Trapped Under Ice is absolutely the next big thing in hardcore music. The last couple years have been explosive for the band; from releasing their full-length album, Secrets of the World on Reaper Records, to touring non-stop across the United States, Europe, and even Australia. Last fall, the band was invited on the road alongside some enormous acts including Terror, Poison the Well, BANE, and Madball, on the 10 for $10 American tour. Not long after, Trapped Under Ice took to the East coast, for their very first headlining tour, and will be heading out again in March, this time with crowd favorites, Every Time I Die, Four Year Strong, and Polar Bear Club!
Lead guitarist of the band, Sam Trapkin was gracious enough to spare an evening to answer a few questions about the importance of hardcore music in his life, as well as what it’s like to balance a rigid touring schedule and still manage to maintain a design job back home.
LW: Hardcore music is about much more than just the music itself; it’s a sub-culture that has the ability to harbor a level of self-empowerment that transcends your lifestyle if you’re willing to be part of it. What is it about this culture that appeals to you?
ST: I was always attracted to the raw energy and aggression of harder music. I never really identified with a lot of “normal” activities growing up, and spent most of my time skating, playing guitar, and playing computer games. I had underdeveloped social skills and didn’t care. I started getting into hardcore when I was about 15, and soon after realized that most of the people I met at shows were the same way, or I could at least relate to them better than people at school. And that never really changed. I love the realness of hardcore. I love the extremity of hardcore music and the people involved. I love the crazy people that I meet. The connection you make to people through music. I guess it’s kind of hard to explain without sounding corny, but it really is a beautiful thing. There’s just so much bullshit out there, it gets exhausting. I don’t like humoring people in conversations about cars, sports, or politics. I just don’t care. That’s why hardcore is great. I listen to all kinds of music, pop, country, radio rock, you name it, but I will always live hardcore. I love it.
Photo credit: Matthew Miller
LW: Many of your fans may not know this about you, but when you’re not on tour with TUI, you’re a graphic designer at Under Armour. It must be a dream come true that UA is supportive of TUI and your rigorous touring schedule. Were you up front with them from the beginning about it all?
ST: Yes. In fact, I initially declined coming in for an interview at all because I didn’t want to waste their time. But they were understanding and have been patient with my schedule. Sometimes I wonder how much they hate me but I’ve been there for a year and some months now. I love the job and I love the brand, and get to work on great projects. I would probably do something crazy like cut off a toe for Under Armour. I would sacrifice an animal. So yeah I hope they don’t get tired of my touring bullshit and fire me any time soon. I love them too much!
LW: When you were in school, you were part of a number of metal/hardcore bands. How did you balance your design work with writing music?
ST: I’d say balancing a design workload with writing music isn’t really that crazy. I’m constantly writing music, even while designing. Ideas will just pop into my head and I’ll record them on my phone. I think I probably look like a crazy person sometimes. But it just becomes a hobby I suppose. Some people spend their time reading self-help books or watching Taylor Swift videos for hours, I spend that time writing songs. I never do those first 2 things.
LW: At what point do you think music will become your profession, over design? Has it already?
ST: I love both music and design. It’s hard to make a profession out of music, but if I could one day, I think I’d like that. Music is cool because it’s truly yours. You can be the best designer, but you’re still working for somebody. There’s still a client in the equation. In the end, you’re still an anonymous person behind a desk, even if you’re reaching millions of people. I like the direct connection of creating music and people listening to it. It belongs to you and people know you made it.
LW: Often times, artists in bands prefer to keep their passions separated. I’m sure you agree it can be the hardest task in the world to design for yourself. You seem to have removed your hand from the design process for TUI album art. Why is that?
ST: If I had more time, this is one thing I would probably try to focus more on. I wish I could have more of a hand in our t-shirt designs, album art, web presence etc. However, I’m very happy with our last record’s album art in particular. My friend Buske of ActWon Design designed the layout and packaging, and DJ Rose from Halo Tattoo in New York did the artwork. I think it came out great. I’m actually happy I didn’t work on it. In general, I’d rather focus my creative energy on our music anyway.
Photo credit: Matthew Miller
LW: Just how thrilled were you about TUI’s first-ever headlining tour?
ST: That tour was great. The bands that did the tour with us – Cruel Hand, Forfeit, and Naysayer, were all great. It was a real treat. It was cool for us because it seems we’ve done a lot of bigger tours where we were opening, which is awesome too. But it’s good not to get stuck in the groove as an opening band. The shows were all pretty crazy which was pretty exciting. It’s like you walk around the shows and think, “are these people seriously all here to see my band?” It was very cool.
LW: Did you find headlining shows to come with any extra responsibilities or additional pressure?
ST: I suppose there are some added responsibilities. I think you’re expected to be a little more professional in general. Just being on time and being organized. As far as performing goes, I don’t think there’s any additional pressure. We did put more effort into organizing our set and making it longer than usual.
LW: You are about to go on tour with Every Time I Die, Four Year Strong and Polar Bear Club. How do you feel TUI’s sound blends with them? Do you anticipate your music to be well-received by the other bands’ fanbase?
ST: This tour is going to be sweet. It is a diverse tour package for sure. I think it will go well though. We toured with Polar Bear Club and Have Heart last year and it was really good. I think people who listen to any 3 of those bands are familiar with hardcore in some capacity, or are at least willing to tolerate it. We actually just jumped on a show with Four Year Strong, Strike Anywhere, This Time Next Year, and Title Fight. A pretty straight up pop-punk show. I couldn’t believe how well we were received. I’m not sure what our appeal is from a 14-year-old girl perspective, but I guess there’s something. It’s great to be able to play to different crowds; I think it’s important for every band. I’ll do a Nickelback tour right now. Godsmack. Coldplay. Taylorswift. Skillet. Whatever man.
LW: You recently filmed TUI’s debut music video for Believe. Why did you choose this song as the single for Secrets of the World?
ST: I actually forget how we chose to do this one first, but we were planning on doing it at some point. We considered the idea of doing a short video for the first song on the record, “See God”, before the record came out, but never got around to it. We have some plans for other music videos, but the video for “Believe” materialized first. I think it’s a good one anyways. It’s about Baltimore. It’s a pretty good representation of our music right now I suppose.
LW: What are your predictions for 2010?
ST: 2010 will be a great year. I can already tell. I’m really bad at predictions though. This is why I don’t gamble. I just can’t be responsible for a decision like that. TUI will be doing some cool stuff in 2010. Planning on getting up inside Japan’s ass. Writing a lot of music. The iPad looks really cool. I just watched that 30 minute video about it. I want one. There are a lot of great newer bands. Check out Title Fight, Naysayer, Downpresser, Fire & Ice, and Backtrack!