We had a chance to interview Jeff Caffey, the creator of Olympia Hardcore. Olympia Hardcore is two days and five shows of hardcore punk – the 4th installment comes August 5th and 6th of 2017 in Olympia.
Olympia Hardcore Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/264515980632053/
First of all, what bands are you currently involved in?
I am currently playing in GAG, Angel Du$t and Odd Man Out, those are my primary touring projects. I also play in a band called Turtle Neck and have two long distance projects I’m involved in called Bad Blood and Mongrel that pop up when I don’t expect them. I also have a habit of filling in for lots of bands and am always writing for projects. Oh, and I also play in Stand Up.
Are you from Olympia?
I’m from Olympia. Grew up in Richmond, BC after I was adopted then moved back to Olympia in my youth and have been here ever since.
How did OHC get started? I assumed you started it being that you seem to be in charge of it all.
Yeah, I book and organize everything but that’s not to say that I don’t have help. Olympia and all my friends are an amazing and supportive community and it wouldn’t be able to happen if it weren’t for their help and it wouldn’t be nearly as fun as it is if it weren’t for such a vibrant and exciting scene like the northwest coming out and making it a wild time. To speak to how it began: I used to work on a collective that did a fest called New Direction Fest which was a hardcore punk fest with workshops focused on applying the basic values of a counter culture music scene outside of just playing in a band. Bands from all over were asked to play based on their political activity or values communicated through the band. The collective dissolved and I had promised some friends from Mexico in a band called Brigada Roja I’d bring them back someday. A year passed without anything and it just felt wrong. In 2013, I began organizing for what is now called OHC to take place in early August of 2014. The primary fire under my butt was accelerated by hearing the Tercer Mundo 7″ for the first time and realizing they were one of the most important bands in hardcore currently. I contacted them and set up flying them out for what became the first fest. I hesitate to call it a fest though. I don’t want to call it a fest. It’s just a couple big shows with friends from all over the world. Also, the reason our collective disbanded was we bit off more than we could chew the second year flying out too many bands one of which was Oi Pollois first American gig ever. Also to add to earlier, shout outs to Hayes, Mircé, Corey, Joey, Ian, Jake, anyone who had worked door or helped me move gear and has gone above and beyond to help support something really cool happening for music in Olympia.
What do you think makes Oly so special in terms of its hardcore scene? You guys churn out so many great bands pretty quickly which I find kind of crazy.
Olympia is the perfect climate for hardcore punk. It’s radically politically charged and is a community oriented city. It’s also extremely easy to live there and not work, rent and collaborative living are easy to handle. The pace is slow so you’re forced to be introspective and invent your community more; you have more say to do what you want in your space, you can start a venue, jam a band in your living room, etc. it fosters a good work ethic because you have to make things happen, nothing is handed to you and you have to work hard to tour and make something happen for your city, no bands will come there unless you make it worth the 12 hour drive. There are so many factors that play into it being the perfect place to foster a “roots” first wave hardcore feel. The cynicism and desire to hone the craft is there. The community is one of music lovers so they create music that is good in respect to the genre. Even bands that just start have that spirit you need to create a band that grabs people.
I could praise Olympia all damn day but like all cities, it has its drawbacks. I just find that when you have to work hard to make a band viable you definitely have more passion and more of a spark. Bigger cities where flash in the pan bands can start and achieve instant success makes for bland and mundane music. I’ve been paying out of pocket to tour since my first West Coast jaunt when I was seventeen years old. And I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Makes me want to support other bands with that same passion even harder.
Do you think part of it has to do with how quickly bands turnover?
I’m sure that’s a factor. There is a trend of marketing hardcore I’ve seen come hand-in-hand with the increased involvement of social media in the past couple years and that kind of guides the modern trends. The Pacific Northwest is a beautiful place because people are just juiced on fierce hardcore and put on for their friends always
I think OHC is fully as cool as it is because it takes place in Olympia.
So, what are some highlights of last years OHC and what are you looking forward to this year?
Last year was a whirlwind and a damn blast, to be honest I’m currently on a job site so I’m having a hard time thinking but Bugg, Gem and Milk Music were some of the sets I was most excited for. GLOSS’s set was out of control of course and when Gag played The Pizzeria, it was pandemonium. Seeing MPK for the first time far exceeded my expectations they were incredible. The things I’m most excited for aren’t always the draws of the fest though, I have a very niche love for a lot of things. I remember being very disappointed because Mark from Indiana was gonna do a medley of DLIMC tracks but he got stuck in Seattle. I think they made an appearance at Juan’s fest in Austin this year so I’m glad it saw corporeal form somewhere on earth. Which reminds me that was also one of CCTVs last shows and an incredible one. This year I’m way over my head, just know it’s gonna be damn exciting. Very excited for Riña from Mexico City and to see P-22 from Los Angeles perform here because people are definitely going to vibe with them in Olympia. I don’t even remember all the other bands I’ve announced. Also Rik and the Pigs playing in the alley with their lineup of tons of extra pigs was fucking awesome.
Has it been hard to keep all of the shows so cheap? You seem super into bringing bands from all over but that’s gotta be expensive. Do you fundraise?
I’m fortunate enough that a lot of my friends are willing to plan tours around that time I only fly a handful of bands at a time. I believe in fully returning the money people pay to my friend’s art (where it belongs) and the infrastructure of the event (I always tip people who work the after shows and keep old school open, tip Capt Tripps for always killing it on sound, tip Hayes for all his help and door and tip everyone who lends their equipment). I make sure the majority of funds go to bands on tour and whatever’s left goes to bands that fly out and locals. It’s why I don’t like to call it a fest because it’s about supporting the music where it’s due not paying some band some ridiculous amount to play one fly out gig. The support is the only way it doesn’t go belly up and I’m very thankful that people choose to spend money on an event I think is so cool. I don’t expect people to like the things I like but I genuinely think the music my friends make is like the coolest shit ever
That makes sense and it’s obviously important to keep it cheap or it’s not really authentically hardcore anymore. Do you see OHC going on for a while longer or do you think it has an end date?
I think it’s important to try and avoid the grip capital has on hardcore as it stands. Even the way we market it to each other is such a bummer, the passion and energy should be at the forefront and any form of monetary interaction should be contingent just because that’s the world we live in. I would definitely like to continue doing it until I become uninspired. It’s been very stressful this year but that’s okay because I’m still passionate about it. I think I’ll know when it’s disingenuous and I need to end it, but until that day…
Since we are college radio, it’s sort of my duty to ask you: what you are listening to right now/what we should be listening to right now?
Oh man, right now I’m listening to Dusty Springfield and Jay and the Americans. Early today, I was just listening to a playlist of Chuck Berry and Little Richard while I worked. But in terms of hardcore, this morning I listened to the new Protester LP which smacks – pick it up from Trash King Productions outta D.C. and Cold World who are softly still with us. The new Trapped Under Ice record is cool as fuck and the song ideas for the new Angel Du$t are already stuck in my head. Lower Species just recorded some new material with the almighty Capt Tripps at High Command so do not sleep on that. Odd Man Out has a new LP coming at you and the Phoebe and Not Shit demos outta SoCal rock. Innumerable Forms got an LP coming, I can’t wait for Mirce, just wrote a new Stand Up release. Mala Racha has spirit beyond spirit and I can’t wait to see what that band has in store as well as a million other new projects you’ll be hearing from the northwest. Crimen is reuniting for manic relapse which were one of my favorite Cintas Pepe releases so watch for them in your neck of the woods, they play in Olympia in three days with System Fucker from Japan. Qloaqa Letal is also reuniting for manic relapse so holy shit, get the hell down there because that band is incredible. Keep an ear out for Not Dead Yet this year and Damaged City next year as well as a new event in Houston called Summer Breeze we’re playing. Until then…
(Interview by Dena Fromberg, Local Music Director)