Sweetalk chart post-hardcore roots and genre offshoots
The Green Bay trio released their second full-length album in early October
By John McCracken
Green Bay post-hardcore trio Sweetalk have taken notes from the genre’s icons on a recently released self-titled album.
For those unfamiliar with the genre, post-hardcore has a nebulous history. Bands like Minneapolis’s Husker Du or D.C.’s Fugazi gave the genre its roots in the 1980s. Since then the genre has grown like a weed, and like an invasive species, it has taken on plentiful unkillable forms. Post-hardcore can be summarized in two words: intensity and emotion. Oftentimes, the intensity comes through screaming vocals and emotion is found in lyrical content and melodies.
Sweetalk walks a fine line between these two paradigms. The group has been around for eight years and their newest release is their second full-length album. Vocalist and guitarist Jamie Koebe said the band went through a lot of self reflection and the new album is a solidification of their sound.
“Going self-titled with this record was the only option,” Koebe said.
There are times in the opening track “Two’s a Crowd” where the melodic vocals don’t match bassist Andy Nader’s driving passages alongside noise-laden guitar parts. Koebe sings pop-adjacent choruses only to be cut off by angst-filled screaming.
This dichotomy continues throughout the record. “Hostage” features strong hard-rock and alt-rock guitar riffs and pulsing bass reminiscent of Chevelle. Koebe hits high notes atop these darker moments and goes full post-hardcore with a chugging breakdown that frankly doesn’t last long enough.
“Stolen Gold” was a surprising outlier. Sweetalk has obviously pulled some pages from the book of contemporary cult-classic Pennsylvania alt-rock band Balance and Composure. The dreamy chords and upfront bass lines dwell in the art-rock and indie-influenced sounds of the genre, similar to contemporary bands such as Movements, Microwave and Turnover.
Koebe said these influences found their way onto the album after many iterations.
“This album was a very big ‘back-to-the-drawing-board’ moment for us. We had to tear everything down in order to build it bigger and better,” Koebe said.
Sweetalk cite iconic alternative, metal outfit Deftones as a direct influence and the throughline can be found on the song “Dying At Your Desk.” The track is airy, gloomy and somehow catchy all in one. The trio close out the single with a mesh of soaring guitars and Koebe’s penetrating vocals—akin to the notable vocals of Craig Owens of the Michigan-founded early-aughts genre golden boys Chiodos.
The album closes with another outlier track, clearly influenced by both the sporadic nature of genre iconic At The Drive-In, and the gloomy, gazey contemporary direction of post-hardcore.
Closer “Not My Blood” is packed with fervor. The song opens with artsy chords, closes with sparse piano melodies, and everything in between is an emotional whirlwind of screams, vocal ranges and harmonies, alongside stout riffs. Drummer Brian Boelter oscillates between quiet backbeats to fills laced dynamics and atmospheric qualities.
True to the form of the alternative rock and post-hardcore universe, Sweetalk’s influences span varied subgenres and branches galore, but the roots of intensity and melody can be found in their self-titled release, long in the making.
Sweetalk performs at Frets and Friends (2105 University Ave) alongside Green Bay progressive rock band Age of Fable and Oshkosh sludge metal group Dead Ringers on Friday, Nov. 12.
John McCracken is the Editor of Green Bay City Pages. He can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @jmcjmc451.