Stand too close to crushing metalcore band Coalesce, and you're liable to be hit with some kind of rock & roll shrapnel: a piece of drummer James DeWees' drum set, a pointy guitar stock courtesy of new guitarist Corey White, maybe even a snot globule from vocalist Sean Ingram's nose. And you'd better be grateful for it, too—after releasing one of 1999's loudest and most technically innovative full-lengths, Coalesce disintegrated into three years' worth of mall-emo not-so-side projects—Aieeeeeee! The Get Up Kids! Grgrgrgrh! Reggie and the Full Effect!—that barely if ever crushed anything at all. It's only now, with a revamped lineup and on their first comprehensive national tour, that fans are finally getting a chance to taste the snot globules for themselves.
"There are kids coming to the shows who have never seen Coalesce but have seen Get Up Kids four times," says always good-natured and talkative multi-instrumentalist DeWees. "There are kids who heard Sean's voice for the first time when he guest appeared on the Reggie [and the Full Effect] record. It's cool. [Coalesce is] something that we all did years ago, and it's cool to see that there's a lot of appreciation for what we have done."
Earning a reputation as a projectile-throwing trail-blazing band in both the underground metal and hardcore scene hasn't been easy for Coalesce. When was the last time you heard something this brutal and fucked-up roar out of Kansas, excepting Bob Dole, of course? But their last full studio album (1999's 0:12 Revolution in Just Listening on monster label Relapse) astounded fans and critics alike with its mind-numbing combination of classic-rock-meets-death-metal riffing, punchy rhythms and Ingram's unique lyrics—songs like "Sometimes Selling Out is Waking Up" and "Jesus in the Year 2000/Next on the Shit List," demonstrate a fiercely individualistic creative stance, a rarity in a scene made up of cookie-cutter straight-edge bands and Make-Out Club-surfing sheep.
Forget Metallica and Black Flag: Ingram once told me that "jazz and barbecue" were the primary influences on his band when they formed in relatively rural Kansas City, Missouri, and bordering Kansas almost 10 years ago. Ingram—whose somewhat portly figure suggests that he has tested out at least half of that recipe himself—has spent the subsequent years keeping the Coalesce machine alive, with DeWees by his side.
They've fought it out through two remarkably fluid bassists, two incredibly gifted guitar players and an equal amount of widely publicized breakups, the last of which saw longtime six-stringer Jes Stieneger leaving the band. But the introduction of new kid Corey White allowed Coalesce to reemerge happier than ever before.
"Everybody has gotten older, and we're doing this because everybody wants to do it, not because we 'have' to," DeWees explains. "Everybody that's involved in it now is all in it for the same reason. It's a blast traveling. All of our gear is just stacked up in the back of this van. It's fun! And after everything that we've all been up to during the past three years, we just love getting out and just doing it.
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"And we're not 'corporate Coalesce' yet," he continues—this band's commitment to back-to-basics networking is a bit different from the tour buses his other projects enjoy on the road. "We'll probably never be. I've been seeing the business side of music the past couple of years and how crappy it treats the bands. Doing Coalesce is like, 'Fuck it! We'll go play a basement show!' We'll crash on your floor, whatever. That's always been our mentality for Coalesce, and it's cool to have it back again."
Oh, yeah, and they promise to go easy on the shrapnel this time around—if only because DeWees' high school cousin might be at the show.
"None of that stuff was ever intentional!" says DeWees with a laugh. "We put on an intense show, but I'm not a psychopathic madman and neither is Sean, Stacy or Cory. Usually the only ones to get hurt at our shows are us—or our gear. Our gear gets it worse than anything!"
Coalesce performs with the Esoteric, Curl Up and Die, and Eniac at Chain Reaction, 1652 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 635-6067; www.allages.com. Sun., 7:30 p.m. $10. All ages.