Sin Bad Bring Melodic Punk into Adulthood
There are a lot of advantages to recording your own band. If you’re fairly skilled at it, you can end up with a professional-sounding album at a fraction of the price that even a modest studio would charge, while retaining complete control over how your recordings sound. That last bit, though, can be a blessing and a curse, Sin Bad’s Ben Woyak explains.
“That freedom can be a prison,” the singer and guitarist says. “If you’re going to a private studio and paying somebody $50 an hour, it’s a lot easier because those financial and time constraints force you to make decisions a lot faster.” He’s speaking from experience. Sin Bad just released their full-length debut album nearly three full years after recording it, and they blame that delay in part on all those decisions.
“The album went through two full mixes,” Woyak explains. “I’ve probably heard the record a thousand times now, considering how much time we spent on the actual mixing process, so eventually the whole thing just got put on the back burner. Eventually we just had to say, ‘Enough is enough, we have to make this happen.’”
That sounds dangerously close to the recipe for an overworked album, but anybody fearing some sort of over-long, overreaching modern-day Pet Sounds from the band can rest easy. The group’s self-titled debut stays true to the spirit of the group’s first demos. It’s a brisk, melodic, entirely unpretentious punk record.
Woyak probably speaks for the rest of the band when he says that, at this point in their lives, their muses are pretty well cemented. “I’ve evolved as a musician over the years, but at the same time my influences have been pretty similar since I started playing in Milwaukee bands back in 2001,” Woyak says. “I’ve always worked from that melodic, fast, loud and a little raw sort of sound. I grew up listening to metal and graduated and fell in love with ’80s melodic punk, like Hüsker Dü and The Replacements, and those bands still kind of shape what we do.”
It’s rare to find a band in any genre whose tastes are quite this in sync. Woyak splits singing and songwriting duties with bassist Audrey Pennings—they’d both played together in a previous group, Rich People—and their songs are so aligned with each other’s that it’s almost surprising they didn’t come from the same pen. Both sing about social anxiety, misunderstandings and other discomforts that make daily life just that much more awkward. Meanwhile, drummer Joe Kirschling, of Celebrated Workingman, keeps the tempos relentlessly fast. Even the slowest songs absolutely trot.
When discussing the band, Woyak strategically dances around a term that, for many listeners, might be the first that comes to mind: pop-punk. That term is riddled with unflattering connotations.
“It’s not that I’m against that term,” Woyak says. “I don’t feel offended when people call us a pop-punk band, because we do have a lot of those aspects in our sound, but I certainly don’t think of us that way. In general, Audrey and I both write lyrics based on our personal experiences, and we don’t have any interest in the sort of lyrics that people often associate with the pop-punk genre—either lyrics that are dumb for dumb’s sake, or lyrics that seem as if they’re written to speak to adolescence.”
Just because the sound is often associated with youth, Woyak says, doesn’t mean the songs themselves have to be about youth. “Simple, short, melodic songs have been a mainstay of good pop music since pop music was created, and long before the term pop-punk was coined,” he explains. “So I don’t think there’s any requirement that music like this has to be written for adolescence. There are plenty of adults that still listen to punk music, and this kind of melodic punk music, and who appreciate lyrical content that’s above the standards of what is usually called pop-punk these days. This music doesn’t have to be immature.”