inclusion in the scene and will bring up big band x,y, and z. I think that this is a form of tokenization, being that those bands are being put forward as symbols and a way for people to detract from the issue by saying “hey marginalized people, you may still be a minority in the scene and under threat, but look at these bands! You feel included now, right?” which is bullshit in my eyes. I personally think to bring more representation into the scene for groups we need to just make things more accessible/welcoming, working with people to make them feel safer and more comfortable. I consider myself lucky that I feel as comfortable as I do in this scene being a queer individual, because I know for a fact that is not a feeling that is echoed with a lot of other queer individuals and other marginalized folks.
So you would say that as a queer, nonbinary person, you feel comfortable and welcomed in the scene? If so, that’s wonderful. Are there any words you have for marginalized people who feel a lack of representation for themselves within the scene?
With the people and collectives I have been involved in, yes. When I go on tour or interact with other groups I definitely have some initial concern that is usually overcome after talking with them. Hmmm, all I can say would be I guess make art, get involved if you would like, and reach out to people. If a collective is truly rooted in DIY or is a safe(r) space you will most likely find they will be welcoming.
Are there any up-and-coming bands that you want to shout out?
Letters to Catalonia of course, Heritage Unit is bringing elite emo to Kali, Fuck White God for holding down the lower Bay grind scene. There are a bunch more I could mention but it would go on and on and on, haha.
Yo, thanks for giving Fuck White God some recognition! I love those guys. Just one or two more things before I let you go– first, I ask everyone this question, but how did you get into DIY hardcore?
They are awesome! Well, I guess it kinda started when i went my first show at The Ché Café. It was 2009 and Ceremony was playing with some other punk bands. My friend took me to the show and I remember being blown away that modern punk bands existed and they were actually way better than the shit from the past I had been listening to. So after that for the next year or two me and my friends would take the bus down to Che to see crust punk shows or whatever was playing every weekend. Eventually i started my first shitty hardcore band and went to a collective meeting to play a show there and after that we learned that it was volunteer run and so we started going to meetings and volunteering at shows rather than just going to them.
If someone were to ask you how they were to get into their local scene, what would you tell them?
Find your local DIY show spot, if it’s a collective find out when thenmeetings are, go to them, and start volunteering if it’s an option. If it’s not a collective just try to get to know the people who are booking/putting them on. Most important is just meeting people and getting to know those who are already involved the scene. I am sure they would also have more to say on the topic with each specific situation.
Solid advice– that’s pretty much what I did, too. And one final question: when is SeeYouSpaceCowboy putting out a full-length?!
Hmm, I am not sure about a full length, we really haven’t put much thought into that yet. As of now we are planning on doing a little spring tour tape for SXSW, but outside of that nothing concrete. Wish I had a better answer haha.
I’m just glad to know you guys are still together– skramz bands have an average lifespan of three months, haha. Well, thank you so much for talking with me! It’s been a good conversation. Any final words you want to add?
Haha, oh yes. Hmmmm, not really, thank you!