Drain: “We wear our hearts on our sleeves”

With their Epitaph debut, DRAIN are pushing the boundaries of hardcore.

Often at hardcore shows, limbs will be flying, and bodies will be contorting and writhing about the stage, while a band thrashes out their tunes. The only difference at a DRAIN show is you’ll also find front person Sammy Ciaramitaro’s beaming smile through the darkness. 

A trio who clearly knows when and how to have a good time, they’re a sight to behold. This physically propelled positivity is as infectious as their tunes are gnarled with hardcore’s attitude.

Formed in Santa Cruz back in 2014, DRAIN have been the same three faces – Sammy, along with Cody Chavez (guitar) and Tim Flegal (drums) – but beyond their gloriously loyal take on hardcore, there’s more to the band that’s meant their stock has been rising and rising since the release of their debut ‘California Cursed’ back in 2020. 

“DRAIN is really good at being a relatable group of people,” Sammy starts. “I think we’re really good at just being people that people can find a little piece of themselves in, you know, because we just wear our hearts on our sleeves.”

Album two comes a little more charged up. ‘LIVING PROOF’ expels even more of that fired-up energy, just with a little twist and turn here and there. Featuring a couple of interludes, including an appearance of Soundcloud rapper Shakewell, it’s the band stretching their chops while remaining excellently true to form.

“When it comes to music, man, I don’t know, I feel like we’re almost good at writing….” Sammy takes a smirking pause, before digging into what it is that DRAIN excels at. “I guess everyone else does really say we’re good at it. I think we’re a little bias, but we’re good at writing good songs – just good songs in general, that are hardcore songs.”

Expanding further, he says, “I’m not saying we’re trying to write pop music, but we take the aspects that we love about pop songs that are memorable, [and] it’s not the same thing all the time. Even on songs, where it’s like we just write a part that has a big, a big part or the song has a really cool riff that we’re driven on. Or maybe it’s a vocal melody that is a big sing-along for everybody. That’s cool.”

As well as entering a few new territories for the trio, ‘LIVING PROOF’ also includes a cover of Descendents’ ‘Good Good Thing’ – clean vocals and all. Clearly, this is DRAIN expanding out of their hardcore box and into something that might end up fitting them a bit better. “We were like, can we pull this off? I don’t know. Let’s figure it out.”

Those four words are the heart of DRAIN. Having formed almost a decade ago, and only just now being on album number two, there’s no doubt that they have put the time into becoming a studiously toured and experienced band off the back of one thing, and one thing only – good vibes. 

“We’ve worked so hard as a band. I think just now we’ve probably evened out the good show to bad show ratio. You know what I mean?” Sammy laughs. “Do you know how tough it is to fucking run the show to four kids in a big room. It’s tough. It’s tough to do. So you [then] get in front of 500-1000 kids, and they’re all stoked and wild, they’re excited to see what you’re doing [and then] I’m stoked – let’s go! – that’s why we do this shit. I never thought we’d ever get here, but it’s like, yo, I’m having fun with my friends.”

“This shit is a privilege, and it can get taken away any second”

Sammy Ciaramitaro

Reflecting on a time when there were just as many kids in the crowd as there were band members on stage, “we were still having fun,” he smiles. “We still had a good time. It’s obviously a lot more fun now, but that’s what kept us going. It just slowly was like, oh, damn, this is getting better. There’s 10 kids, and then it’s 30 kids – and now we’re dropping this tour tomorrow, and LA is a 2000 cap venue.”

The whole DRAIN idea is built from the ground up by the hands of its three members. Everything has been by their design; even touring was just the three of them hurling all their gear into the back of a van and hitting the road to see what adventures awaited. Seeing how far they could take this idea of theirs allowed them to properly appreciate just how hard it is, but also how easy things could often be when you’re with your best friends and nothing else matters but laying the groundwork for your future. It’s only recently that they’ve even had a hand with merch, also getting one of their mates on board. It used to be the guys hitting the table, and meeting and greeting fans. But as the tours became longer, and the shows more punishing – in a good way, of course – Sammy had to take a step back as his hoarse voice was doing nobody any favours. Now a team of four, there’s no stopping this rag-tag group of pals. 

It’s personality that glues DRAIN together. Each member is as carefree and understanding as the last, which is why when they see other hardcore acts posturing with furrowed brows and acting like the weight of the world is on their shoulders, it doesn’t quite sit right. DRAIN is about truth, not this facsimile attitude. “What’s worse than fake angry is fake nice,” Sammy reckons. “Those are both equally bad. You get a bunch of dickheads that want to be like, ‘I’m Mr. Cool guy’, and then they act like they’re too cool to talk to anybody, and they’re dickheads like, kick rocks, dude. Anyone that’s up there and that’s not stoked to be there – kick rocks!”

Striking to the crux of why Sammy always seems to be – even in the most charged up and buzzing of rooms – the person having the best time, he defiantly says, “It is a privilege. This shit is a privilege, and it can get taken away any second.” Referring to the band’s debut, which was released just before the Covid outbreak happened, it would seem the space this fired upon them, and the album, allowed ‘California Cursed’ time to breathe. People had the chance to absorb just what DRAIN were serving up, exploring live clips and seeing the energy, before wanting that experience in real life. 

Certainly, the hardcore scene is supposed to be a place where those flying limbs and contorting bodies can safely work through their shit. That’s all DRAIN cares about providing, and noting that “maybe I don’t agree with every single person’s every view of every person in this room. We’ve got a lot more in common than the outside, you know? Yeah, that’s the real enemy.”

Whatever happens with DRAIN post-’LIVING PROOF’’s release, Sammy knows he’s living the dream. “I’ve loved every minute of it. Man, I had more fun than anybody.” It’s hard to see why anyone would give this up when he’s so enthused by it all. But now is the time for them to hit the road, album two in tow, with more songs “that we wrote in our little dingy practice spot that we never thought would ever translate into anything.” He mentions before signing off with a swift hang-loose.■

Taken from the May 2023 edition of Upset. DRAIN’s album ‘LIVING PROOF’ is out 5th May.