Formed in Bloomington, Illinois, Undeserving is a five-piece punk rock band comprised of vocalist Dalton McKinley, vocalist/bassist Chris Biggs, guitarist Kyle Hughes, guitarist Greg Tracy and drummer Cory O’Connor. BRP’s Lauren Van Houwe sat down with the guys to chat about their musical influences, guilty pleasures, the hardcore scene and much more.
You Like? You’ll Like: Title Fight // Citizen // Basement
How did Undeserving start? Tell me about the band’s beginnings.
MCKINLEY: Greg and I were just jamming around in our living room last winter and literally came up with a rough idea of our first three to four songs, then perfected those, and added two for a combined five songs. We later acquired Cory on drums, Kyle on guitar and Chris on bass, put myself on vocals.
How would you describe the style of your sound?
BIGGS: Nineties grunge revival with our own twist. We’ve been compared to bands like Title Fight and Basement.
How many shows have you played as a band so far? What venues do you get the best response at?
TRACY: We’ve only played three shows so far and all venues were overall the same: very positive responses. I think it works well being able to jump on a lot of different genre-oriented shows. We plan to do a lot more over the next few months.
“People assume we are a hardcore band or heavy due to our appearance and prior bands/influences. We all deep down have always wanted to start something like we have now and we couldn’t be more stoked.” —Dalton McKinley
Whats the hardest thing to do as a band? How do you stay on everyone’s good side?
MCKINLEY: The hardest part is getting around everyone’s work/school schedules. Other than that, we’re just five dudes that love what we’re doing. We very rarely have any arguments—besides where to eat after practice [laughs].
Who writes the music? Is it a group thing, or does one person write then teach?
MCKINLEY: Basically, Greg and I wrote myself (vocals), the drums and guitar. Chris wrote his bass parts according to the songs and I mainly write lyrics but I take input from Chris sometimes. Now that we’re all established members, we’re all giving our two cents in the new writing process.
Are your lyrics based on personal stories or just typical events that you see a lot of people struggle with in today’s society?
MCKINLEY: In all honesty, this EP is about the shit storm called life I’ve been through the last four years and how I’ve overcome those obstacles in the last year. The new music is definitely going to be influenced by struggles in the modern day life of kids our age and how society negatively effects us and how we try to live our lives.
“We’re doing this for ourselves and for the people who like it. Fuck money, fuck the politics, fuck getting paid to play and fuck paying to play. If you’re a local band, start at the bottom and actually work your way up.” —Chris Biggs
Currently, do you have any releases out?
MCKINLEY: Actually, a week from tomorrow, we are going to South Town Studio to record our first release, which will be on tape through an undisclosed label and will also potentially be a split with another band, so that’s tight. We do have full videos from our last two performances ready to upload, we just haven’t gotten the chance to do so, since all we do is work/eat Taco Bell.
What are two things people don’t normally know about you all as a band?
MCKINLEY: People assume we are a hardcore band or heavy due to our appearance and prior bands/influences. We all deep down have always wanted to start something like we have now and we couldn’t be more stoked. For the second thing, people don’t know Greg is a professional stock car racer for the national association of stock car auto racing and we are his pit crew.
What are your opinions on playing shows solely for cash?
BIGGS: We’re doing this for ourselves and for the people who like it. Fuck money, fuck the politics, fuck getting paid to play and fuck paying to play. If you’re a local band, start at the bottom and actually work your way up.
When you say ‘politics,’ are you meaning those who you feel are privileged?
BIGGS: Yes. Which is exactly why we, as Undeserving, are making waves in our scene. We play for the sake of playing. We will play for any small amount of kids whether there’s two or ten people at a new venue. Why? Because that’s ten kids who have never heard us. That’s why we do this.
“As for Chris and I, hardcore is our life blood and despite what kind of music we play, it will always be our home.” —Dalton McKinley
Chris and Dalton: why did you choose leave the hardcore genre, specifically Deviant, to play music like this?
BIGGS: That’s a sick question and is super hard to answer. I personally haven’t left and I can vouch for Dalton as well. This is just a project we’ve always wanted to do.
Why did you choose this direction for Undeserving’s music instead of hardcore like Deviant, you previous band?
MCKINLEY: We haven’t left the hardcore scene. Although our band is not “hardcore,” we blend in very well with that scene among many. Look at bands like Title Fight and Citizen—they play and tour with hardcore bands all the time. That being said, I believe our genres go hand-in-hand with one another. Undeserving is a result of bands that influenced us during our younger years, bands like Nirvana, Low Twelve, shit like that. We are huge fans of Superhaven, Title Fight, Citizen and Balance & Composure. It’s such a different and fun genre to play, so we gave it a try.
HUGHES: Don’t let them fool you. We just chose this music cause we have a better chance of being in a NASCAR commercial [laughs].
MCKINLEY: I still actively play in the hardcore scene. Cory is the drummer and I play guitar as a fill-in for a Chicago hardcore band called Short Fuse. All of us attend many hardcore shows and Undeserving has played a hardcore show and will continue to actively do so in the future. As for Chris and I, hardcore is our life blood and despite what kind of music we play, it will always be our home.
BIGGS: Hardcore will always be my first love [laughs]. Grunge, shoegaze—whatever you want to call our genre, is like my mistress and she’s a thick bitch. My dad got me into the hardcore genre when I was thirteen. He took me to a Madball show and I was hooked. My mom was into grunge/rock when I was a kid, so she turned me on to bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana at a really young age. Everything kinda just went up from there.
“We play for the sake of playing. We will play for any small amount of kids whether there’s two or ten people at a new venue. Why? Because that’s ten kids who have never heard us. That’s why we do this.” —Chris Biggs
As for other members, what kind of music did you grow up on or listening to? Were you always in this style or genre of music?
MCKINLEY: Kyle only listens to The Devil Wears Prada. Cory only listens to The Story So Far. Greg only listens to Lynyrd Skynyrd.
HUGHES: He ain’t wrong. In grade school, I had a Nirvana album and I jammed that a lot. In junior high, I started watching Fuse Music Network on TV and got into alternative and rock music. From there my taste progressed into screamo stuff like Senses Fail and From First To Last. From there it got onto more heavier stuff. I don’t really get hype on the hardcore beatdown stuff like the other guys, but when I started hanging out with Greg, he got me into bands like we’re pulling the influence from—like Citizen and Title Fight.
BIGGS: Cory’s answers would be Naruto references I’m sure [laughs].
TRACY: I grew up listening to old punk music when I was really young—stuff like Dead Moon, The Smiths, The Cure and Ramones. I mainly heard new music through skate videos. I then moved on to music like Nirvana and Blink-182. A big influence like Kyle mentioned was Fuse Music Network on TV, where I found bands like Senses Fail, The Used and many more. Lastly, I lived in a small town where I was lucky enough to have a DIY Scene.
Are there any other bands/artists outside of the hardcore scene that all of you listen to that’s like your guilty pleasure music or go-to bands?
HUGHES: The Weeknd.
O’CONNOR: Naruto opening songs, Future and Drake’s new album.
BIGGS: Mostly pop music. Radio shit. Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, the Weeknd. That shit SLAPS.
MCKINLEY: Old Tim McGraw. Don’t judge me.
TRACY: I jam a lot of black metal: Leviathan, Behemoth. BRP
Check out Undeserving at these upcoming shows:
10/20/15 @ Shipman, IL w/ Oceans Grey
11/1/2015 @ Pekin, IL at Mt. Doom
Written by Lauren Van Houwe
Edited by Chelsea Renee Scofield