Just a few days before enjoying their shows in Greece, I got the chance to exchange a few words with United And Strong, one of Germany’s well-known underground DIY bands. Thankfully, the band was in a good mood, so the interview that follows is utterly interesting. Thanks again, guys!
Hello guys, this is Elpida and I welcome you to Metal Invader; thank you for having us! I hope everybody’s alright! United And Strong will be visiting Greece as part of your new tour! Are you as excited as us? Are you ready for the Greek crowd?
Hi Elpida! We are pleased to answer your questions. Of course we are excited, the last time we have played in Greece was 7 years ago, so it was time for us to come back. I hope we are ready for the Greek crowd.
What should we expect from your shows in Greece? What have you prepared for us?
You can expect a lot of mosh, 2 steps and good vibes! We didn’t prepare anything special, we are a hardcore band so we will play our set, have a good time and hoping that you will, too.
The band’s first show took place in 2001, so it’s been almost two decades since the formation of United And Strong. Back then, what were your expectations and what were your initial goals as a band?
When we started we were young, obviously. Bianca was 15 years old! At this age you don’t really have any expectations and all we did was to rehearse and play shows, being young and naïve. At this point we weren’t thinking about touring in more than 20 countries. For me the reason to form a band was to be part of the scene, to be on stage, not just being an observer.
What led you into forming the band, what brought you all together?
Let’s go back to the year 2000, I was 18 years old living in an East German town, riding my skateboard. We started a band with too many members, there was no common sense and it was all about practicing and being serious, so I quit that project and started United And Strong in 2001 with two other members from that band (Alex – guitar & Micha – bass). A drummer was missing so Micha brought Bianca to a rehearsal, she actually didn’t want to go but was afraid to say so. Alex left the band a few years later, Flo (guitar) and Spider (guitar) joined us for him. That was around 2006. Flo remained in the band as the only guitarist. After that lineup change we became a real band and started touring the world!
Did the band’s name derived from Agnostic Front’s same titled track “United & Strong” or is it all a coincidence? If so, why did you name the band after the track, what clicked with you?
It wasn’t actually the song by Agnostic Front that inspired us, there was like a note from Roger Miret in the booklet of the Riot Riot Upstart album and it was headlined with the phrase “united and strong”. Like I said before, we were young and naïve, at that time we didn’t even know about the song. But we liked the message of being united, all together against the Nazi bullshit we were surrounded back than.
Hardcore bands usually share the same themes, addressing personal and social / political problems, the adversities of everyday life and so on. United and Strong doesn’t seem to fall far for all that. On what subjects do you elaborate on and what’s the main message you want to convey?
We grew up with what you could call typical hardcore/punk values. Of course mostly anti-fascism, anti-racism, do-it-yourself-mentality, things like that. We all have jobs now, working with “normal” people but those values are still in us, chained to everything we do, we say, how we act. And we also see those values in people who have nothing to do with hardcore and punk. But we also see the opposite. A lot. The hate, the stupidity, the resignation. It’s a daily struggle to speak up, to argue, to fight back. And in the end it is about becoming a better person. That is the core message of everything. The change starts within yourself.
What has changed and what has remained the same for United And Strong throughout all these years?
It has changed a lot. We have lived in different places throughout the years, went through many jobs & relationships, got gray hair and half of the band has kids now. Every rehearsal and every show is a struggle and sometimes hard to organize. But we do it for the things that haven’t changed: We enjoy to play live, to tour and to meet people from everywhere. We know that we’ll never be famous or live off the band. But that’s ok, that doesn’t matter, never mattered. What matters is standing on a stage in front of a few people giving a shit.
What has been the band’s highest and what’s been the lowest moment so far?
There have been so many “highest” moments that it’s impossible to talk about a specific one. Great moments were being on tour in Brazil, playing north of the arctic circle in Murmansk, Russia, playing in a huge theater in Morocco, playing in front of thousands of people on May 1st in Berlin Kreuzberg or releasing an album on our own label. The list goes on. Low moments were few, but one is still stuck in my mind. We had an amazing tour in Ukraine, Moldova and Romania. The last show of that tour was in Berlin and we had to drive 16 hours nonstop overnight to get from Ukraine to Berlin. We arrived on time to that show, the weather has been great, all our friends and family were there to welcome us back home. We were about to start the show and suddenly our bass player had problems with his equipment, it got hectic because the time schedule was tight so I ran to the van to get another bass. When I came back into the venue I heard our intro song already playing. Back on stage the intro was over and the crowd looking at us because we didn’t start playing. I got pissed why they started the intro without me and got into a fight with Flo, Micha and the sound guy. When we solved the technical problem we played the show but I felt like being at the wrong place. I didn’t enjoy a single second of that set which was a pity cause it was the last show of an awesome tour.
Excessive tours, numerous countries, countless venues. What has changed in the scene and the shows through the course of time? Is there a striking difference between then and now?
It is easy to say that in the past everything was better. In fact it really depends on the country or city we are talking about. One thing I noticed at recent Berlin shows we played is that there is no new and fresh blood in the scene. The average age is very high and it seems that young people in Berlin are not interested in the hardcore scene anymore, which is ok I guess. Maybe hardcore doesn’t address the topics relevant for young people in Berlin. The only people we can blame for this is ourselves. On the other hand the scene in other countries, take Russia, Ukraine, the parts of Germany we grew up in, is still young, strong, and angry. Everything changes all the time. Sometimes you play a shitty show in some town, thinking that the scene has died there. You return a couple years later just to see 100 crazy kids tearing everything down in front of the stage.
You visited many countries, including Russia, Turkey, Brazil, Morocco, Spain, Romania, Ukraine, therefore you have encountered hardcore enthusiasts of all kinds. Which country has left you with the best impressions and how does it feel to meet people from all over the world. Are we all the same in the end of the day?
One lesson you can learn from touring the world or just traveling is actually that we are all the same at the end of the day indeed. The majority of people in every country just want to live a peaceful life and follow their dreams. We went to Ukraine during the war, we played in Sao Paulo’s most dangerous Favela, we played heavy and loud hardcore music in a Muslim country on the African continent and we never had any major bad experiences. I cannot tell you which country made the best impression. We made good memories in every place we went. It’s always fascinating how music, in our case hardcore, brings together people all over the world, with different backgrounds, different stories, different upbringing. And yes, I am aware of how cliche that sounds.
Your last album “Colorblind” came out last year; any chance we’ll listen to any new tracks at your shows? Are there any plans about releasing new material soon?
It took us 8 years to release our second album. So even one year after the release of Colorblind it feels so fresh to us. We will play 5 songs from that album and still need to get some more songs ready for the shows. So before we will think about new material we need to practice those songs. But I hope it won’t take us again 8 years till our next album.
Alright, thank you for your time, we’ll meet in Greece for sure! Would you like to send any messages to our readers?
Thank you for the interview Elpida, see you in Greece!
If you want to support underground and DIY music go to shows! Support bands that go on tour and play for 30€ gas money and a place to sleep on a dirty floor. It all starts there!