FEATURES Not Even Burnout Can Stop Gouge Away’s Rise By Mia Hughes · March 13, 2024
Photo by Caleb Gowett

When Gouge Away began, they had a clear point to prove. The Fort Lauderdale hardcore scene they came from felt largely apolitical and male, and vocalist Christina Michelle wanted to make in-your-face statements that couldn’t be ignored. That’s what Gouge Away did on their first album, 2016’s , Dies, which is full of manifestos on topics like sexual assault, police brutality, and animal testing.

Merch for this release:
Cassette, Compact Disc (CD), T-Shirt/Shirt, Sweater/Hoodie, Other Apparel, , Vinyl LP

With “Idealized,” a highlight from the band’s third album, Deep Sage, Michelle challenged herself to write a different type of political song, to discuss a topic she cared about in a way that was personal and inward rather than in-your-face. “It’s about my feelings about abortion, and how it’s really no one’s business but you and whoever’s business you wanna make it,” she explains. The song features two guitar lines in snaking conversation, sitting anxiously on the edge of discordance before wreathing together for a searing chorus. “No apology means no apology,” Michelle cries as the song ends. “At first, I felt like I had to validate [my lyrics] to people, but now I just write what’s honest to me,” she says now.

This new, more settled approach is emblematic of Deep Sage, an album that exists because Gouge Away re-evaluated the way they do everything. Ever since , Dies, and even more so once their hugely popular sophomore album, Burnt Sugar, came out in 2018, the band have constantly been on tour supporting heavyweights like Refused, Ceremony, and La Dispute across the U.S. and Europe. Michelle, who considers herself shy and introverted, likened the schedule to a pressure cooker: “I definitely was [exhausted]…I think everyone was really burnt out and wasn’t saying it.”

Even when the band got off the road to start writing Deep Sage at the end of 2019, they were “workaholics,” writing and practicing for 10 hours a day and pressuring themselves to keep up with the music industry spin cycle. Then came the pandemic. “I saw all these bands who were still writing and talking about how productive they were, and we felt like we got our asses beat,” Michelle says. “So I was just like, ‘Okay, I guess we’re done.’ I didn’t want to do the band anymore.”

For almost two years, Gouge Away was essentially dead. On New Year’s Eve in 2021, Michelle listened to the demos that the band had recorded pre-pandemic. Maybe it was the reflective mood of the holiday, or maybe she’d just taken enough time away, but she was excited by the music in a way she hadn’t been before. She texted her bandmates that they should get back together and finish the songs.

Strangely enough, while past practices and writing sessions were full of disagreements when the band reconvened to start writing again, they were completely harmonious, agreeing on parts they should keep and the things they should rework. In the studio, they recorded live and straight to tape, catching everything in two or three takes. “I feel like something we pull from playing live is this urgent, you’re-gonna-explode type of feeling,” Michelle says. “I feel it in my stomach, it’s kinda like an anxiousness. We’re always living in that feeling.”

Merch for this release:
Cassette, Compact Disc (CD), T-Shirt/Shirt, Sweater/Hoodie, Other Apparel, , Vinyl LP

Despite the tight knot of discomfort at the core of Deep Sage, it’s their most melodic album to date. A song like “Maybe Blue” is practically peppy by Gouge Away standards, while closing track “Dallas” is dreamy, with gentle vocals echoed by a yearning lead guitar line even as the rest of the instruments retain hardcore snarl and drive. Most of Michelle’s lyrics revolve around feeling stagnant or trapped, which she says came on some level from the band’s suffocating touring schedule—the title line of “Stuck In A Dream” refers to the transient feeling of being on the road.

Going forward, Gouge Away are excited to be a band again, but it’s going to look different from before. “We’re only gonna do things we’re very excited about,” Michelle says. “We’re gonna be a lot more selective and have some space in our personal lives for family and our pets and stuff. I feel like early on, we were such shy, nervous, unsure people, kind of relying on validation to feel like we were deserving of even being on a stage. But now we’re in this headspace of we’re just having fun together, and it takes a lot of the pressure off.”

Gouge Away will probably always find their musical bread-and-butter in discomfort, but offstage, they’re more comfortable than ever.

Read more in Punk →

Top Stories

Latest see all stories

On Bandcamp Radio see all

Listen to the latest episode of Bandcamp Radio. Listen now →