Ads Top

The End Is Near: Meet Kansas City metalpunks Sarin Reaper -- a band of outsiders on the rise in the end times

Sarin Reaper. Photo by Aaron Rhodes.
If you stick around an American DIY punk scene long enough, you start to see some patterns emerge. As teenagers come of age and are able to attend shows on a regular basis, you see friend groups from different neighborhoods and suburbs become part of the scene in a more concrete way. If they stick around long enough and stir up enough buzz, those young musicians, their bands and their crews slowly become the face of their city’s scene. Though the band hasn’t had any sort of crowning moment as of yet, Sarin Reaper has been making a name for itself over the last six months, becoming a favorite among the under 21 crowd.

One of the things that’s won the band its fans thus far has been its willingness to play anywhere and everywhere. Since the release of its demo back in April, Sarin Reaper has played Shuttlecock’s outdoor July 4 blowout in the West Bottoms, an attic show in Johnson County, downtown’s beloved recordBar, and a front yard mud wrestling event in a typically sleepy section of Volker. They’ve also already made voyages to play in Sedalia, Chicago, and twice to Columbia, Missouri.

An Iowa City show was canceled due to a COVID exposure at the venue and the band nearly missed its first Columbia show when drummer Jose Caman’s ride got a flat tire on the way. Thankfully, a kindly redneck showed up to get them back on the road and the other two cars in the caravan (including one member’s Toyota Corolla, playfully nicknamed The Crust Chariot) made it there in one piece.

Photo by Aaron Rhodes.

Another important key to the band’s momentum is, of course, its music. When I interviewed the band at guitarist Jame Mendenhall’s East Side house where the band practices, they confirmed a hypothesis I formed in my initial review of the demo. Though everyone in the band listens to a mix of both metal and punk (among other genres), when I asked them about genres, they admitted to being something of a band divided. Mendenhall and Caman contribute more to the band’s hardcore punk side (the speedy clip of play and d-beat drumming style) and vocalist Luke Illif and bassist/vocalist Solomon Tapia channeling influence from black metal (their screamed vocal style, grimy instrumental tone, and dark, misanthropic lyrical content). After a bit of discussion on this, they all agreed that this mix of sounds can simply be referred to “metalpunk.”

“I think [the band] works well because [Jose and I] have the punk mentality of not giving a shit and [Luke and Solomon] are against the ‘trve kvlt’ mentality of being like, ‘We have to blend in with everybody else,’” explains Mendenhall. “I think [the band] works super well because sometimes metalheads and punks can be so full of themselves and it’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous how full of themselves they can be.”

The group shares a distaste for snobbery within metal and punk and any rivalry that people try to create between the two sounds. Illif elaborates on why he favors this hybrid sound: “I don’t see why -- in the age of Bandcamp -- there still has to be a rivalry between metal and punk, because you’re essentially just looking for the same thing, which is the most aggressive sound you can possibly get … Put the best of both worlds together and then you get the perfect sound for a time when everything is a lot more pessimistic in general. It’s a great outlet for that, because if you doomscroll too much, you’re gonna be pretty fuckin’ sad about the way things are going. So yeah, the crusty shit, it has a bunch of dumb shit involved with it, but why can’t we just harness that and make something with a much more direct sort of hate?”

Jame Mendenhall. Photo by Aaron Rhodes.

And what’s all of that hate aimed at? From my conversations with the band, the amount of actual misanthropy each member feels seems to vary; metalheads Illif and Tapia share a more crude, vulgar sense of humor while punker Mendenhall often acts as the kind, idealistic diplomat. Caman often keeps to himself.

“There’s the fuckin’ meme that everyone posts that’s like, ‘return to monke,’ but I kinda identify with that in a way,” Illif says as Tapia laughs and tells him to “shut the fuck up.” Illif nevertheless continues, “The human race had its chance to get everything right and now they’ve turned the planet into a shell of its former self and now it’s time for the new boys on the block to come in. Chimps have like 99.9% the same DNA as us, we gave it a couple million years, it’s y’alls’ turn now. We fucked it up. We deserve extinction.”

While their hatred of the human race as a whole differs member to member, what they can agree on is a contempt for mainstream American culture and the systems in place that keep working class people and people of color down. In a more serious tone, Illif explains some of the real life experiences that inspire his lyric writing.


Solomon Tapia. Photo by Aaron Rhodes.

“The world is falling apart like none other these days and there’s so much anger that’s being built up and so many people are being pushed to the sides like, ‘Your concerns don’t fucking matter,’ and I’ve had that happen to me my whole life, growing up working class and it fuckin’ sucks. And to say that [my] problems don’t actually exist? That fuckin’ sucks. And then throw in all of the anti-religiosity on top of that and [my lyrics] are basically just a giant middle finger to Midwestern culture.”

The pessimistic ideals of Illif and Tapia are front and center whenever the band plays live, too. Between most songs, the two scream into their respective microphones (often simultaneously, though on separate tangents) about society’s impending collapse, even going as far as to urge the audience to kill themselves (though I’m assuming that part is mostly just for fun).

If it isn’t clear already, Sarin Reaper makes music for those cast out by society in one way or another. In addition to that, they are still new to the city’s punk scene, so I wanted to know if it bothered them at all being relative outsiders in a scene made up of other outsiders.

Mendenhall has chosen to embrace this circumstance and has made the slogan of their Dirtbag Distro tape label (home to Sarin Reaper’s two tapes thus far) “For The Weirdos.” Tapia takes it a step further of course. “I don’t give a shit about the scene,” he says. “The scene is fun, it’s where we play our music, but at the same time, they don’t fuckin’ matter. We’re the ones playing Sarin Reaper shit ... I love being an outsider band.”

The band still has some work to do before it sits among the city’s tightest and most respected acts, but that should not discourage you in the least from grabbing a tape or catching a show as soon as you read this. If the music of Sarin Reaper and their screamed doomsayer rantings don’t want to make you hop in the pit, throw up some horns, or at least crack a smile, then you’re probably a fuckin’ normie -- and that sucks.

Listen to Sarin Reaper and buy their tapes at

[This article first appeared in Issue 4 of Shuttlecock's free monthly print edition. Click here to order a copy online, or pick one up for free at locations around KC/Lawrence/JoCo.]      

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.