The no-rules hardcore of Geld

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Geld interview

Only a few minutes into a conversation with Australian hardcore group Geld, vocalist Al Smith feels the need to address a certain misconception about the band’s music.

“To be honest I am always a little perplexed when people refer to Geld as atypical sounding hardcore,” he says. “I mean, outside of the textures on Cormy’s guitar. And the artwork is kind of atypical—we made a conscious decision not to have some cut and paste ‘War bad!’ artwork. But when people say ‘it’s psychedelic hardcore,’ I’m just like ‘Really? OK.'”

There’s no question about it: Geld play hardcore. They play it fast, they play it loud, and they play it as if their instruments are on fire while they’re doing it. And they do so with a particular level of intensity and cacophony, with a heavy dose of noise and layers of effects. It’s music intended to thrash and throttle, but offering a bit more in texture than simply cranking up the gain channel. The overall effect can overwhelm the senses, even if indulging in their weirdest impulses isn’t necessarily the end goal.

When Smith, guitarist Cormac Ó Síocháin, bassist Pete Mclea and drummer Tom Rowley began playing together nearly a decade ago, they’d already put in work in other punk bands and had grown disinterested in continuing to abide its aesthetic restrictions. With Geld, they set no specific rules or boundaries, even if the songs they wrote were still rooted in hardcore. That offered them freedom, but with that came its own set of challenges.

“We’ve all been in genre bands before, like this is a raw punk band or fuckin’ whatever,” Smith says over Zoom from his home in Melbourne. “But part of what we owe to longevity, after ten years now, is that we went into it with no preconceptions of what we’re going to do stylistically. The only rule is that we all like it. Hardcore’s great, but it can be limiting when you’ve been a band for ten years, and naturally those other elements are going to permeate into it.

“It’s sort of like this monkey’s paw thing, because it’s like we can do anything, and that’s when the real stupid ideas come out,” he adds. “It’s this push and pull where we try to make it as weird and as interesting and as creatively fulfilling for us as possible. But on the other side of the coin your bullshit filter needs to be real on point. Otherwise you could start doing some real kooky shit. It’s just like, you kind of need to say let’s do everything, but let’s also have a sober opinion about all this.”

The band’s third album Currency // Castration, their first for Relapse, arrives as a direct result of the group streamlining their approach even more, with their original intent to release a short and direct hardcore EP. Yet it’s rarely ever as simple as going back to basics for Geld. While their latest full-length is a bit more direct (and six minutes shorter) than their 2020 Iron Lung-released Beyond the Floor, it’s no less of a shock to the senses, each two-minutes-or-less burst of hardcore punk shrouded in feedback and noise.

The immediacy and intensity of the album is a result of some productive, agitated lockdown-era writing sessions, which found the band gravitating toward their most viscerally aggressive impulses. But it’s also an album that veers off into moments of swirling layers of guitar, as on “The Fix Is In,” or brief noise exercises such as “Across a Broad Plain.” As Ó Síocháin explains, the simplest songs are the ones that tend to materialize rapidly, while the ones they tinker at for months are those that are more likely to find them veering off the beaten path.

“The songs were just pouring out of us and they were all short, fast loud, really angry hardcore songs,” Ó Síocháin says. “And things were getting a bit more metal and psychedelic before that, so suddenly there was this outpouring of short fast loud songs.

“There are also songs we just kind of play at for months and months and we can’t quite future out how to make it work well, and they tend to be some of the weirder ones,” he adds. “But part of it is that Al wants to be Agnostic Front and the rest of us want to be Pink Floyd, and that’s just the tension between the two things.”

There’s an undeniable apocalyptic sensibility to Geld’s music, which can be credited in part to the sheer annihilation evoked by the music itself, as well as Smith’s lyrical explorations of societal alienation (“The Fix Is In”) or the lack of will to right a disastrous course (“Hanging From a Rope”). It’s not explicitly political, despite punk rock’s tried and true trope of shaking one’s fist at the outside world, but rather a reflection of Smith’s own internal struggles. Make no mistake: The world that Smith describes through growled, impressionistic fragments isn’t a paradise but a dystopia, but he prefers a more honest approach of exploring his own attempts to navigate its labyrinth of landmines rather than simply shouting at the void.

“It’s quite uncomfortable to be a middle-class white dude on a soapbox about all the ills in the world when I’m the most privileged motherfucker out there,” he says. “The only plight I’ve got going on is inside my own fucking brain, and it’s the only thing I can stand on a stage and scream about and not feel disingenuous. So basically everything is me trying to conjure up interesting themes and ideas to give some color and aesthetic to it.”

As dark and chaotic as their sonic assault and lyrical themes may be, the members of Geld have achieved a newfound stability and discipline not just as musicians but simply as people. Currency // Castration arrives as the band hit their ten-year milestone, which they’ve earned via both musical and personal growth. Ó Síocháin is now a father of three, and his own house has become the group’s homebase, so to speak—the place where they rehearse, congregate and better integrate Geld into their lives rather than attempt to make it work in parallel to them.

“We rehearse at Cormy’s house, and so we go over and we hang out with the kids for a while,” Smith says. “We have this familial routine that’s like super enriching for all of us. I think that’s really important. That the band is improving our lives instead of just being this thing where we gotta go to the rehearsal spot on a Tuesday. You know that thing where a band is working in polar opposite to everything else in your life and you just desperately squeeze it into your life and you develop this love hate relationship with it? We’ve been able to find a rhythm where it’s part of our lives rather than a thing that’s going on concurrently.”

“We all had fairly chaotic upbringings in different ways,” Ó Síocháin adds. “I think we’re kind of late bloomers. We’ve always been seen as underachievers by people in our lives. So now, doing things on our own terms in our own way and it’s working out well, it’s really encouraging because if we’re given the space and the opportunity to do things, it works better than other people’s way of doing things. It’s been the same with the music and labels and touring. None of it’s happened easily, but we’d rather do it right than do it easily.”

Though Geld continues to grow and evolve, with the continuous affirmation that next time they’ll release their “weird” album, the urgency and drive of hardcore remains the core of what they do. Which, psychedelic or not, will inevitably find itself straying from the straight and narrow path. But as harrowing and heavy as it may get, Geld are unlikely to give into pessimism. They acknowledge a fucked-up world and the fucked-up feelings it instills within us, but their drive to keep going is unwavering.

“For someone who was an absolute fucking prick, Winston Churchill had all the best quotes. And one of them was ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going,’” Ó Síocháin says. “That’s kind of the thing—none of us are nihilistic, we’re all quite positive people in our own way. But what it’s about is, if everything’s fucked, who cares. Keep going! We know it’s fucked, but you’re not alone.”

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