A Wilhelm Scream is sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Their sophomore release on Nitro Records, Ruiner, while not a concept album in the purest sense, is about that very personal tussle.
"The theme of Ruiner was growing up into the world of experience and about how that can ruin you, and trying to get back to a place where things aren't so jaded," says guitarist and principal songwriter Trevor Reilly. "That, to me, is the essence of being in your 20s."
"Basically, at a young age, I sort of remember a time when I could listen to a song and I wouldn't be thinking about how the musicians did it," he explains. "It was just a feeling that you got, free of any semblance of jadedness, a feeling conveyed directly from the stereo to you. Playing in bands certainly has taken a little bit away from that."
AWS grew up in New Bedford, Mass., where the scene is noted primarily for hardcore and mosh metal, but culls much more from the West Coast style of melodic punk. Bands like Strung Out (with whom they're currently touring) and the Canadian agitpop-punk group Propagandhi have been big influences.
"I've always been a fan of interesting musicality that goes along with a great pop song, and lot of bands that exemplified that, essentially pop bands that had more substance," Reilly says. "I've just been a sucker for great songs, and we just got off tour with Pennywise, who're known for kick-you-in-the-face anthems, songs that make you wanna get out of bed in the morning and face your day."
There are few topics on which AWS themselves won't wax anthemic. But while they're dead serious about their music, and of an age when many find plenty to complain about, the band blends its soaring choruses and "whoa-ohs" with biting wit and humor. They circumvent whininess or malapropism, hallmarks of screamo and emo. Reilly thinks those things, along with saturation, will fell the genres.
"History has taught us that that's how you kill off a genre, with all the bands feeding off of each other -- a scene essentially eating itself," he says.
While AWS avoids moaning, they belong to a genre that walks a different, but still dangerous, line -- one between vacuous bubblegum silliness and overtly political speechifying. Too much of either can prove saccharine or boring, respectively.
"All that we have a responsibility to do as musicians is to write material that comes naturally, that isn't contrived," Reilly says. "If our next album is all about the World Trade Organization, that would be a lie. It wouldn't be at all genuine. I think a lot of bands have done that, jumped on a bandwagon or tried to prove themselves in some way.
"You can argue that punk rock is a staple for pushing a political cause, but then again, with our band, no one can tell us what we should or shouldn't be writing about."
-- Aaron Retka
A Wilhelm Scream with Strung Out, Stretch Arm Strong and Valient Thorr
Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave.
Sunday, Oct. 16, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $12, all ages; visit sodajerkpresents.com.