Agonizer: Call it what you want

by RODNEY LOTTER

In the world of punk, if a band stays together for more than a year it’s more a testament to sheer willpower and dedication than anything else. Perhaps is is because there is a certain expectation when it comes to punk bands: the live shows needs to be rowdy and raucous affairs, the music needs to be loud and pissed off at something and the whole ethos revolved around music for its own sake, as playing sold-out shows and selling lots of records is typically not a realistic option. That may sound harsh, but it’s also what makes punk great. So, when a band like Agonizer can keep it going for four years now, it’s pretty dang impressive in my opinion.

The band, composed of Robby Cleary on vocals, Aaron Connors-Driftmier and Brett Mitchell on guitars, Gavin Hadley on bass and Chad Scott on drums, started from the disintegration of Hadley’s former band Meat Bird. Hadley, Scott and Mitchell are founding members, with Connors-Driftmier joining later on and Cleary joining two years ago (as the band’s fourth lead singer).

Hadley said the band’s name was not their first choice; they considered two others but decided against them due to concerns over getting the names on fliers. So they all settled on Agonizer, which comes from an interrogation device used in a Star Trek episode called “Mirror, Mirror.”

While Agonizer definitely falls somewhere in the punk genre, it’s certainly a different strain than the more straight-ahead, distorted power cord-driven type of punk. The band combines their brand of punk with some thrash and heavy metal influences, as well as some stoner rock for good measure.

Cleary said Agonizer definitely fits into the Bellingham punk scene in a weird way. “I’ve been involved in a lot of musical projects, but these guys are probably the best musicians I have ever played with,” he said. “We all come from different musical backgrounds, a few of us grew up on punk, a few of us grew up on metal and stoner rock. I think we land somewhere in between. We are too slow to be thrash, but we do have some thrashy songs.”

“We play rock and roll. Call it what you want, ultimately that’s what it is,” Hadley added.

Hadley said the band’s main goal when playing live is to just get through the set without it turning into a complete trainwreck. He said the band know it’s a success when the following things do not happen: Cleary does not wound himself, break his neck or destroy part of the venue; Connors-Driftmier’s amp does not self-destruct or break any strings; Mitchell does not criticize himself for playing even a millisecond off time; Scott doesn’t forget the names of the songs; and Hadley keeps his mouth shut and his clothes on.

Currently, the band is “cobbling” together their first official release, a full-length album that will be released through Cleary’s record label N7E Records. The album was recorded at Funk Schwey Studios on Iron Street by Mike Cloud.

LIVE SHOW: Check out Agonizer’s thrashy/ stoney/punk jams at the Alternative Library on March 21, with Defenestrator, Asema and the Ludivico Treatment filling out the bill.