YA talks with Ralph Rivera and Ryan Lowry of RAW NERVE.

Hardcore is definitively reactive music. It does not seek solutions, but instead seems to linger in frustration for the sake of itself. Does RAW NERVE have any particular agenda with regards to authority? What sorts of reactions, in your opinion, evoke lasting change?

Raw Nerve is an entity which stands for objective truth. We believe strongly that right and wrong are not intangible ideas incapable of being grasped, and furthermore we do not believe that these are concepts that descend from some supreme being on high, itself intangible. Simply, we are against any and all actions, organizations, individuals, etc. that seek to murder, steal from, degrade, or otherwise harm us.


A reaction is a tricky concept. On one hand, how much can be accomplished when one’s every action is dependent upon that of another. And when we look at the other hand, it is naïve to assume that the mainstream has no effect on our actions. In my eyes, the actions with roots based in both logic and emotion are the most powerful and sure to bring about substantial change.

Many would trace your sound to early 80’s bands like VOID. How important to you is it to reflect historical references in your approach? And how do you view your role as a band within the context of hardcore’s history?

It’s impossible to make anything without there being historical references: art, music, writing- art is evolution and we all build on something that came before.  It is nearly impossible to say history has nothing to say about the current state of hardcore. But rather than rehashing a style, I think we reinterpret what hardcore means to us using the tools and influence given to us by our predecessors. We ask our listener for a deeper examination of what is placed before them. There is a lot to garner for those willing to think about our music. That’s another reason why I think we get so much flack, hardcore is treading towards mindlessness. That’s my general disconnect. I don’t want to be slapped in the face with something flat and obvious, I want to be encouraged to scratch and dig for something more meaningful.

Within the past few years this scene has witnessed an intentional shift in the various manners a band chooses to present themselves to the public. As a group that routinely performs live, sets up shows, and puts out records, what thoughts do you have on the ideas of promotion and the availability of information given to the world?

In the viral age, it’s no longer all that necessary for us to heavily self-promote.  We don’t have a Myspace and I think there are more exciting ways to discover music than through a social networking website. We make music because we need an outlet. While we’re appreciative of our fans, it’s not important to us that people follow us. We have a blog where we (infrequently) post news and shows we’re playing. What’s important to us is that we are putting out the best material possible while satisfying our need to fulfill our creative potential. The genre is important to us, so our contributions aren’t limited to our own music.  Setting up shows and putting out releases for bands we think should be heard is just as important. It’s so easy to be an armchair critic, sit there and be judgmental of everything coming out, but contribute nothing. Hardcore is hardly functional by any means. The DIY mentality, while rewarding, is time consuming, frustrating and expensive. It isn’t easy to keep afloat. Our band is important to us and that’s why we dedicate so much of our time to it. We simply see no other way to operate.

Does music need to be protected and controlled? In an age that simultaneously discourages and passively fetishizes the value of expression, what reasons should anyone seek to enjoy something?

Ryan: If we’re taking about the dichotomy created between the idea that the freedom of expression is absolute and society’s insistence on censoring expression that crosses new boundaries or violates its own ideas of taste, then I of course would come down on the side of artistic expression. I can’t make decisions for anyone else about why they should enjoy anything, that’s a personal value judgment.

Ralph: I believe that everyone has a right to express themselves in whichever way they feel comfortable in doing so.  The flipside to this, the part that most people who revel in this freedom choose to overlook, is that you are also fully entitled to any sort of backlash. If you are incapable or unwilling to defend or explain your actions, then perhaps you are not fully ready to cultivate the proverbial “shitstorm.”

Despite your chaotic live performances, simple imagery, and three chord riffs, RAW NERVE has endured its fair share of criticism for being tagged an “arty” band. From what mindset do you think this anti-art mentality stems from?

The hardcore for hardcore attitude is stifling intellectualism in the scene and inhibiting the evolution of the music. I don’t want to be spoken to like I have nothing to offer to the conversation. I think that attitude is the antithesis of what punk was meant to be: the aspiration to higher ideals and a thoughtful examination of the failures of the status quo. Yet, the second you ask something of the listener some are almost immediately dismissive of it, and it’s much easier to tag something with a half-thought than to further examine it.

Unlike in years past, the majority of people making music these days are now playing in multiple bands at once. Do you consider this a result of technological advancements, anxiousness in an increasingly depersonalized and disposable culture, or possibly of something else?

Ryan: Personally, I feel I need different modes of expression and I create art in a variety of mediums. Not everything can be summed up in one project and we should never feel we need impose limitations on how we choose to express ourselves. I’m sure there are some musicians out there who desperately fight to keep themselves relevant with multiple projects, but my art is for me more so than any one else.

Most of your compositions play out in a sexual dynamic of tension-and-release. Do you draw influences from conflicts experienced first hand or, like, your artwork, is it something more voyeuristic? By what standard do you know when a song is complete?

When the band first started and we began writing, we were always interested in building tension until we couldn’t possibly push it any further. I would liken it to being trapped under water and struggling to reach air until finally you break the surface and can gasp for breath. I think our art work is a commentary on the way our songs are written, it shouldn’t be taken literally. Raw Nerve is not about sex, but more the tension, a theme that is applicable to anyone and many situations. When we write songs we will start with the first riffs and add on until it feels resolved, there is no real way to tell beyond instinct.

Knotted into the fabric of hardcore is an understated hesitation to advance, where, by some idealized sense of tradition, certain values—be it social, political, or aesthetic—become solidified over time as facts. To what degree do you subscribe to these traditions as a lifestyle? Now that every band from yesteryear is being reunited, reissued, and rehashed, has the historical perspective reached its stylistic threshold, or do we simply lack perspective?

Human beings have a tendency to coat everything in plastic, throw a glass shield over that, and put them on display.  This is a practice referred to as enjoying hobbies.  We become so protective of these static, inanimate objects and we withhold them from any and everything that could cause them harm, lest our nostalgia be tainted by the corrosive and decadent nature of the world.

When one enters hardcore, they are unquestionably exposed to activities and ideas they otherwise would not have come across.  For most, this is an extremely important and pivotal point in their life, as it also coincides with a time when a majority of your views are becoming solidified, and thus most would like to keep these memories as rose-colored as possible.  Now, at a certain mile-marker, I believe it becomes necessary to reevaluate what hardcore means to you, and furthermore whether it is simply a hobby or a way of life.  People who fall into the former camp are the ones who will drone on endlessly about salad days most know never existed and who are hesitant to any sort of change.  I believe Raw Nerve falls into the latter.  What damage is done, what mistakes are made, what wear and tear hardcore endure, herein lies it’s greatness.  We have no interest in perpetuating these traditions and, by extension, failures, but learning from them and persevering.

As far as bands reuniting goes, it doesn’t affect me.  Most often, it’s too their detriment more than anyone else’s, save for the young kids duped into spending exorbitant amounts of money to enjoy the “real” face of punk.

One gets a clear sense your music derives from a specifically urban environment. Where do you place the notion of entertainment in relation to music serving as therapy for living? If the listener is by implication passive, should the artist by default be held accountable for offering an escape from reality?

While making music is an outlet, it also serves as entertainment for us as a band. I think being in a band is very rewarding and to see what we create from nothing more than rough edges through to a final presentation is one of the best feelings. I would say that the enjoyment of the process is just as therapeutic as the transformation of our thoughts and feelings into songs. I don’t think the listener is passive. Music is connection between the artist and listener. The listener might project their own meaning on to our music, but ultimately they’re identifying with something. Perhaps it’s a visceral connection with the music itself, or an intellectual connection with the lyrics, but I just don’t think there’s any reason to listen to music you don’t connect with. Your enjoyment is the connection, your engagement. Raw Nerve doesn’t offer an escape from reality, but a commentary on reality asking the listener to become engaged in conversation we presented them with.

Does hardcore rely on its own destruction, or is there value in prolonging negativity? What, beyond exclusivity, is the underlining common thread that draws people to such a fickle scene? Furthermore, what use is there in generating any social aspect around a type of music that is decisively anti-social?

Hardcore is fueled almost exclusively on combinations of contradictions like the one you have implied here.  Negative emotions (hate, fear, anxiety) are powerful catalysts for change, but they are also easily internalized.  Hope is a harder emotion to conjure, thus one harder to maintain, but a balance must be struck.  The idealized notion of what hardcore can accomplish, that a balance can be struck and through it we can build a true alternative to mainstream culture, is what continues to draw people and keeps many coming back.  I don’t necessarily believe that hardcore is anti-social, it is more about being anti-society.  Notwithstanding this statement, these are two easily mistaken modes of behavior and, because of this, are oftentimes disastrously interchanged.



S/T Demo (Not Normal, Lim. 200, 2009)

· 100 translucent yellow tapes (1st Press)

· 100 black tapes (2nd Press)


Teens In Heat 7″ (Video Disease, Fall 2009)

· 20 rejected test press rejected stamp on label

· 20 accepted test presses

· 50 white mail-order covers

· 50 black band covers

· 200 Red Silkscreened Covers


Live Tape (Lifetime Problems, Lim. 100, 2010)


S/T LP (Youth Attack, Spring 2010)

· 100 mail order gatefold sleeve, black large hole label-less vinyl

· 300 Tour Edition green vinyl, screened covers

· 600 1st Press seafoam green vinyl

· 300 2nd Press bruise colored vinyl (Winter 2011)


Nervous Habits CS (Youth Attack, Winter 2011)

· 200 black tapes (1st Press)

· 100 white tapes (2nd Press)


These Are The Voices In The Back Of Your Head Compilation CS (Not Normal, 2011)

Midnight EP (Youth Attack, Summer 2011)

· 300 blue vinyl (1st Press)

· 500 clear/white vinyl (2nd Press)



· 500 2nd Press white vinyl (3rd Press)

Split 7″ w/ Culo (Cowabunga, 2012)