A mess of members from former RVA punk mainstays came together a year ago to form what we now know to be Kommunion.
A mess of members from former RVA punk mainstays came together a year ago to form what we now know to be Kommunion.
Its four members – Marina Madden- vocals, JP Olivos- guitar, Will Jarrot- bass, and Chris Marshall- drums – have just put the finishing touches on their demo, available here digitally and on cassette at Grave Mistake Records and Sorry State Records and To Live a Lie Records or in person at RVA’s Vinyl Conflict.
You’ll notice their fast and aggressive style, harkening back to punk’s forefathers, as they achieve the nobel pursuit of wrecking house shows and setting crowds off into a rabid-frenzy.
RVA Mag’s Laura Bittner sat down with members of Kommunion recently to get more insight into the band and their new demo.
RVA Mag: How did Kommunion start?
Marina- I used to live in Raleigh, North Carolina, and there I started a band there called Last Words with some really awesome people. We were a straight edge band- most of the content for the band was straight edge lyrics, and that was our band for about a year, until I moved out of Raleigh. When I moved back, my friend Chris Marshall, who drums, had moved from Wilmington, and I knew him previously from Raleigh, and he had booked Last Words a few times. He had a band with JP and Will, and initially they had planned on having a different vocalist. But, I had wanted to do vocals in a band for a while since Last Words broke up, and they all knew that and the other person was not as available as they needed them to be, so they asked me to do vocals, and I said yes, and so we came together that way, and we’re all great buddies. They send me music and I write lyrics and I come back on weekends (from attending school in West Virginia) and we practice or play a show, so that’s the way it’s been going.
Will- I had been playing music with JP. We had tried to start more of a poppier band, but that sort of fizzled out. But, we had wanted to play music together and he had some songs written. We played with a couple other guys, and it just didn’t work out with everybody, some people were disinterested, so we asked chris, who I was living with at the time, if he would be interested in coming and playing drums with us, and that worked out well. Then the person we were trying to get to do vocals was not working out, and then they just never made it to practice, so then JP asked Marina if she would be interested, and she was, and it just kinda came together pretty well.
Chris- JP and Will approached me about starting a band, and it took us a little while to find a singer, but we eventually got Marina to start singing. After nine months we kind of got everything together, and I guess that’s when we played our first show. I knew Marina from Last Words and Will was a roommate who I had never met until i moved to Richmond, and JP I had never met until Will approached me for playing music with them.
RVA Mag: How long has Kommunion been together?
Marina – They’ve been playing music for about a year, and I joined about in August, officially. We’ve probably played about six shows at this point. Since everyone has other projects going on, it’s not anyones sole project, so they don’t want all their time to be consumed with Kommunion. Chris is in a band in Wilmington called No Tomorrow and JP’s in Barge, and they tour all the time. It’s kind of a nice project to have for someone who lives out of state, because it doesn’t have to be done all the time.
Will- The four of us have been playing together since August.
RVA Mag: When you originally got together, what was the vision for the band?
Marina – Like I said, there was going to be a different vocalist initially, and I heard their music and thought it was pretty cool and up my alley. I’m a strong supporter of hardcore punk and initially we just kinda wanted it to be a fast, hardcore band, like straightforward with no bullshit, and that’s pretty much how it has turned out. We’ve had a really lovely response from our friends especially. It’s pretty cool that people like us.
Will- JP came originally to me with song ideas, so I had a pretty good idea of he wanted to play, and I was into it. I don’t think it was formed with any real purpose or intent other than to play fast wild music and I don’t think that there’s necessarily any message to our music, aside from the lyrics each individual song would pertain to. I think it was formed for the purpose of playing music and having fun and enjoying some company with friends.
Chris- There really wasn’t one, just for everybody be themselves and be creative and do your own thing, and it wasn’t really something that was very planned out. We just kind of naturally came to the sound we have.
RVA Mag: What are you working on right now?
Marina – Our demo’s actually done really well, we sold a lot of them and we’re actually really excited about that because it makes us feel good about continuing to write. We’re not sure if were gonna write a 7” or LP, but we definitely have plans to keep writing and to try and put out some more material. Since we aren’t having discussions in person together, right now we’re just working on practicing for the next couple of shows, for now. Once I’m back (in Richmond), we’ll probably focus for real on maybe getting a record done or something.
Chris- We just have a couple more songs that we have been working on, and hopefully a 7” in the future. I can’t really say how much from the demo is going to be on there, but if songwriting goes well, it might just be all new material.
RVA Mag: Explain the process of taking an idea and turning it into a song.
Marina- It depends. JP (guitar) has come in with some music he’s written at home, and then somebody will start playing something at practice, and people will like it at practice and start to play it. Will Jarrott (bass) has also written some songs, he’s written some stuff at home and it really depends, but I think for the most part it’s written from the outside and then everybody will learn it. I don’t write the songs until I hear the music.
Will- There has certainly been some collaboration on things in terms of multiple people bringing stuff in and mixing and melding I guess. JP has written most of the stuff that is concrete at this point, but there’s not a whole lot of collective brainstorming, except for when you get there and like you start implementing and working it and thinking, ‘well what if we try it like this.’ From there, Chris has a fair amount of freedom when it comes to how he wants interpret those songs to be played on drums. The bass is a little more constrained, but there’s obviously still a lot of freedom. For the stuff that I’ve been working on at home, you sit around with the guitar until you find something that you think is cool and then you find something else that sounds cool and then somehow find a way to piece them together and then bring them and show them to everyone and say ‘well what do you think?,’ and then try to sculpt it into something that’s cohesive and something that everyone thinks sounds good. With everything with this band, we’ve been writing music first and then lyrics, at least in the terms of the phrases of the lyrics.
Chris- When somebody comes up with a song, we usually have everything figured out, by the end of the song, sometimes. It comes pretty natural to us. JP or Will will come in with riffs, and then we’ll jam it out, and usually somebody will come in with some hooks for it and the introduction, and then we’ll send it to Marina and she’s pretty good with coming up with lyrics pretty fast, so she comes in, and we all kind of do our own thing really. We just try to help each other out when it comes to the finished product.
RVA Mag: What are your practices like?
Marina- They’re really short. We get together, usually after JP gets off work at the coffee shop, and well, if we have a show coming up we’ll run our set three times in a row, and we’ll say ‘ok you good? you good? you good? alright well I’m hungry lets go.’ But, if we have a new song, usually we’ll run that about four or five times before we run the whole set, so that we’ll have it down when we play it at the next show. They’re all just really great people, so it’s never really like not fun or good. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be in the band. This band is especially pretty great.
Will- They’re pretty direct most of the time. We have a practice space down in Shockoe Bottom and with Marina in school, it’s been a lot of JP, Chris and I working on things as the three of us. Then we work on new stuff when she’s in town, with her.
Chris – We kind of practice in spurts, and me and Will and JP will write stuff and send it to Marina, and whenever she’s in town we try to practice a lot. But, with me and JP being in other bands, it’s sometimes hard for us to get a regular practice schedule, sometimes we just kinda get pretty heavy practices in on the weekend. The practices are very laid back, nothing really noteworthy, we kind of just get in there and get it done. We hang out a little bit afterwards. That’s about it. Most of the time it’s just the three of us practicing without a singer, but that’s just how we maintain our tightness and get things done, but Marina’s moving back here soon and it’ll be really good to have her here more often.
RVA Mag: How did you first get involved with playing music?
Marina- When I was growing up, my older brother was into punk music and hardcore music and he used to make me mix CDs or tapes, so when I was like 11 and 12, I got into some entry level bands, and as he learned more about punk, he started to introduce me to more music. He bought me my first turntable and my first record. I thought he was great and I really looked up to him, so then I started really wanting to go to punk shows. On my 13th birthday, I remember going to my first real hardcore show and it being like the most exciting experience. I got really into it after that, I started buying more records and going to more shows when my parents would let me. Sometimes my mom would come with me to shows or her and her boyfriend would come, and my brother was in bands, and I really wanted to be in bands too. So, I started to write lyrics probably when I was 16, and then I ended up being way more into music than I ever thought I would be initially. When I first got into it, I thought, ‘this is cool, this is what my brother does,’ but then after a while it’s like: ‘no, this is actually super important to me,’ and I think that if you’re part of the punk and hardcore community, being is a band is important or setting up shows is important or writing a zine and contributing in some way to the scene, I think that’s important, and that’s part of the reason I wanted to be in bands.
Will- I started playing in elementary school band, and then I bought a bass in eighth grade, and just kind of fell into playing punk music and there was not much overlap between any sort of pop-ier stuff. It was just fun, and playing bass was a lot more interesting to me than playing the trumpet was, and I ended up dedicating a lot more time to messing around with that than with whatever I was supposed to be doing. I should’ve been practicing the trumpet, and I even went to college for a year playing the trumpet. Even then I was way more interested in playing guitar and fooling around doing that stuff than I was in maintaining the scholarships I had for that.
Chris- I’ve been playing drums for eighteen years, and I’ve been in a lot of other bands, but mainly I still play in No Tomorrow.
RVA Mag: What is something vital people should know about Kommunion?
Marina- I definitely have messages in my songs, but there’s not one message I’m trying to put across, and I think that that’s actually important to know. The message is not that were a female-fronted band.There is no one message going on. The message is: don’t be sexist, don’t be homophobic, the message is everything, all the lyrics in my songs. It’s not just one thing.
Will- For me, I have a good time with it because everyone in that band is really important and close to me in a way at this point, so spending my time being creative and productive with those people is very important, and also everyone in the band more so than myself is very talented and it’s fun playing music with people who are competent and able to make stuff happen without struggling to hard with it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’ve been in other bands, and it hasn’t been so easy for someone to just jump in and quickly pick up what is trying to be accomplished in terms of executing a song. In terms of what someone else might appreciate (about Kommunion), I think that we are a very enthusiastic and very energetic band. JP dances a lot while he’s playing and its awesome, and Marina’s a really wonderful front person, and Chris is just like an excellent drummer who hits super hard and we’re a fairly loud band, and I enjoy that as well. So I guess energy, enthusiasm, and the fairly catchy songs, even though were aggressive music.
Chris- I would say that we value individuality. We encourage everybody to focus on being an individual and do their own thing, create their own type of music they feel like is really themselves, and not something they’re trying to imitate.
RVA Mag: Anything to add?
Marina – Give a shit. Be in good bands. Support your friends’ bands. Support your DIY scene. That all sounds good.