Angel Du$t are the fun-first hardcore group bringing ’90s pop-rock to the pit

Frontman Justice Tripp talks to NME about how he brought positivity to ‘Pretty Buff’.

Some people just never settle. Take hardcore heroes Turnstile – a band whose show-stopping second LP ‘Time & Space’ took them to the cusp of mainstream success last year. Not content with the schedule that record filled up, three of Turnstile join their long-time friend and frontman Justice Tripp (who also sings in the similarly heavyweight hardcore bunch Trapped Under Ice) in Angel Du$t – another group taking hardcore to impressive new climes.

On ‘Pretty Buff’, Angel Du$t’s new album, out now on Roadrunner Records (Code Orange, Slipknot, Creeper) the band fuse their DIY background in the hardcore scene to a new, brighter, more indie-rock orientation. It calls to mind acts like The Lemonheads as much as it does the heavier offerings of their ‘day jobs’. Don’t be fooled, through – this is no simple side-project or one-time offshoot. ‘Pretty Buff’ is evidence that Angel Du$t is every bit the focus for this group of workaholic Baltimore creatives.

In the midst of a tour with the similarly genre-melding Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, we called up frontman Justice Tripp to talk the positivity at the core of‘Pretty Buff’.

NME: How’s the Wicca Phase tour going? Those mixed bills seem to be becoming more of a regular occurrence.

Justice Tripp: “It’s very cool – they’re very cool, young, mixed crowds. It’s definitely a cool change of pace, and keeps things interesting. I wouldn’t say it’s out of our comfort zone – we kinda thrive on uncomfortable things – but they’ve been very receptive. People are excited to see something different. I think a lot of people are coming expecting a rapper, especially with the name Angel Du$t. But then people get pumped up, and jump off the stage, and kinda freak out. You can tell some people are kinda new to it, but I like that. I think that’s… special.”

Between Turnstile, Pop Wig Records and Trapped Under Ice, you all have so many things going on. When did you sit down and decide to dedicate some time to Angel Du$t?

“It’s always happening. Some of these songs were started during the process of writing [2016 LP] ‘Rock The Fuck On Forever’. Some were finalised in the studio. It was a two-to-three-year period of putting together ideas and seeing what feels good. There was never a conscious decision to work on an LP, or switch up the sound – we were just doing what feels good in the moment. And then at some point, it just felt like it was there.”

How did you fit that around the crazy amount of touring Turnstile have been doing for ‘Time & Space’?

“We just always find a way to make it work! The guys that share both bands – Pat, Brendan and Dan – they’re just super busy people. And they’re okay with it! At the end of the day, nobody does this because they’re looking for a cheque, or any reason other than they just like to make music. If Turnstile’s on tour seven or eight months of the year, that leaves us with four or five months for this.”

You’ve all got so much going on – do you ever take a breather?

“No – there’s no breather! [laughs] Even this tour has been pretty hectic. The first couple weeks of this tour I found myself sleeping like three or four hours a night. You’re on tour, driving, doing emails for Pop Wig, doing interview stuff, planning for this release, planning for tours in the future… We all stay pretty active. But yesterday was the first day I actually get eight hours of sleep on this tour. But I don’t mind at all! It’s what I want to be doing, so I find the energy.”

It doesn’t seem like you consider Angel Du$t a ‘side-project’ – it seems every bit as important to you as everything you’re working on. How does it fit into all of your very busy lives?

“I think with modern technology, music is so accessible, bands are so accessible. Young people spend a lot of time on the internet researching bands and watching bands on YouTube, and I think the need to play live has become… less. If that’s what you feel like doing, that’s cool, but this year is split a lot – a lot of Angel Du$t and Turnstile tours. Those three members, like I said, are staying very busy. Dan, Pat and Brendan literally don’t go home this year! [laughs] There’s like three days where they get to go home and pretend to be normal for a couple of days. But they manage to make both bands full-time. Now that a record’s coming up, there’s definitely more of a focus on Angel Du$t, but at the same time, Turnstile’s working on new music, and there’s no plans for either band to slow down. That’s what we love to do.”

What about Trapped Under Ice? Is that on the back-burner for now?

“We had some little family situations – some additions to family, some things going on where everybody’s gonna be spending a little bit of time at home. So Trapped Under Ice isn’t really doing a whole lot this year, but we’re still a band. We’re gonna slowly work on music, and when the time’s right and it feels good, we’ll release something.

Angel Du$t – Outbreak Fest 2018 – Photo: Abbie Shipperley

‘Pretty Buff’ is a bit of a change-up from what people expect of Angel Du$t – there’s a lot of 90s indie-rock, Lemonheads-style influence in it. How have you found people’s reaction to that?

“Yeah, there’s definitely some new territory explored. I think people are into it. The thing that I think people value most about Angel Du$t and all the music we make together, in our group of friends, is the unpredictable nature. I think people value that they can’t predict what we’re gonna do – if you’re a fan of Angel Du$t, I think you’re along for the ride. You expect something new, and I think you got it, with this release. But at the core of it, the songwriting is very similar, and you wouldn’t mistake it for another band – it’s just a new take on Angel Du$t.”

It’s a lot brighter than Angel Du$t releases in the past. Does that reflect your mindset, do you think?

“Yeah, absolutely. Lyrically, there’s some slightly darker tones on the record, but I think that was a cool, conscious decision. The idea was like, I’ve done music before where I sing about loss and hardships in a song that’s darker and less hopeful, and that’s cool – it serves its purpose – but I’ve been really inspired by musicians who can sing about those things in a way that feels relatable but good, and optimistic.”

Is it nicer to get up on-stage and have these most positive songs behind you?

“Yeah, straight up. Positively – I’ve done tours that are a little draining, because you’re singing about dark things, and people relate to that and get emotional and talk to you about it after the show. Or just the way people react to it live – it can be kind of emotionally draining. Whereas playing a song like ‘Bang My Drum’, t’s a really fun, exciting take on losing somebody that you love. I think the opportunity to put a smile on somebody’s face, as opposed to inciting somebody crying or something, is definitely a fun new take.”

There’s a lot of anger in hardcore – is it nice to be exploring a different emotion within that world?

“Yeah, absolutely. And I’ve done records like that, we’ve done records like that, Turnstile’s obviously a very aggressive band so our members are very familiar with that, Trapped Under Ice is obviously a very aggressive band. So we make music like that, but it’s very col to present an alternative.

The videos for this record have so much colour and positive energy in them. Where did those visual ideas come from? Was it literally a case of, ‘Let’s have as much fun with this as we can’?

“Yeah – I think that’s what fits the music. I wanted a visual that reflects how the music makes me feel, and I think Ian Shelton – the guy who did the ‘Bang My Drum’ video – did a good job of expressing the feeling of that song. ‘Big Ass Love’, our friend Ryan Baxley directed that, and it’s bright, it’s colourful, and it’s like the sound of the record.”

How is that coming across live? On this tour I suppose it’s slightly different, but do you still getting people moshing to this more positive music?

“I’m pleasantly surprised. We want a live reaction – we want people to go off in whatever way they want. I don’t think there’s any rules to how you ‘should’ act, as long as you’re not hurting anybody. You don’t have to dance, or look cool, or wear something to the show or something like that. But I’ve seen people finding new ways to express themselves, which is awesome to see. I think the soungs fit really well in the context of past Angel Du$t material. But yeah – I’ve seen some wacky, wild dancing to these songs! [laughs] That in itself is inspiring to me – seeing people express themselves in a new way makes me wanna push myself to keep feeling more, and producing more unique music.”

Angel Du$t’s ‘Pretty Buff’ is out now via Roadrunner Records. They play Slam Dunk and 200Trees festivals, and headline London’s Boston Music Room on May 29th.