When I’m angry at the state of the world, I’m always rudely reminded that no matter how pissed off I am, there are so few (socially acceptable) ways in which I’m able to release my bitterness and go unhinged. I find comfort in the local scene where there are bands who are setting out to relieve their own stress – bands like Aurora punks Mazard.
Consisting of Michael Liston (vocals), Victor Herrera (guitar), Keneith Shepherd (bass), and Jacob Veliz (drums), Mazard have a wildly refreshing interpretation on what it means to be anti-conformist. After starting off as four guys who stumbled upon one another while trying to find community through making music, the group began showcasing their distaste for the unjust and woeful.
“It’s about coming to terms with reality, whether that may be perfect or imperfect for you,” guitarist and lyricist Jacob reveals. “But nonetheless, everybody has these angry and disappointing and erratic emotions that they have inside of them — and that’s what we want people to let out when we play our music.”
With lyrics like “Waste all of your worthless days / Playing puppet for the state” and “Join the army, kill for us, you’ll always be nothing” I must admit it’s extremely refreshing having the opportunity to experience a band that is so undeniably candid and sure of themselves because attending a Mazard performance truly is that – an experience. As the music became more sonorous and subversive while lead singer Michael’s clothes started slowly disappearing while he’s riding on shoulders and teasing his fellow bandmates on stage, I realized how essential it is to grab any opportunity you possibly can. It’s essential to find things that allow for any type of expression and squeeze the living hell out of it for any kind of release this agonizing and bourgeois state can allow for — just as Mazard has been doing. Michael phrases it simply: “When can I do that in the real world? I get this chance so I figure why not? And I give it my all.”
How did Mazard get started?
Jacob: It was my idea initially after high school when I had quit a band I was in. I wanted to make a hardcore band and I talked to Victor about it because I knew he could play guitar. I wasn’t exactly sure if it was going to be punk, metal, grindcore, power violence, or just anything that was hardcore. At first, I wanted to do vocals and have some other people play instruments, but then it shaped into form when we got Michael to do vocals and I realized I should probably do drums because at the moment I was probably the best doing fast drums out of the three of us. Soon after we linked up with Kenny, found out he played bass, and ended up being a perfect fit for us.
Victor: It was weird because we met Kenny through a mutual friend named Matt who’s in Tar Tides and Los 67’s, and they just happened to have been skating together like they just met each other randomly.
Keneith: Yeah, I went up to North Aurora to just chill at some pond and I saw Matt there and I was like, ‘oh shit, he skates! I gotta go say something.’ I asked if he was in to punk, and he said yeah, and that his homies who also are into punk were about to pull up. I mentioned I played bass and they asked me to join.
Victor: When I joined and became a part of Mazard, I felt that as long as I’m in a band with my friends, that’s pretty fucking cool, because why not be friends with your bandmates? And vice versa. I didn’t care what kind of music we played necessarily but it just so happened to be something that was a little more up my alley.
Michael: I remember I was just hounding them: ‘guys, let me be a part of this; guys, I gotta be a part of something” I had the urge to do something like this. These guys actually really got me into punk music in general.
The way you perform is so theatrical. What’s going through your minds when you’re in the thick of a performance?
Jacob: I’d like to say the main reason [for the theatrics] is the content of our songs. It’s about the tragedy that people face in life and it’s about coming to terms with reality, whether that may be perfect or imperfect you. But nonetheless, everybody has these angry and disappointing and erratic emotions inside of them, and that’s what we want people to let out when we play our music. We want you to get those disgusting feelings out and see all this anger and hatred and see what it makes you feel and what it makes you want to do, but realize you can be a better person and a good human. Only in the art is where you can show that.
How would you guys describe your sound and who is it for?
Michael: Everyone. Well, it may not be for everyone. It’s for anyone, but not for everyone.
Jacob: I think anybody who likes rock, anybody who likes punk, anybody who likes hardcore. A lot of those people are upset with the way this world works and also are upset with the way their nation works.
Victor: Our target audience is anyone who really digs our energy Because if you can’t help but feel the music, you can’t help but feel the music.
You released an EP this past January titled Unforgivable Acts. What does the title mean to you?
Jacob: It’s based on all the songs that are in there – like “Citizen Scum”, “Weeping Wolf”, “Beat You to Death”, “Swine Packer.” “Weeping Wolf” is about a killer or anybody who has done wrong, but in this case, the example was the Green River Killer who killed so many people and went to trial and then at trial asked for forgiveness to get less time in prison. Since he had already confessed to so many murders, he escaped the death penalty and only got life in prison. “Weeping Wolf” is about the cries of a wolf who has eaten your sheep that you have no mercy for. “Swine Packer” is about cops killing your best friend in the streets, cops killing your people in the streets and them still trying to get the community to get together. These acts can only be described as unforgivable. It’s these feelings of the world around you that has done you wrong, and it’s your choice whether to take the negativity and ignore it, or to take it in.
I write a lot of the lyrics and it’s very poetic for me because I try to find things that rhyme and sound good, but also things that hit you deep. For “Weeping Wolf”, I really liked the line “a cry for help echoes through your mind / but any thought of sympathy is quickly left behind.” I really, really try to use words that I don’t normally use in every day life and try to use words that will catch people’s attention.
What advice would you give to new bands?
Jacob: Focus on yourself. You got this and I know my opinion might have little value to you, but no matter what, you can do it. You just gotta set your mind to it. You gotta work hard. You have to make sure that you’re actually working for it and you’re not half-assing that shit because every time we go on stage, we give it our all, you know? Sometimes we’re not as prepared as we should be, but lately we’ve been bettering ourselves at really giving it our all and we’ve been putting in the work — when you put in the work, you really see every inch of that come out. So as long as you’re passionate about it, as long as you strive to be better, and as long as you’re having fun, that’s all you really need.
Victor: Just stay authentic to yourself. Remember what brought you here in the first place.
Keneith: Communicate with each other. It’s not easy trying to schedule all these times together with four other people. Communicate.
Victor: And be flexible, because if you’re too not flexible with people, you’re gonna piss people off in the process and that’s how you hurt relationships.
Michael: Bring the energy and bring it all out.
Victor: You have to play like no one’s watching, even if the room’s empty. You have to accept that you’re gonna have good days and bad days and just keep pushing through because a couple of bad gigs should not break up a band.
Mazard are working on some new songs that are already being played live and are in the process of setting up some weekend shows, so be on the lookout! In the meantime, be sure to listen to Unforgivable Acts on all streaming platforms.