Scowl Are Playing To Win

Music

When Scowl toured the country last year, they were obsessed with a simple game: Take a die, roll it, and whoever gets a six can chuck it at the nearest band member. “There were dice flying everywhere!” frontperson Kat Moss says. “It was the most obnoxious game,” adds guitarist Mikey Bifolco.

It’s also a pretty good metaphor for being in a successful hardcore band these days: random, messy, potentially painful, but ultimately a good time. As for Scowl, everything’s been coming up sevens for the Santa Cruz band since they first started releasing music in 2019: Endorsements from the likes of Post Malone, an opening slot at Madison Square Garden supporting Limp Bizkit, and a nearly sold-out U.S. headline tour. Today, in a chaotic Zoom that sees the band off the road for a rare spell, they seem almost baffled by their good fortune. “I feel like we tricked somebody,” Moss marvels.

Moss met guitarist Malachi Greene in the pit at the legendary all-ages Berkeley venue the Gilman in 2017; he was impressed by how passionately she pogo’d, despite her slight stature. As they got to know each other and began dating, Moss confessed her secret dream of being a hardcore singer. With the addition of bassist Bailey Lupo — a friend from the scene — and drummer Cole Gilbert, Scowl was born. (Philly guitarist Bifolco joined in 2021.)

Scowl found a scrappy sound that was perfect for the kind of pits that Moss haunted on releases like 2019’s The Reality After Reality EP, which dealt with everything from abortion to shitty relationships. They really locked in, though, with 2021’s How Flowers Grow, which caught the attention of Fred Durst and led to that 2022 appearance at MSG — which happened to be their first New York gig. “It was just the stupidest thing ever,” Moss recalls. 2023’s Psychic Dance  mixed melody and grit in equal measure: glitter with sweat, sparkles with broken glass. 

“People are craving progressive guitar music,” Lupo says. “There’s a lot of unpredictable trends in music that are going to really start blowing people’s minds. We’re all on the same team — we’re overdue for a big revolution.”

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For Scowl, hardcore is intrinsically political. “If that disappears, I feel like some of the anger is just… for what?” Moss says. “So a bunch of men can go in a room and beat on each other? It’s more than that. And it should always be more than that.” As we head toward yet another tumultuous election, the band says they’re working on new music that they promise will address all the “bad shit” happening in the world.

In the meantime, though, they’re just grateful to be where they are. “I got to see all these places that I would have never been able to had I not picked up a guitar and wrote music with my friends,” says Greene, tooling around in the band’s Econoline van while the rest of the band nod along over Zoom from their various homes. “I was a 12-year-old kid going to shows,” Lupo adds. “Now, I get to see versions of that from around the globe. That is the coolest fucking thing in the whole world.”

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