Scowl. Credit: Alice Baxley

When you think of hardcore punk music, you’re probably not also thinking of flowers and pop choruses—yet that’s exactly what you get with Scowl.

Scowl’s music is often packed with blast-beat-driven songs that feature crunchy guitars and guttural screaming—but the band is not afraid to redefine what a hardcore band can be, adding in bright, slower songs and pink-flower iconography. Songs like “Retail Hell” and “Dead to Me” showcase the hard-hitting punk, while “Seeds to Sow” and new song “Shot Down” have the band experimenting with non-screaming choruses and less frantic instrumentation, making for a nice mix of pop and hardcore.

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You can catch the band at Coachella on Saturday, April 15 and 22.

“When I got the text message that we got the (Coachella) offer, I immediately denied that it was real, and I thought that someone was playing a prank on me,” said lead singer Kat Moss during a recent phone interview. “I pretty much was like, ‘Hey, you guys better not be pulling my leg right now.’ My managers and everyone in the band just started blowing up our group chat and freaking out, and I called my mom and my sister right away. I never really expected that to be an opportunity we’d get playing as a hardcore punk band, so I’m really excited and really grateful.”

Coachella is just the latest big stage for the group. Last year, the band toured Europe, and opened for Limp Bizkit, with a stop at Madison Square Garden.

“I feel like this (Coachella) is the biggest thing, the biggest opportunity, we’ve gotten so far, and we’ve already had a lot of crazy once-in-a-lifetime opportunities happen to us,” Moss said. “Everything that’s been happening has been such a happy surprise. … As a hardcore punk band who started out playing small DIY shows in our community, it’s just a very, very, crazy, crazy road.”

It’s indeed been a crazy road, as Moss and her band have moved between generator shows and green rooms with catering.

“Everyone in my band will probably agree that when we played Madison Square Garden, for example, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves,” Moss said. “We had a great time onstage playing the set, because that’s what we know how to do, but when it comes to living a bit more comfortably—having catering, a green room, a rider—we were just so surprised by it all … but we were really excited, naturally. We were just taking advantage of it and enjoying it to its full potential, because there’s no expectations to have that experience again. We were just happy to be there.”

The band certainly has not strayed from its DIY roots; Scowl recently played a show in the parking lot of a Sonic Drive-In.

“Oh my God, that was so much fun,” Moss said with a laugh. “That was such a cool gig that we got the opportunity to hop on last-minute with a bunch of friends and really cool, talented bands that we had been wanting to play shows with for a while. It was nice, too, because the week we played that show, we were also recording new music, and it was just a very positive week. The show was a lot of fun; there was a lot of chaos. I had a firework land in my hair, and everyone had fireworks exploding in their faces and technical difficulties, as usual, with generator shows and things like that. Nothing will ever beat the feeling of playing a guerilla punk show where you never know when it could be shut down.”

Hardcore bands are experiencing a new wave of success in the music industry and on the festival scene, going against many of the “expectations” people may have of a genre that still feels relatively underground. Moss said she wants more hardcore bands to get more attention.

“We all have each other’s backs. I like to always look at it like, ‘If I eat, everybody eats,’” Moss said. “There’s room for everyone. I think that if a band like Turnstile (which played Coachella last year) or Militarie Gun … if all of those bands are seeing success, other hardcore bands are inevitably going to be seeing success. … Hardcore is a genre that is very, very about community. I think a lot of people who—whether they play in hardcore bands, or contribute to the scene or the community one way or another—share those views. Some people are very protective because of what they put into it, and they don’t necessarily want to share it with the whole world, and I respect that opinion and that view … but that’s not necessarily how I’m going to move about it. I think it’s important that the youth find what they relate to, and if youth culture is relating to punk and hardcore, obviously they have something to say, and hardcore, and punk, really gives them that space to say it.”

Scowl’s new EP, Psychic Dance Routine (slated for an April 7 release), sees the band exploring themes surrounding performance. “Sold Out” is a hardcore classic that screams about the pressures of performing, while “Opening Night” riffs on the repetition of keeping up an act. The title track might be Scowl’s slowest and sing-along-able song yet, as Moss compares relating to others with a mental dance routine.

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“I wanted to make the effort to write about my personal experience and have that kind of therapeutic expression, while still making an effort to keep my art relatable,” Moss said. “… I do really think the EP in general speaks a lot about performance and kind of the dynamic between the person you feel perceived as versus the person, behind closed doors, you are, and the stuff you’re dealing with. I do think everybody will hopefully relate to the idea that everyone’s performing every day, whether it be in their workplace or in their friendships or social media, their personal relationships—whatever it may be.”

The band’s experimentation with lighter tones within the world of hardcore music has been winning over fans, Moss said.

“When we played Disturbin’ the Peace in Baltimore, we played our new song ‘Opening Night’ for the first time, and it was really scary to be in that position to showcase something new—but it was really exciting also, because people totally dug it,” Moss said. “I’m very excited to see what people think about this EP, but there’s definitely that level of being intimidated. Just even singing versus yelling alone, there’s definitely a difference there. Being able to yell and scream onstage is something I’m a lot more confident with now, versus singing into the microphone. … It’s a bit more balanced, but I’m really excited for that challenge.”

Moss began to be attracted to pop music after realizing that her opinion about her sounds is the only opinion that truly matters.

“There was definitely a time when I first got into punk and hardcore where I was pretty purist about it, and I felt kind of angry and sort of like, ‘Fuck pop music,’” she said. “Now, I’ve learned I feel really different, where I love a little bit of everything, and I find a lot of influence and draw a lot of influence from pop artists, all the way to indie rock and noise and hyper pop and, of course, punk and hardcore and post punk. It’s all over the map now, and I feel like that can only be beneficial to an artist. I think it’s important to be willing to open up in that way, and not worry about the people around you and what they might think about that. It is really just your relationship at the end of the day with the things you love. Nobody else gets to decide that for you.”

Matt King is a freelance writer for the Coachella Valley Independent. A creative at heart, his love for music thrust him into the world of journalism at 17 years old, and he hasn't looked back. Before...