“I think, at a certain age, coming back around to all the different music you made in your life becomes important,” says Scott McCloud, guitarist of DC post-hardcore legends Soulside and Girls Against Boys (for whom he’s also the vocalist), whose New Wet Kojak just played their first proper shows in more than two decades this past weekend. While the band briefly reunited in 2014 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of famed DC venue The Black Cat (the setting of many of my most noteworthy nights as a highschooler in the early aughts, growing up outside of the city), this weekend the band’s original lineup played three headlining shows, including stops at Tubby’s in Kingston, NY; St. Vitus in Brooklyn; and, once again, The Black Cat.
McCloud and Girls Against Boys bassist Johnny Temple (who we saw earlier this year at Johnny Brenda’s as a part of supergroup Fake Names, featuring Refused’s Dennis Lyxzén, Minor Threat’s Brian Baker, Enon’s Matt Schulz, and Embrace’s Michael Hampton) formed New Wet Kojak in the mid-‘90s, as a sort of side project, or additional outlet, while GVSB were at their peak. “What I love about New Wet Kojak was there was a lot of freedom with it. Girls Against Boys was firing on all cylinders at that point,” McCloud tells me during a recent phone chat, just prior to the reunion shows. McCloud and Temple were joined by additional DC veterans Geoff Turner (Gray Matter), Charles Bennington (High Back Chairs), and Nick Pelliciotto (Edsel), who went on to record four LPs and an EP as New Wet Kojak between 1995 and 2003 on Touch and Go and Beggars Banquet.
In anticipation of these reunion dates, last month New Wet Kojak released a live video for “You Got Some Dog,” off of their 1995 self-titled debut, which was filmed at an in-store in Leuven, Belgium in 2000. I’m curious if Scott has any memories of how the song originally came about and, surprisingly, he does: “It was after a show, I think at 9:30 Club, with Charles Bennington and Geoff Turner… They were late night jam sessions, so it has a really late-night jam session feel.” Bennington and Turner’s WGNS Studios, just a few doors down from The Black Cat, were where New Wet Kojak did much of their recording, which McCloud tells me always had a similar vibe and story: “We really enjoyed making this music… New Wet Kojak has an experimental idea behind it. While we were doing Girls Against Boys and we’d have a day off, we would arrange to record a track in different cities… Amsterdam, Chicago, and a lot in Washington DC.”
Although New Wet Kojak don’t have any additional upcoming dates on the books, Soulside – the band that made McCloud and Temple famous in the ‘80s, and also includes GVSB drummer Alexis Fleisig, in addition to vocalist Bobby Sullivan – are in the middle of a US double-headlining tour, alongside fellow DC hardcore legends Scream, which resumes tonight at The Black Cat and concludes this coming Sunday, December 10th, at our very own Johnny Brenda’s. These dates follow an October/November West Coast run from the two acts.
Soulside originally existed from 1985-1989, concluding with McCloud, Temple, and Fleisig joining Eli Janney to form Girls Against Boys. However, they got back together in 2014 and have been playing live ever since, including a 2015 date at Boot & Saddle and a show just last year at The Church. And while Soulside has been back at it for nearly a decade, last year they released A Brief Moment in the Sun (via Dischord, their longtime label), their first full-length since 1989’s Hot Bodi-Gram, which McCloud says was largely a product of the pandemic. “During COVID, Soulside was something that was really helping us,” he tells me, explaining that the band would meet once a week or so on Zoom (He currently lives in Vienna, Austria.), figuring out what they could do musically to keep themselves in a half-decent headspace. And when I ask him about the highlights of Soulside’s second time around, he tells me that the recording of the new album was a big one.
“Going from New York to Baltimore to go to The Magpie Cage, which used to be Oz Recording Studio. It’s owned by J. Robbins of Jawbox… Ian MacKaye was there, also kind of in the producer’s chair. That was so magical. There we are, still as friends together, like coming full circle around the sun.”
While Soulside are still enjoying playing the new material live (They’re playing about three of the songs a night.), McCloud assures me that the band will definitely be playing plenty of the classics, as well, which he thinks all fit together quite nicely: “We play a mixture of new songs and old material… This new record kind of shares elements of all of the records.” He also tells me that being on the road with longtime friends and labelmates Scream (with whom they’ll be touring Europe in the spring) has not only made for a great bill, but also inspired each act to really bring their A game.
“It’s a blast to play with these guys. It’s like family… We’ve been talking about integrating things between the bands, and maybe doing some covers… There’s a really friendly competitive spirit. We’re constantly energizing each other.”
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