The pandemic put the brakes on Subtle Knife recording new music.
A recording of its new music may be put on hold, but the punk rock band will unleash its unreleased songs in a livestreamed concert on Friday, Oct. 2. The band will be streaming from the popular music venue the Launchpad.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the band was playing shows twice a month and had plans to do a weeklong tour to promote the new music. The band is looking forward to the livestream.
“Actually getting to play together again has been fantastic, and I’m sure anybody who plays music would tell you, like, it’s the joy of doing it,” said Seve Ramirez, vocalist and guitarist. “It’s great to have an audience there, but a lot of the times it’s just being able to practice and test your ideas out and hear something that comes from a really rough idea into a complete song is incredibly rewarding.”
The band is primarily punk rock-based but has influences from other genres, including indie rock. According to Ramirez, the band has been described as “Midwest punk” and has strong influences from the punk rock bands of the 1990s.
“(It’s) really guitar-driven,” Ramirez said. “A lot of midtempo. Just kind of fun music, not a lot of really crazy stuff, you know?”
Ramirez grew up listening to country songs, thanks to his dad.
“Singer-songwriter, storytelling music has always been something I’ve been into,” he said. “Willie Nelson, for example. So as I got older and kind of developed my own tastes, I had friends show me what they’re listening to, and also in the mid-’90s there was the explosion of punk rock on the radio., things like Green Day coming out, and that kind of led down to the finding of some of the more underground bands that came from kind of the same areas.”
Ramirez and his friends relied on record labels to expose them to new bands.
“There wasn’t Internet or anything like that to discover new music,” he said. “If a band was on a label, you almost assumed that it was a good band. Labels like Lookout! and Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph, so anything that was on one of those labels me and my friends would buy and would listen to. We all started playing guitar instruments when we were in, like, sixth or seventh grade and tried to emulate those bands that we heard before we got our own style and had our own way of playing.”
Ramirez is the primary lyricist for the band and relies on his life experiences to write songs.
“It’s very much my life and what happens,” he said. “Just the different things that go on. We do have a fun song that talks about drinking, and I think every punk band is required to have one of those. Everybody has written a song about breakups. It just kind of depends, if there is any moment that inspires you and I think I just try to give a little slice of life and things that people can relate to the things that happen in my life that happen to everybody else. Things that frustrate you, things that make you happy, things that make you sad are all there.”
The songs may stem from reality, but the band’s name was taken from fantasy.
“It’s a literary title the ‘Subtle Knife’ is the second book in the ‘His Dark Materials’ series, and so we took the name from that,” Ramirez said. “It’s a book that I personally really love, and our bass player has a cat named after one of the characters in the book, so it’s all something that we enjoy. It’s about an alternate world where, it’s probably controversial, but the church is this luminous, dark, manipulative force and they kind of deal with that. It’s an interesting fantasy novel and an interesting spin on that relationship – the relationship society has with religion.”