Review + Interview: Talking "Painting Words into Lines" With Koyo's Joey Chiaramonte

(Photo credit: Tyler Andrew)
Long Island’s Koyo have been building anticipation about the release of their EP for a while - and I can’t say I blame them for being pumped to put these 5 tracks out into the world. Koyo’s Painting Words into Lines is a masterful dive into the emo and melodic hardcore genres that bands before them like Silent Majority, Brand New, and Taking Back Sunday have done so well. Most notably, while  some bands can become “worship bands” (vocalist Joey Chiaramonte’s words)  by sticking too closely to the outline set by their influences, the band has managed to pay homage to their forefathers without sounding a carbon copy.

In addition to the previously mentioned influences, Chiaramonte also told me that they took inspiration from bands like The Movielife and, on a smaller level, Glassjaw, Crime in Stereo, Capital, and so on. Melodic hardcore is an interesting genre to describe, because there’s definitely equal parts of a few genres at hand. The 00’s emo influences come through super strong, but there’s an undeniable groove and aggression that makes it more than that. With these influences in mind, Koyo’s vibe would be just as home on a hardcore bill as they would on something softer. Long Island’s scene is certainly not hurting for good bands, but they fill a spot and provide something listeners might not notice they needed until they hear it.

Album art

The band’s name gives you a strong hint towards the feeling of nostalgia that these songs immediately hit you with. “Koyo is the Japanese phenomenon of the leaves changing in autumn,” Chiaramonte explains. “Changing seasons, the colors, the nostalgia, its ideas and feelings that just naturally tie into the band artistically … at a grandiose conceptual level, at least.” For listeners who reminisce on the golden era of 90’s-00’s emo/pop punk, but have a hard time finding bands that nail the sound in an authentic way - Koyo ticks that box perfectly.

Another thing that comes through strongly in Koyo’s music is the vulnerable, genuine place that Chiaramonte’s lyrics come from. He described his overall lyrical inspiration as “emerging adulthood,” adding on a general theme of “hurting and learning.” As someone who hasn't written lyrics for a band since high school, Chiaramonte wanted to capture the things that come with growing up as a young adult - the increased responsibilities of gaining control of your life for the first time, relationships, and change in general. (In addition to the interview below, if you’re interested in hearing a little more about that, you can watch the video of their first set on guitarist Marazzo’s channel.)

Painting Words into Lines opens with “Hanging From Grace,” a fast-paced coming-of-age track (which the EP title comes from) that starts the EP off with a strong momentum. “Song For Anthony” follows on a similar high, coming off as one of the more aggressive tracks, alongside “Dreaming in a Wasteland." Contrasting this, “Heaven So Heavy,” a track Chiaramonte self-describes as one about the equal blame in failed relationships - as he said before they played it live for the first time, “You can't just sit there and be pissed at people forever.” The album closes with “Translucent” - both of these songs showcase that 00’s indie/emo sound the best, slowing down the EP and providing softer moments, while also keeping things exciting with driving hooks and well-thought-out guitar parts that set the mood almost as well as the vocals and lyrics do. 

If it’s not obvious, I really liked this EP. Fans of the genres that Koyo blend together tend to have to listen to older bands to get their fix, since it’s not terribly common to hear it done well these days - but Painting Words into Lines (as well as anything the band puts out in the future) has potential to be a really solid staple.

If you’re interested in hearing more about the EP, how it came together, and more, read on below for our full interview with vocalist Joey Chiaramonte.

AA: What made you choose “Koyo”  as a band name?
So, we had trouble finding a band name we agreed on. The project was spawned under the name “The L Word” which was just ripped straight from Silent Majority’s “Taming The L Word”. We ultimately decided against that. Marazzo (guitar) eventually proposed Koyo. Not only is it simple and sticks easy, but its definition also ties in nicely with the music and vibe, I guess. Koyo is the Japanese phenomenon of the leaves changing in autumn. Changing seasons, the colors, the nostalgia, its ideas and feelings that just naturally tie into the band artistically I guess; at, like, a grandiose conceptual level, at least. 

AA: What are some influences you guys took inspiration from for this band?
At the forefront, Taking Back Sunday, The Movielife, Silent Majority. But all your staple larger Long Island melodic/hardcore bands all had things that I think affected the music written. Glassjaw, Crime In Stereo, Brand New, Capital, the list is near endless.

However, people these days really confuse doing worship bands and having a band with strong influences. I think some people will read this and listen to Koyo and be like, “What??? That doesn’t sound like *insert band here* because bla bla bla.” Like, no, fuckface, we didn’t just rewrite a bunch of songs from bands we liked. We’re not a worship band. Inspiration comes in little parts, sections, and moments of bands you like, hardcore or otherwise. [We] for sure tried to hit on a few of those moments and ideas. 

AA: Koyo sounds very different compared to the sounds that have been popular as of late (primarily metalcore and heavier hardcore). What made you want to start a band that sounds like this?
So, Koyo is a band I personally wanted to do for a long time. All the melodic LIHC stuff has always been bread and butter for me. It’s always resonated deeper than most other genres of music, and even hardcore for me. I wanted to take my own shot at capturing the way my life on Long Island makes me feel. I think there’s something really special about that similar effort from Long Island bands past. I think the rest of the band feel that too. Additionally, everyone in the band are all nearly lifelong friends. We all play in bands, it just made sense to do new bands with each other. Shoutout to our other band with a near exact same roster of people, Soul Provider. I think we fucking rule. [I agree!! - Ed]

AA: The majority of the members of Koyo are in a few other bands each (Typecaste, Rain of Salvation, etc). How does it feel to get to make music with a band with a different sound than what you all typically write?
So, speaking from my personal position, I guess it’s worth noting that I don’t write much of the Typecaste stuff. Sean’s at the forefront of that. I’ve helped here or there when we’d jam on stuff but I actually haven’t and don’t write that much heavy hardcore, despite loving heavy and hard shit. However, I spend nearly all my time around heavier hardcore, or at least hardcore that doesn’t sound like Koyo, so writing all the Koyo stuff was refreshing and feels healthy for my brain. Balance is good. I like playing hard shit and all the stuff that comes with that, but that is not who I am at my absolute core. It’s a part of me, but it’s not everything. 

AA: Admittedly, before I had the EP, I watched the video of Koyo’s first set quite a few times, and I dug the fact that each song seemed like it had a story to it. What kinds of things inspired you when writing the lyrics on this EP?
Emerging adulthood. I haven’t written lyrics for a band since I was 17/18. I am 23 going on 24 now. Your life fresh out of high school, for many people, is a turbulent, depressing, and trying time. I had nowhere to meditate on these last 5 or so years until doing this band. It’s songs about gaining control of your headspace, loving and losing and just being at odds with so many things that once felt normal and good in your life. So in summary: hurting and learning. 

AA: The fourth track, “Dreaming in a Wasteland,” is about living on your native Long Island and how some people can tend to squander the opportunity of living somewhere like that. Can you expand on that a little?
Well, I feel that people spend too much of their teenage and young adult years trying to figure out how to get off Long Island. I’ve seen it countless times: 19 year old community college dropout moves to North Carolina in a manic effort to fix one’s life. What do those people oftentimes have back home? A loving, presumably somewhat well-off family that wants to help hold them down while they figure out what is fulfilling and fruitful in their life.  Half the time, you just end up moving back anyways.

For clarity’s sake: Long Island is a very expensive place to live on your own. It’s rare people move out of their parents’ homes before their mid- to late twenties, and even then, some don’t. So, of course, the prospect of leaving Long Island crosses one’s mind often. But still, the backgrounds and privilege we have living here offer so much time and resources to figure our shit out. Dream and accomplish, you literally can. Go to therapy, not Alabama or some shit. (No offense to people who live in other places, I fuck with other places too.)

AA: How do you feel about the current state of the scene on Long Island?
Long Island is always awesome. There are always good shows. There are always good bands. There are always good kids coming to shows making it awesome. I wish more bands would play out and tour. Kinda pointing to my answer to my prior question: your part time job is replaceable. Touring the country playing hardcore music, road dogging, slinging merch, whatever - it’s irreplaceable and special. That’s a window that, for most, closes with age and responsibility. Your young adult years are the time to run that path. You can figure out rent, jobs/time off, and keeping significant others happy while you’re gone. Bands are meant to tour, more young LI bands and kids should tour, that’s my only criticism I guess. Shoutout Sanction, The Fight, Separated (RIP), Jukai (RIP), Hangman, Blame God, Rule Them All, Regulate, and Silenus. All, relatively speaking, current era bands that tour/toured and do/did exactly what I’m talking about in varying capacities. 

Koyo’s next show on Long Island

AA: Any future plans you’d like to talk about?
Koyo will be playing shows throughout the year, mostly on Long Island probably, to be honest. [We] wanna hit other places if and when we can. Working on more music in the summer, details to come eventually. My band Typecaste will be touring most of the rest of this year all over. I’ll also be slinging shirts and doing other random shit with Vein all over. 

AA: Anything else you’d like to add?
Se-Port Deli and O Sole Mio are god. Stony Brook is what’s good. Respect to Somerset Thrower, Victory Garden, yesduke, and Rule Them All for keeping melodic LIHC rolling. Shout out Da Fam, PTTB, and every person I give an actual fuck about. 

I’d like to thank Joey once again for reaching out to do this interview. If you’re local to Long Island, you can catch them opening for Webbed Wing at AMH on the 22nd, as well as for Rain of Salvation at Shakers Pub on the 27th. 

Additionally, you can find Koyo via their social media links below:

Click here for an exclusive stream of Painting Words into Lines on Exclaim! For those who wish to listen elsewhere, check your favorite streaming services on March 14th.


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