Bike Tuff is a very rad band from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Although unfortunately, they’re not in some kind of BMX gang, as Mason explains – “The name Bike Tuff is a reference to the band Latterman from Long Island, NY. Latterman was a very influential band for me during my later teenage years. Lyrically, they conveyed a message that really struck home, and the urgency of their delivery was spot on. At the end of their song, Video Games and Fantasy Novels are Fucking Awesome!, you can hear someone yelling “bike tuff!” in the background. We thought it was a fun way to pay a little homage to a band that was so significant to us.”
While it’s definitely possible to spot the Latterman influence in their sound, it’s tricky to place Bike Tuff inside any one genre – although anchored in punk, there’s hints of pop-punk and traces of post-hardcore if you delve deep enough. It definitely has strong leanings towards that classic 90s emo sound. “While I don’t believe the genre ever “died,” there certainly has been a resurgence in younger bands that are taking a lot of influence from bands like Jimmy Eat World, The Get Up Kids, Weezer, etc., ourselves included. I think it’s partly a nostalgia thing from growing up in the 90’s and not connecting with a lot of the popular music of the later 2000’s. There are a lot of awesome bands that fall into the gray areas between emo, alternative rock, and pop punk that just have this sort of sonic timelessness. It’s no surprise that bands have been reaching back and trying to rekindle some of that spirit,” says Mason. And yet no part of Into Shore seems overly nostalgic. Of course, there are nods – ‘Vincere Vel Mori’, for example, could easily have been taken from Hot Water Music’s classic Fuel For The Hate Game were it not for the infusion of bouncy pop-punk chords throughout. However, Into Shore feels completely fresh and is entirely captivating.
Instead, Into Shore can be better described as honest, fun, and made with care. And it’s the product of a lot of hard work and the time taken to perfect their efforts – despite forming in 2009, Into Shore is Bike Tuff’s debut full-length. “School, work, living in different cities…the list of things that contributed to the extended timeline is numerous,” says Mason. “It also took a bit of time to save up money for recording and getting CD’s pressed. Aside from that, we deliberately took our time with the full length. We wanted to make sure that the songs we had were something that we’d be proud of 10 years down the road. That said, I think the follow up to Into Shore won’t take nearly as long.” It would be very difficult to disagree – there isn’t a single duff track to be found on the record; every song has at least one line or one hook that’ll sink deep into your heart. They’re also designed with a live audience in mind. Bike Tuff like it fast and loud, and preferably in as low key a venue as possible. “First and foremost, when we’re writing a new song, we’re thinking of how it will sound in a live setting. We practice in a pretty soggy basement, so it’s not hard to gauge how a song will translate. I think it really comes down to where we’re most comfortable. The best shows to play are the ones in basements where your best friends are right in front of you, yelling the words back in your face.” It’s a good mentality to have and that level of passion comes through consistently throughout Into Shore. It’s irresistible to just totally lose yourself in tracks like ‘Los Plantanos’ – showcasing a killer solo and one hell of a gang shout, it’s the kind of anthem that deserves to be blasted out wherever and whenever possible. While Into Shore has plenty of amazing musical moments, it also has some very special lyrical ones. It would be impossible to talk about Into Shore without mentioning the strong lyrical threads that bind the album together. It’s a record about love, loss, friendship and self-discovery – it’s a record that speaks to everyone on some level, and as the lyricist, Mason explains just how important that is – “I love the music we play, and having the four of us hammer out the music to a piece while adding our own personal touches to each part is a great creative feeling. As the lyricist though, I feel that the underlying music is a vessel to help the words come across in the most powerful and meaningful way possible. I write with the hope that the lyrics can stand on their own without music. I never try to write any fluff. I want all my lyrics to carry purpose within the song / overall story or picture I am trying to paint. Throwaway rhymes may sound nice, but they don’t do much for me.” It’s this keen sense of honesty that penetrates deeply through Into Shore. In a world where Ronnie Radke is still allowed to release records, albums like this are vital – grounded in emotion and memory, Into Shore is pretty wonderful.
Into Shore was self released via Bandcamp, and Bike Tuff are part of a growing community that are taking direct control of their music – “Self-releasing Into Shore allowed us to have complete control over the timing of the release. That was the biggest factor. After taking so much time to write and record, we just wanted everyone to hear the songs,” says Mason. “I think the DIY ethos is something that comes naturally to us, just because there wasn’t ever really an alternative. Back when Steve and I were 18, we decided we wanted to tour with our ska band, so we just hit up a bunch of places out of state and made it happen. I think that really opened our eyes to what was possible.” But that key DIY ethos is definitely not the only thing that Bike Tuff have picked up from the Midwestern punk scene – they have spme epic facial hair. When quizzed on how best to maintain their beards, Mason replied “No secrets here. We simply shave the hair off stray cats and adhere it to our faces with super glue. Our bassist Joel cuddles with the cats at night so they don’t get cold.”
Bike Tuff is Mason, Greg, Steve and Joel. We strongly recommend that you check out Into Shore and a few of their other releases on Bandcamp.