"I didn't really put Mariner and semen together like seaman," says Cody Perkins, the latest addition to post-hardcore outfit Mariner. Last summer he joined an already tight-knit group of friends, all with their own in-jokes. But Perkins fit right in because he shared a strong passion for community in the music scene, which might be the most important part of the band.
Perkins refers to Mariner's recent outing as Semen Allergy, an alter-ego made to blow off steam, but to also explore ideas that don't quite fit the band's aesthetic direction. Among those ideas was a flyer -- a short essay to challenge others who don't do their part to help sustain local music. In the days following Semen Allergy's first (and only) show, a picture of the printout made social media rounds.
"We just printed our thoughts and put them on a table," says bassist Jeremy C. Brooks. Those thoughts were meant to be a side-note -- not the centerpiece -- of Semen Allergy, expressing the band's collective frustrations. Copies of the manifesto were left on a merch table, making for a passive statement for those who wanted to read it.
"Mariner is not about going to shows, telling people how to act," Brooks adds. Mariner also isn't about cover songs, but its alter-ego performed a full set of old favorites -- essentially the band's DNA showed live through its own musical influences.
Semen Allergy is just the latest footnote for Mariner, who has worked tirelessly to tweak its own take on post-hardcore, a genre known for haughty punk ballads and raw drama. Mariner tends to bare its teeth only when necessary, leaving behind songs that seem simple to the naked ear. Melodies are front and center with a dense backline that pays careful attention not to overtake the sound.
Singer/guitarist Jake Lashley started the band in 2012 with then-drummer Aaron Kuhn. The two best friends built Mariner from Lashley's own personal grief; a way to cope with his recent divorce. Early songs shared common themes with The Myth of Icarus - the story from Greek mythology where a young boy soars too close to the sun, melting his own wings made from wax and feathers.
"Now we draw from so much stuff, we have to focus to make the sound a combination of everything. We're just trying to push ourselves musically at this point," Lashley says. Since its inception, Mariner has morphed from a power-trio into a quartet. Its most recent change saw Kuhn move from the drums to second guitar, paving the way for Perkins to join.
The current lineup hasn't yet recorded, but songs have been written with several releases planned for the future. Perhaps the reason for the band's reluctance to release new music comes from a strong self-awareness and workman-like attitude on refinement.
"Everyone should constantly re-examine themselves," Brooks says, going back the band's printed essay. "It's a challenge to ourselves as much as everyone else. Progress is missed because a lot of people can't take criticism. I want us to be front-facing," he adds.
Mariner takes a D.I.Y. approach, careful to reflect on ethics while working to perform alongside acts like Anodes, Heavy Horse and Laika. But for this band, playing is only one part of being in the music community.
"Just going out and supporting someone you like -- that's the important thing. If you play 2 shows in a month, go out and see at least 2 shows. You're bound to hear something you like, or something you've at least never seen," Brooks says, trying to catch his breath. His bandmates face the ground, nodding in agreement like this is a conversation they've had many times before. He continues:
"I don't want people to forget what they can give back to the community."
Follow through for a full transcription of the Semen Allergy essay from its show on May 18. Courtesy of Semen Allergy
Punk is not dead. The punk of our forefathers has simply evolved. Be proud of this scene. If you're a Gen X-er and you're like "no, punk is totally dead, just look at my 9-5 job and my kids" and shit, all I can say is open your eyes. More importantly, open your ears. Listen to this great fucking music that's coming from the Midwest right now. Go to shows here, go to shows in Milwaukee, go to shows in fucking Springfield Illinois and you'll find kids with an incredible amount of untapped potential making good music. Not all of it is great, but that's the great thing about music and time. Time will help music to mature. We ourselves have been in several terrible bands, and thank God for the people who have told us to keep going, to keep getting better. That's the great thing about punk. Every other type of music is like "Don't even try, don't even fucking try until you've played your instrument for enough time that you can go to Guitar Center and wave your dick around playing Jimi Hendrix and Les Claypool until everyone in the store hates you.". Don't listen to jaded cynics. Don't listen to ad hominem arguments. Listen to critics with a grain of salt. But do not listen to people who just want to tell how much better things were back then. There is a time and place for nostalgia, but don't force your nostalgia on everyone else. Don't stifle creativity to make yourself feel better.
Be proud of this scene. We can't say this enough. If you're here, and you can see the other people that go to these shows, and you feel a part of it, we want to applaud you. Even if you don't feel apart of it, we applaud, because fuck exclusivity. Anyway, when we're talking about the scene, it's not just the bands, but anyone that's booked a show, taken a picture, put up a poster, invited someone from their fucking work place to come to a show I applaud you. You are who makes this scene work. If you weren't here it'd just be a bunch of greasy whatevers trying to therapeutically release all their pent up rage. The VERY cool thing, though, is how good the stuff coming out of this scene is. I mean, have you heard Heavy Horse? Or Anodes? Or fucking Foxing?!?!
This brings us to a challenge: If you are in band (and we know several of you reading this are), be a part of the scene. "But Semen Allergy, I'm already a part of this scene! Listen to my great music and how much it adds to this scene!". Fine. Great. Thank you for your contribution. But just being in a band and going to the shows that you're playing is NOT BEING PART OF A SCENE. That's basically using a scene for your own glorification. It really is. In anything, if all you do is demand glory and acceptance and investment (money or time or whatever) to be poured out on you while you do nothing to give to the other members of the community, you've got a fucking ego issue. We really hope for a practical change, so allow us to offer a simple metric: If you're playing more shows than you're just going to, you're hurting the scene. Obviously touring is an exception, but in your own scene, dick-riding and over-saturation are signs of a clear lack of both humility and self-awareness. Semen Allergy will play with almost anyone, almost anywhere, but we'd rather play with bands that respect the scene and give as much as they take.
There's more I want to add here about the glorification of poverty and how punk DOES NOT equal laziness, but we'll leave that for another Semen Allergy show.
Thanks for cumming. ;)
Video of Semen Allergy performing "Eurydice," the only original song in its set: