I was recently listening to the Union - You Fell For It 7" and I realized that aside from owning the 7" and the In The Shadows CD on Ferret, I really know nothing about the band at all. So I tracked down Union's drummer, Mike, and he was able to give me a full retrospective of the band, including download links for the entire discography.
The band got its’ start in the fall of 1994 at the University at Buffalo. You had a bunch of guys from the NYC area going to college 400 miles away from home who decided to do a band in a town that was new to all of us. When the band began we were originally called Facedown. By late fall of ’94, we cut a 3 song demo on a 4 track, recorded by our buddy Ed from the band Gathering Ground, the Network Sound band. The songs were a strange mix of Outburst meets Black Train Jack. Very odd in hindsight. We played around locally with literally anyone since we were the new dudes in town. The lineup of the band at this time included myself, Mike Jeffers, on drums, Keith Brown on vocals, Vic Lazar on guitar, and very briefly, Jeremy Mazgaj from Envy(New Direction Records), on bass.
By the time the winter/spring of ’95 rolled around we had written some new songs and decided to go record them at a new studio in town called Outer Limit Studios. This studio was terrible. The engineers knew nothing about what we were trying to do. The one engineer never got the memo that it was 1995 and whenever he came over to the board, his sack would flop out from beneath his nut huggers right in someone’s face. We recorded 4 tunes and decided to release them as the Indignation EP (cassette/self-released). At the same time we added Ben Kumpf on bass. We also decided that a name change was in order since there was always confusion between us and the Canadian Facedown. The songs were a mix of 2 re-recorded tracks from the first demo and 2 new tunes. The new songs were more aggressive, but still had a confused vibe to them. We hadn’t found our sound yet. We continued playing around the Northeast and writing new music. We also self-released a live tape during this time of a performance at the University at Buffalo.
The school semester came to an end in May of that year and we all returned home to the NYC area for the summer break. We all worked and had little contact with one another. We headed back to Buffalo in the fall and decided to get to work. We felt we needed to get more serious about the music, play more shows, and most importantly get a 7” out. Our friends in Despair (Trustkill) had recently released a demo, and were about to put out their first 7”. We figured
we would just follow their lead and do the same thing. So we went to Watchmen Studios with produce/engineer Doug White and recorded 7 new songs. These songs were so focused and so tight compared to what we had done the past year. This is the point at which I feel we had narrowed down our “sound.” Recording with Doug was a turning point because he is a legend in the Buffalo HC scene. He’s worked with everyone from Despair, Snapcase, Brother’s Keeper, Death Threat, Another Victim, Disciple, and pretty much every band I have done in the past 20 years. Recently he even has gold and platinum records from the Gym Class Heroes. “Captain Cruch” really knew how to tighten the reigns on our band. Plus if you recorded with Doug, his Mom would hook you up with food.
We took 4 of the songs from the session and released them on cassette as the “Demo ’95.” We then took 1 track from that demo and the remaining 3 we recorded and put them aside for the 7”. Our friend Dave Cohen asked us if he could release our first record on his new label called Knowledge Records. We were ecstatic. Dave went to school with us and was also a fellow down-stater from the Island. The music was shipped off to Erika Records for pressing and we anxiously awaited the arrival of our test presses. After a few weeks we came to find out that Erika Records had lost the DAT and that we would need to send a new one. Doug at Watchmen Studios couldn’t get us in because he was so busy, and we wound up going to some cut rate studio to get a new DAT for the pressing plant. This posed a problem because the engineer talked us into remixing for vinyl. Bad idea. Dude loved Fog Hat and gave us way too much reverb on the remix. We got a new DAT and sent it to the pressing plant.
While we were waiting to get the 7” out, I decided that I needed to get our demo out to as many people/places as possible. I would travel to shows all over the Northeast handing demos to anyone and everyone. I was home for Thanksgiving and I went to see the Beastie Boys play with Sick of it All at Coney Island High. I brought a shoe box full of demos to the show and
walked up and down St. Marks handing out demos. I also used to drive to any record store within three hours of NYC to put demos on consignment.
The test presses arrived shortly thereafter, and we had the final version of the record by December. This was great, but we didn’t have covers printed up along with the vinyl. My father worked out of the Time Life building in Manhattan as a printer/graphic designer so I spent a few days that December cutting and pasting together the artwork and laying it out. I had access to color copiers and all the card stock I wanted so I ran off the all of the covers and inserts over several nights. DIY as all hell. It was done, so now Dave from the label started getting the record out. The first show we sold it at was in NYC with us, Snapcase, Deadguy, and Mouthpiece at Coney Island High in January of 1996. The show as great, we played awesome, and we sold a ton of records all during what was to be known as the Blizzard of ’96. How we all made it to the show, let alone people to see the show made it there, is beyond me. A ton of snow for NYC. We did a release show in Buffalo as well that February. The 7” was called “Shall Fall.”
We definitely needed a second guitar player to make things a bit heavier. We added Scott Sprigg, a close friend of the band, on second guitar. This beefed up our sound immensely, and Scott was as hard working as the rest of us. He helped book shows and promote. New songs were written and we continued playing shows. Scott got a hold of Brian McTernan at Salad Days Studio and we headed out to Boston to record the new tunes. This was April of 1996. Five songs were recorded over the course of a weekend. We sent our new demo out to every label that was worth a shit at the time. Josh Grabelle from Trustkill suggested that Carl Severson from Ferret Records would be into what we were doing. Sure enough Carl was, but he wanted to do a MCD for us so he needed 2 more songs.
We headed back to Watchmen Studios during the
summer of ’96 and re-recorded two old songs for the record. Dave Spataro took photos for the record. He was a friend that often took Snapcase photos. Matt Dente from Despair handled the layout, and Carl Ferret started running some ads. We scheduled a dual record release show for us and Despair to coincide with their Pattern Life release on Trustkill and our Ferret release. In true hardcore fashion, neither of our records had arrived by the day of the show.
The CD’s arrived a few weeks later, and we began playing to promote Union’s new MCD, “In the Shadows” out on Ferret Records. The MCD was Ferret Records #5. This was such a great time for the band. Playing better and better shows, ads/reviews in zines, and our music listed in distro/catalogs like Very, REV, and Lumberjack. I remember being at a record store in Buffalo when a fax from Victory Records came in and they had us listed as a distro title. We felt like a real band! We had a nice buzz around the band at the time. We did a Winter Tour in January 1997 with Despair, Brother’s Keeper, and Turmoil. Such a good time. Great shows. We played with so many great bands on that tour in addition to our tourmates: Battery, Floorpunch, Autumn, Earthmover, Cast Iron Hike, Enkindel, etc. Tour went well. We got great receptions. We came home on such a high. Then our guitar player Vic decided he wanted out and to play Indie Rock. Typical 90’s. So Vic was gone, and we added Rob Antonucci on guitar in his place. Rob was a huge fan of the band and a great guitar player. He was younger than us all by a few years but he was so into what we were doing. His first show with us was trial by fire. It was Union, Sick of It All, and AFI. Massive crowd. Great show. Rob pulled it off well.
We went into Watchmen Studios to record our next record for Ferret, a 7”, called “You Fell For It” (Ferret #7). This record was a step forward for us in the writing department. I think we finally lost our NY vibe and started to take on something a bit different. We recorded four songs, and by mid-summer 1997 the record was out. We did some awesome shows over the summer and by fall had no concrete plans. Out of nowhere, Keith and Ben decided they wanted to hang it up since they were graduating from college in the spring. It was over very abruptly. Me, Scott, and Rob were stunned/bummed out. But most hardcore bands burn out in a two year window and we had 3 solid years. We accomplished a good deal in a short period of time: several demos, a live tape, two 7 inches, a MCD, and appearances on comps, and a movie soundtrack. We toured and or played shows with the best bands of the time, some of them in their infancy. The band was all fun, no business. It was the first and last time I would experience bands from that perspective: innocent, unbiased, unjaded.
Since the band ended, Scott, Vic, Rob, and myself have stayed fairly active playing music. Keith and Ben aren’t very involved with the scene. After being in Union, Scott Sprigg joined Buried Alive (Victory), played in Stand and Fight (Bridge 9), and has recently joined the Dear and Departed (Equal Vision) and lives in LA. Vic Lazar has been in a number of indie bands after his time in Union. Currently he plays in the band Patrons of Sweet. Me and Rob had a band called Dead to theWorld right after Union. We put out a full length on Jamey Hatebreed’s Stillborn Records in 2000 called “Beyond this Sterile Existence”, as well as a split with Kid Gorgeous (Eulogy) on Canada’s Redstar Records. Rob was in the band Building on Fire (Hex) and is currently playing with Achilles (Hex) also. I have been playing in the metal band Herod for the past 12 years also. We’ve released 5 records on labels such as Lifeforce, Dark Harvest, Sounds of Revolution, and Too Damn Hype. Also, between 2006-2008, I had a band called Face the Panic with Jay from Slugfest (Initial) and Aaron who used to be in ETID (Ferret). We put out a CDEP called “For the Lifers” on a small label called Luchador Records, and a full length called “The Reclamation” on Reaper Records. I currently play in Area Denial, a more HC Punk band with Mike from Slave State (Slap a Ham), and Biff from I Object (Alternative Tentacles). We just released a S/T tape, and have a 7” on the way via Feral Kid Records. Herod has a new record coming out on Dark Harvest Records any day now, and I have a project with Rob from Union, Brian from Despair(Trustkill), Chris from Chokehold(Bloodlink/CTW), and Eric from XNo ReasonX(Immigrant Sun) about to record a full lengths worth of material. I still fill in for bands as well, and do studio work/projects.
Me, Rob, and Keith from Union are all married parents. Rob and I are both teachers. Keith works for Catholic Charities. Ben uses his Economics degree for something, I’m not sure what, and Scott is always making money somehow.
Facedown demo 1994
Indignation EP 1995
Shall Fall 7" 1995
In The Shadows CD 1996
You Fell For It 7" 1997
Live Tour 1997 [previously unreleased]