After several decades, Rochester's first punk band New Math are finally getting the treatment they deserve. This summer, Propeller Sound Recordings, who's put out superb archival releases from Current Rage and the dB's, are releasing an 11-track compilation of the band's early singles and unreleased material called Die Trying & Other Hot Sounds (1979-1983). Today, we have the pleasure in premiering the lead cut "Die Trying," a hard-hitting power pop anthem that was released as the band's debut single in 1979 which later caught the attention of legendary BBC disc jockey John Peel. To celebrate the release, we also chatted with bandleader Gary Trainer to discuss the origins of "Die Trying" and the band's upcoming reunion.
Forming in the fall of 1976, New Math came onto the upstate New York punk scene when bands like the Jumpers were blazing through the West and Paul Armstrong (formerly of New Math) formed his new band the Flashcubes over in Syracuse. Before New Math changed its name to Jet Black Berries in 1984 and wandered down the path of goth-tinged country blues on Enigma Records, the band hammered out an eruption of raucous rock 'n' roll tunes loaded with an endless supply of head spinning hooks and guttural swagger, tapping the source code to adrenaline-fueled power pop. While there were a few lineup changes in the band's earlier years, the core lineup consisted of enigmatic frontman Kevin Patrick, bassist Gary Trainer, guitarist Chris Yockel, drummer Roy Stein, and keyboardist Mark Schwarz. As Rochester's leading underground band, New Math opened for the likes of the Ramones, the Cramps, and The Gun Club at now-extinct local venues like Scorgie's, The Penny Arcade, and The Triangle Theatre. Towards the end of the 1970s, New Math lit a spark in the local rock scene that produced primal garage rock revivalists the Chesterfield Kings, adventurous post-punks Personal Effects (formerly the Hi-Techs), and pop-punk purists the Cliches.
While New Math never reached the success they had hoped for, the band gained a cult-following over the years and have even reached fans over at Propeller Sound Recordings (Current Rage, the dB's), who will be releasing an archival compilation called Die Trying & Other Hot Sounds (1979-1983) on July 21st. The compilation will include unreleased material and the band's early singles like the anthemic fan favorite "Die Trying," which we have the pleasure in premiering today.
Along with other early cuts like "Find Out Why" or "The Restless Kind," New Math's debut single "Die Trying" is pure youthful power pop perfection that swings at the listener with its hooky chorus and ascending guitar line that explodes out of the speakers, easily fitting onto any Killed By Death or Teen Line compilation. "I wrote this one up fairly quickly before it was recorded," Trainer says via phone. "I felt that we needed a song that was worthy of being produced by Howard Thompson, who was working with some of our favorites at the time like John Cale and the Psychedelic Furs. I came up with the lead guitar solo after being inspired by the Bobby Fuller Four's 'I Fought The Law,' which we used to cover before The Clash released their version. I remember Billboard magazine wrote a short review of it and called it 'guttural stop'" [laughs].
"Die Trying" was first released in 1979 on both Reliable and CBS Records in England with the B-side "Angela," the band's take on Phil Spector and tragic '60s girl groups. While it did receive some airplay on John Peel's radio show and landed on the British charts, the single never became a hit like the band had hoped for. A year later, Dick Storms, co-owner of Record Archive, re-released it here in the states on his short-lived label Archive Records with the alternative B-side "Can't Get Off The Ground," which made more sense on the flip side.
Along with the new release, the band has planned a few reunion shows around Rochester this summer, including stops at Record Archive and the Bug Jar, with new lead singer Derek Sapienza (JDS, The Shine, the Grievants) Patrick is not available and hasn't been for any of the previous New Math reunion shows since the 2000s as he's a longtime artist manager, label owner and A&R executive. This will be the band's first reunion since 2020's benefit concert Songs for South Australia Bushfire Relief. "It's both incredible and surreal that we will be playing these songs live in 2023," Trainer says. "I'm hoping we can make new fans and reunite with old ones that we haven't seen since the Scorgie's days. Who knows, maybe 'Die Trying' will become the hit it should've been!"
Die Trying & Other Hot Sounds (1979-1983) is out July 21st. Shop at Propeller Sound Recordings to pre-order the album along with the limited edition vinyl and t-shirt.