It’s no secret that Pittsburgh’s (thriving) DIY music scene is fractured by genre, geography, and age. We’ve got the South Oakland indie/emo kids, the Hazelwood folk-punk/hippie types, the Polish Hill crust punx, the (fill in your own neighborhood / stereotype combo here), etc. But every so often there’s a band that comes along and draws in folks from just about every corner of this big small town. Shin Guard is one of those bands.
Shin Guard is a hardcore act whose blasts and breakdowns are just as heavy as their most atmospheric interludes. In 2019 alone they’ve self-recorded and produced two albums: a full-length, “2020,” and a 12″ split with For Your Health (Ohio), titled “Death of Spring.” Emotional, conscious, talented, and young, Shin Guard remains rooted in the local DIY community, even now as they’re starting to blow up.
With their 2020 tour only a few weeks away, Shin Guard guitarist, lyricist, and vocalist Owen Traynor was cool enough to find some time between booking shows and attending class to answer some questions for an upcoming issue of Filler.
We talk about the DIY ethic and community(ies), the band’s radical shift in sound and style, their recording process and upcoming tour, and a whole bunch of other shit. Check it out!
Filler: Who is Shin Guard? How’d yinz meet?
Owen: We’re 4 people playing heavy and intricate music. We’ve had some lineup changes but we met through high school and going to shows.
F: Where was your first show? What was it like?
O: It was in Jake’s parents’ basement, we invited all of our friends from high school so there were about 50 people there. It was very hype, some stuff got broken but that’s the way it goes.
F: In an interview on No Static At All, you mention that I Hate Myself was a big influence on Shin Guard circa “Five Songs,” the four song EP (2017). Since then, your band’s sound and lyrics have ventured into some far darker, heavier, and oftentimes pretty chaotic territory. What’s behind this shift in your sound? What are some newer influences on the band?
O: We wrote all of Five Songs and Cerebral while we were still in high school. It was a weird time in my life, as it is for a lot of people, and I felt the only way I could convey my emotions was through this music. After recording Cerebral, our original guitarist quit the band. Alex asked to join and everything became better instantly. They enabled us to be more technical, therefore opening us to so many more possibilities. Another facet of our shift in sound is our dissatisfaction with the state of the world. I think a lot of our musical peers have their lyrical content and ethics as separate entities. I use Shin Guard to voice my feelings on many matters, whether it be oppression, depression, death, love, etc. Regardless of the topic, the passion behind the lyrics is consistent.
F: If you had to distill all the musical and emotional intensity of Shin Guard into a single slogan or sentence, what would it be?
O: Bangers only.
F: Did Epstein kill himself?
F: So there’s a lot of hype around your band these days, and its definitely well-deserved. But I’ve noticed there’s something about the hype around you guys that doesn’t really come up when talking about other local bands — your age. Even though DIY is (or at least should be) an all-ages movement, do you feel like your age ever impacts your experience in the scene? Is there any generational tension? Have you ran into any ageist bullshit?
O: Being zoomers has been a double-edged sword. We get a lot of admiration for being young and proficient, but a lot of bands we love don’t take us seriously sometimes. Most people our age don’t make the type of music that we do, so it can get kind of lonely, but also it is a great feeling to be different.
F: As a band that has produced and released much of its own music, what does DIY mean to you?
O: DIY has been everything to us. Everything we have done has been on our own terms so far. We know the way that we want things done better than anyone else would. That being said though, we would not be opposed to breaking that if our creative intent remains intact.
F: What do you love about Pittsburgh DIY? What do you want to see more of? Is there anything that you think the scene/community needs to seriously work on?
O: It’s a very warm scene. It has gotten a lot better over the years and people have been more vocal about problematic things. Though I love Pittsburgh DIY, I feel that the scene is very white and not as charitable as it could be. I wish that DIY folks and punks would get along better. I think it would go a long way if there was a meaningful goal that both scenes wanted to accomplish. In Boston, I went to Sheer Queer Fest where the fest of LGBTQ+ bands raised money for UAINE (United American Indians of New England). There was no scene beef with the DIY kids and punks, it was all love and communal greatness. I don’t book shows very often but I feel that I should start doing it again and create local showcase charity shows. As a white person, I think it’s more and more important that I should use my platform to do something that has an impact and inspire others to do the same. I worked with an experimental band called Not Your Friends and we agreed to donate all of the money from Bandcamp to PAAR (Pittsburgh Action Against Rape). I know it isn’t much but I am still doing anything I can to be helpful. I think we should also give media like Filler and S.C.A.M. a platform at DIY shows. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to set up another table with their media. Education should always be an ongoing process and this would go a long way if this were to happen.
F: A lot of your lyrics are situated at the intersections of personal turmoil and social war. On the bandcamp page for your 2018 album, Cerebral, there’s a quote from the Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta, “Hate does not produce love, and by hate one cannot remake the world.” Is Shin Guard also a political project? If so, what does that mean to you? What does that look like for your fans?
O: I don’t consider Shin Guard a political project. I am emotionally invested in the corruption of the world around us. The circumstances we live in are emotionally disturbing to me. I feel complicit if I don’t say anything about it.
F: Hey uh… so this one time a while ago a few Filler kids broke into Cafe Verona because a friend of ours forgot their wallet… will you forgive us?
F: I first caught you guys play back in March at Cafe Verona with For Your Health (Ohio), Plague Walker (Indiana) and Give Me Back (Pittsburgh, demo coming soon!)—an entire bill stacked with politically-charged emotional hardcore, and everyone absolutely killed it. Later that spring, Shin Guard and For Your Health dropped one of my all-time favorite splits, “Death of Spring.” Is this the beginning of new wave of skramz / hardcore? Is this the prelude to the RAWRing 20s???
O: I guess so! I think there’s been a resurgence of this type of music. With revivals like this, I think the genre improves. I feel like I would be making this type of music even without the newfound hype surrounding the genre.
F: What’s the relationship between you and FYH? What do you think the Pittsburgh and Columbus DIY scenes have to offer each other?
O: We are best friends. We were all in one van together for a whole month and survived somehow. We’ve only played in Columbus a few times so I don’t have the insight on their scene as well as I should have. Hayden from FYH told me that they have more Pittsburgh fans than Columbus fans. Every time we play Columbus now, it’s a great time. It can feel more intimate sometimes. The people are very welcoming and it goes off!
F: Sup with tour? Where you going, who you playing with? What are you excited/nervous about?
O: If everything falls into the right place, 2020 is going to be a tour heavy year for us. We
plan to go all over the country and even out of it. We’ve made a lot of friends this year
and we’ll be touring with some of them! I have nothing but excitement for this. I’m only
nervous about potential vehicle troubles and bad weather, but that’s the way it goes.
F: How did you get into recording music?
O: I love making music but the biggest obstacle was figuring out how to record it. It ended up being my biggest passion.
F: What DAW do you use, and are there any plug-ins you’d recommend?
O: I use Ableton, Logic, and Pro Tools. I recommend iZotope, Fabfilter, and Waves plugins.
F: What gear do you use to record?
O: It’s been different every time depending on the resources I have at the time, but I use a lot of different mics (Shure, Audio-Technica, Audix, etc.) that I’ve bought and I’ve borrowed a lot of my friends’ equipment as well. I’ve record into Scarlett, Zoom, and Behringer interfaces.
F: What do you wish you had known when you first starting recording / mixing?
O: How compression works, the effect of mastering, etc. There’s always something to learn and recording/mixing techniques are contextual. There’s no right way to do one particular thing.
F: Do you master your own mixes, and if so what’s that process like for you?
O: I usually do, it can get very intense and time-consuming because it’s very intricate and you can lose your mind while doing it. Your ears get so used to the frequencies that you have to step back at some point and revisit it.
F: Anything you want to add?
O: Support your friends, give hugs, be the change you wanna see, riffs, etc.
F: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us! And double thanx for bringing some Filler zines on your upcoming tour!!!
Photos of Shin Guard were taken by Emery Myer and Cody Walsh, we just ripped them from the band’s website.
You can support Shin Guard by catching a show, picking up some merch, or by following them on social media:
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