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Make Me a Mixtape: Leaking Head's Fictional Punk Festival of Madness

Make Me a Mixtape is a segment where we interview artists and have them make a mixtape of seven songs based around a particular scenario, explaining why they chose each song. This week, we chat with the Rochester-based hardcore punk outfit Leaking Head, who curated the lineup for a fictional punk festival.

Photo by Will Cornfield

Back in January, the Rochester-based hardcore punk band Leaking Head released their highly-anticipated debut demo tape, Demo 2021. Spawning from the teeming underground punk scene in Rochester, Leaking Head consists of frontman Cougar, guitarist Jake Razor, guitarist Kevin Cheney, bassist Tyler Hammer and drummer, Gary U.S. Bombs. Their demo tape erupts with thrashing guitars, roaring vocals and deafening drums that lives up to the band's self-description of "rot-core." The lyrics seethe with rage in all directions—towards society, fake people and yourself. Songs like "Big Fish Empty Pond" leave a ringing in your ears and give you an intense urge to dive into a mosh pit. And their covers of classics like Reagan Youth's "Jesus Was a Communist" and the Stooges "TV Eye" are a blast.

Considering they were playing shows nearly a decade before this tape’s release, Leaking Head have mastered how to cram their live energy into an uproarious bunch of six tracks. Their knowledge of the prevailing punk scene and their passionate performances inspired the scenario for their mixtape. Whenever music festivals become commonplace again, Leaking Head has everything covered for the newest punk festival, Syko Punx Fest. Each of the seven headliners were handpicked from the band's collective knowledge of fresh punk acts that would put on a hell of a show. Make sure to drink lots of water, wear comfortable shoes, and don’t be afraid to fight your way to the barrier because you're going to want to be in the front for Leaking Head's fictional festival.

Syko Punx Fest

"We decided to book Syko Punx Fest in Keyser, West Virginia. Keyser is a small city adjacent to Cumberland, Maryland. As Rust Belters we stand in solidarity with deindustrialized folx across the globe. The festival will deliver an injection of cash to Keyser, courtesy of trust fund kids in leather jackets eager to drink alcohol. Keyser has a suitable venue called The Indie On Main and although it is a small town, its population and vibrancy are sufficient for a punk fest. It's going to be a rollercoaster ride and weekend full of revelations and revelry. Our lineup traverses the spectrum of 21st century punk rock and each act is an exemplar."

—Jake Razor, guitarist

Electric Chair — "Pledge of Allegiance"

"Electric Chair style shares traits with ours. They were a shoo-in for this lineup. Frenetic energy recalling Japanese acts like Gauze, infused with all-American snot and adorned with rock 'n' roll guitarwork. All of Electric Chair's records are top-notch but 2021’s Social Capital demonstrates a commitment to improvement. Every moment of this 7" is crafted with rigor and delivered with precision. A lightning-speed salvo sure to shock even the most hardened hardcore fan."

Public Acid — "Electric Plague"

"Our vocalist Cougar turned me onto this band I’m glad that he did. Public Acid caught our eye for this reason. Public Acid bust out mosh parts worthy of any NYHC outfit and coat them with the fuzz and scuzz of Disclose-style 'raw punk.' It's a blend that crushes, frightens, and excites."

Muro — "Violencia en Las Calles"

"Muro are from Bogota, Colombia. They exemplify the 'international hardcore' sound that we strive for. Muro balances differing approaches to hardcore and attacks the listener on every front. Tension that refuses to relent. Abrasive edges jutting out of all corners, each riff launching shrapnel in every direction. This kinetic violence is paired with sing-a-long snappiness, creating the dialectic that keeps us coming back to this stuff. Adrenaline never goes out of style in our book, and Muro is a thrill to listen to."

Goodbye World — "Invention"

"Goodbye World play disjointed and jarring hardcore, the sort of stuff that sounds like it'll break your record needle. In 12 minutes, they barrel through 15 songs on their latest LP, At Death's Door, fat trimmed in its entirety, nothing but morsels of meat. Sink your teeth in and knock out somebody else's. There is a pairing of terseness and mayhem here that only comes from consummate punk professionals. Our bassist, Tyler Hammer, recommends flipping this LP and replaying it over and over. It lends itself to that, and we can't wait to see what Goodbye World is like live."

Destruct — "Wars of Attrition"

"If hardcore is poetry, then d-beat is haiku. Almost every Discharge song from 1980 to 1983 has the same structure. The verses do not extend beyond 6 measures nor are they less than 4 measures. There are three choruses and a guitar solo after the second chorus. Discharge's lyrics even read like haiku; a bare minimum of words invoking a scene and painting a picture. My fellow guitarist, Kevin Cheney, introduced me to this LP. It entered my daily rotation as soon as I listened to it. Their performance at Syko Punx Fest is going to be a barnstormer. So good, in fact, that it will be worth enduring the presence of d-beat fans."

Protocol — "De-Militarized Zone"

"Protocol are a hardcore band from Tallahassee, Florida, and they released their debut EP Bloodsport in 2019. Hammer believes there is an MK-Ultra mind control trigger buried in the frequencies of this record. I fail to see any other explanation for the brutality at play here. It cuts the wires to your superego and turns you into a caveman, driven to commit acts of violence against property and people alike. This is what every hardcore record should do, at some point, as a bare minimum. But Protocol wouldn’t be on this list if they stuck to the bare minimum. There has long been a surplus of punk bands who write about important issues, and who also suck at writing. The lyrical content of Bloodsport is far above par for its genre. Words arranged with elegance, forming metaphors that operate on the same visceral level as their music. Bloodsport confronts Amerikan society and it hits 'em where it hurts. Its dual title tracks are focused on the venality of racism in the USA. The song included here, 'Demilitarized Zone,' tackles this nation's biggest export (and one of its only exports): neo-colonial militarism."

Chubby and the Gang — "Lightning Don't Strike Twice"

"There are some bands who reflect their time and place while emanating a timeless quality. It's an uncanny balance and the bands who strike it ascend to greatness. Chubby and the Gang is one of those bands. There's something magical about that milieu; perhaps because it emerged from such imperial decay and tumult. Chubby and the Gang are not a throwback to that style of music. Rather, they carry its tradition into the 21st century, imbued with that same capacity to captivate. Their Speed Kills LP invites the listener into a cinematic world filled with whimsy, bedlam, and sentimentality. Upon your arrival, it feels like you've been there before; at the same time, you've never heard anything quite like it. Lyrically they weave vignettes worthy of The Jam or Ian Dury, set in a mythical London and employing perennial images and themes—bad luck, big trouble, love, speed, and working class life in the city. A band like this carries significance and deserves attention. They will be the headlining act at Syko Punx Fest. After a weekend of hardcore havoc, tunes like 'Trouble (You Are Always On My Mind)' and their latest single, 'Lightning Don’t Strike Twice,' will help put things in perspective."

Leaking Head will be holding their demo release show on Friday, July 2, at Genesee Valley Park, Riverbend Shelter, along with hardcore outfits The Thrill and Who Decides.

Stream Leaking Head's mixtape below.

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