They loved them because they were bleeding.
When Behold, a band that was beloved in the local heavy music scene here in the mid-2000s, would finish a show, they’d be bloody and exhausted.
“I think we got a reputation because it was so over the top,” says Chris Peterson, who played in Behold and now plays drums in Losing Skin. “People came to watch the car wreck. They wanted to watch us fall.
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“[We were] taking the catharsis that is hardcore to a ridiculous extreme. It was our therapist and we were just taking it way too far,” he says.
Onstage it was a massacre. Alex Boston, the band’s singer, would beat himself in the face with his microphone until he bled and break Peterson’s cymbals. He’d push the guitarist through a literal wall of amps. “It sounded like a Burzum record cranked. Like a plane was landing on you. You couldn’t hear drums or vocals,” Peterson says.
As Behold slowly fizzled out in 2009, Boston was left with a band he loved, but with members who couldn’t commit.
He started looking around for something new and started jamming with then 17-year-old guitar phenom Chase Grillo, who was playing in a two-piece called Whalelimb.
Together they experimented with the heavy sounds that they loved — writing songs, rewriting them, scrapping them altogether. And eventually adding new members: Peterson and bassist Brandon Steward, who’d both played in Behold.
They didn’t want to rehash what they did before, or be constricted by any sort of hardcore confines. With Grillo on guitar (he says he’s equally as influenced by goth as he is by death metal), they saw themselves leaning heavier, their music getting blacker and things becoming more metallic than before.
“I remember being younger and loving Neurosis’ Through Silver in Blood and seeing interviews where those guys were like ‘Yeah, we can never do anything darker,’” Peterson says. “And I was like ‘I’m out to prove them wrong.’ I’m out to do something pitch-black and just, like, ripping your chest open. Here’s a soul.”
And so Losing Skin started projecting the blackest, darkest sounds it could muster — songs of burning bones, tombstone cities, faces smashing into concrete and fluorescent light bulbs being affixed to the insides of eyelids.
“Behold was very internally damaging,” Boston says. “I wanted Losing Skin to be outwardly damaging. I wanted to put that on other people, not on the band itself anymore.”
But what makes Losing Skin so interesting is all of the influences its members bring to the band — emotive goth, stoner rock, sludge, death metal — to construct some of the most indisputably brutal, serious and unapologetic music that Spokane’s scene has ever heard. It’s an outlet for the four 20-something men, a release of tension at the end of the work day.
Their unique sound has taken them on tours from Reno, Nev., to Southern California, and one that’s become respected enough to get them invited to Seattle’s hardcore gathering, Rainfest, for three years in a row — something few other bands can tout.
And though Losing Skin has matured in its sound and its focus since those Behold days, there’s still a little bloodshed.
The band prefers playing shows on venue floors, rather than on the stage, in order to be in the audience. And sometimes that can get a little messy.
“If I am on this gigantic stage, I feel like I’m not a part of what everyone is seeing,” says Boston, who sheds his glasses onstage and assumes a stalking, hulking persona. “I already feel alienated from the crowd anyway, being in front of them and yelling stupid things into a microphone.”
“I’m going to take as much out on myself as I’m going to take out on you,” he explains. “The last few shows we played, it’s like I’m spitting on Chris. But I’m also spitting on people. And I’m throwing a mic stand into the crowd. I’m not looking to hurt somebody, but it’s like if you’re there to watch us and you want to know what we’re about, you have to be in the mentality that we are. And I don’t feel like we can do that from a stage.”
To understand Losing Skin is to literally feel what they’re doing.
“I think our music is very catharsis-based,” Boston says. “It’s not like, ‘Hey, attack somebody.’ It’s ‘Hey, we’re getting something out, you should get something out, too.’”
Losing Skin play Volume on Fri, June 1, at 9:30 pm at A Club.
How We Picked 'Em
Just like we have the past two years, we anchored this issue with the most interesting, groundbreaking, unique Bands to Watch from the Inland Northwest — chosen by a dogged committee of local music fans: Justin East, Patrick Kendrick, Ryan Levey, Jordy Byrd, Jordan Satterfield and myself. We deliberated over the course of a few months over which bands to highlight this year. Choosing just five, like we usually do, wasn’t possible: Six acts had won our hearts. In the next few pages, read about all of them.
And then come to our show — the first-ever Volume Block Party — on June 1 to see those bands and 32 others play live. All of this is just our way of giving the local music scene — from acoustic singers to the most pissed-off metal bands — a big sweaty bear hug. Keep it up, guys. We like you.
– LEAH SOTTILE, Inlander music editor