It’s the anthem to the freak revolution.
The misfits who keep the world of hardcore punk thriving have embraced NYC psych rock band Dead Heavens with open arms. Comprised of Walter Schreifels (guitar/vocals), Paul Kostabi (guitar), Nathan Aguilar (bass) and Drew Thomas (drums), the group so used to slam pits and walls of death have taken a new turn.
Each member has put in time in successful bands from different genres. Aguilar played bass for synth-heavy band Cults; Kostabi was a founding member of Rob Zombie’s White Zombie. Thomas played for the NYC hardcore bands Crippled Youth and Bold while Schreifels played guitar with legendary ’80s hardcore groups Gorilla Biscuits and Youth Of Today before fronting beloved post-hardcore outfit Quicksand.
BTRtoday chatted with Schreifels about Dead Heavens’ newest album Whatever Witch You Are, making the switch from hardcore punk to psych-garage rock and the DIY mentality.
“When you come up in the hardcore scene you realize you just need to do it [music] and you do it the best you can,” Schreifels says. “If it fails, you just do it again. There’s that DIY mentality and I think you have to be that way now if you want to really follow your dreams.”
Growing up in Queens, NY Schreifels says that the hardcore scene offered a comfortable home for him as a teenager. He discovered the genre while switching through the radio and landing on a station that barely came in called The Midnight Riot. “They played all NY hardcore stuff, which at that time was really just starting,” Schreifels tells BTRtoday. “When I moved closer to Manhattan, I started to go to CBGBs and hardcore shows and it was so much more exciting than the punk stuff that had already happened by the time I was a teenager.”
Even though Dead Heavens is not hardcore punk, Schreifels admits that he owes everything to this genre. “It was a valuable education that I got in that world,” he says. “It’s a magnet or refuge, especially in high school where it’s hard to fit in—you can go to the hard core thing and find all the other people who don’t fit in and then you can create your own new hierarchy and then that becomes your new place.”
The punk influences are unmistakable in Whatever Witch You Are. The drumbeats are fast and robust with nightmarish guitar riffs. Schreifels learned guitar via Cream, Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix and the influence of those classic rockers are evident in Dead Heavens, particularly in the extended psychedelic musical breaks.
Dead Heavens is touring the west coast. Schreifels says the songs have evolved after playing them live. “It’s nice to allow ourselves to evolve and to really own what we’re doing and create this solid foundation,” he says. “Having the album is almost like the cap on that—I‘m just really excited about where we go with this and what the possibilities are from this point.”
Schreifels assures us that his music is all encompassing and that he wants to attract fans from every genre—especially the outcasts.
“You don’t need anyone to give you permission or to validate whatever your dream or vision is,” he advises. “The freaks and the weirdos shall inherit the earth. “