Forget what the talking heads in documentaries have been saying for years—real punk is not “in the malls.” Punk is still a marginalized part of society. Dig down a little further and you’ll find hardcore. From hardcore, dig deeper and you’ll find straight edge hardcore. In the Beer City music scene, it doesn’t get more marginalized than professing abstinence from the one thing that non-locals know about our city. Forced Impact have spent the last two years building a following and consistently playing with larger touring acts. The majority of these shows, however, have been in the Chicago area. Even if their popularity at home is a slow build, the band has a positive approach and a willingness to put in the work to ensure that the scene grows.

Milwaukee Record sat down with Drew Czarnik and Leo McClutchy of Forced Impact in advance of their August 16 show at Shorewood Legion Hall.

Milwaukee Record: How long have you been a band?

Drew Czarnik: Forced Impact has been a band for about two years. We put out a demo and a year after that, our first EP, Conflict Theory, which is the only thing we have out right now.

MR: What was the initial aim of the band?

DC: The initial aim was to form a band that wasn’t like any of the bands that were coming out of the Midwest at the time—super heavy beatdown-y bands. It felt like the Midwest was dominated by those bands and we all wanted to start something like what we grew up on.

MR: How was the initial reaction to Conflict Theory?

DC: It was definitely pretty good. We weren’t expecting much from it. Our demo before, we didn’t really like it, so we kind of expected it to be our first release and not have anyone think much of it. It ended up getting us a lot of cool shows and helped us tour a lot more.

MR: What does straight edge mean to you? What is the importance of being a straight edge band?

DC: All of our music is about being straight edge. Most of the members are straight edge. Just living the lifestyle, you know, living a better life. Living a substance free life.

Leo McClutchy: The first tour we did, I was technically straight edge for a couple of months. After that tour, I left the band and they had drummers from Tennessee?

DC: We had one from Louisville and one from South Carolina. It’s impossible to find straight edge people in Milwaukee, Chicago, or the Midwest, or people who can play drums and are willing to be in a band that is trying to be active. It’s pretty much either continue to search for a straight edge drummer and sacrifice the entire future of this band—we can’t record, write, or practice with drummers that live across the country—or we could just not have a straight edge member. I really enjoy playing in this band and the message we have. I don’t want to not be able to spread that message because of one person in the band. That shouldn’t be a determining factor of what makes a straight edge band.

LM: Drew has been straight edge for the entire time I’ve known him and longer. He’s the one writing the words and singing the lyrics. I think that’s what really matters.

MR: You guys have played some bigger shows, just not in Milwaukee. What do you think is the reason behind these bigger hardcore shows not playing Milwaukee?

DC: I feel like a lot of the time bands from our genre don’t know Milwaukee has anything going on, so it gets skipped over—that’s kind of the Midwest in general. Chicago has been putting a lot of stuff on the map lately, which is really nice. Bitter Thoughts, from Chicago, have been a band for a while and they’ve been playing more shows. They’ve been supporting other bands that are in our genre. Aside from that, it’s because there aren’t many bands that aren’t really heavy in the Midwest at the moment. It’s been like that for the last few years, with the exception of a few cities.

MR: What is your favorite straight edge band or record? What is the most underrated straight edge band or record?

LM: My favorite would be Break Down The Walls, Youth Of Today. That’s probably my favorite. Most underrated? That’s a hard one. Maybe Uniform Choice, Screaming For Change. A more recent record would be Loud And Clear. They sound just like Youth Of Today. They’re fucking sick, but they might not be straight edge.

DC: The record that got me into hardcore was [Gorilla Biscuits’] Start Today. That’s my all time favorite straight edge record. Kind of cliche, but it’s my all time favorite record ever. There’s a lot of smaller straight edge bands that are coming out that are putting out really awesome things. I think my favorite underrated straight edge record is Disengage—their LP Expressions. It’s super super good and extremely underrated. Sounds like Youth Of Today.

Start Today was a life changing album for me. I got into Minor Threat and Black Flag and all those sort of bands and I knew what straight edge was but it wasn’t something I considered personal to me. Listening to Start Today and being straight edge is a completely different thing. It was a whole new experience of wanting to be straight edge. It holds true to my heart, being my favorite album, and a big deal in my life.

MR: Anything to add?

LM: Keep coming to shows. Put Milwaukee on the map. Make Milwaukee a spot where bands actually want to come play.

DC: Book shows. Start a band. Start a zine.

LM: If you ever want to know how to book shows, just ask me or Drew. We could use more of that.

DC: Don’t be afraid to come to shows that aren’t under a label that you fit in with. Disassociate yourself with labels. Just go to shows because they’re shows.

About The Author

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Dan Agacki is a veteran of long dead publications like Punk Planet, Fan-Belt, and Ctrl Alt Dlt. He currently contributes to The Shepherd Express and Explain. His free time is spent frantically searching for Black Flag live bootlegs.