by Jarrod Jones. Most of us have a point in our lives when we were very young and very ready to jettison caution to the winds. Sometimes those times in our lives occurred under everyone’s radar in an incredibly personal way, sometimes they occurred as a visceral response to a band or a scene, and sometimes they occurred as an intense confluence of both.
Ian McGinty and Chrissy Hoppes are currently working on a new comic that taps into a very specific moment in time for a lot of people: 1999-2007, when the massive emo genre had already splintered into subgroups and its various offspring were edging their way towards the mainstream. According to McGinty, their book, Screamo, is a “semi-autobiographical” meditation on his experiences in the screamo scene, when Ian wasn’t known for making comics so much as strutting onstage as the lead singer of a screamo band.
“I started as a drummer for two pop-punk, Blink-182 rip-off bands, as was basically every single band in the early-2000’s,” Ian McGinty tells me. “But eventually I discovered the genre of emo, screamo, scene groups, crunk-emo (the worst) and hardcore… and hell, post-hardcore.” Screamo, which will be drawn by Hoppes (Chrissy’s character sheets are available below and are a nostalgic burst of Manic Panic glory), is a way for McGinty to reflect on those times and also meet a demand that has yet to truly be met in any popular medium: the retrospective deep dives into a bygone but no less thriving music scene that affected so many lives and left a few scars to remember it by.
McGinty’s been prepared for such a project for a long time. “Becoming a lead singer of a quasi-popular band around 2001-2006 was a trip, and wasn’t something I was really into, in the sense that I just enjoyed being on stage, making music and meeting new people. I was in a committed relationship, didn’t do drugs until later, and was shy and withdrawn. The consequence of this was that I was able to observe so much going on.
“Side-note,” he continues, “yes, I am forgetting some genres popular at the time, I am prepared for some shit-talk from die-hard music fans, I get it.”
Such are the pratfalls of mixing with the die-hard emo set, even now. Details on Screamo are scarce at the moment, as Ian, Chrissy and the book’s designer/letterer Micah Meyers are still hard at work putting it together. But Ian and Chrissy were willing to share an update on their upcoming project, and share a few of their personal memories of the scene that made them the people and the creators they are today.
1. I know you’re both currently hard at work on ‘Screamo’, but the response to this book has been crazy enough that I’m sure prospective readers would appreciate a bit more elaboration concerning its story. What is the premise of ‘Screamo’? Can you tell us a bit about its central characters?
Ian McGinty: Screamo is something I’ve been juggling in my head for a long time—years, really. I’ve wanted to make a graphic novel about the time period in music from about 1999-2007, but looking at it from a more emotional and real angle than a scholastic view.
I experienced this era as a lead singer of a small band touring up and down the east coast, a group that eventually disbanded, but ‘Screamo’ is more about the scene surrounding us, the other groups involved, the bizarre politics, the relationships, and most importantly the death of my best friend during this time. I’m exploring a time period that was shrouded in turmoil, while also appearing like just a bunch of idiot kids doing idiot things. Yes, we looked goofy, we dressed like maniacs, we acted like morons sometimes; but beneath a lot of that visage was an underlying darkness of young people attempting to find their place. Sometimes that involved sex, and discovering yourself in that regard, drugs, alcohol, and sometimes death.
The main character is essentially a version of myself, and all the other characters involved are versions of real-life characters I knew, know, ditched, hated, loved, let go, or still talk to. I’m focusing this a lot on my friend who, sadly, succumbed to his own addictions and the stress of living a lifestyle that we all perceived as normal, when in reality it wasn’t. This isn’t to say ‘Screamo’ is a complete bummer-fest, far from it! There is a lot of humor involved, but I wouldn’t go in expecting Scott Pilgrim.
2. Ian, I was not alarmed at all to discover that you once moonlighted as a lead singer for a screamo band back in the day. What can you tell me about that experience as a musician and how it reflects what you’re currently putting into ‘Screamo’?
Ian: I started as a drummer for two pop-punk, Blink-182 rip-off bands, (as was basically every single band in the early-2000’s), but eventually I discovered the genre of emo, screamo, scene groups, crunk-emo (the worst) and hardcore… and hell, post-hardcore. Side-note: Yes, I am forgetting some genres popular at the time, I am prepared for some shit-talk from die-hard music fans, I get it.
Becoming a lead singer of a quasi-popular band around 2001-2006 was a trip, and wasn’t something I was really into, in the sense that I just enjoyed being on stage, making music and meeting new people. I was in a committed relationship, didn’t do drugs until later, and was shy and withdrawn. The consequence of this was that I was able to observe so much going on.
3. I’ve seen the character sheets for this project, and they are absolutely delightful—and they sent me careening down a memory hole to the early Aughties like woah. [Laughs] Chrissy, can we talk a bit about emo fashion and how it evolved into the “screamo” aesthetic? Who were/are your style icons, and how have they influenced your designs for this book?
Chrissy: Thank you so much, they were all a lot of fun to create! Growing up, I developed my scene taste/interest from being on Myspace, DeviantArt, and a few other places that I can’t even remember the titles of anymore. A huge inspo for me too was Hayley Williams; I thought she was the coolest and I wanted my hair to look like hers so bad. Full of black, neon colors, hair stripes, hair bows, a million bracelets, chucks/vans, the works!
4. Ian, you mentioned on the Grey & Gold Podcast that ‘Screamo’ will oscillate between the humor and liveliness of the screamo scene and the upsetting things that you experienced when you were ensconced in that scene. As this is semi-autobiographical, how are you approaching this story? Is this a place for exorcising demons, is this a celebration of the scene and your experiences there, or is it a bit of both?
Ian: Yes, it is semi-autobiographical. I cannot express this enough: we were children. 13 year-old kids, 18 year-olds, hanging with 20-somethings. Either way, we were all kids and had no idea what we were doing. All we knew was going to a show, getting out of the house, hanging out with friends anywhere that wasn’t school or a middling low-paying job was a precious fucking 4 hours. And these were things I saw, as well as the dark side of these gatherings. I witnessed hardcore drug use in the parking lot of a church many times. I saw and broke up a fan’s attempt to beat the hell out of his girlfriend in the middle of our set. I got the call my best friend died of an overdose from an ex-girlfriend I hadn’t talked to in years.
I saw this, and I experienced this, and that’s what I’m trying to convey here. And, again, that’s not to say everything was shit. It wasn’t. Well, technically it was because I also had to watch our guitarist film a fan try to poop in a Pringles can one time. So it’s both, for sure. I’m finally approaching things I should have approached years ago, but I’m doing it with the help of Chrissy and Micah [Meyers, Screamo‘s designer and letterer], and hopefully a community who would be interested in knowing more about what we all experienced in our own ways.
5. Chrissy, you coined a phrase that really struck me, “Scene Escapism.” What does this term mean to you, as an artist and as somebody who appreciates aesthetics and their various impacts? Perhaps just as crucially, what does “scene escapism” mean for ‘Screamo’?
Chrissy: This term to me means that it’s retreating back to a simpler time. Where you didn’t have as many responsibilities, bills, work, etc. You got to just come home from school, listen to some music, and have fun with your friends. A lot of people went through the scene phase, and there isn’t too much media to consume about that time yet, so I think people are really clinging to the character concepts because they might have dressed similar, or maybe their personality reminds them of how they were. Shared human experiences!
6. Every once in a while when I feel it’s appropriate, I like to ask creators about what they listen to when they create. For ‘Screamo’, this totally qualifies. For folks who are crazy excited to check out your book, whether they were there when the scene was at its most pervasive or not, what would you recommend to them in terms of a mood playlist?
Ian: Although not technically Screamo, I think it can go without saying, My Chemical Romance is a staple. For me, Dance Gavin Dance, who I just did an entire book for, is my personal favorite. And then you can delve more into The Used, Senses Fail, Paramore, The Blood Brothers and Underoath. If you want to go even farther back to see the roots of it all, Deftones, Glassjaw and early Every Time I Die are the places I would start.
Chrissy: I’ve been listening to a lot of scene-era music for sure! Lots of MCR, The Used, Panic! at the disco, Scary Kids Scaring Kids, Motion City Soundtrack, Paramore, etc! They help me really get back into the mindset of how I acted during these times,and drawing out old memories associated with the songs.
7. I don’t know if you can tell, but I don’t know a dang thing about screamo. I was doing a bit of research and came across a term that also describes this genre of music and its aesthetic: “Skramz.” Oh, it’s awful. [Laughs] I gotta know, what’s the difference between “skramz” and “screamo”, and am I a big dummy for having to ask that?
Ian: Ha! Scramz is still just screamo, but essentially it’s a term to more define certain sound aspects of screamo, and specific bands. Think like the bar that needs a code word to get into versus a music festival.
Ian: And you ain’t no dummy.
Check out this incredible character gallery from ‘SCREAMO’, courtesy of Ian McGinty & Chrissy Hoppes:
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