Australia’s hardcore dynamos Speed have one plan: “Just go hard as hell”

Australia’s hardcore dynamos Speed have one plan: “Just go hard as hell”

The story of Speed’s new album title is simple. The full-length debut by Australia’s buzziest hardcore band is titled ‘Only One Mode’ – a motto cribbed from the Instagram handle of Jem Siow, the five-piece’s endlessly energetic, wildly grinning and often-shirtless frontman. It stemmed from an answer Siow found himself giving friends when discussing his movements – going on tour, putting out music, even hitting personal bests at the gym. “People would always say ‘beast mode’,” Siow tells NME.

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“I started replying, ‘there’s only one!’ As in, there’s only one mode: Go as hard as possible. That’s in all your convictions in life; your passions, your relationships. That’s a philosophy that I and the rest of us in the band have kind of attached ourselves to. It’s the way we’ve approached Speed from the very beginning. Everything we try to do and achieve is done with that perspective: Just go hard as hell. As long as your values are there and intact, run it straight.”

‘Only One Mode’ arrives two years after Speed’s debut EP ‘Gang Called Speed’. Led by the single ‘Not That Nice’, an uncompromising middle-finger to anti-Asian hate, it rocketed to a top 10 spot on Australia’s ARIA album charts upon release and landed them a place in the NME 100 2023, not to mention local plaudits like a J Awards nomination. Releasing a full album is a point the band never thought they would get to: “To us, putting out a 7-inch was the holy grail,” says Siow. “We never saw beyond that.”

Speed knew there was no other way to tackle such a project than to keep the process close to home. That meant recording in their stomping grounds of Sydney, at Annandale’s Chameleon Studios, and enlisting producer Elliott Gallart – whom Siow has known since he was 13 years old. “We went to our first-ever hardcore show together,” he says. “He was the first one recording all our high-school bands in his basement with a version of Cubase he torrented online. The only way we could make something that was truly authentic was if he was recording it. We owe a lot to Elliott.”

‘Only One Mode’ begins not with the squeal of distorted guitars, nor with a belligerent battle-cry. Rather, opening track and lead single ‘Real Life Love’ kicks off in a manner not dissimilar to Pete Gabriel’s classic ‘Sledgehammer’: with a flute flourish, played by Siow himself. When the vocalist isn’t screaming in the faces of thousands while bodies fly and drums pummel, he’s teaching kids how to play the wind instrument – a side of his musicality that Siow has been reticent to showcase.

“I always thought it would be too gimmicky,” he reasons. “We only ever wanted to incorporate stuff into the music that would further it.” So what changed? “It just came naturally – I heard the demos back and was like, ‘I reckon this could work’. If this band has taught me anything, it’s to embrace your identity and not shy away from what makes you who you are.”

Indeed, ‘Only One Mode’ is a wholly authentic half-hour of power that both proves the band are more than a flash in the pan and lights up a bright beacon for their future. All five members provide vocals at various points, something Siow is particularly proud of (“It helps they all have sick voices,” he adds with a grin). And their sonic palette expands just enough to allow for some experimentation and deviations from the tried-and-true hardcore format (not unlike the recent work of their American friends in Turnstile).

“If this band has taught me anything, it’s to embrace your identity and not shy away from what makes you who you are” – Jem Siow

“The main goal was to make something undeniable,” says Siow.“We made this record with a sense of responsibility, knowing there’s a huge pool of people that have been drawn to us and our message. This record is our philosophy. It’s a record about how to treat one another, how to love what and who you love, and how to back yourself.”

Speed knew it would be “impossible” to capture the exact same energy of their visceral, riotous live shows on the album. “That’s the essence of hardcore,” says Siow. “That feeling can never be experienced outside of that setting.” They toured ‘Gang Called Speed’ all over the world, and will go equally hard for ‘Only One Mode’: starting in North America, where they’re currently on a six-week tour with Knocked Loose, Show Me The Body and Loathe, and then Europe, where they’ll play Download and Hellfest.

“Even an Instagram reel isn’t close to the reality” of their frantic shows, says Siow, but they’ve certainly helped Speed catch the attention of celebrities as varied as Shaquille O’Neal, Post Malone, Blink-182’s Travis Barker and – seemingly by accident – Barker’s wife Kourtney Kardashian, who posted a selfie wearing her husband’s Speed merch to over 200million followers. “It’s… it’s so fucking strange,” says Siow, laughing incredulously and shaking his head at the band’s viral trajectory.

“The main goal was to make something undeniable” – Jem Siow

“It’s especially strange coming from Australia, where the hardcore scene is often very guarded and insular. When we started the band, we had such a clear understanding of what we thought was the ceiling for this band. To be reaching all these otherworldly people has been very humbling and very nice, but also completely unexpected. We never asked for any of this. Still, it’s nice to know that even though their lives are obviously not normal, the people themselves are when you meet them.”

Fans shouldn’t worry, though: Speed haven’t let the brushes with fame get to their heads. When asked what’s made him feel most like a celebrity, Siow replies: “It was getting a FaceTime from Pat Flynn, asking us to play shows with Have Heart. That’s what a celebrity is to me; that’s what an icon is to me.”

Speed’s ‘Only One Mode’ is out July 12 on Last Ride Records/Flatspot Records. Lead single ‘Real Life Love’ is out now

The post Australia’s hardcore dynamos Speed have one plan: “Just go hard as hell” appeared first on NME.

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