Congrats on your video! How did you make it happen?
Our good friend Jeremy Hernandez has been a big supporter of Longclaw since the beginning. He’s an incredibly talented photographer and videographer, so we asked him to follow us around for a few days – while we were recording, practicing, playing shows, and just interacting with one another as we normally do. He did a fantastic job getting candid shots and live shots of us, and then put them together so beautifully. We specifically asked him to make the video “50% intense, 30% sweet, and 20% goofy,” and he definitely nailed that!
We were also really excited about She Shreds Magazine wanting to premiere the video for our single, “Patterns,” on their site. Stacey has been a huge fan and supporter of She Shreds since their inception. The editor-in-chief, Fabi Reyna, is wildly inspirational and such a powerful influence for woman musicians everywhere.
Sounds perfect, all of it! Please introduce the band to us and tell us how you all met.
Jen Hauser – vocals & rhythm guitar
Alexander Case – lead guitar
Matt Koenig – vocals & bass
Stacey Spencer – drums
We were all loosely friends before Longclaw started. Matt and Stacey had both participated heavily in the Pacific Northwest hardcore scene for half their lives. Alex and Matt had played music together a little bit already. Matt and Jen had been friends since she moved to Portland from the Midwest. So we’d all interacted, but the four of us had never all been in close quarters before we started practicing together! We recently discovered that one time all four of us were at a Lemuria show at an anarchist bookstore in Portland, but we didn’t know it at the time!
The band formed after Stacey made a facebook post seeking other musicians to form a 90’s revival post-hardcore band. Alex responded almost immediately, “COUNT ME IN!” and Matt reached out to Stacey shortly thereafter. We all agreed that Jen had the perfect voice to fit the style music we wanted to write, and it all just came together so easily. It was pretty magical!
Longclaw is not “your typical hardcore band”, how would you describe your sound?
We’ve learned that we’re super hard to describe! People call us post-hardcore, emo, crycore, sad rock, etc. etc. We’ve been told we’re like a more spacey Jawbreaker or a sadder Get Up Kids. Matt likes to tell non-punk family members and coworkers that we’re Fleetwood Mac on emotional steroids, which is a very strange description but always seems to get the point across!
Since we all are active in the hardcore scene, we tend to play a lot of hardcore shows. Before our first couple sets we were very careful to tell people, “fair warning, we’re not a hardcore band!” Thankfully nobody seemed to mind too much. Portland is really great about doing mixed-bill shows, so we’ve had some cool opportunities to play with bands in lots of different genres. We like to believe that Longclaw has a little something for everyone though – it’s emotional and often sad, but also undeniably catchy in a way that seems to interest a lot of different people. We’ve been really amazed by the amount of support we’ve gotten from all different sectors of the DIY music community.
How would you describe the EP “Patterns” in your own words?
Our six-song EP has been really experimental in terms of creating new things with new people. We’re all doing something that’s a little outside of our comfort zone which definitely opens us up in new, scary, and exciting ways. We all agree that we’ve made ourselves very vulnerable in new ways to create these songs. At the same time though, we are saying things we’ve wanted to say and playing things we’ve wanted to play for a very long time. Longclaw feels like we’ve all reached a new level of engagement in terms of our musical process. Stacey had taken an almost 10-year hiatus from being in any serious bands. Matt had been really active in punk and hardcore bands for years, but had never been in bands with women or played different styles of music. We’d all played with lots of different people, but we’d never experienced a band situation in which we could open ourselves up in this way.
Jen wrote most of the lyrics for “Patterns,” and she describes it in this way:
“This album was written halfway between a promise I made to myself, to acknowledge and integrate the grief I hold, and one to face and express my own anger. These two things are greatly suppressed or misdirected in our society, especially for women. These songs are the result of some of the first steps of unlearning and coming into an authority of your own. Discontinuing allowing louder, more societally excusable voices to overshadow your own.”
Walk us through the songs please.
The songs on this EP are:
Dark Matter: This song is equal parts ethereal and heavy. It’s about being considerate and compassionate to people, and to yourself. We all have to remember that there are two sides to every set of feelings and beliefs – including your own.
Shorter Cliffs: This is the self-care jam – it’s about being softer on yourself, and being able to dive into something without losing your sense of self.
Best Intentions: This song was written in response to sexual violence and misogyny in our scene. It’s about holding yourself accountable to your community, and not turning the other cheek or remaining neutral when you see injustice that needs to be addressed.
Patterns: This is our first single, and it kind of sums up the entire EP. It is about a lot of things, primarily breaking and unlearning the patterns that make you feel small or invisible because you aren’t loud or expressive enough with your anger.
Bad Dreams: This is our upbeat song about co-dependency! Haha. It’s a snarky take on modern romance that addresses how we sometimes want people around for the wrong reasons.
Belly Up: This is about how doing the right thing is often not very fun, and how people often won’t understand your most difficult decisions, especially when those decisions hurt their feelings. The crux of this song is the line, “I just wish that doing what’s best felt any better than this.”
How do you write the songs?
We are extremely collaborative and we all bring something to the table in terms of the writing process. Alex likes to sit in front of his pedal board for hours at a time and record different riffs over and over again. Jen is constantly writing lyrics and sending us quotes she wants to incorporate into songs. We send a lot of videos, voice memos, and photos of notebook pages to one another to share ideas. We have dozens of song ideas that are in various stages of being figured out and “finished.” Even as we went into the studio to record “Patterns,” we were still adding parts and refining things as we laid down tracks. It’s a very fun writing process because we all get to have a say in everything we write, and we have a ton of respect for one another’s creative process.
Stacey, you claimed in the interview for SHE SHREDS you are happy to have such a great bond with men in this particular group. Would you mind telling us how it was before LONGCLAW for you, not only in musical matters to work with male counterparts?
I’ve never had much fun writing music with men before. My first band was an all-woman hardcore band called To See You Broken, and that was an amazing experience. After that though, I mostly played music with various men. Somehow I always felt belittled, or like I just wasn’t good enough. I’ve played music with men who constantly critiqued my drumming in very rude and hurtful ways – it was traumatizing! Also, sexism in music communities is so rampant, there are constant micro-aggressions that I’ve become highly sensitive to. It’s not always easy to handle. Matt and Alex have been extremely supportive and enthusiastic about playing music with me, and even when I’m doubting my own abilities they are always there to reassure me and validate my feelings. They really are two gems of human beings. Jen is one of the most emotionally capable and loving people I have ever met as well – she is on a whole other level, actually. I am constantly amazed at her ability to process and communicate her feelings, it’s aspirational for me.
What is Portland like to you all (bands, scene, activism)?
We’re all really happy here. Jen and Alex are both from the Midwest, and feel that they’ve found a place they truly belong in Portland. We all have great support networks here – some overlapping, and some separate from one another. We’re all vegan, which is great becaue we get to eat so much good food together! Jen does suicide prevention volunteer work, and also attends a four year school for witchcraft which influences everything she does. Stacey is one of the founders of the group No! to Rape Culture, and does a lot of anti-sexual-violence and anti-oppression activism. Alex is a board member and foster home for One Tail at a Time, which is an all-breed, no-kill dog rescue. Matt has lots of hobbies and projects, from training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to hosting a podcast called Super Geeky Play Date. We’re all really busy with lots of stuff going on, but it keeps us engaged and active in several musical, activist, DIY communities in Portland.
What has changed, now that Trump is President?
It’s like a daily nightmare that we can’t wake up from. It’s really embarrassing and shameful. We are all very lucky in the sense that we have a lot of privilege though. We are also lucky to live in a state where at least we know we’ll have access to basic things like reproductive health care no matter what types of evil Republicans try to inflict upon the U.S. It feels petty for us to complain, as Trump’s presidency effects undocumented folks and people of color so much more than it does us though. Xenophobes and racists are now even more emboldened in this country since one of their own won the presidency – it’s been a scary and disturbing couple of months so far, and we are resisting in any way we possibly can.
How important is social and political activism in your eyes?
Very. We all engage in various activism in a number of ways. It keeps us grounded and keeps us going in life. I don’t think any of us could live with ourselves if we didn’t feel like we were trying to make our communities better in some small way. Our music reflects those feelings as well – we are not the types of people who talk the talk (via our songs) but don’t walk the walk. We are all putting as much work as we possibly can into helping people (and animals) around us in any ways we are able to.
Can you drop some names of people and organisations we should totally check out regarding your activism and inspiration?
Stacey organizes with No! to Rape Culture (www.facebook.com/notorapeculture) which is a group of women and non-binary folks working to end sexual violence in the punk & hardcore scenes.
Alex works with One Tail at a Time (@OTATPDX) which is a no kill, all-breed dog rescue program.
Jen volunteers for multiple suicide prevention lines.
We are all vegan and support intersectional vegan organizations – Food Empowerment Project and Better Eating International are two good ones! Also, we highly recommend finding groups in your area that support at-risk youth – in Portland, we have fundraised at shows for Youth Progress, for example. If your activism doesn’t help the youth, it will quickly become useless!
Did you take your band name from the Valeryian steel sword in GoT or are you referencing to this beautiful bird from Ethiopia?
Longclaw is named after Jon Snow’s sword (and it makes us very happy when people get the reference!)
If you all would be birds, who would be which kind of bird?
I guess in the spirit of Game of Thrones, we’d all be ravens because we are messengers of dark words. 🙂
@longclawpdx on instagram and twitter
.straight edge 1998