Interview: Rain of Salvation's James and TJ on Straight Edge Hardcore and More

(Photo credit: Gabe Becerra)

Last spring, Rain of Salvation put out one of my favorite releases of this year - a 5-song EP entitled A War Outside and Within. While some first EPs and demos can come across stumbly or rough, this release has quickly established ROS to me as a band that’s just as committed to their quality as they are to delivering sharp-edged, 90’s-influenced metallic straight edge hardcore. This could be partially due to the musical history behind the band’s members, sprinkled across the Northeast, who are involved in several other awesome current and past bands in the area - Typecaste, Atonement, and Past Hope, to name a few. They’ve got the experience, and I, for one, think they’re doing an awesome job putting it to work.

I got to speak with their vocalist, James Austin, and guitarist, TJ Rotolico, about musical influences, putting together their EP, straight edge, and more.

AA: What are some bands that influence Rain of Salvation’s sound, either
for you guys as individuals or as a whole?

TJ: In general, a lot of different music, movies, and art. The biggest influences for ROS are Foundation, Buried Alive, Indecision, Turmoil, Kickback, and All Out War. While some of these bands share an umbrella, they all differ a bit from each other. I wanted to make a band that’s a giant mix of all of them, taking what I like from each, and making our own modernized version of it. 

James: I take a lot of influences from a lot of different genres of music and a lot of different mediums in general. My favorite thing is when a storyteller, or a performer in general, has character to what they’re doing - something that makes them distinct from all others. So, in turn, I try to carry that over to my songwriting.

AA: Did you guys have a specific vision in mind of what you wanted to
sound like when you started Rain of Salvation?

TJ: Yes, Sal [Argento, drummer] and I talked about doing a Straight Edge band in the summer of 2018 before I officially moved to Long Island. We share a similar sweet spot for metallic hardcore, so the idea of an XXX metallic hardcore band was perfect. The bands I listed above were the immediate common consensus. When talking about vocals, we wanted to find someone that was passionate about Straight Edge music, was a good friend, and someone that shares the same vision as we do. James was the most ideal fit for us and I’m really happy that it came full form. I like his lyrics, I like his tone, and he has a good, energetic presence. 

(Photo credit: Errick Easterday)

AA: Though it’s your first release, A War Outside and Within sounds very
polished for an initial EP. How was the process of getting it together for

TJ: Sal lives about 20-25 minutes from me on Long Island, so it’s pretty easy to get together. We’d get together maybe once a week and work on the EP for a few months. Sal is a crazy talented drummer, so he totally gets what I mean when I go “bee boo bop” trying to sound something out. While the songs are relatively short and sweet, I think it’s important to make the songs actual songs that stand out versus “songs” that are a bunch of parts. The best example of this in ROS is “Call to Arms.” It’s hard trying to find a happy medium between good song-writing and enough mosh/hard parts, but I eventually want to move more towards this for future material. 

We recorded with Chris Rini at Shellshock Audio on Long Island. He’s done a bunch of our friend’s bands, so it was a fun experience. One of the funniest memories was James hooked up to a breathing mask in between songs because of some medical problems around the time vocals needed to be recorded. The breathing machine was just a totally ridiculous sight, so we laughed a lot about it.

AA: How did you guys end up teaming up with Life and Death Brigade to
release the 7”?

TJ: I think it was a few weeks after we released the EP. Tyler Short [Inclination & LDB Staff] reached out to Sal and talked to him about doing a 7” for us. Funny enough, it was actually on April Fool’s day, so we all thought Sal was playing a joke on us. However, it turned out to be true, and we’re still super grateful they want to do this for us. The records are done and we’ll have them online and at upcoming shows.

(Photo credit: Gabe Becerra)

AA: A War Outside and Within has a lot of strong lyrical themes on it. Who
tends to do the writing, and where do you guys typically draw lyrical
inspiration from?

James: For me, I write all the lyrics, then I send them to the rest of the band just so they can give me feedback on certain things. But for inspiration, I get a lot of it from my background in poetry, short stories, and the various stuff I’ve read throughout the years. In fact, sometimes I’ll just Google random thoughts about the subject I’m writing and see if any quotes or stories ring true with me, and take inspiration from those.

AA: What made you want to work with Tyler Mullen (Year of the Knife) on “Call to Arms?”

James: Tyler has been a great friend of mine and we share a lot of the same values. The whole theme of that song is feeling that you’re the only one who is standing for something, but that’s almost never true. Sometimes, though, you have to be the one who stands and is the mouthpiece to the cause you’re standing for. The ones who actually care will come with you and the ones who don’t care at all will fall off. Tyler is a person who champions for things he believes are right, so it’s a natural fit.

AA: While a lot of bands have been starting up as of late, straight edge
bands are still somewhat in the minority at the moment. Why was
starting a straight edge band important to you guys, and what does
being edge mean to you?

TJ: I could talk about this for days, but I’ll keep it short: it’s one of the most important life choices for me. It’s not something to force upon people, and it’s not something used to look cool. It’s a personal choice for myself and no one else. I’ve always resonated with having a clear conscious, so I couldn't imagine my life any other way. I can’t stress this enough, but while that’s what works for me, think for yourself and do you. 

As far as making a band, Straight Edge hardcore is a weapon against traditional thinking and the normalization that substances are the “fun” or “cool” thing to do. We definitely want to be a band that carries a message and we want to help people relate. James has shared some lyrics with me for some new songs and they’re my absolute favorite to date, so I’m excited for others to read them.

James: I had never gotten to be in an edge band before, getting to express my opinions and feelings on something that has shaped my life. So, when I was contacted about it, it was a total no brainer for me. But the one thing I wanted to bring to the table, something that a lot of my favorite straight edge bands were, [was] that they were totally aware that they could speak on being a straight edge band and wear it on their sleeves while also not alienating those who don’t choose that path in life. So that is a torch I wanted to carry along myself - to write lyrics that could stand in opposition to those things I despise, while leaving the message and narrative open enough that anyone can take from it.

(Photo credit: Errick Easterday)

AA: Do you have any upcoming plans you’d like to share

TJ: We’ll be doing a Straight Edge weekend run with Inclination & Vicious Embrace 12/27-12/30. It hits Richmond, Delaware, Long Island, and Wilkes-Barre. We’ll also be playing Friday of LDB Fest 2020 alongside some of the best current acts in hardcore. The plan is to have new music out early next year and to be playing some of those new songs at the fest (and maybe earlier).

AA: Anything else you’d like to add?

TJ: Listen to Hangman, Simulakra, Typecaste, Queensway, Adrenaline, Hell of Self, Soul Blind, Life’s Question, Rule Them All, and Inclination. Shoutout Long Island, Kings Park Bluff, and Flux Coffee.

James: Listen to any and all bands from Delaware, as well as all the bands that TJ mentioned, I am also fueled by Little Goat Coffee in Newark, DE.

I would like to thank TJ and James again for doing this interview with me. I see a lot of potential in Rain of Salvation, and I’m happy to share their music and message with you all.

You can check them out on LDB Fest 2020 in Louisville, KY this February, or, if you’re lucky enough to be on the East Coast, definitely come out to a show on their Straight Edge Weekend run this December.

Check out the band on social media by following the links below:


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