Punk rock has always been about creating tension. And the balance between earning a living wage and having artistic freedom is a tension that almost every artist must face. It’s that tension that serves as the subject of most of the songs on the Lancaster-based punk and post-hardcore band Spill’s self-titled EP.
In Spill’s songs, Brandon Gepfer, lead guitarist, vocalist and primary songwriter, reveals his unpropitious experience working at a job he hated, which left him with a depressive feeling of dissatisfaction. Through his lyrics, he speaks on behalf of artists who are forced to live two lives – one as a musician, rocking shows in front of fans at night, and the other as someone trapped in a mundane job, trying to climb the corporate ladder during the day. It is not a desirable scenario for any musician, but he realized he was getting older and had to worry about how to stay afloat financially. “The songs are about me working downtown at a bank and wanting to blow my brains out, so it’s mostly me complaining to myself,” says Gepfer.
In “Sucks Either Way” – the band’s single, which caught the attention of influential New York-based music blog BrooklynVegan – Gepfer expresses the frustrations he felt being only able to play shows on the weekends and not being able to make his passion his full-time gig and the emotional strains of his paradoxical job. Lines like “Took a job in taking homes/These people can’t afford a loan,” are juxtaposed against lines about the satisfaction of the financial reward “Got a mortgage now/a few things that make me smile/go to home improvement stores/and I buy brand new floors/ oh boy.”
His depression worsened when his band stopped touring and he was only able to play occasional shows. The song goes on, “Used to be in a touring band/ask my mom to buy me a van.” This feeling of hopelessly conforming to the norm and putting his dream on the back burner eventually forced him to reevaluate his priorities and he decided to quit his job in favor of his art.
Since their formation in December 2015 and the release of a self-titled debut EP this past August, Spill has already made a name for themselves in the local music scene and beyond. The attention from BrooklynVegan in March resulted in them scoring a show at South by Southwest in Austin, TX, which enabled them to expand their audience outside central Pennsylvania.
Spill consists of Gepfer on vocals and guitar, Andrew Gelburd on guitar, Rafael Diaz on bass and Marco Florey on drums. Their style of music has been dubbed “funky punk with vocals,” though they don’t quite agree on how to characterize their genre. Labels mean very little to them, but they all agree they are an emo band with screamo influence and the indie punk rock label seems to be the closest genre they fit into, but Gepfer is still resistant to that label.
“I don’t think we’re a punk band because no one in the band wears spiky jackets,”
Spill came together through the dissolution of two other bands, Placeholder and We Were Skeletons. Diaz, who was in the screamo band We Were Skeletons, says he was able to bring the melodic bass style he cultivated during that time to Spill.
Placeholder, largely characterized as emo, gave Spill a stepping stone to evolve into their current style. Gepfer admits the first couple of Spill songs were originally meant for Placeholder, but maintains that Spill is a band which stands on its own and isn’t a replica of anything they’ve done before. As Florey puts it, “It’s a new vessel on the same journey.”
Diverging from the DIY culture they have been part of in the past, Spill is on the independent record label Broken World Media. At a time when more artists are viewing record labels as unnecessary, Spill is taking advantage of the opportunity of not having to raise money alone. This way they can spend less time worrying about obtaining resources and more time making their art.
Since the release of their five song EP they having been working on four new songs. They also want to record a full-length album, hoping to be able to market it through record labels.
As they steadily gain more attention they are on the road to making their dreams come to fruition. As Diaz puts it, “What I realized is that music is the thing I want to do and I want to do everything I can to make this my job.”
It is obvious every member of Spill will do anything it takes to make that happen. Gepfer says, “I’ve never not wanted to go to California. I’ve never not wanted to go to Europe. The record’s getting done and we’re hitting the road.”