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Members include Rich Cipriano (left group, 1992), bass; Lou Koller, vocals; Peter Koller, guitar, vocals; Armand Majidi (group member, c. 1987-91), drums; Craig Setari (joined group, 1992), bass, vocals. Addresses: Record company--Fat Wreck Chords, P.O. Box 193690, San Francisco, CA 94110, website: http://www.fatwreck.com. Website--Sick of It All Official Website: http://www.sickofitall.com.
The popularity of New York City's hard-core rock group Sick of It All (SOIA) has as much to do with a feeling of belonging and sense of community as it does with their hundreds of thousands of fans, who are mostly teenaged and young adult, angst-ridden males. They have been likened to such groups as Snapcase, Helmet, and Agnostic Front. According to a Fat Wreck Chords press release, the group gives those fans something other hard-core bands do not, "something that cannot be fabricated or target-marketed to them: lyrics that capture their alienation, music that channels their rage, and the emotional release provided only by the most energetic and communal of live shows."
Brothers Lou and Peter Koller formed Sick of It All in New York City in the mid-1980s. They came up with the band's name, which reflected their outlook on life, while sitting in their parents' basement. Peter played guitar, Lou took on vocal duties. They completed the group with Armand Majidi on drums and bassist Rich Cipriano, who was replaced in 1992 by Craig Setari. SOIA built a loyal following, playing such New York clubs as the legendary CBGB's, and released their self-title debut EP on the independent Revelation record label in 1987. They released their first full-length album, Blood, Sweat & No Tears, on Relativity two years later.
SOIA played their short, explosive songs at live shows to throngs of sweaty young males who enjoyed knocking each other around in the mosh pit. Most of their songs are less than two minutes long. Fights during early shows gave the band a reputation for encouraging violence that has plagued them. They have written several songs, including "What's Going On," about the often-gang-related violence they do not condone, but that often colors their live performances. The group went on its first national tour in support of Blood, Sweat & No Tears. Drummer Majidi chose to work with the group Rest In Pieces during this time, and was replaced by Max Capshaw. Majidi rejoined the group to record the 1991 EP We Stand Alone on the Relativity label but, along with bassist Cipriano (who was replaced by Eddie Coen), decided to forgo the album's preceding tour.
SOIA's original lineup regrouped to record 1992's Just Look Around, again for Relativity. The album has been cited as having boosted a flagging New York hard-core scene. Bassist Craig Setari permanently replaced Cipriano before the group's sojourn to Europe and Japan that year. By the time they were ready to get back into the studio, SOIA had outgrown the Relativity label, and signed with the major label Elektra imprint EastWest for the 1994 release of Scratch the Surface. The deal with EastWest was the subject of much controversy in the grassroots hard-core scene. As can be typical of purist fans, some saw SOIA as selling out for money or fame by signing with a major label. They also were accused of leaving behind the independent scene that had supported them for so many years.
The band released both a live album, Live in a World Full of Hate, and a collection of early recordings, Spreading the Hardcore Reality, in 1995 on the independent Lost & Found label, which likely pleased fans. The group released its second major label album in 1997, the critically favored Built to Last. EastWest and Elektra gave the band better exposure to a wider audience than could have been supported by an independent label. As a result, they were able to tour more consistently and to take their music to bigger audiences via the festival circuit and more far-reaching tours. SOIA has played before fans in Europe, Japan, Iceland, South and Central America, as well as in the United States. The group even broke the top 100, which was ironic considering their well-known disdain for the popular music industry and the well-marketed, chart-topping stars it produces.
SOIA's foray into the major-label league was not a good fit and did not last long. By 1999, they had returned to their independent roots when they released Potential for a Fall on the independent Fat Wreck Chords label. Call to Arms, which also was released in 1999 on Fat Wreck Chords was "unusually indifferent," according to Andy McCue in Terrorizer magazine. Critic Matt Ryan agreed in Alternative Press, calling the album "somewhat lackluster." Drummer Majidi told McCue that fans thought the release was "really good as far as the songs go," but that they "didn't like it that a lot of the sounds ... were maybe just a bit raw, and raw doesn't necessarily mean powerful."
Fueled by throbbing power chords for most of their musical life, SOIA went down a more experimental, melodic path for the full-length album Yours Truly, which was released in 2000. The group wanted to improve on the production quality of Call to Arms, and so brought in producer Steve Evetts, who has worked with such acts as Snapcase, and played his part by encouraging the band to be themselves, rather than try to respond to trends. "In the hardcore arena," wrote Matt Ryan in Alternative Press, "Evetts is the man with the Midas touch." Rather than gold, the band was happy to produce a solid, memorable record for their fans. "When all is said and done," Majidi told McCue in Terrorizer, "ten years after the band existed you are still going to have the album to really remind you of what we were about. Why not make it as good as it can be?" According to Majidi in Alternative Press, the album features "the clearest, loudest, most powerful production we've ever had."
Lou Koller, who writes most of the band's material, gave fans some insight into his lyrics in Terrorizer. "The song 'Hands Tied' is very personal," he explained. "I'm my own worst enemy. I'm the one who trips myself up most, but stuff like 'Blown Away,' is again just me being frustrated with the world around me," which is evidenced by Koller singing the lyrics "Down! Is where they want to keep you!" The live album Live in a Dive, released in 2002, encompassed the span of the SOIA repertoire, from old, anthemic favorites to newer cuts from Yours Truly.
Sick of It All has weathered the ups and downs that have occurred during more than 15 years together as a band. Though Lou Koller admitted in Terrorizer that they have had their share of personal conflicts, they have kept fights from coming to blows or breaking up the band. "What keeps it so stable, I think, is that none of us has anything else we can do," he said. "We've spent so much time in SOIA that when we go out into the real world we're going to be ... invalids."
by Brenna Sanchez
Sick of It All's Career
Group formed in New York City, mid-1980s; released self-titled debut EP, 1987; released first full-length album, Blood, Sweat & No Tears, 1989; released EP We Stand Alone on Relativity label, 1991; released Just Look Around,1992; signed to EastWest label; released Scratch the Surface on EastWest, 1994; released Live in a World Full of Hate and Spreading the Hardcore Reality on Lost & Found, 1995; released Built to Last on EastWest, 1997; released Potential for a Fall and Call to Arms on Fat Wreck Chords, 1999; released Yours Truly, 2000; released Live in a Dive, 2002.
- Selected discography
- Blood, Sweat & No Tears Relativity, 1989.
- We Stand Alone Relativity, 1991.
- Just Look Around Relativity, 1992.
- Scratch the Surface EastWest, 1994.
- Live in a World Full of Hate Lost & Found, 1995.
- Spreading the Hardcore Reality Lost & Found, 1995.
- Built to Last EastWest, 1997.
- Potential For a Fall Fat Wreck Chords, 1999.
- Call to Arms Fat Wreck Chords, 1999.
- Yours Truly Fat Wreck Chords, 2000.
- Live in a Dive Fat Wreck Chords, 2002.
- Alternative Press, October 2000, p. 96.
- Terrorizer, December 2000.
- "Sick of It All," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (October 29, 2002).
- Additional information provided by Fat Wreck Chords publicity materials, 2002.
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