In 2020, Denver band FAIM hoped to take what they thought would be their final record to DIY venues all over the United States and Europe. But the year from hell halted parting plans in their tracks.
That year’s Hollow Hope was meant to be the final farewell for the hardcore quintet, but the upheaval spurred by the pandemic and social unrest made the August release feel already too far behind in their evolution to tour with. The opportunity for a last gasp finally came late last year in the form of their new album, Your Life and Nothing Else, which crashed into the world Dec. 16 via California-based Safe Inside Records.
“Almost begrudgingly, [we] started writing this record, and came to really appreciate the new lease on the band that it gave us,” says guitarist and co-writer Chris Carraway. “Coming into it, we knew this was our last. And, I think that let us shake off a lot of limits we put on ourselves. We just wrote what we liked.”
Though their impassioned sound remains a throughline between projects, the thematic difference between the albums is stark. While the rage of Hollow Hope is often aimed outward, Your Life and Nothing Else signals a period of introspection that can only be catalyzed by a new social reality that offered as much time alone as it did political strife.
“When did this become too much? / Debilitating,” vocalist and co-writer Kathryn Lanzillo barks with her trademark ferocity on “Lack of Clarity,” the record’s pulverizing first track. “Is this getting older? / Wise words are gone.”
The personal is political
In the years since the band’s first demo in 2017, FAIM has carved a reputation as a band that foregrounds time-honored punk political ideologies. They proudly dub their discography “the soundtrack to jumping your local Nazi,” and regularly shine a spotlight on sexism and predatory behavior in the hardcore community. But as American life became more overtly political in 2020, FAIM ironically felt less of a drive to prioritize such messaging in their songs, favoring reflective, personal lyrics instead.
“I had a lot of examining of myself to do during [those] two years between when [Hollow Hope] came out, and when we recorded [Your Life], and I changed a lot in a positive way,” Lanzillo says. “I had to get rid of negative things in my life, or things that weren’t healthy for me. I really learned to enjoy the simplicity of being at home.”
Hardcore punk might not be the first genre that springs to mind when it comes to this sort of quiet introspection, but the churning animosity of Your Life offers a unique avenue for expressing Lanzillo’s emotion.
“This album is very therapeutic, being able to write lyrics that are angry and sad and show those sides you’re not always allowed to show,” Lanzillo says. “We always have to put on these smiles like we’re fine. It’s nice to have this outlet for when you’re not so positive, and you’re not so sure about yourself.”
Women to the front
Any self-assuredness was hard earned for Lanzillo, thanks in part to her relatively rare status as a woman fronting a hardcore band. And she wastes no opportunity calling out misogyny in the scene, like on Your Life standout “Boys Will Be Boys,” which explores the crippling weight of exclusion in a music community dominated by men. She says she’s seen positive change over her 20 years in hardcore, but progress still needs to happen, especially when it comes to representation on stage.
“A lot of that change is on the men in hardcore — who they choose to be friends with, and who they choose to start bands with,” says Lanzillo. “It’s exhausting that it’s 2023 and I can look at a lineup for a show, and it’s still all men. That just shouldn’t be happening anymore. It’s not representative of who’s going to shows.”
Now, after almost a decade seeking to provoke change in the hardcore scene, FAIM’s time as a group is coming to an end. Carraway and Lanzillo don’t know what’s beyond a European summer tour and the band’s final show in October. But they’re itching to live out the full lifespan of Your Life and Nothing Else like they never could for Hollow Hope.
“I look at this last six, seven months of the band as a chance to really celebrate,” says Carraway. “[We want to] celebrate what we’ve put into it, and not take it for granted.”
ON THE BILL: FAIM record release show. 6 p.m. Friday, March 17, Seventh Circle Music Collective, 2935 W. Seventh Ave., Denver.