Interview with Dan Buckley of Year Of Confession by Dave Wolff
Your material has been uploaded to streaming sites after several years of hiatus and you have accepted an opening slot for Carnivore A.D. Can you let the readers know the details of this? Before your hiatus, how much music had you released and which songs did you upload after getting back together? Why did you decide to open for Carnivore?
We actually accepted the Carnivore show beforehand. The guys in YOC are like family. We are very close; we keep in touch in our personal lives because we have a very long history together as friends first. When I saw that the promoter was looking for another band to add to the bill, I suggested to him that I can look into getting the guys together. He was ecstatic about that, and it got me thinking, because I know our personal situations, that this could be a real possibility. We fell off the map for a while, taking care of our personal lives and whatnot. We stopped being able to play around the time we started making more of a name for ourselves. We wrote and recorded a bunch of music but released a demo, an EP, and a single, all before the “A Blood Decree” album. When we released “A Blood Decree” originally, streaming as we know it wasn’t really a thing. We needed to put a CD in somebody’s hand. So, in our opinion, it didn’t really get a fair shot to connect with people. After confirming with the others that we can make this show happen, we figured that we might as well let ABD be heard. We then put it out for streaming as a re-release with extra tracks on it. “A Blood Decree (Expanded Edition)” is available everywhere now. As far as Carnivore goes, we are absolute lovers of music in the truest sense. We have influences that are extremely vast, and we know our history. Not only are they such an important part of the hardcore music scene, but they are also a great band. Joe (our bassist) is originally from Brooklyn so it’s also kind of a cool full circle type of sentiment. This show, which is in November on Long Island, will provide us a chance to see people we haven’t in a long time. Friends, bands, and fans alike. We are looking forward to it.
At what Long Island venue is your upcoming show booked, and what do you anticipate the turnout will be like?
The upcoming show, scheduled for November 19th, 2022, is being held at Shakers in Oakdale NY. We’ll be playing with Carnivore A.D., our friends in Lockdown and The Great Lie, and the up-and-coming Sarcosuchas. I expect to see friends from the past showing up to support all of the artists that are performing and doing what they can to keep this scene alive. My hope is that it will be a mix of older and younger generations who come together as one solid force. I look forward to meeting them all and encourage everyone to be social and say hello! I anticipate a good time and I’m very happy to be involved again after being away for several years.
Do you see more gatherings of older and newer fans at the shows you’ve been able to attend of late?
I actually have not been to a local show since well before the pandemic, but I have seen pictures and videos from some. It does seem to be happening to a certain degree. I hope I’m not wrong about that. I’m sure it’s not every show but I think it goes back to what you were saying about the scene picking up again. I see friends of ours that are still trucking along, playing with their respective bands, and I think that’s awesome. Summon The Plague and Monochromatic Black for example. They are very talented musicians and I’m glad to see them doing what they love to do.
Are Summon The Plague and Monochromatic Black streaming any material on the web? If so, where can their releases be found?
I know Monochromatic Black is on Spotify, I’m not sure if Summon The Plague has anything up just yet. I see videos that they post to Facebook though, they seem to be playing a lot of local shows and getting a good response. Both bands are extremely heavy sounding. If anyone is into that, I suggest looking into them.
How much has streaming helped increase your fan base since you uploaded “A Blood Decree (Expanded Edition)”? On what sites can people check it out?
In terms of increasing our fan base, it seems too early to tell. We have definitely turned some heads in our direction (which is nice) but what we are most pleased with so far is being able to reconnect with the fans we had already. A good amount of people liked our songs live but never got a chance to have the music. Right now, “A Blood Decree (Expanded Edition)” is available on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, IHeartRadio, YouTube Music, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, etc. All of these links and more can be found at www.yearofconfession.com, our official website.
In addition to digital, what other formats has "A Blood Decree" been released on? On the same subject, do any of the band members collect vinyl records?
When “A Blood Decree” was originally released, we had pressed three song sampler CDs that were handed out and the rest of the album was available for download. We got caught up in the middle of physical media and streaming around that time. It was really annoying to have to explain to people, but we did what we could. Our bassist (Joe Micolo) collects vinyl records. He has a pretty good amount of albums. There is something to be said for being able to hold an album, as I’m sure you know, even with CDs and cassettes. I would never rule out pressing something to vinyl. I think that would be really cool to have.
How many copies of your three-song sampler was the band able to move independently? Did the band also design cover art and packaging for it?
We only pressed 1000 of those CDs. Even though it was also available for download, we wanted to preserve some of them for the future. We moved almost all of them into the hands of others. Our artwork was conceptualized by us but made possible, designed, and carried out by Troy Wilkerson. Troy is a very talented artist and a very good friend of ours.
Has Troy Wilkerson designed cover art for many bands besides YOC? When you described the cover concept to him, how well did his work reflect what you wanted?
I’m not positive which ones or how many but I believe he has worked with others, especially by now. I wouldn’t doubt it at least. We did “A Blood Decree” and “Cycles Of Man” (our prior EP) with him so far. He’s fantastic at reflecting our ideas in his art. He has even come up with suggestions. The artwork for ABD was straight forward, just like the music in our opinion. Something simple and to the point was exactly what was needed. Cycles Of Man was a project and a half. The CD has an entire fold out mural type of thing, that he painted by hand first, based off of the concepts we were throwing at him. I have to give him credit for having patience. Haha.
For a time, the popularity of underground music was waning on Long Island. More recently it has made a comeback. How much more popular is it becoming again in your view? And what do you think of the idea of Carnivore reforming after Peter Steele passed away?
Personally, I think being able to hear Carnivore songs in a live setting still is great. To my knowledge, it’s a tribute situation comprised of original members and close friends that played in the same circle as them back in the day. I have yet to see them, but I would think they probably do it justice. Peter Steele was a very talented and influential figure, for them to honor him and respect his work like this is pretty cool.
As far as the Long Island underground scene is concerned, what I’ve seen on social media lately echoes what you are saying. For sure, it seemed a little bleak for a while. To make matters worse, we had a health crisis going on. Nobody was playing live for a bit. I do sometimes wonder though, maybe that lent itself to building up the music scene even more? Based on what I’ve seen on social media so far, a lot of younger people do seem to be very involved now again. It sort of reminds me of when my friends and I started going to local shows, which was predominately in the late 90s and early 2000’s. I just hope the message of unity and support can be sustained.
Were your friendships before the band started helpful in reviving your original lineup when you reformed?
We started in high school with our original drummer, Steve. We went through a lot of growth musically speaking, and we had a couple of different vocalists back then. We met John just after high school. He had never done vocals before but was determined. He was a natural and fit right in with what we wanted to do. Brian was a friend of ours for years before he joined the band. Steve eventually felt as if he went as far as he could and didn’t want to hold us back. Brian was our first phone call. We are all friends and music was always at the center of what we were doing. No amount of time can erode our commitment to each other. YOC is mostly a matter of availability for us exactly because we are such good friends. If there’s a way for us, it happens.
Did you have similar musical tastes when Year Of Confession formed or were your tastes divergent and in need of time to incorporate?
We had a lot of common ground, but I would say it was fairly different, especially when we were younger. We just wanted to play though and welcomed the diversity. We also discovered a lot of music together, which helped shape us. After a while, especially when Brian came into the picture, we homed in on and generated a more solid sound. Some songs took a lot more time to write than others (for several reasons) but once we hit a stride it was a quick process. After a while, you sort of learn how to write with each other. I like to think of it as if we are painting a picture. Even though we may like different colors, and use different brushes, we can all paint on the same canvas. We don’t exactly know what it will look like at the end, but we know for sure that it will be ours.
What styles of music did each of the members of YOC grow up with and contribute to your formula? In what ways does this make the band stand out as having their own sound?
We grew up with a lot of different music in our lives. Between the four of us, it ranges from all types of Rock and Metal to Industrial, Film Scores, Hardcore, and tons of subgenres across several decades. Brian is very much influenced by everything having to do with drums and the amount of bands he is familiar with is honestly staggering. Joe is probably the least mainstream music oriented of the group. Not to say he doesn’t like it; he just prefers music that is obscure. We were introduced to a lot of underground music because of him. John was into the typical big name metal bands from the 80’s and 90’s, as we all were. Those bands had a big influence on the way he writes lyrics. As for myself, I can usually hear those iconic 70’s rock bands coming through when I write but it’s influenced by the metal bands of our youth. I love writing stuff that has atmosphere, is organic sounding, and is held together with the tight interlocking sound of many 90’s metal bands. When we started discovering the underground hardcore scene of our era, that is what really solidified the band’s direction. We took what we were all about beforehand and started incorporating different types of grooves and obnoxious sounding chords. We focused more on the intensity of our music instead of the flare of our instruments. We try to always do what we feel is best for the song as a whole and feel strongly about YOC being its own entity.
If you were to describe organic sounding, what would you mean? What balance should a song or album have in terms of atmosphere?
It comes down to perspective I suppose, but for me “organic sounding” means truthful and natural. Truthful in terms of originality and not purposely mimicking another artist. Not to say you shouldn’t let your influences be noticed, I just love hearing stuff that is written or arranged uniquely. By natural I mean in terms of not forcing yourself to write a certain way but to try and let whatever it is reveal itself. When it comes to atmosphere, I think it’s important to keep the sentiment of the songs in mind as they progress. When I start writing anything, I purposely leave space in order to hear what the others do and then expand on it from there. If, down the line, I feel like the song needs some breathing room, I will try to create that. Likewise, that space can always be filled if necessary. I believe the same concept can be used for the layout of an album when you keep the listening experience in mind.
Is it better for underground bands to retain their heavy and caustic elements or become more experimental as they progress and grow? Or does it depend on each band’s situation?
All of the above. I’m a big proponent for experimenting and thinking outside of the box. That doesn’t necessarily mean less heavy though. To a degree, I like to hear bands mix things up. It keeps me from being bored. I don’t particularly care for an entire album of songs that sound exactly the same but if it’s all over the place, that doesn’t work for me either. How it unfolds should come down to each band’s situation and what they set out to do from the beginning. YOC has experimented a lot over the years. Most of our songs sound different from each other but still sound like Year Of Confession. I think anything that contributes to the communication of the song is at least worth considering.
Can you tell me which albums from any decade are close enough to the qualities you want in an album?
There’s a lot of great albums that come to mind for various reasons. This is a tough question for me, my mind is racing! I will try to narrow it down a little bit and stick to heavier genres. When it comes to the more well-known stuff, it’s hard for me to not say “Cowboys From Hell” or “Vulgar Display Of Power”. Those two albums were groundbreaking on so many levels and really showed the range the band had when it came to writing. “Urban Discipline” by Biohazard shows a lot of attitude as well, attitude is good. “Chaos A.D.” by Sepultura, “Symbolic” by Death, “Low” by Testament, FNM’s “Angel Dust” and “King For A Day” albums, even “Ænema” by Tool. The self-titled album and "Imprint" by Vision Of Disorder, “Process Of Self Development” by Candiria, “Stabbing The Drama” by Soilwork, and Led Zeppelin II, III, & IV. Some of the musicians who wrote this music are the reason I even wanted to play in the first place, but these iconic albums did have a huge impact on me. When I listen to an album, I want to hear something of substance, either through the lyrics or sonically. The most important takeaway for me is inspiration. If I ever do anything the slightest bit close to what these albums did for me, it would be a dream come true.
The majority of the underground albums you cited were released in the 1990s, if I understand you correctly. Are there any albums released since the 2000s that measure up to those older releases?
The 1990s were when I started discovering music that was considered to be more underground or in the hardcore scene. We were always showing up to local shows to support bands like Skycamefalling, Neck, R22, Overthrow, and Candiria. I would say that era is when underground music had the biggest impact on me. After that, we were mostly focused on supporting bands that we befriended and doing our own thing as well. There are later albums that I really like but it’s hard for me to say if they measure up or not. I like them all for mostly independent reasons and each show qualities that I love to hear. “Jupiter” by Cave In, “Jane Doe” by Converge, “Oceanic & Panopticon” by Isis, and “Spirals” by Blood Has Been Shed to name a few. Some of the more well-known stuff I’m into include albums by Shadows Fall, Every Time I Die, Blood Simple, Sevendust, Deftones, Periphery, Soilwork, and Meshuggah.
Likewise, you mention Led Zeppelin's second, third, and fourth albums. Who else from the classic rock era inspires you on the same level as underground bands? Do you know any bands from the early punk era?
When I was a young kid, I was listening to Led-Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Beatles, Van Halen, The Allman Brothers, Black Sabbath, etc. All of these bands have inspired me a great deal. Once I started getting into Metal, I was all about the “Big 4” and bands such as Iron Maiden, Sepultura, Testament, Pantera, and Fear Factory. I have a lot of respect for and have listened to some early era Punk bands such as The Clash, The Misfits, and Black Flag but I can’t personally say I’m as familiar with them. We did play a show with Gotham Road one time though. I don’t recall how that happened exactly, but I know John (our singer) was super excited about it. He was a little more into music of that nature.
How much input did each member of the band have writing and recording the material on your releases? Which of them do you think best represents your working together?
Each release thus far has a history behind it but I would say “A Blood Decree” is our most forward and matured writing of that era. It was a result of us stripping down our approach and focusing on being forceful in the face of adversity. We went through a lot of crap during that time and that was our way of hitting back at life. As for writing input, we had a process that became the norm. Joe or I would have a spark for a song and the other would fan the flame. Once Brian heard it he would work his magic and make us rethink what is possible. Usually by the time John got to it, it was almost done. We used that to our advantage because he was like an outside set of ears. When it came to lyrical content, we took turns offering up something we each needed to have a song about. It was like group therapy. John was always a good lyricist and excelled at writing loosely based on the topic. Sometimes it was purposely not so vague though. Like the title track “A Blood Decree” for example.
What is “A Blood Decree” about and how is it intended to be relevant to the genres you work within? Discuss some of the other songs on the album you deem worth mentioning?
“A Blood Decree” is a song about a very dark moment in my life. The lyrics were written as a gift from John to me and based off of about eight pages of notes that I wrote in order to not forget what had transpired. The guitar parts were meant to express the situation as well.
I dozed off one afternoon after coming home from work but not before letting my dog outside in the yard. When I awoke a little while later it was to the sound of several gun shots. I frantically searched and called for her to no avail. It seemed like forever, but I found her trying to get back under the fence to my yard. She was just sitting there motionless and that’s when I noticed a bullet hole in her chest. I got her back into my house and locked her into her crate. There was blood everywhere, I was actually slipping in it. What had happened was, she got into my back neighbor’s yard and out to the street. Someone over there called the police asking for animal control, but they sent an office anyway. When the cop showed up, the dog was scared and running around. The officer said he felt unsafe and fired 5 or 6 shots, one of which hit my dog. Then the police were at my front door bragging about how their guy “shot that dog dead”. This dog was an absolute sweetheart and never hurt anyone. The guy who called them even said that it was not necessary. I had to rush the dog to Long Island Veterinary Hospital where she almost died. The bullet missed her heart by a half inch. I had no money, so they worked out a deal. I got a second job and hand delivered thousands over the following ten months to pay for the surgery she needed. She survived and ABD was made. Our intention was to make people realize that music, like life, can be both beautiful and brutal at the same time.
Just a quick synopsis of some of the other songs on the album. All of which are based on real life events.
“Bring Me Back” - Finding that light to pull you out of the darkest place in your life.
“Withered” - A song about suicide and the destruction it brings to one’s family.
“We Will Overcome” - Positivity. Perseverance to achieve one’s dreams and goals. This song was written as a light to focus on.
On a personal note, did you manage to sue the officer who shot your dog? Which of your unmentioned songs, if any, deals with corruption in authority? What inspired the three songs you listed above?
I did not. I was young and didn’t realize what sort of recourse I might have had. It was a whole ordeal. I was ticketed and I had to appear in court. I basically had to fight for them to release her to me too. They deemed the dog legally “dangerous” because the officer discharged his firearm. The irony in that is astonishing. However, I just wanted her home, so I did whatever I needed to do. After that took place, I dedicated a lot of my time to learning about the stigma certain dogs received and why. I also got involved in advocacy related to rescue, proper responsibility, and treatment of APBTs.
“Bring Me Back” was inspired by a depressive state that John was going through and him having certain people in his life to help claw his way out. I think we have all been there at some point, I certainly have, so these lyrics are very relatable and can apply to anybody.
“Withered” was inspired by a real-life suicide and the devastation that it caused to a family. John has said “It was written from a place of anger and hurt and reflects that in its vision of the subject matter.”
“We Will Overcome” was a song written about our own band. The struggles we had in trying to get our music heard and the process of getting out to do what we love. It was the cultivation of our collective feelings towards that strive for success that we shared. We were each going through a lot around that time and this was a much-needed positive tone for us. The music for this song came together very quickly during rehearsal one night. I think we wrote 90 percent of it in about a half an hour.
YOC does not have a song that is specific to corruption in authority.
Do you think the lyrics to those songs are written in a way people who have had similar experiences can relate to?
Yes I do. That was the intention at least. We wanted our own experiences to be written about in a way that helped each of us but could also be applied to other situations. Everybody goes through their own turmoil in life. Sometimes you need to get that off your chest or hear words of encouragement. That is something that we whole heartedly believe in. We wrote the music that we needed. If somebody else can benefit just as much, all the better.
Tell the readers about the advocacy you're involved in. Are there any activities related to it?
The advocacy I’m involved with, which pertains to APBTs, basically boils down to being a good ambassador for the breed whenever possible. It’s a hot topic and I understand that not everyone will have the same perspective I do. Some have had very bad experiences and their opinions should not be discounted. The open dialogue, and understanding of the issue, is what I hope comes to light though. It’s very easy to see one of these dogs and think you should be scared of them. However, that is not the dog's fault. That is because we live in a world where news outlets sensationalize anything that involves them. I always say, you either hear of a “Dog attack” or a “Pit bull attack” as if they are two different things. To be clear, I don’t recommend putting your guard down with any animal, especially one that you are not familiar with. These dogs are not for everybody and that’s ok. In fact, I don’t want to see just anybody with them. They are smart, physically fit, and very capable in many aspects. They also have the reputation that now comes with them. That alone means it’s an added responsibility above most other breeds. Unfortunately, heartless people will exploit them to make money or show others they are some type of badass just by having them. These dogs are tortured, starved, physically manipulated, and fought (to the death in many cases) before being discarded. Many times, these dogs escape the horrible situation they are in or are thrown away like garbage before roaming the streets or going after somebody. It’s not right and it starts by being a responsible owner. I myself didn’t realize at the time that all of this was a thing. Jade, the one whom ABD was about, was a family dog. She was a puppy when I got her and it’s not like she came with instructions. I learned the hard way that they are judged and shunned by the public eye. It’s funny how they are known for being protective but they themselves need it just as much sometimes. I blame myself the most for what had happened, which is why I chose to save her at the cost of thousands that I didn’t have. Would it have happened the way it did though if she was a different breed? I don’t really think so.
My recommendation for anybody looking to get involved, or adopt, is to educate themselves and find a local rescue to follow. Rescues usually have activities and events that can be attended. Learn for yourself what the real story is behind this breed. Above all, be honest with yourself. Do you have the time, patience, and proper situation to go the extra mile with these dogs? It’s a lot of responsibility and it does no good if you can’t do well by them. The last Year Of Confession show was billed as a Positive Pit Bull Awareness event that we put together. We had “New York Bully Crew” down there and handed out information in support of the cause.
What was the turnout at the Positive Pit Bull Awareness event when you appeared there? If Covid restrictions should be lifted, do you think you’re play more shows like it?
The turnout for that show was very different actually. We booked it ourselves and since it was sort of a reunion show at the time, we purposely put other bands on that could benefit more from the exposure provided. We had people coming down who didn’t even listen to this type of music but wanted to show support. It was a little strange but very cool in a way. We probably could have had a larger turnout overall if we went about it differently but we have no problem falling on our sword for a good cause. We would love to play more shows like that whenever it’s feasible to do. Right now, we are focused on getting back in the loop more and getting reacquainted. There’s a good amount of local bands that I’m only now discovering. There’s also a ton of music that I feel like I missed out on, I’m adding stuff to my rotation often. This may take a while.
Who are the bands you’re discovering of late and getting reacquainted with?
There are some that I heard on Sirius XM over the past couple of years that I think are really good. A few that stand out for me are Spiritbox, Moon Tooth, and Slaughter To Prevail. I just started using Spotify when we uploaded our music, but I have been able to find some of the bands I’ve been hearing about through social media. Johnny Booth & Incendiary for example. I’ve been really into what I’m hearing from them and find it interesting. I get a Snapcase vibe from Incendiary which I think is awesome. I’ve been able to catch up a little with some releases by Cave In and I also just saw that Botch released a new single. That is pretty awesome.
Do you remember what program on Sirius XM played Spiritbox, Moon Tooth, and Slaughter To Prevail? Are these underground bands or bands that started underground and grew closer to the mainstream?
The station is called Liquid Metal, I’m not sure what program it was specifically. These bands started off as underground and have since become bigger or are already part of the mainstream scene now. They each show a lot of style and have a uniqueness about them that I enjoy hearing. Moon Tooth is from Long Island, which is pretty cool.
How much will Sirius XM, net radio and streaming play a part in underground music in the future? Where will YOC fit into this, do you think? Is there new material you’re working on that you plan to shop around?
In terms of access to music, streaming is a game changer. I think whether we like it or not it plays a very big part. There’s so much music in every genre that is available at the touch of a button now. It’s potentially more exposure but as always there are two sides to every coin. The industry seems to be putting a focus now on paid promotion. The music is there, but who will be able to find it without promotion? So that’s one tough thing. Same with social media. It seems like you can post stuff until the cows come home. Nobody will see it nowadays. In essence it gives the industry a different type of control. I don’t know to what extent Sirius XM will play but I have always thought it would be nice if they had an unsigned band segment that would bring light to underground artists. They seem to be focusing on bands that are starting to get huge or are already influential from the past. That’s important as well, don’t get me wrong. It would be nice though.
When it comes to Year Of Confession, we plan on taking advantage of streaming however we can and are finally getting our music out there. We were at a disadvantage beforehand because unless a local band was touring extensively or doing a ton of internet sales for some reason, it was much more difficult to share music. Streaming opens up a lot of possibilities. On and off during our hiatus, we have written stuff that was never recorded. Most of that has never been heard by anybody. We are tossing around the idea of recording those songs and releasing them at some point. In terms of completely new material, it’s hard to say what the future holds. None of us are against the idea, like I said earlier it’s just a matter of being able to. One thing I know for sure is that since picking my guitar back up for the show in November, I find myself naturally starting to write stuff. I suppose it depends on how things unfold going forward. Something is telling me that our work is not done, so if there are any fans of ours that are reading this, I would say definitely keep following us wherever you can. You never know.
John Alaia: Vocals
Dan Buckley: Guitars
Joseph J Micolo III: Bass
Brian Calhoun: Drums