Central Florida metallic hardcore stalwarts Axis have been crafting their unique blend of aural punishment for well over five years now, and this week they’re bringing it back to the Carolinas. In lieu of their show in Charlotte this Wednesday evening, we spoke with their drummer Thomas Cantwell about the history of the band, touring in support of their debut full length, and what their plans are moving forward into the rest of 2017.
To start, if you’d like to just state your name and what your role in the band is!
My name is Thomas Cantwell and I play drums in Axis.
As of 2017, Axis has been a band for 7 years. Does it feel like it’s been that long?
Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. We’ve gone through so many line up changes and we’ve moved around quite a bit since the band first started. But the dynamic we have now has been consistent for a while. Pat, Dylan and I have been writing all the songs together since like 2011. In a way it has changed a lot and if I think in terms of our releases, we kind of relocated after each time we finished a batch of new songs. But when we’re together, it feels like we’re the same farty idiots that have been talking shit to each other since the beginning.
You most recently toured Europe with your friends and Good Fight label mates Of Feather & Bone. How was your first time playing shows overseas?
It was so awesome! Every show was so much fun, even if there were only 3 people there. Most of the turn outs were better than we could’ve hoped for and almost everyone we met was super hospitable, with food and a bed for each of us almost every night. That is definitely not the case while touring the states. And it was sick getting to watch Of Feather & Bone kill it every night. We were good friends with them before that tour but spending two weeks in the same van made us incredibly close with them. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten that much bread in my whole life. Europeans love their bread.
Sonically, Axis combines elements of hardcore and metalcore, taking nods from a myriad of heavy bands. Has there always been a deliberate approach with the songwriting, or has it been more of a “let’s jam and see what happens” type of environment?
At the beginning, it was basically just a Buried Alive worship band. I was still very new to that style of hardcore when I joined and Pat was showing me bands like Eyelid, Turmoil, Walls of Jericho, Drowningman, and stuff like that. So the songs we wrote then definitely reflected that. Then we started collaborating more when Dylan joined and we were listening to bands like Swarm of the Lotus, Kiss it Goodbye and Jesus Lizard. We all like very different styles of music and I think that, mixed with us just wanting to try out more interesting ideas, has pushed us more than just trying to rip off other hardcore bands.
Your first and only LP, Show Your Greed, came out on Good Fight back in September of 2015, after previously releasing material with both Mayfly Records and Deathwish Inc.. How did the relationship with Good Fight Music initially develop? What about the label made it the right fit for you guys moving forward?
Show Your Greed was initially supposed to come out on Mayfly, but it was delayed for a long time and we decided to take it somewhere else. I mentioned to Brandon from Old Wounds our situation and he put me in touch with Rick from Good Fight Music. We weren’t super familiar with the other bands on their roster but Rick was super chill and was really into the record and it just felt right. They’ve been really awesome to us and have helped us out a lot.
You released a collaborative album last year with Seraph The Light, a post-metal band hailing from Memphis, where you wrote and recorded all of the songs together as one unit. Where did the inspiration for such a bold concept originate?
We had been tossing the idea around after hearing a couple other collaboration records like Full of Hell/The Body and I really like the Self Defense/Touche Amore collab 7”. We thought it would be awesome to do with Seraph The Light because we’re really good friends with them and thought our styles would compliment each other well. Being able to write together on tour with them was super convenient and we were able to knock out four songs pretty quick before shows and on a couple off days. Sometimes it was really frustrating to get 8 people to agree on a certain riff or transition part, but it turned out to be a great learning experience and it was really rewarding in every way possible.
What was/is the local music scene like growing up in central Florida? What about that culture attracted you to start attending shows and get involved when you were younger?
I think I kind of had a weird start with music. I was playing drums in a band with my brother before I went to any real local show. It was mostly cover songs and we would play bars and pizza restaurants and the local fair, and usually it was just us. It was more like “I guess I’ll do this drum thing since my brother asked me.” I went to Warped Tour and was really into bands like Rancid and Good Riddance, and I loved music but it didn’t even cross my mind that there were other local bands similar to us. The more we played around central Florida, the more we ended up playing with real bands and we met other punk kids that told us about real shows to play. It wasn’t until my first hardcore show with Bane, Outbreak, Modern Life is War, and This Is Hell that it all made sense. Seeing all those kids sing along and go crazy in a packed room, and to songs that were about real issues and things that mattered was really important for me.
When you’re not on tour with Axis, you also play drums in Gouge Away, a more punk-influenced hardcore band. What about that project do you enjoy the most that differs from your responsibilities with the aforementioned?
Playing with Gouge Away is so different than Axis because with Axis, most of the songs are pretty all over the place and I’m kind of at 100 the whole set. But with Gouge Away, its more relaxed and I can kinda zone out and feel it more, and I play around with different fills sometimes since the parts are a little more loose.
The technicality and complexity of your drumming is something that really separates your personal style from that of your contemporaries. To any young drummer out there who is a fan of any of your various projects, what’s one piece of advice you would offer in relation to playing drums and finding your approach?
Seriously, just practice a lot. Practice more than you think you should. I know so many people that don’t think practice helps. But that’s literally the best thing you can do. When I’m home from tour, I put headphones on with a metronome and play along with simple beats and double bass exercises for at least 30 minutes a day. And while I’m on tour, I do warm up exercises with paradiddles as much as I can. Playing to your ability is really important, also. I would much rather see a drummer play simple beats and crush it, than see a drummer try and do all this crazy shit and be super sloppy.
You’re about to embark on a two week tour of the Southeast with your fellow buds/label mates Hollow Earth, and Jacksonville, FL’s Yashira, which is your first string of Axis shows in about 5 months. What about this run are you the most excited for?
We’ve been friends with Hollow Earth for a long time so it will be sick to be out with them again. And Yashira is one of the best bands around right now. Seriously so fucking heavy. I’m really excited to see them both crush it every night. Axis has a lot of new material we will be playing and I’m stoked to see how they go over live.
On said run, Axis will be playing in Charlotte for the first time ever July 12th. What have you enjoyed about playing in the Carolinas over the years? Is there a particular show or experience that stands out?
The Carolinas are always awesome for us. Everyone is always really friendly and there are so many sick bands. Last time we played Columbia (I think?) with Of Feather & Bone and Wvrm, it was so badass and kids went nuts. Shout out to Discourse (RIP), Riot Stares, Wvrm and Mothmother.
Following these shows, what’s the game plan for Axis moving forward for the rest of 2017, and into 2018?
We’ve got some new things coming up for sure. We’re releasing our second LP very soon and if you catch us on this tour you’ll hear some new songs. And we should be figuring out another more extensive tour towards the end of the year as well.
Any final words or thoughts you’d like to share?
That new Paramore record is sick.
Axis plays Charlotte Wednesday night at The Milestone. The Facebook event page can be found here.