Jim Williams, the vocalist of the band the Scattering, likes to talk between songs during the band’s sets. Williams is a sincere, earnest guy, and he says that talking between the songs is something he does deliberately.
“Everything I learned about compassion and empathy and social justice, I learned from people in bands talking about that stuff onstage,” he said recently. “So, it’s an important history for me to carry on and pass on to the younger kids, who are just coming up through the scene now.”
“He’ll ask people in the audience, ’If anyone has any problems with depression, I’ll give you my phone number, we’ll talk—don’t do anything stupid,’” said drummer Brian Boydstun. “That’s a nice thing, because this type of music tends to draw different marginalized types of people. Stuff like that drew me to this type of music when I first started going to shows. It didn’t matter what you looked like or what you liked, you could go to a punk show and everybody would get along.”
The frank discussions might seem surprising when contrasted with the band’s actual music, which is fast, heavy and might sometimes seem violent. It’s music that demands to be seen and heard in person, because of its immediacy and volume, and the interactions among the band members and the people in the audience in basements or other cramped spaces, often literally and figuratively underground.
“It’s hot and there’s nowhere to go,” said Boydstun. “I think the first show we ever played, I looked out at one point and Jim had a kid in a headlock and was parading him around while screaming.”
The manic energy of the audience at a hardcore show is an important part of the experience for a band like the Scattering, which also includes guitarists Jason Jo and Josh Ah Sam, and bassist John Benson.
“Looking out and seeing people headbanging and stuff—it’s good to see what we’re doing being reciprocated by the people watching," said Benson. “That’s always rad.”
All of the members of the band are over 30, so they’re a little older than the 20-somethings and teens that come to many of their all-ages shows.
“We’re seeing a lot of these young kids that none of us know at all of our shows,” said Jo. “It does make us feel really old, but at the same time it’s really cool.”
“Eyes Ahead,” one of four songs on the band’s self-titled EP, released last December and available from their website, is about depression and anger management. Williams wrote the lyrics while he himself was having a panic attack.
“Most of the stuff I write is really personal,” he said. “I try to write about social issues, and depression comes up a lot because I struggle with depression, and it’s something that I wanted to start a dialogue about with kids that are listening to us. … I know, with my own personal struggles, that the only thing that helped me was talking to people who had been through it.”
The group’s music is a little metal, and a little hardcore, but not really metalcore. The band members prefer describing it as “metallic hardcore” or “hardcore with metal tendencies.” The music is played at breakneck hardcore tempos, but the guitar riffs are metallic.
“It’s fast, primarily,” said Boydstun. “As time has gone by, it’s definitely gotten more metal sounding, but at first it was just fast, and anything that it sounded like was secondary to just being fast.”
“Our slow jam was like 180 beats per minute,” said Ah Sam.
Boydstun describes the experience of creating music at those extremely fast tempos as like an adrenaline-fueled endurance test.
“It’s cheaper than therapy,” he said. “It’s just fun to see how long you can hold it together. … It’s fun because it’s challenging. For 25 minutes, or however long you’re playing, you’re either going to get it all there or you have to stop. When it all works right, you get what’s on the inside on the outside, and it’s great.”