Anxious: Connecticut hardcore punks fuse the scene’s spirit of old with the future

Each week in First On, we introduce a shit-hot artist you’ll see opening the bill for your favourite act. The Connecticut band started as a time-killer during high school, now their pummelling debut record is the type to make you want to form your own

First, a history lesson. From the ’80s heroes Rites of Spring, to Texas Is The Reason in the ’90s, and Title Fight as recent as the ’10s, there’s a long lineage of bands reared in the hardcore punk scene eschewing the genre’s typical aggression, and creating room for melody and emotional vulnerability instead.

In 2015, Grady Allen was a 14-year-old disciple of these bands in suburban Darien, Connecticut. Itching to make some noise of his own, he gathered a rotating cast of middle school friends, including wild-haired drummer Dante Melucci. With the mild-mannered Allen as their frontman, they named themselves Anxious. The blueprint was to let off steam and pay homage to their heroes; and in doing so, they found themselves unassumingly continuing the tradition of expanding the genre’s emotional and musical boundaries.

“You talk to people about the bands they played in in middle school and they’re like, ‘I can’t believe I played in that band’. And I’m like, ‘Well, I’m still in that band’,” smiles Allen. “It’s funny that it went from like, an activity after homework was done, to the thing that we all do seriously.”

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Allen is still only 21 and Melucci, who later moved to guitar, just 19. But after what is a whole lifetime to some bands, Anxious – completed by Jonny Camner (drummer), Ryan Savitski (guitarist), Sam Allen (bassist) – are about to release their debut album, ‘Little Green House’, via Run For Cover Records [Camp Cope, Modern Baseball]. Following the heels of an NME 100 spot last year, where they were tipped as the type of band “that will remind even the most hardened veteran of why they love punk rock in the first place”, the release of a debut record provides another hugely promising milestone.

The record is named after Grady’s mum’s house, where he lived and wrote the album’s lyrics during the onset of the pandemic. Suddenly freed of an intense touring schedule, the band then spent months writing and demoing the entire record in Camner’s dad’s basement studio, using the luxury of time to turn the scrappy emo of their early EPs into a sweeping and cathartic rock album. As Camner points out, it would sound as at home on a major festival stage, next to godfathers like Jimmy Eat World or New Found Glory, as it would at a hardcore basement show. “We made a conscious effort to create something that was like, ‘this isn’t a hardcore band, this isn’t an emo band, it’s just Anxious,’” recalls Allen.

Though hardcore isn’t a genre marker that easily fits Anxious, it’s a vital part of their DNA. Discovering the scene as a teen allowed Allen to escape the drug and drink-fuelled youth culture that marked his high school experience; all band members are straight edge, foregoing booze and other substances in the name of clear-headedness. It also embedded in the young band a DIY ethic and a sense of their platform that they take seriously. Over the years, the band have handled their own merch, released their own music and put on their own shows. “[Hardcore bands] don’t put themselves on a pedestal, and I think Anxious has really adopted that,” says Allen. “We don’t have any complexes about who we are — we’re just five kids playing in a band together.”

Having quite literally grown up together, Anxious is a key part of who its members have become personally too. “Bands are a really cool exercise in how to be a human being working with other people; an exercise in communication and in utilising other people’s ideas,” says Allen. Melucci adds, “It feels like having a long-term partner.”

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Writing ‘Little Green House’ was a coming-of-age process, one which saw lyricists Allen and Melucci exploring adult emotions and relationships for the first time. “Everything in this record is tied to the feeling that we were learning new things about ourselves,” says Melucci. Allen adds: “If you look at the early Anxious material, it’s a lot of stuff that is outward-focused. But this record shows a change, in that it’s not so much pointing the finger at other people, but taking the time to sit and reflect with yourself.”

‘Your One Way Street’ and the aptly-named ‘Growing Up Song’ capture the feeling of growing out of a relationship, while ‘In April’ sees Allen examining his own shortcomings. Meanwhile, branching out even further into maturity are ‘Wayne’ and ‘You When You’re Gone’, which poignantly explore unconditional love and nostalgia while wading into new melodic territories.

Camner recalls a touching moment from the writing process that illustrates the mutual support and growth at the heart of Anxious. “Dante and Grady would move everything off this little table in the studio, and there’d be a sheet of paper and they would be working through a song’s lyrics together. And I would watch them do that, and yeah, they were writing a song, but really they were working through shit in their own life together.”

“It’s very cool to have a project where you’re getting to evolve with people as musicians, but also just as people,” says Allen. “On every front, I hear these songs and they’re a triumph for us.”

Anxious’ debut album ‘Little Green House’ is released January 21 via Run For Cover

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