Welcome to Suicide City a Drop Dead Interview
by Natalie Perez
Eight years ago a city was created but not just any city, this was a city where anyone would be free to die. Yes die.... because you’re giving them your pity circumstances and end up in Suicide City. Consisting of vocalist/guitarist Billy Graziadei (Biohazard), with former vocalist Karl Bernholtz, and guitarist AJ Marchetta (ex-Groovenics) with bassist Jennifer Arroyo (ex-Kittie) and drummer Danny Lamagna, this DIY band didn't get serious until 2005. But soon after a five-song demo was recorded early that year using “Give Me Your Pity" as their original chose led them to change it to "Not My Year".
The debut EP launched the band to craft dark and volatile punk with prominent metal leanings, goth theatrics, and screamo-worthy shrieks, their music asserted influences like the Misfits, Black Sabbath, Joy Division, and the Cure.
They were then set to hit the road and had done so with Otep in 2005 later hitting the entire U.S. as openers for Mindless Self Indulgence. Their especially intense and vigorous live show, coupled with an innate D.I.Y. work ethic, managing to sell over 4,000 copies of their EP without any label or distribution help whatsoever. Suicide City continued to gain attention while on the road with Taking Back Sunday in 2006 before joining up with GWAR that August.
But getting from being a DIY band to releasing their first full-length with The End Records was quite an achievement on their account. The band was signed with the Brooklyn label in 2009 which led them to release their debut full-length "Frenzy" which has done just that.
Marchetta says that "'Frenzy' is such an eclectic blend of music.” Going on to add that “this band is unafraid and unapologetic about what we create, and because of that we have an album with a really wide musical landscape.” Graziadei points out, “In our short time together, Suicide City has achieved more on our own than most bands do in their whole career with the help of a label.” Benholtz described it as follows: “Suicide City thrives on making people happy and smile through our music without having to candy coat anything. Life does not ‘suck and then you die.’ Life is great, dangerous, exciting, strange, and then you die. I guess that’s what we’re trying to portray with our music.”
Though a time like this would soon draw to an end, Suicide City played their last live show and officially disbanded on February 11, 2010.
But before this hiatus had even begun there were a lot of things the band had to overcome. Once those were dead and buried for good the band just needed a break period. Exhaustion from being on the road for a few years, family struggles, getting their record out and legal/financial troubles took their toll. Everyone was just shot and needed some time to recuperate. Now it’s February 11, 2011 coincidence? New York’s Highline Ballroom would mark their return to not just the stage, but together as a whole reunited once more and are waiting to make their next move.
Percussionist Danny Lamagna along with ex-Kittie bassist Jennifer Arroyo gives me the rundown on all things Suicide City from their forgotten past to their unknown future. This is Suicide City so enjoy your stay while you can.
First let’s just get the basics down and introduce yourself to an audience who may not have heard of your band yet. How did Suicide City begin and what was the motivation for creating this project?
Danny: SC started in 2003. Billy and Karl had a song or two written. I had met Billy through the guys in Sworn Enemy and he invited me to work on the tracks. A few months down the road, Karl Bought in AJ and Billy Introduced us to Jennifer, who was his first choice for bass. We hung out for a few days, and then we got together and played in a little room in New Jersey. There was instant chemistry. The motivation, if I remember that far back, was just to create some new music that was a little different then what each of us had been doing beforehand. There are also some new waters to test out and learn about.
Even though there were a lot of chefs in the kitchen, I knew it was going to be something very special and I was ready for the challenge.
Jennifer: Well, long story short (yeah, RIGHT!), Billy had recorded with Karl before with his band down in Florida, Groovenics. Danny was suggested by our homies in Sworn Enemy and AJ (formally of the Groovenics as well) was brought onboard via Karl.
Kittie was headlining Hellfest in 2003 and Biohazard played as well. I had known Billy and the crew for many years and he approached me after the show about this project he was working on. I said cool, send me over some tracks and I'll check it all out. He did and honestly, I HATED IT. Since he was a friend that I respected very much at the time, I had no idea how I was going to tell him that I wasn't into the tracks AT ALL.
Then, the phone calls kept coming and coming and one night they called me at 4am in the morning and left me this crazy ass message saying that if I didn't call them back and join the band that I was fired. Haha. It made me laugh so hard and I called them and told them how I honestly felt. That's when they said, "That's why we need you here...” I was out with Kittie finishing up our last tour for "Oracle" and then I flew down to Miami to hang/party with the guys. We all got in the same room and BAM... pure magic. I knew from that moment that it was on and that when the time came, I had a big decision to make.
You can't create chemistry. It’s either there or not. Plus, I was ready creatively as a musician to take my songwriting to another level. I have always loved darker rock, punk, and electronica. I DJ and I LOVE big beats and I live for creating different sounds. This was an outlet for me to be able to start tapping into another part of me that I wanted to express.
So it's been about three years since we last heard from Suicide City what happened can you give us a recap?
Danny: We played our so called last show Feb. 11 of 2010. Before that hiatus began, there were a lot of things that band had to overcome, and when those things were behind us we all just needed a break. Exhaustion from being on the road for a few years, family struggles, getting our record out and legal/financial troubles took their toll. Everyone was just shot and needed some time to recuperate.
Jennifer: It's been more like almost 2 years but, A LOT has happened. We FINALLY released "Frenzy" on The End Records after having it on the shelf for far too long. We had a tour cancel on us 4 days before heading out amongst many other things that we'll just keep private. So, after MANY different twists and turns, we removed from the band what wasn't working took a break and worked on other projects and eventually found our way back to each other and here it is…2011. Writing and back in the game the BIG difference this time is that it's all for the right reasons. We loved what we created we are this super crazy, intense, entity that we all have found ourselves very at home with.
Now what is Suicide City currently up to?
Danny: We are waiting to make our next move.
Jennifer: Writing, Writing, and writing some more. We will be hitting the road for a short "we are back bitches" run and then we plan to have more new music out later this year.
You just did a performance at the Highline Ballroom. How did it feel to be back on stage and reunited with everyone?
Danny: It was a lot of fun. Seeing all of our old friends and fans come hang out was pretty nice as well. After being inactive for so long I was worried no one would care at this point. There was a real feeling of welcome back going on that night, and to be playing with Jenn, Aj and Karl again was great.
Jennifer: UN-FUCKING-BELIEVABLE. When we finally all got back into a room together for rehearsals, it was like we never were apart in fact; people thought we actually sounded better, bigger, tighter and stronger. People were jamming the place it was a very special night and a kick ass welcome back.
Can you give us a description of your show, visually and musically?
Danny: I'd say YouTube us. There are many videos out there and I am not very good at describing. The main thing people walk away saying is ENERGY. The band brings a level of energy to the rooms we play. It seems to catch everyone who is there, love it or hate it.
Jennifer: You know, one of my favorite comments about the band was from Kerrang Magazine "A punkier, heavier, gothier Faith No More." We have a lot of our influences coming atcha all at once and people have called us "Aerobic City." Karl is doing backflips, blowing fire while A.J. has his killer 1-handed cartwheels, Danny is JACKED and I'm clearly outta my mind so it's a very visual, high-energy show.
Are you guys still signed with The End Records?
Danny: So far as I know. We have been released from The End. Now that said, when and if the time comes to release more music, The End will likely have first crack at whatever we come up with.
Where can the fans gain access to your music since your main website is out of business, where else can they grab some tunes?
Danny: Oldies but goodies MySpace and Facebook. If we decide to release anything on our own, we will build a site or figure something out with a third party.
Jennifer: You can find Suicide City at www.facebook.com/suicidecitynyc and www.myspace.com/suicidecity - You can read our twats at twitter.com/suicidecitynyc - We'll also be adding NEW videos over on www.youtube.com/suicidecity - We are in the process of getting our main site back so, stay tuned for that as well.
You can grab "Not My Year" and "Frenzy" over on iTunes at http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/suicide-city/id64638065 - We would appreciate it. :)
When can we be expecting you guys to be hitting the road? You've only toured a very limited time before. I myself have yet to catch you guys last time you were in town was when you were on tour with Danzig.
Danny: Everything with us is baby steps right now. I’m not sure if there will be any touring in the future. We are kicking around ideas, so who knows. I think everyone would like to go out and play. I know that is where my heart is. The band covered the country pretty extensively when we toured on "Not My Year." Those were fun times and I really hope to get to do that again with this group of people some day.
Jennifer: We have toured quite heavily actually. We have been out on full tours with Mindless Self Indulgence (much love to that crew!), Otep, Gwar, Danzig of course, Taking Back Sunday as well as 2 headlining runs of our very own. We hope to be out again this summer for a short run and then hopefully release some new music before the year is out and of course play NYC again at some point. We are pretty focused on getting out for a lil fun but, music comes first.
You guys were one of the last bands to play at CBGB before it was closed down, what was it like performing at a club that's had so much history behind it? What about the DVD filmed there is that still available or no longer in print?
Danny: CBGB was always great. The first time I met Karl and AJ was at that club. The shows we had there were all memorable. That one we filmed was our homecoming show after a few months of being away from NY. The turnout was great and the performance was documented. It is still in Print. I know MEI Records still has copies. Anyone interested can email me at Dan@DanLamagna.com to find out how to get a copy.
Jennifer: It was AMAZING Sold Out on a Wednesday in August and it was one of the hottest days of the year kids makeup were melting off their face because they were outside in line for so damn long. The crowd was so fucking loud I barely had to sing. It was nothing but, PURE energy that night and all was filmed with 6 cameras we managed to NOT catch anything on fire and no one got hurt. I was worried about that haha. The DVD is still available!!!! You can order the DVD at:
Your two previous releases "Not My Year" (2005) and "Frenzy" (2009) are still standing a solid ground. When you look back on these releases what comes to mind?
Danny: NMY was a very exciting time in my life. A new band with some of the most talented people I have gotten to play with. There’s lots of interest from the media, and buzz in the scene. All the touring and gains we made were incredible. Frenzy probably marks one of the lowest points in my life and career. I really believe Frenzy was the sound of Suicide City imploding. It had all of the potential in the world to push us into the next level of our growth and career, and instead became our grave stone we never toured on it properly and it became our last will and testament.
Jennifer: Craziness and loads of good times, I love those songs and they still stand the test of time.
Have you started your next album?
Danny: We all have written things and have been passing them around the camp, but nothing has been discussed about doing a record or having legit sessions. I’d like to see that happen, and I have high hopes that it will.
How'd you get from being a DIY band to releasing your first full-length with The End Records?
Danny: I think the DIY thing stemmed from how protective we were of our music, our fans and even each other. What The End did for us was amazing. Their press/attention and loyalty to us was a godsend.
Jennifer: The End Records came to the table because they knew we had something special going and they knew we were hard workers. We had created a monster and it was hard managing it all ourselves so, we wanted to get the right team behind us. Nothing but love and respect for Andreas and the crew over at The End.
Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs? Do you think these topics will change over time?
Danny: We all write. The Lyrical topics are Karl. So where ever his head is at, our lyrics reflect that. During the last session I did with Karl, I saw him writing about more serious subjects in a less abstract way. I don't know what his inspiration will be for the next round of writing. I’m probably more curious than anyone.
Jennifer: We all take the time to write there are a lot of chefs in the kitchen of SC. Karl is usually in charge of the lyrics but if there is a point that we want to get across in a song it’s explained and the point gets addressed. Our music now is of course in a different place than it was before. I think the new stuff is heavier, catchier, more tragic yet beautiful all at the same time.
How do your parents feel about you being in a band?
Danny: They love it. They let everyone crash here when we were on tour, and they let me keep all my gear in their basement when I'm not on the road.
Jennifer: My Mother is my biggest supporter and has ALWAYS been my biggest supporter. My Dad was a bit slow on the uptake because he was upset about certain opportunities I was offered that I didn't take. We all know the music industry is extremely unstable and I get that he was just looking out for my best interests. He's super proud and gets a kick out of it.
If there was a city known as Suicide City who would you find roaming its streets?
Danny: Karl Jenn and Aj...and probably Jenns’ cats.
Jennifer: Everyone The Citizens of Suicide City are an eclectic bunch and ALL are welcome.
What does the future hold for Suicide City?
Danny: Every time I’ve tried to answer that it has been the complete opposite outcome I predicted. I’m just going be open to whatever opportunities come our way, and hopefully we can play a little bit here and there, and get a few new songs out one day. I'm really into the one day at a time approach to things these days.
Jennifer: More music, more shows, more awesomeness, and def more crazy antics…. you can always expect the unexpected from us and we will always deliver.
For the people that donít know who Suicide City is what should they know?
Danny: That when the band hits the stage, pay attention and be ready to run. The unexpected follows us everywhere we venture.
Jennifer: They should know that we are an awesome time and YOU are invited to the party so BE READY.
Is that your final answer?
Danny: This is!
Jennifer: Yes. Quote me
Interview Bio - Natalie Perez has an Entertainment/Music Journalist for eight years and have gained experience within the music industry interacting with local Los Angeles artists/bands and the labels they're a part of.