The Fredericksburg screamo band has built quite a buzz recently, but for Infant Island, music is still mainly a way to connect with like-minded souls.
“Friends are fans. Fans are friends,” said Infant Island’s drummer, Austin O’Rourke.
“Fans are friends, not food,” chimed in the band’s guitarist, Alex Rudenshiold.
The Fredericksburg-based screamo band – whose name is an homage to the 1961 Japanese kaiju (monster) film Mothra – was on their way to a show in a Richmond basement, and I was tagging along. Despite Infant Island receiving recent coverage in publications like Vice and The Washington Post, the band remains charmingly humble and connected to their fan base.
“It’s weird to think that we have fans, honestly,” Rudenshiold said. “I know somewhere internally that we do. There are people who really like our music, which is wild.”
Rudenshiold and O’Rourke emphasized the community dynamic of the local music scene.
“If you like our music, that’s cool, but I’d prefer that you like us as people as well,” Rudenshiold said. “We try to talk to people as much as possible, and get to know them.”
“Fans and friends are kind of synonymous,” O’Rourke added. “For me at least, just being in a music project like this, that exists in a physical way, is such a good therapeutic thing for me as a human. This is my friend group. This is being social for me.”
One of Infant Island’s fan-friends is Emily Harrah, who has been following the band since this summer when they dropped their self-titled first album.
“Infant Island’s music to me is a catharsis; it helps me drown any negativity and gives me something to cling on to and empathize with,” she said. “Because of its loud, chaotic nature, it’s easy to put on their music, turn up the volume, and envelope myself in nothing but the soundscapes they create. It’s raw, unfiltered, passionate punk music that knows how to balance out brutality with beauty, and that’s exactly how I like it.”
Rudenshiold said that the close relationship with fans has made the band’s recent high-profile acclamation all the more heartwarming.
“People are so supportive in our community and our scene,” he said. “Not that they wouldn’t be if they didn’t know us, but it’s so nice to have people personally cheering you on.”
Although Virginia has been lauded as a mecca for hardcore music, Infant Island is technically Fredericksburg’s only screamo band. O’Rourke said the term “screamo” is often misused.
“You have people who will call any derivative of metal or rock and roll screamo, when it’s its own genre,” he said. “Screamo also is a genre, just like grindcore, just like black metal, just like death metal and math core.”
The Fredericksburg music scene is incredibly tight-knit, according to O’Rourke and Rudenshiold.
“I’ve noticed all [of Fredericksburg’s] music tends to stem from the same place, of both comfort and discomfort in the world,” O’Rourke said. “When it comes to the shoegaze in the area, or the screamo in the area, or even the neoclassical in the area, to me it all has the same seed of thought, but it’s just different ways of expressing it.”
Fredericksburg, Rudenshiold agreed, has a distinct sound and musical lineage.
“I feel like we fit very comfortably into that, even though we’re the only band of our specific genre from around the area really,” he said. “Because there’s very few of each kind of band in Fredericksburg, we all have this kind of community. I think it’s a really good community of people who believe in Do It Yourself (DIY) music and that ethos.”
The group’s Richmond house show was on a Friday in February and featured Black Matter Device, a math core band also from Fredericksburg. Infant Island also played a benefit show in DC the next day with popular punk band Anti-Flag and post-hardcore quartet NØ MAN, featuring former members of well-known DC screamo band Majority Rule.
“The show [Friday] is awesome because it’s with our friends,” O’Rourke said. “It feels like a nice comfortable spot where you show your family your art, and they’re like ‘oh this is great.’ But [Saturday’s show], it’s with everyone’s childhood idols. It’s going to be pretty bizarre.”
According to O’Rourke, the band’s next goals are to “finish [the second] album, go on tour [and] survive both of those things.”
“Honestly, Alex is like, superhuman, in that he’s always on to the next thing,” O’Rourke said. “So he’s already started writing the third album. Meanwhile, I’m still trying to finish writing this album. I’m glad – I think I represent somebody who could stay in one thing forever. I could easily work on this album for years.”
“I’m really excited to be playing new material in general,” Rudenshiold said. “All the songs we’re playing tonight are on a new record we just recorded. It’s not super-announced yet, but it’s coming.”
The band’s first album was two and a half years in the making. Their second record is a marked change from that.
“These songs songs are so fun to play,” Rudenshiold said. “They’re a little more complicated, a little more technical than our old material, which is more fun for me to play.”
“The new songs they’ve been playing live recently have been quite a bit more aggressive than the songs from their self-titled album, which has me very, very excited,” Harrah said. “I love seeing bands improving on their formula in a way that helps keep a signature sound but never makes things boring or repetitive.”
At Friday’s show, the mosh pit was more intense than anyone in Infant Island had seen during their set.
“It’s really fun because the energy we put into it, you can see it literally get digested by the audience and they throw it back at us,” O’Rourke said. “It’s really cool. I probably could have worded that much much more normally.”
“I know for a fact that Infand Island are, without a doubt, not only some of the nicest, supportive, and loving people in the local punk scene, but absolutely one of the best punk acts in Virginia,” Harrah said. “I’m so proud of Daniel, Alex, Kyle, and Austin, and I can’t thank them enough for doing what they do, and being in my life.”
Top Photo by Danilandia
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