conversations with bianca

Rats In The Wall’s Eva Hall on: Creativity, Straight Edge & their Warbound EP

Eva is the awesome frontwoman for California hardcore punk band, Rats in The Wall. I found out about them via one of my favourite places – Programme Skate & Sound; who, along with Indecision Records, have recently released RITW’s latest EP Warbound. I love their dual vocals, they remind me of Nausea, The Avengers, and Dischord Records era post-hardcore.

A lot of Rats In The Walls’ songs are pretty pessimistic, with the world as screwed up as it is; what are some things you do to keep sane, positive and hopeful?

EVA HALL: This question assumes that at any time I AM sane, positive, or hopeful, which I probably am not! Haha. Just kidding (kind of.) Well let’s see… I have great friends that I can talk to, who share similar views which makes me NOT feel totally alone or crazy. I’m so thankful to have a couple people really close to me who understand where I’m coming from. Also, I started volunteering at a wildlife rehab center, and helping these injured animals always puts me in a much better mood. Finally, at the risk of sounding like a terrible “Cathy” cartoon: chocolate… it always helps!

How did you first become aware of punk & hc?

EH: When I was in 5th grade, I loooved Green Day’s Dookie, so I think in 7th grade, I found out that they used to be on LookOut! Records. My brother, a few friends, and I checked out some of the other LookOut bands, which is how I found out about Operation Ivy, and that was the beginning of it all for me! Shortly after hearing them, I started getting into a random variety of punk and hardcore bands, but it was all just “punk” to me… I didn’t understand all the genres yet. From Minor Threat, to Crass, to Screeching Weasel and the Sex Pistols. It was all the same to me!

What kinds of things were inspiring you when writing lyrics for your latest 7” EP Warbound? What’s this EP about?

EH: I have to say that a zine (which is more like an academic article, written by an anti-industrial civilization anarchist) called “Desert: Can active disillusionment be liberatory?” had some influence for sure. It’s about how there’s pretty much nothing that can be done to stop the current trends of climate change and the impacts it will have on the everything; that no matter what measures are taken–through activism or government–things are already set in motion to get a lot worse, like how certain animal and plant species called “ghost species” may still exist, but are guarenteed to become extinct in the wild because of human-caused conditions. That sense of hoplessness really fucked with me as someone who is extremely passionate about animal, earth, and human liberation, but at the same time, I want to face reality and not live in some bullshit fantasy world thinking the little things we do will make everything ok. Now, it’s more about adjusting, surviving, and trying to find meaningful things we can do with this understanding.

Another struggle I’ve been having has to do with getting older and still being involved in punk/hardcore and holding onto all my ideals from my youth (like veganism, straight edge, anarchism, radical feminism, etc.) I’m happy that I still care about these things, but it certainly is more alienating the older you get—you’re more of a weirdo to others around you who are the same age, but who “grew out of it.” It’s hard to relate to them, but I still don’t find their way of living appealing at ALL—just embracing vapid, mainstream ideals because society says that’s what we’re supposed to do when we grow up. I realize that rejecting a conventional way of living at my age is probably making life harder on myself, and that it WOULD be easier to just be a normal 30-something year old, but EW. I don’t want to! So, I guess I’m just doomed to be a weirdo forever.

Do you ever find song writing challenging?

EH: YES. Some vocalists have notebooks filled with lyrics and ideas. I never have anything until we absolutely need them. I can rant all day long, but turning my rants into short, concise songs that still somehow make sense and get the point across is sometimes hard for me. The process of starting always seems overwhelming.

In your last band, Gather, you destroyed your vocal cords with constant growly, screamy vocals; is there anything you’re do this time around to care for your voice?

EH: I did learn some techniques that do help, but I learned these after already developing nodules on my vocal cords, so I still lose my voice pretty bad sometimes. I was doing EVERYTHING wrong in Gather, so I’m learning from my mistakes and also have come to terms with the fact that I just can’t scream like that anymore, and had to settle with something more like shouting, while still trying to convey anger. If it hurts, don’t do it (or do it less.) DO NOT breathe steam after shows! That adds to the inflammation. Icing your throat after, or at least drinking cold water AFTER a set is much better for your inflamed vocal cords. I don’t always have the patience to do this, but when I do humming warm-up exercises before a set, it helps a LOT.

Any tips for playing live and dealing with nerves?

EH: You just have to not give a shit what people think. It’s kind of liberating to just go crazy and look ugly in front of a lot of people haha. When you play, you sweat, smell, make stupid faces, etc, and afterward you realize, “wow, no one cares!” Maybe a handful of people are judging you, but fuck them anyway! They ain’t punk! Haha. The rest of the people are also out there looking goofy with you, and it’s reassuring to know that it’s OK to not be perfect, and in fact, punk is one of the few places where we can still be taken seriously without having to be perfect. It helped me tremendously to come out of my shell and get over being so shy!

How did RITW end up releasing your EP on Programme Sounds/Indecision Records?

EH: We played Programme a few times, and eventually they told us they were considering starting a label and wanted us to be the first release! We were stoked because we LOVE that place and the people who run it, and we felt honored to be the first release. Dave from Indecision had come to a couple of our shows there, and he’s friends with the guys at Programme, so he decided he wanted to go in on it, too. That was really exciting for me because Indecision had been pretty inactive for a long time, but some of my all-time favorite bands were on that label back in the day.

You’re Straight Edge; how did you come to this lifestyle?

EH: I’ve never tried any drugs, or alcohol. I grew up with my mother and other family members struggling with drug/alcohol addiction while also being very poor. All my associations with drugs/alcohol are very negative and it’s never seemed like fun to me. Those things were always associated with desperation and had devastating consequences for people in my life. Not appealing at all. When I heard Minor Threat, I was amazed that there was a punk band that didn’t find interest in those things either! The few other punks I knew at that age were all into partying, and I never fully felt like I fit in with them. I knew right away that I was “straight edge” even though where I grew up, there was no scene and no other straight edge people. I didn’t even know there were other straight edge bands besides Minor Threat at first! A little later when I heard Earth Crisis is when I realized this shit was still “a thing” haha. I’ve been straight edge for 20 years now and am still excited about it.

Besides music what else are you passionate about?

EH: Music definitely takes up most of my energy and free time, but I also love cooking healthy vegan food, reading and doing art whenever I can.

You recently completed an orientation for volunteering at the Wetlands Wildlife Center in animal rehabilitation, congrats! What inspired you to do it?

EH: Yes, I just started that! Well for a long time, I was working 2 jobs–7 days a week, between 8-12 hours a day, for several years. I hated my life because I had NO free time. Recently, I’ve started having regular days off again and it’s the first time in a long time I feel like I can finally devote some of my time to things I care about again. There’s a local wildlife rehab center where I live, so it seemed perfect: I love animals, I hate that civilization displaces wildlife, so it makes sense to try to help whatever wildlife still exists around here.

I love your art, especially the drawings of punk girls with lyrics; how much of yourself and your personality shines through in your art?

EH: Thank you! Those drawings you’re referring to are so fun for me because they’re very whimsical, and I don’t plan them out ahead of time. Sometimes art is stressful for me because it’s hard for me to come up with an idea, then plan it, do a couple drafts, and then still probably hate it because it didn’t live up to the vision in my head. But these are basically just doodles that I don’t have any certain plan for ahead of time. It’s much more therapeutic, and I just write whatever lyrics are in the songs I’m listening to at the time. However, my art does vary and can be totally different depending on what mood I’m in at the time, so in that sense, a lot of my personality, or at least emotions, influence my art.

Who are some of your favourite artists?

EH: Even though he’s more of a cartoon artist, Jaik Puppyteeth is probably my favorite right now because his scathing critiques of conventional relationships and ideologies are spot on.

What’s one of your favourite things you’ve created?

EH: That’s hard because I honestly never like anything I’ve made haha. In fact, I’ve been drawing my whole life but would never show ANYONE my art at ALL until just a few years ago. It’s scary to put something out there that you’ve made and anyone can judge it. So, I guess I’m gonna say that the only things I like that I’ve been involved in creating were some releases with bands I’ve been in. As for Gather, my favorite releases were the songs on the split we did, and Beyond the Ruins. As for Rats in the Wall, I like the songs on both the splits we did, as well as this new Warbound 7”.

You’re also a tattooist; what drew you to that art form?

EH: I WAS a tattoo artist for a while, but I no longer work at a shop. I did start an apprenticeship at the beginning of 2011 and worked in a couple shops for a few years. I was hoping that I would fall in love with it because it seemed like one of the few careers I might not hate. Turns out, I didn’t fall in love with it, and I still don’t know if there’s ANY career I won’t hate. Any time I’ve turned something I like into a job, I’ve stopped liking it, which is sad, and I struggle with that ALL THE TIME. That’s part of the frustration I express in some of our songs as well haha.

Do you lose the notion of time when you are creating?

EH: I wish I could, but I think I’m such a high-strung freak who is always constantly worrying about all the things I should be doing and that need to get done, it’s hard for me to just completely lose myself while creating. That is the goal, though. I just recently started meditating after being very resistant to it haha, so let’s see if that helps!

I know that, like me, you’re fond of tea; what’s your favourites?

EH: MMM! Jasmine green tea all day every day! Also Earl Grey (“hot”) is up there. I’m trying to reduce caffeinated teas and drink more herbal teas, but I just love those two so much.

What are you currently working on?

EH: Rats in the Wall is finally trying to slow down on shows and start writing new music, so I’m going to have to start working on some new lyrics! I’ll try not to be so cynical this time around… but no promises. We’re also working on booking a Europe tour in July/August. Finally, I need to hurry up and do a shirt design for my friend’s band Wake of Humanity—they want me to make a shirt to sell to raise money for our friend Tim’s organization called “Vital Action.” Vital Action protects sea turtle nesting areas in Nicaragua and helps them safely make it to the ocean once hatched. They also do beach clean-ups in some of the most polluted coastlines.

For more RATS IN THE WALL go here. GET their Warbound EP via the mucho rad PROGRAMME HQ or INDECISION RECORDS.

*Photos and video by the most excellent ROB WALLACE. Images courtesy and drawings courtesy of EVA‘s IG. Mixed media collage by me.

CREATE FOREVER,

Bx

2 Comments

  1. John A. Duerk
    April 2, 2018

    Great interview. I respect anyone who refuses to give up on their ideals when confronted with the fact that most people will never share them. Eva is correct when she says that it can feel “alienating” at times, but she’s also self-aware enough to know that true happiness for her won’t come from blending in when you know what’s wrong. To me, good ideas don’t lose their relevance because we get older. If anything, they become more relevant as we face greater challenges. Authenticity matters. Conviction matters. Thank you for having the courage to continue. -John Duerk

  2. Bianca
    April 4, 2018

    Thanks for your kind words and checking out the interview John. Eva is rad!! :)

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