Become One: Long Island Hardcore Band Breathes New Life Into Project With "Subsidence"

(Photo credit: Justin Bernard)

As we all know, Long Island is an incredibly fruitful hardcore scene, with a ton of incredible bands of all kinds to choose from - metallic, punky, you name it. 

Become One are a Long Island hardcore band that formed in 1997. However, with their new EP, Subsidence, they’ve come back with even more energy than they had the first time around.

When Become One, first started out, the band definitely came off as a more straightforward-sounding hardcore band, leaning gently into the more metallic side of things. The band broke up in 2002 due to life (and lineup) changes, coming back together in 2014. Unfortunately, their bass player, Matt Wargas, passed away due to brain cancer, and, after playing one more time with him, everything was put on pause again.

The band added Mike Musilli (ex-Crime in Stereo) into the ranks in 2017, releasing a new EP entitled Transfixion of a Subculture. Over quarantine, the band got to work on some newer tracks, which then became the EP Subsidence. On this EP, the band focuses in on those metallic influences, based heavily off guitarist Ed’s eclectic taste in heavy music that ranges from Iron Maiden to Vision of Disorder.

Bassist Mike and I spoke more about the history of the band and how they got to where they are today, as well as his history as a writer, joining forces with New Morality Zine, and Long Island hardcore as a whole.

(Photo credit: Joe Rubio)

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

MM: Hi! My name is Mike, and I play bass in Become One. A random fact about me: I was adopted from Bogota, Colombia when I was six weeks old.

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

MM: My first hardcore show was 25taLife, Tension*, and Overthrow at the Roxy, in Huntington, Long Island in 1995. It had an immeasurable impact on me. The danger, the sound, and the culture were absolutely shocking and enamoring to me. While I’d be lying if I said that I still regularly listen to those bands specifically, the heavy and aggressive sound all of those bands from that show left an indelible mark on what I love about hardcore music. The entire experience really helped me realize that it’s totally fine to not fit in at high school, and that it’s totally okay to feel like you’re different. Not that anything specific or particular happened at that show, it was just a formative moment of realization. I’d found my community, and I haven’t left since.

AA: What made you want to start a band like Become One?

MM: So, interestingly, I had no part in starting Become One. I was mostly just friends with everyone in the band, but I was way more into booking shows and doing zines when they formed. They started the band out of an older band called Standing 8 Count that they’d all been in. I think everyone wanted a bit of a fresh start in that sense. I booked Become One on a bunch of shows I did, and I interviewed them for my old zine. But, until 2016, when I joined in, I was just a friend to them all. 

AA: To my understanding, Become One has been a band since 1997, took some time off, then recently released a new EP, Subsidence. Was there any new goals for the band after returning this time around?

MM: Yeah, that’s correct. The band is way old, especially in “hardcore years.” But the band had put out two demos between 1998 and 2001, which were really well-received. There was talk of a full-length, or at least an EP, but they ended up breaking up around 2002ish. It was hard for everyone to stay focused, lots of turnover in bass players. People trying to figure out where the fuck life was heading for them, all that stuff. They all got back in touch with each other around 2014, I think through Shaun, our singer. Everyone seemed pretty into just playing again and seeing how things went. 

And then, it turned out that their bass player, Matt Wargas, had been diagnosed with stage-4 brain cancer. So the focus shifted a bit to at least playing one more time with Matt so that this children could see him play one time before he passed on. That was a heavy moment for those guys too. It was some legitimate, real-life emotional shit. I think, after Matt passed away, the three other guys – Nevio, Ed, and Shaun – all wanted to continue playing. We started writing Subsidence just before the pandemic hit. The goal was to draw on the sound that the band developed on the early demos, while also pulling in some of our more modern influences. What we wanted, more than anything, was a cohesive and thoughtful set of songs that showed that we were still hardcore kids, but also that we’d grown a lot since the band’s initial releases. I think the band achieved that with Subsidence. I’m really proud of that EP. 

Album art

AA: What are some of the differences in the Long Island scene from when you first started, versus now?

MM: Well, I think Long Island’s always had a very distinct hardcore culture. We continue to show that we are a strong and diverse scene, well apart from - but also forever linked to - the NYC scene. The biggest difference to me, right now, is stability. For so many years, Long Island had to find venues piecemeal to keep shows going and to keep tour packages interested in playing here, rather than just NYC. But there are a few venues that have been open for years now that have absolutely stabilized the LIHC scene. Amityville Music Hall and Shaker’s Pub in particular have given the scene trustworthy and consistent venues to have legit hardcore shows, and we are super fucking lucky for that. Prior to having these venues, the scene was all ebbs and flows. Sometimes there was a good venue for a year or two, and sometimes there was next to nothing - but this stability has allowed the scene to thrive. I certainly appreciate that. 

AA: The metallic inspiration comes through strong on Subsidence. What are some of your musical influences for this band, as well as this EP?

MM: Ed is our primary song-writer in terms of the music, and he’s a complete metalhead - so he makes no bones about having that metal influence. His favorite band is Iron Maiden, and he definitely vibes on stuff like Entombed and Cannibal Corpse. He also brings in vibes from bands like Vision of Disorder and Harvest, so that sort of widens the scope of the music for us. Ironically, I’m way more of a punk hardcore person myself. I was never huge on the metal end of the hardcore genre, but I really enjoy playing that style. It’s difficult in a different way. For me, I like bringing that fuzzy ambient bass style to our songs. I always loved the bass vibes in Modern Life Is War and Indecision, and I think I get to bring that into this band way more than any other band I’ve played in.

AA: Lyrically, what were some of your inspirations on these songs?

MM: So, Shaun writes all of the band’s lyrics. Much of what he writes about is both introspective and worldly. He has an uncanny ability to write lyrics that are about very specific moments in his life, but he writes them in such a way that the listener can relate thoughtfully. He’s always struggled with the idea of the “divine,” and he definitely covers that on this EP. An eternal question without an answer, right? I’d say “False Operative” is a great song lyrically, too. Shaun sort of takes a step back and looks at how divisive the world is, and what people’s motivations seem to be within that divisiveness. I really love how he approached that idea too. I think all of us in the band view the world as a very cold, unforgiving, and largely amoral place, and that song confronts that and perhaps even asks the listener why we can’t be stronger in the face of such a world.

AA: Mike - as a recent addition to the band, what has it been like for you? Do you feel you’ve been adding your contributions to something the band was already doing, or have you been working together to create something newer together?

MM: It’s been awesome for me, honestly. I’ve been close friends with Ed, the guitarist, for over twenty years now, and I’m really happy we’re finally playing in a band together - but it’s also been a learning experience, especially since they have been together for so long. So, I’m definitely the “new guy,” even if I’ve known them all for years. That’s a bit different for me, also in that I know I can’t really take too much of a leadership role. I try to choose my goals and “battles” carefully because of that dynamic.

I’d say my contributions are both towards what Become One already had a vision for, and towards a newer vision of what the band can be. I was definitely vocal about harnessing the more interesting aspects of the band’s early sound when thinking towards what became the music on Subsidence. I am definitely trying to help update and modernize the band’s aesthetic. Hardcore is a young person’s game, and acting like it doesn’t matter that we’re way on in the game is foolish. It matters to see and hear and interact with what the young new bands are doing. I try to help weave that into Become One’s vibe too. There has to be balance.

(Photo credit: Justin Bernard)

AA: Does being a music writer/critic affect you at all when creating and perceiving the music you make?

MM: Nah. That’s a largely separate aspect to my involvement with hardcore music. Really, I’m just a huge reading and writing nerd. I love thinking of a feature idea and talking to people to get blurbs, and then writing the ideas out. That hardcore is my avenue through which to do that has very little to do with Become One. The only intersectionality there is that it’s made coordinating media and shows for the band a bit easier, since I have some contacts established there. It’s just sick to be able to use writing as a way to help bands out. The people at Punknews and Carlos at No Echo have been super chill with me. They basically let me write up anything I pitch to them. I think zines and websites that cover the scene are integral to keeping the culture flowing. It’s hard work sometimes. It’s often thankless work too. But it’s also work that matters. Just look at how much Resonating has helped bands and people out. That’s you. You did that! [Thank you and also I’m gonna cry - Ed]

AA: What made you want to work with NMZ?

MM: Well, Nick is one of the best people I’ve been lucky enough to meet through hardcore. He’s an earnest and selfless dude, and what he’s done with NMZ is amazing. The zine itself is great. He’s super thoughtful about his content and how he releases each issue, and that he expanded that into the label is just awesome. 

Now, in the interest of honesty, I sort of used my “friend” card with Nick on this one. I really wanted the songs on Subsidence to be given the due they deserved. I was super proud of the band for coming together and writing those songs. So when things were finishing up I just hit up Nick with a sort of, “Hey, my band has four songs done. Completed. Recording is all paid for. Any chance I could convince you to throw the NMZ logo on this thing so it at least appears like a real release?” Admittedly, that was not really fair of me, because it could’ve put Nick in a weird spot - but he was way down. He was way into it after hearing the songs, and he worked really fucking hard to get that EP out over the summer. We really owe Nick a lot for that. He never really intended to have Become One on his slate of releases this year, but he welcomed us with open arms and has been way supportive. We couldn’t have asked for a better fit. 

(Photo credit: Justin Bernard)

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

MM: We’re booking shows for the new year, which is so sick. We already have a few local things mostly set, and we’re also working on some “weekend warrior” stuff to get out of state, if we can. We’ve got a new song just about done, too. Given how 2021 went for all of us, we’re definitely aiming to make the legit most of 2022.

AA: Any last words or shoutouts?

MM: First, thank you, Angie, for giving us a platform and for doing what you do for so many bands and people in the scene. We really appreciate you.  Some shoutouts - please listen to and support the work these bands are doing. They all absolutely fucking rule: Spaced, Prospect, Broken Vow, Playing Dead, Rejection Pact, The Rook, Stand Still, Draw the Line, Zulu, Rule Them All, Victory Garden, and Bitters & Distractions. 

Oh, and go watch The Matrix (again?), and tell me this isn’t all just one big illusion.

Thank you again to Mike - for doing the interview, for always supporting Resonating, and for all the kind words mixed into these answers - seriously, it means more than you know.

You can see more from Become One via the links below:

Instagram | Bandcamp

Listen to Subsidence wherever you stream music!


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