Hardcore’s most positive frontman, Sammy Ciaramitaro, explains how their sophomore album is a personal mantra, a party soundtrack and a message of empowerment all in one.
There are few bands that walk it the way Drain does.
That was evidenced in real time last year during a whirlwind touring stretch that saw the Santa Cruz outfit solidify their reputation as road dogs – taking on stages that ranged from festival headlining slots to DIY spaces across the country and beyond.
During the height of the summer, Drain played some of the biggest shows of their career. Just two years removed from their lauded 2020 debut, California Cursed, the hardcore crossover sensation backed the hype, deservedly headlining Sound and Fury Festival in Los Angeles in front of 6000-plus rabid fans.
While the set proved more than memorable – with a cavalcade of stage dives and a pit that seemed to consume the entire festival floor – the greater feat came just a few weeks later, where Drain played to a smaller crowd, yet proved no less compelling.
Recruited for a set at Psycho Las Vegas, Drain found themselves as a wild card on a bill that leaned more towards a doom, death, and black metal contingent. To better set the scenario, Drain was playing the same festival date that featured a headlining set from the iconic Mercyful Fate — the band’s first U.S. show in more than two decades no less. In the company of bands like Amenra, High On Fire and Rotting Christ, a hardcore band from Santa Cruz managed to notch a highlight.
Ripping through selections from California Cursed, taking the show over the barricade and out into the crowd, the denim-clad committee standing with heir arms folded in the back of the room were inching closer to the action. By mid-set, those same skeptics were getting involved themselves, crashing into each other as frontman Sammy Ciaramitaro rallied the room on the microphone.
By the end of the set, the entire ballroom had had shifted from a conventional concert to an all out party. Many of the same people who were waiting for a reason to leave and catch another band, not only stayed, they were now onstage with Drain — jumping the barricade, going apeshit and actively participating.
Crowd surfing, dog piles and gang vocals, it was mayhem of the best kind with Drain at the helm.
Set to deliver their highly-anticipated sophomore album, Living Proof later this year, Drain defy the cliche of their genre by daring to have fun while reveling in the heavy. Less about preaching from the pulpit, Drain’s brand of PMA is one that ropes in everyone in real time, every time they step onstage.
Evolving their mantra of inclusivity, “Drain is your friend” the band is prepping the next party and everyone, is invited. Drain frontman Sammy Ciaramitaro explained how the band’s forthcoming album Living Proof is evolution of that notion and how the record is as much a personal victory as it is a mission statement.
From the sounds of it, Sammy is still recovering. The band had just returned from their first ever tour of Australia and the flight time back to California saw the guys spending about 20 hours in the air.
The nonstop pace however has been the routine over the last two years for Drain. When the question comes up about how the band managed to hunker down and focus on an album, while touring so relentlessly, the vocalist explains that the hectic schedule and the lead-up is more exciting than stressful.
“A lot changes in three years. Between the last one and this one, a lot of things have become a reality that were just a dream before. We got to tour and play different parts of the world and there are people there excited to see us. We’re slowly but surely checking ’em all off.”
Ciaramitaro added how seeing Living Proof to fruition seems to be ushering in a new era of the band – one that has everyone excited about the possibilities. “I don’t know if this is the right reference but this feels like the slingshot is being pulled and we have been pulling it back for awhile. This record coming out is the final snap that’s going to be like, ‘ok, let’s see what you guys can really do now. Let’s see what doors you’re gonna open.'”
Laying out the band’s unique timeline, Sammy explained that shortly after the release of California Cursed – like a week shortly after – the band’s new home in Epitaph Records came into focus. Keenly aware of the band’s potential, the label made it clear they were down with Drain, even if it meant being patient and letting the guys tour in support of their existing album, whenever that might be a possibility.
In limbo as the world struggled to find normalcy amid a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, Drain bided their time working on the follow-up record to California Cursed, despite the fact that they had yet to tour in support of it. Out of those preliminary sessions is when Ciaramitaro says they pieced together what would be their Epitaph introduction, though still only a first draft of what would eventually become Living Proof in the single, “Watch You Burn”.
“We recorded that single and I can honestly say that is where we started, but that is the worst song on the record,” confides Ciaramitaro. “It’s really clear when you hear it. You can just tell, we weren’t right on the money yet.”
Eager to begin their era on Epitaph, the single was an ends to a means, but only scratched the surface in terms of the band’s potential.
Shortly there after, Drain began a relentless run on the road and better refined their craft under optimum conditions, “Once we started touring man, we just got after it,” Ciaramitaro said. “We would get off tour. Come home and go to work. We’d get off work and go to our practice spot and just spend hours there, every day like clockwork until we had a finished product.
It was brutal, but it was fun though. That’s the difference. I think it shines through.”
Racking up mileage on tour, Drain took their sun-soaked brand of hardcore to the people and spread the gospel of California Cursed. With each show logged, the band developed a sharper understanding of what was effective, what stuck and what didn’t – ultimately making them better songwriters in the process.
Ciaramitaro referenced playing with legends like Terror in being instrumental in their on-the-job training. “We learned from the best,” Ciaramitaro said. “If we play a song live and it doesn’t pop, it’s out of the set. We don’t play it again. My goal is to play a full set of songs that kids want. They don’t have time to be tired yet. If there is a song where it’s like, ‘this is the one where we catch our breath’, the next band’s set is for them to catch their breath, not us.”
Embracing a more fundamental, visceral approach to writing music, the band’s insane touring slate ultimately helped them understand how best to play to their strengths – making for invaluable lessons when it came time to get to work on album number two. ” I don’t know. It’s like a funny thing to say but dude, we write dance music. It’s a different kind of dancing from what you think of dance music but that’s ultimately what we do.”
With youth and momentum on their side, Drain have the kind of stamina to spend the better part of two years on the road and still somehow come out with a quality record to show for it. Balancing the rigors of touring with the expectations that come with their rising stock, the band’s commitment to ensuring the show pops off is the x-factor that best positions them for success.
What separates Drain from many of their contemporaries however, is their audacity to make having fun integral to their performance. Hardcore music is many things, but fun, veers on a tangent that few bands dare to tread.
For Ciaramitaro however, doing things differently has long been core to his identity. “I grew up on punk and thrash metal. I actually got into hardcore last. I was too metal for the punk crowd and too punk for the metal crowd. I didn’t look the same as the metal kids, but i definitely didn’t look like I fit in with the punk kids either. It was this weird in-between where you kind of find your own place.”
Citing bands like Power Trip for their thrash sensibilities and Rotting Out for their punk lean, in addition to their alignment with the hardcore community, Ciaramitaro explained that there was something outside of the bands’ music that appealed to him – an intangible that made them not just one thing, but everything.
It’s that same energy that ultimately allows Drain to thrive despite being a wild card in the space of hardcore.
The vocalist spoke about sidestepping the gatekeeping within hardcore and the kinship that exists if you just make the effort to find that common ground, “This is for everybody. I may not know everyone in the room, but I can confidently say that 98% of the people in this room are not the opposition. We are in this room because we are into the same shit. We are all like-minded, enough. The real enemies are not in this room.”
“It’s not even throwing shade on anyone in particular but it’s a real thing. You hear a lot of people, they preach and preach – acceptance and open-mindedness and ‘this is a community’ but then they don’t walk it. And I feel like Drain just walks it.
This is for everybody. I never met you, but I fucking love you. Get over here, I’mma hug your ass then throw you off the stage.”
If hundreds of shows in the last two years served well in sharpening Drain’s skill, it certainly had an impact on their already keen sense of self-awareness. Wholly comfortable in their own skin, Drain has prompted a cultural shift in hardcore, and the greater landscape of heavy music, simply by being themselves.
It’s that shrewd sense of self and confidence in their own critique that allows the band to begin their next chapter free of the expectation that typically bogs down most bands’ sophomore releases. Ciaramitaro attributes having like-minded bandmates are being key.
“I feel very lucky I found a group of guys where are all on the same page with a lot of things and one of those things is just, we kind of do whatever we want.” The frontman clarifies, “We are our own harshest critics, more than anything outside of us could ever say. We have spent so much time going, ‘nope, that’s 100% not it’ but once we figure it out and we go, ‘this feels right’, this feels like where we should go and we trust our gut on it, it’s so rewarding.”
With Drain’s metric for success prioritized by personal fulfillment above anything else, Living Proof has yet to be released and can already be tallied as a W. A testament to the creative cohesion of the band, the limitless possibilities of trusting your instincts and the power of authenticity, Ciaramitaro explains how the title is as much mantra as it is mission statement.
“We were talking about it, like, ‘what do we wanna call this album?’ I felt like what we represent, we are living proof of all the things I talk about and have mentioned over the years. We are living it.
The whole mantra behind this thing is just showing everyone, we can do it and so can you. And for us it was playing music in the band but it can be whatever it is you want to be. It’s never too late to start.
Not only can you do whatever you want in this lifetime, you can do it your own way, in a way that feels good to you.”
Drain is the wave. Ride or die.
Living Proof, the sophomore album from Drain arrives May 5th on Epitaph Records.
Order the album – HERE
Drain on currently on tour in Europe supporting Madball ad H2O on the Monster Energy 2023 Rebellion Tour. The band rotate back to the states to play Punk In the Park Ventura later this month with Pennywise and Suicidal Tendencies before making their way to Tied Down Fest in Detroit later this summer. See dates below.