Toe To Toe

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“Definitely no thoughts at all on longevity,” replied Scott Mae, founding member and vocalist of Sydney’s Toe to Toe when asked if he envisaged anything more than a bit of fun and mayhem when he started the band in 1992. “I’m into music. A lot of people get into punk rocks bands because they’re into punk rock and that might come and go for them. I was always just fascinated by music and songs which is probably why I’ve stuck at it so long because I’m still chasing writing that really cool punk rock song and I love hearing new songs from other bands so that’s the thing that has kept it going for me. When we started there was a lot of hardcore going on in Sydney and a lot of those people aren’t really associated with the scene anymore.”

For a quarter of a century Toe to Toe have not only survived, but also thrived in a musical landscape that is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate, with Mae admitting to not being able to pinpoint the reason why.

“I don’t know, probably because I don’t take no for an answer!” he laughed. “We might go through stages where no-one is into us but we’re fine with that. We don’t really have a problem with it. We’ve still gone out and played our shows. There might not be many people there but we still do what we do. We’ve played in front of festival crowds between five and ten thousand and we’ve played in front of thirty people and the thrill is the same. You’re there, you’ve gotta do your thing and you’ve gotta do it well and enjoy it.”
Toe to Toe’s first LP since 2010’s Arturo Gatti, titled Rise Up, comes out on April 28 and Mae struggles to hide the fact that he is anxious for it to be heard.

“It was a long, arduous process,” he confessed. “We wrote for ages and put a lot into it. It’s been an experience. It’s weird that it’s not actually out yet because it seems like a long time but it’s been a good experience. We’re happy with what we’ve done and are looking forward to it being out.”

Rather than sit back and wait for the album to be released, Mae says that while the creative bug is biting, Toe to Toe are not content to merely play the waiting game.

“We’re actually writing again,” he revealed. “We’ve started writing for another record. We wrote so much and we’ve got a process now. With me being in Brisbane and everyone else in and around the central coast of Sydney we have this process where we seem to be able to churn a lot of stuff out, more so than if I was actually in the same room as the guys (laughs). We tend to talk a lot of shit when we get together but when we do it over the internet and via certain apps we just seem to really, really be able to knock the songs out.”

While admitting the essence that is Toe to Toe flows deeply through Rise Up, Mae concedes that for this release the band made a conscious effort to go back to their roots.

“We just really wanted to highlight a lot of our influences so we didn’t want to make a really one dimensional record,” he stressed. “We didn’t wanna make the same record again so we really explored and went deep into all of our influences. We’ve even slowed it down a little on this record and that’s not because we can’t play fast any more. We just wanted… again it’s back to our influences. People lump Toe to Toe in the category of a lot of modern day hardcore which we’re not. Our roots are really deep into punk rock, street music, oi and dirty rock and roll so we really wanted to bring all of that out on this record.”

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With a much larger musical pool for listeners to draw from in the modern era, Mae argues that while the variety of bands and music is definitely larger in scope, it is still the quality of the music that dictates whether or not people will give it repeat listens.

“I think, particularly on this record, we really worked on our craft,” he affirmed. “I was actually thinking about how disposable music is today driving around and an album can come out and everyone is frothing over it for a week and then no-one talks about it after that. We just wanted to make sure, especially on this record, that the songs are gonna have a little more legs and longevity so we concentrated more on the craft of writing songs.”

With the advent of technology since Toe to Toe played their first note in anger, Mae sees the personalized nature of music fast diminishing and fears for the future of up and coming bands that have only social media to promote themselves.

“The biggest change since I started in music has been the access to everything,” he expressed. “I remember a time before the internet so if you wanted to be a part of it you actually had to be a part of it. Now everyone’s got their own little studio at home and their facebook and they can give their opinions. Maybe they’ve been to half a dozen shows and they’re an expert on everything. The accessibility of music is awesome but maybe it’s also what kind of kills it. Myself, I get sent so many links from bands asking to support and its link, link, link, link and I struggle to find time to check it all out. Back when Toe to Toe started you actually had to send packages to people so we would send out our 7” and our bio and there would be a sticker in it and there could even be a T-Shirt and we would get all of this hard copy stuff and you kind of got a feel for the band straight away. Even if the music sucked maybe their T-Shirt was cool and you could wear it around (laughs). It’s hard to decipher from links. It’s lost a bit of personal touch from bands. They don’t even put out a bio any more or go out of their way. It’s like look, we’ve recorded, here’s our link so like it or don’t.”

When Mae first started in the punk world music wasn’t divided into sub genres. Hardcore was a term used to describe bands like Toe to Toe and you were either hardcore or you were something else. These days there are so many genres and sub genres that it is not uncommon for a band to be labeled across two or three different fields.

“It kind of pisses me off,” growled Mae on the sub cultures of music. “It’s really… I think there’s too many people that are about too much style and not enough substance. It’s like ‘we’re gonna be a version of a version of a version of this band that was influenced by this band’ and you think are you the sixteenth version of something? (laughs) The genre of hardcore has changed that much that a lot of hardcore bands sound exactly the same so that’s why I get blown away when I hear something that’s different. My ears prick up when I hear something a little bit different; not every person singing the same. Every band almost acts the same way these days which is fucken boring.”

No matter what your influences are or who inspired you to play music, Mae strongly believes that finding your own sound and identity, particularly in the modern music scene, is paramount.

“It’s the difference,” he stated firmly. “I’m kind of glad that Toe to Toe don’t really sound too much like any other band and that: that I’m proud of. Again, when we did this record, it doesn’t really sound like anyone else. We kind of stumbled onto that but I think if more bands have that mindset I think the landscape would be a bit different and a lot more interesting.”

Written by Kris Peters

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Written by Dave Griffiths

Dave has worked as a music & film journalist for over 20 years now. Aside from Heavy he does radio and various podcasts as well. He is the proud owner of Metal Cat.

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