Over the last 13 years, Chicago’s KNUCKLE PUCK have seen it all on their rise to becoming one of the most celebrated acts in the modern pop-punk scene: The band’s debut album, 2015’s Copacetic, was hailed an instant classic by fans and critics alike, landing on Loudwire’s list of the 50 greatest pop-punk albums ever and earning the quintet an Album Of The Year nomination at the 2016 Alternative Press Music Awards.
Since then, follow-ups Shapeshifter (2017) and 20/20 (2020) have further cemented their spot as a captivating live act, on the main stage of the Vans Warped Tour and Slam Dunk and around the world with the likes of Good Charlotte, Mayday Parade and State Champs with an ever-expanding blend of rough-hewn rock, punk ethos, and glassy Midwestern emo.
Through it all, the band (vocalist Joe Taylor, guitarist/vocalist Nick Casasanto, guitarist Kevin Maida, drummer John Siorek and bassist Ryan Rumchaks) have artfully balanced their emotional spectrum, trading in high-tempered and deeply introspective lyricism, yes, but also cutting the tension with an underlying layer of optimism. (Look no further than Copacetic’s crown jewel, the album-closing “Untitled” that found Taylor and Casasanto declaring, “You tore me down/I’ll tell you everything is copacetic.”)
But now, with the release of their fourth LP, LOSING WHAT WE LOVE, Knuckle Puck are done sugarcoating life’s hard truths.
“For a long time, we felt a responsibility to have this overwhelming hopefulness to our lyrics,” Cassasanto explains. “This time around, we started writing more honestly with less intent to sound cool or hopeful. It feels like we’re in a bit of a losing battle with the state of the world, but in the past we’d say, ‘Oh, but it’s all OK!’ Now we’re saying, ‘No, we should be panicking.’ This record feels like more of an expression than a motivational speech.”
Recorded with longtime producer Seth Henderson (State Champs, Real Friends), LOSING WHAT WE LOVE follows 2022’s Disposable Life EP and marks the band’s first LP for Pure Noise Records. In many ways, it’s a throwback to their earliest days – not necessarily in sound, but in songwriting essence, tapping into the same collaborative magic they found in bedrooms and garages across Chicago’s south suburbs as teenagers.
The group did far more in-studio writing than ever before during the making of LP4, with Taylor pointing to tracks like the album-opening “A New Beginning,” “Worlds Away” and propulsive first single “The Tower” as wholly representative of this new (again) songwriting approach, recalibrating their collective creative ethos while continuing to push their sound forward in ways exciting to both the band themselves and their listeners. Siorek, in particular, brought a number of ideas to the table, offering a percussive perspective shift that’s immediately evident on “The Tower.”
“‘The Tower’ feels like the most straight-up form of pure expression,” Casasanto adds, noting the song chronicles “death, the destruction of everything you know, and being forced to start over.” “John came to the studio and said, ‘I have a song.’ He picked up his sticks, I picked up my guitar, and we were all just throwing out ideas. It became a song in a matter of hours, and it feels really special to me because of the immediacy.”
This focus on impulse over indecision, with all five members bringing their original ideas to the table then working to shape them together, in the same room, is what helps propel LOSING WHAT WE LOVE as a fresh take on trademark Knuckle Puck, from the the biting “2face” and furiously tempoed “Act Accordingly” to the vibe-heavy “Out of Touch” and band favorite “Better Late,” the genesis of which actually dates all the way back to the Copacetic days.
“There was a real excitement from everyone to see these songs through,” Casasanto says. “Even when there were moments when someone wouldn’t be so hot on an idea, we pushed through and ended in a place where the songs turned out fucking awesome and everyone agreed they needed to make the record.”
As Knuckle Puck approach the 10-year anniversary of Copacetic, poised to be another celebratory chapter in their already lauded career, it’s clear there’s a newfound energy inside their ranks, a steadfast belief in one another that steered the ship during LOSING WHAT WE LOVE and will carry the band long into the future.
In many ways, it’s the same spirit of unity that bonds their fervent crowds – the ones that pack sweaty clubs around the world to sing and scream along with Taylor and Casasanto’s impassioned vocals. And even if they’re not cut with as much lyrical optimism this time around, the sheer power and honesty of Knuckle Puck’s songs on LP4 will still give audiences a rallying cry around which to gather in transformative moments of community.
“What excites me about being in Knuckle Puck these days is being excited to go play shows and know not much else matters,” Taylor says emphatically. “I used to get all in my head about online comments on songs, but then we’d go play shows and they were fucking nuts. Right now, the only thing that matters is the people freaking out to our songs every night.”
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