Every night in garages, studios, and DIY venues all across California, independent hardcore bands are honing their craft and looking forward to the third weekend of July, when they will descend upon Santa Barbara to share their progress at the Sound and Fury Festival. Started in Ventura in 2006, the three-day festival has called the Earl Warren Showgrounds home for the past three years, where it has continued to grow steadily under the direction of festival organizers Ray Harkins and Joey Cahill. Harkins, who works for a nonprofit animal rights organization, and Cahill, who owns Angeleno hardcore label 6131 Records, have only one goal in mind: keep growing. Last year, the fest sold out Saturday and Sunday for the first time in its seven-year history, and this year, the duo is determined to reach more people than ever before with a diverse lineup that captures the state of hardcore, as well as neighboring genres like punk and garage rock. How, then, do two guys organize a festival with over 50 bands, 30 hours of music, and some of the cheapest ticket prices around? I caught up with them via email to find out.
“There are a few factors [for selecting which bands to invite],” said Harkins. “Touring bands, bands with new records, and then local California bands. We always try to keep a national perspective (as well as international when it makes sense) on the festival.”
“The main criteria for me is to bring bands people want to see,” added Cahill. “I know that seems obvious, but it’s true. If we brought bands no one liked then no one would come. Sound and Fury is a California fest, so we do like to showcase what California has to offer. Right now, California has one of the best scenes, so it’s great that people from all around the country and parts of the world travel here and get to see what we have going on. At the same time, we do make an effort to bring bands from all over. Hardcore is about friendship and bringing people together, so being able to have bands of all sizes from across the country play makes the weekend that much better.”
Sound and Fury is certainly becoming an iconic destination for bands and fans alike, but how exactly does Santa Barbara fit into the scene? “I think when someone initially thinks of Santa Barbara, hardcore or punk don’t come to mind,” admitted Cahill. “But it has such a rich history. Some of the best shows I’ve ever been to have been in Santa Barbara at some of the coolest venues. DIY places like The Pickle Patch and bigger rooms like the Living Room were incredible. There are some great bands happening now from Santa Barbara, too, like Downpresser, Minus, Souvenirs, and Harness. Plus, Lagwagon is from the area, and that’s the coolest.”
“It definitely has a history there, as I remember attending shows near the UCSB campus at The Living Room and The Pickle Patch,” agreed Harkins. “Since we have been doing the festival, the community has been very cool in embracing the amount of kids that descend upon the area for the weekend. Kids are just as excited to go to Santa Barbara as much as the festival because it’s such a beautiful area.”
Now for the easy part: deciding which bands to see. Unlike years past, the forthcoming fest will be held on one stage to avoid scheduling conflicts and ensure quality over quantity. Ticketholders can expect some of the biggest names in the national scene, like Bane and Ceremony, as well as Santa Barbara’s best, including Downpresser, Minus, and Souvenirs.
“I am personally very excited to see Comeback Kid, Basement, Single Mothers, and Touche Amore,” said Harkins. “Those are all amazing bands that I know will put on a great show.”
Cahill’s recommendations are somewhat more spread out: “Almost all of our current roster [at 6131 Records] is playing this year. I’m really excited about that. Of the 6131 bands, I’m most excited to see all of them. I can’t play favorites. We put out some really cool records this year, and I’m really stoked to have our bands play in front of so many new faces. I’m really excited to see Touche Amore. We released their first record before they signed to Deathwish, and it makes me so proud to see the band they’ve become. They’re doing something special, so to have them back at the fest as a headliner is really cool.”
For any parents concerned about the safety of their young thrashers at the fest, never fear: the community has their back. Harkins offered the following words of reassurance: “In regard to the safety of the festival, we definitely take all of the precautions possible when it comes to a live music event, from security to stage managers and crowd control. It’s a pretty amazing thing to watch the community take care of one another in regard to a kid falling down in the ‘mosh pit’ and everyone around them stopping to pick them up. It’s definitely a safe place for kids to unwind for an afternoon or an entire weekend.”