Prospect: Vocalist Sean Kenny is Reintroducing Hardcore With a Message


(Photo credit: Carl Gunhouse)

In a world of subgenres, aesthetics and labels, Central New Jersey’s Prospect have one thing to say - if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The band goes right back to the roots, creating straightforward, punk-influenced hardcore that means something.

The band just released Promo ‘21, a fast, politically-charged two-song offering that aims to give a taste of their upcoming 2022 EP.

Vocalist Sean Kenny provided plenty of awesome insight on the band, so I’ll keep the intro short. No need for any further introductions - read on to learn a bit more about Prospect’s beginnings, writing political lyrics that genuinely mean something, shows, his other gig in recording, New Jersey hardcore, and more.

AA: Introduce yourself with your name, what you do in the band, and a random fact about yourself.

SK: Hi, my name is Sean Kenny, I sing for Prospect, and I once dropkicked our old guitarist Mike into a cab, breaking it, then I electrocuted myself trying to fix it. Surprisingly not, we went our separate ways. Love ya, Mike.

AA: Who played your first hardcore show? What impact did that have on keeping you involved in hardcore?

SK: I’ll be honest, it’s embarrassing that I don’t even know the bands that played my first hardcore show. I remember the first show I went to when I was a teenager. It was at a venue called Prince Of Peace in Howell, NJ, and it was a bunch of the more heavy hardcore kind of stuff that was popular back in like ’06. I didn’t actually care much for that kind of sound back then, which is why I don’t remember them. I was into the more punk side of things. I just remember thinking, “I gotta go to any show that's even remotely punk,” and Prince of Peace was the only venue I could reliably go to without a car. It was the closest I could get, and even if it wasn’t my style, I loved it. Just the energy of it all is what I was looking for. It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized a lot of the bands I considered “punk” were also hardcore bands.

AA: How did Prospect come together as a band? What were some of your influences/goals when starting out?

SK: Prospect came together really haphazardly at first. I wanted to start a hardcore band, even though I had never played in a band, and so I got together with some people - Mike, who was a random person I asked, my roommate Tim at my college, and my friend Bryan, who I’ve known my whole life. We reasonably shouldn’t consider the first couple years the same band, as the sound was not coherent, and we were just figuring out how to write music. 

I’d say we actually started when Cole started on drums and we decided to try and make politically-driven music, influenced by bands like The Suicide File, American Nightmare, Count Me Out, and Inside Out. Now we also have a new guitarist Kevin, and I’m really excited to see how we collaborate with him.

AA: Where did the band name come from?

SK: If I’m honest, I just got it from combat sports, being involved in Muay Thai for 13 years, and, to a lesser extent, BJJ, boxing, and wrestling for MMA. Just thought it had a cool ring to it, being the up-and-comer and still having something to prove. The person gunning for the champion is a lot more interesting than some legacy dominance. We also realized more recently that it works politically in the same way - class war and “a better world is possible” kind of stuff. That is pure luck though, there wasn't that deep of thought put into it.

(Photo credit: Joey Bottino)

AA: Your last release was an EP called No Other Way, which was put out in 2018. Do you feel like there’s been any differences in writing for that EP, versus the next release you have coming with NMZ?

SK: I feel like we’re fully locked-in to what we’re trying to do now. When we finished writing No Other Way, we felt like, “Oh, finally, we actually have something here,” but it was only a general feel. Now, we feel like we actually know how to focus that into everything we want to do. It’s much more straightforward, aggressive, and faster than No Other Way. Lyrically, I feel like it's in a similar direction, but more direct, and a little less positive than some of our previous material. I’m a lot more cynical about the world now, never in a way that stops me from trying to improve things, but even still - there's a lot of hate and frustration here. No Other Way influences were like Count Me Out and Inside Out, whereas new stuff is more influenced by straight forward bands like Floorpunch, Killing Time, and The Rival Mob.

AA: You guys have said in interviews that you’re trying to “put the hardcore and punk back into melodic hardcore.” Is that still the goal on the new record?

SK: I think we’re done aiming for that right now. I think a lot of bands have been able to revitalize what I consider melodic hardcore in a non-corny way, and they carry the mantle for that now. Bands like Vantage Point, Rule Them All, and One Step Closer. All of them have totally different takes on it, and I love what they're doing. Everyone’s got their own definition of melodic hardcore, and I straight up don’t understand some people’s examples, but those three in particular are great ones right now, in my eyes.

Our goal with this record is to make something straightforward and fast that expresses genuine anger towards the way things are. I feel like making a coherent political band with actual, non-performative rage is something that's lacking in a significant way. There are some bands that try writing political lyrics, and it just comes off as so shallow, because it’s just the flavor of the week to them. It’s immediately apparent when they say things that are blatantly obvious to anyone paying attention, but present it in such a way like they’re the ones that figured it out. Bands that are that way don’t want to be part of a movement - they want to lead it, no matter how little they actually know. Wack, shut it down.

Is that too harsh? I don’t know, that shit just pisses me off, and I’m trying to do the opposite of that. I genuinely care about this stuff and I always will. It’s not enough for me to just say I’m a socialist and capitalism is bad, there has to be a deeper analysis to actually talk about that in a real way. Even though I agree with that general sentiment, labels don’t mean anything to a lot of people, including some people that use them. There's more you have to communicate if you want to do more than grandstand. I gotta shout out The Fight and Worn in regards to this by the way, because they are two bands doing it all right in their own way.

Album art

AA: How did you end up working with New Morality Zine?

SK: A few years back, Nick and I just started talking through social media and such after No Other Way came out. We met a couple times at various shows - I think Back To School Jam, and maybe Sound and Fury. When we started seriously planning this EP, he is the only person I thought about hitting up right away. Luckily for us, he was down to work with us! He’s been great too, it's not often that you find people that genuinely invested in everything they do and enthusiastic the whole time. He’s put out so much good stuff that I genuinely love, proud to be team NMZ!

AA: If my info is correct, your last show pre-pandemic was the Eric Antico memorial show in Freehold, NJ, in January 2020, and your next show (at the time these questions were written) is going to be the Worn record release in Wilkes-Barre, PA, this weekend - two shows that I’ve been incredibly envious of at different times. How does it feel to get back into the swing of playing shows again? Are you excited for the Worn show?

SK: There’s definitely some aspect of it that feels strange, but what doesn’t these days? I’m so fuckin’ excited though, and all I want to do is play a ton of shows now. I missed hardcore shows a lot this past year and a half, but was also preoccupied with my day job where I work in the medical field as a patient care tech. Having this experience allowed me to really step back and have a better perspective with more patience, as well as appreciating it all a little more.

We couldn’t have asked for two better shows to bookend this nightmare,  though. The show in Freehold was incredible, and was one of the best sets we’ve ever had. It was basically a hometown show at an old venue we went to when first getting into the scene - to be able to do that with our hometown homies in Shackled was really cool. Add to that Misconduct’s last show, who are our really good friends, and Touchdown Boy, who we actually played our first show ever with. Overall, [it was] just such a special show for a good cause. RIP Eric Antico.

Coming back with the Worn record release was also just so sick, I love everyone in that band and every band on that show was people we fuck with. Worn put out one of the best records this year, and seeing them blow up after all these years of hard work really makes me happy. It was an amazing show, full on hardcore.

AA: Aside from Prospect, as someone who records a ton of bands, you’re often surrounded by music in other ways. Did this help you feel more connected to music in the midst of the pandemic?

SK: In general, recording definitely helps me grow closer to people in the scene, but I wasn’t able to record last year really. Luckily, I had a lot of mixing to hold me through and keep my momentum. So I don’t know, I think more than anything, just being able to talk to my friends who are involved kept me locked in. Not having a show to contextualize hanging with friends kind of forced me to socialize more directly with people, which was great honestly. It’s actually how I met our new guitarist Kevin, thanks to a group chat my friend Dan from Worn started during all this.

AA: What are some of your favorite things you’ve recorded for others?

SK: Literally anything I’ve recorded from the Perth Amboy bands. I think that ranks pretty high up - Fence Cutter, Misconduct, Cutdown, and Never Again. It’s really hard to narrow down though, because I’m really fortunate to almost exclusively work with sick bands. More recently, working with Worn and The Answer on their AHC comp tracks was great. Working with Anxious a couple years ago kicked ass too. 

The Live on Axe To Grind stuff has been really cool too, totally different approach to recording, but it’s definitely worked out great. Some of those that I’m particularly stoked on how they came out are Magnitude, Mindforce, Blind Justice, and Koyo, more recently. I’m not bullshitting when I say I’m excited about every single recording I’ve done in the past couple years, and I could probably say something about every project.

AA: How do you guys feel about the scene in your area, and more generally, New Jersey? What are some of your favorite NJ bands?

SK: New Jersey kicks ass. It's got something for everyone, and it always bounces back from periods of inactivity. I think, post-pandemic, things looked weird because the amount of active bands seemed to have plummeted, but new stuff is already coming out of all of it. Perth Amboy is where a lot of the best stuff stems from right now. They’re the important scene to look at, in my opinion. Cutdown and Never Again are two new bands  that I think are going to have a lot of energy to them - though, full disclosure, I play guitar in Never Again [laughs]. Every show that people like Jason and Avery book has such a great feel to them. It's real-deal, diverse hardcore without any weird undertones. The returning NJHC show Jason did with Raw Brigade at the art space in Highland Park is a perfect example of that - one of the best shows I’ve ever been to.

If we’re talking all-time NJ bands, I mean - Floorpunch is the greatest hardcore band ever. Not a single bad song from them, and I will see them literally any chance I get. Turning Point is a favorite of mine as well, especially the self titled 7”. I obviously gotta mention Blind Justice as well - they’ll go down as an all-timer for NJ for sure, and they carried the mantle for so long.

(Photo credit: Carl Gunhouse)

AA: What are some things you’d like to see more of in your local scene in the future?

SK: Hopefully more fast, straightforward bands. I’ve definitely got a soft spot for that kind of style, especially in the heyday of the shore, so seeing any kind of resurgence of that would be awesome. I think the current crop of bands is doing great stuff though, more punk-inspired and more mid tempo, so whatever, fuck it, the past is dead, new life is always better. I hope NJ keeps up with momentum and more new bands come out, especially from younger people doing their own thing. It's the only thing that keeps all this shit going.

Maybe that's a little cliche, so I’ll be more specific - I want unhinged young people to be involved. Maybe not full-on “I’m worried about this person being here” unhinged, but something that actually drives people to yell in a band. I think it's lame as hell to start a hardcore band just cause you feel like it's something to do, then you're just yelling about nothing. There’s gotta be something else there.

AA: Any upcoming plans you’d like to talk about?

SK: Other than the EP coming out next year, there's a lot of stuff we’re working on [that’s] not yet finalized yet. We’re hoping to do some weekends coming up, and maybe even a little West Coast next year? Stuff is in the works, and I can’t wait to finalize things and get down to it. Fingers crossed the world doesn’t fall apart.

(Photo credit: Carl Gunhouse)

AA: Any last words?

SK: Listen to Prim, Vantage Point, Cutdown, Never Again, Brute, Worn, C4, The Fight, and Rule Them All. And shoutout to Emily, my fiancé, too.

I want to thank Sean again for doing this interview! In all honesty, I worry sometimes when I do email interviews, because not everyone gives as well-thought out answers as Sean did - but he went above and beyond. He is definitely someone with an interesting perspective that is worth listening to, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did.

You can keep up with Prospect via the links below:

Instagram | Facebook | Bandcamp

Last but not least - listen to Promo ‘21, and get excited for the 2022 EP!


No comments

Post a Comment