If you’re a person who enjoys listening to music, you won’t like Words.
“We’re a band’s band,” explains Morgan Travis, the band’s 19-year-old guitarist/vocalist. He explains that the music they create—"early ‘90s San Diego post hardcore"—seems to appeal mostly to musicians who have played in bands, and not as much to casual consumers. They wear their disregard for fashionable norms—"just doing whatever we want"—as a badge of honor. This band is not aiming at the center.
In a Reno basement, resembling a sadistic dungeon from a Saw movie, Travis is joined by Scott Bates, 22, on bass; Justin Morales, 23, on guitar and vocals; Julian Zurdo, 23, on drums; and Amber Sallaberry—who goes by Penny—on keys. Words rehearses and records in this dungeon, and apparently they work hard. Since forming in October 2006, they’ve written 14 songs, and by their one-year anniversary, they hope to have completed three recordings. The first, a split 7-inch with fellow Reno rockers Think in French, is available now.
They cite Think in French as an influence, along with a unanimous and unabashed love for Fugazi. If you are familiar with either of these bands, you will know what to expect from Words.
“Really harsh frequencies and extremely fast drums,” says Travis. Morales and Bates pooh-pooh this explanation, preferring instead to descend into hardcore punk pedantry, referencing the obscure “San Diego post hardcore” scene.
“But when we play live, you wouldn’t be able to tell anything,” Morales says. That’s because their live performance has more to do with cultivating an intense, sometimes overwhelming energy than with hitting every note and striking every chord. During a recent performance, Travis was so consumed with rocking out that he inadvertently wiggled out of the shoulder strap of his guitar and accidentally dropped the instrument. “I get down,” he says, shrugging. Another obstacle preventing one from discerning what, specifically, is being done musically is the volume. A Words set is incredibly loud.
None of this is to say the band lacks musical talent. Each member has been playing music for at least five years, coming together from various other projects. Most recently, Travis and Bates were both members of War Tree, a hardcore band that performed in and around Reno until last year, when Travis quit the band and convinced Bates to jump ship with him. Having all been members of other bands and all disciples of the church of MacKaye, they found it easy to find themselves as a band rather quickly, and they’ve been busy honing their sound and writing songs since.
The next several months promise to be busy for Words. The split 7-inch was just released, and they are working on recording a full length album, which they hope to have completed by June because they are already planning a 19-day West Coast tour to promote it. After that, they want to record again this fall.
So, Words—and hardcore in general—isn’t for everyone. If you want to gently nod your head to a groovy bass line or hum along with a soothing melody, Words might not be your thing. If, however, you’re more inclined to bang your head than softly nod it; if you prefer screaming to humming, and you own some proper ear protection, this band deserves your attention.