Why we fell in love with Walter Schreifels over and over again

Walter Schreifels is possibly the least rock ‘n’ roll name in the history of music. Walter Schreifels sounds like a librarian. Or a science teacher. Or an accountant. But don’t let the nerdy moniker fool you - Schreifels is one of the most important figures in hardcore and alternative music history and, when his band Quicksand performs at Download this week, after a special warm-up London gig, you would be well advised to be in attendance. Why? We’ll give you five excellent reasons…


Gorilla. Fucking. Biscuits. A hardcore outfit that influenced an entire generation of bands and helped permanently change what punk rock sounded like, thanks to the New Yorkers’ handy knack for combining the rage of early ‘80s hardcore (see: Black Flag) with actual melodies and speedy, driving riffs. Schreifels was the quintet’s lyricist, main songwriter and guitarist. Since it’s impossible to listen to 1990s pop-punk (particularly anything on Fat Wreck Chords) without hearing Gorilla Biscuits all over it, let’s just go ahead and give Schreifels (at least partial) credit for that entire scene.


Why be in one legendary hardcore band, when you can be in two simultaneously? While Schreifels’ song-writing input with Youth of Today was less prominent than in his other projects, he took over on bass for the straight edge hardcore crew in 1987, despite the fact that Gorilla Biscuits was just starting out too. Not that being in both bands was a philosophical stretch – Youth of Today espoused the same youth crew-centric positivity, values and politics as Gorilla Biscuits did.


The guy the band was named after, Anthony “Civ” Civarelli, had been frontman in Gorilla Biscuits. In fact, most of Gorilla Biscuits – Schreifels, Civarelli, drummer Sam Siegler and bassist Arthur Smilios just moved onto CIV a couple of years after GB disbanded. Schreifels performed on, and produced, CIV’s debut album, Set Your Goals, but was almost entirely absent from 1998 follow-up, Thirteen Day Getaway. Probably because he was too busy trying to invent a new genre. (See below.)


Schreifels finally took the leap to frontman duties in 1990 with the formation of Quicksand: one of the first bands credited with inventing post-hardcore. 1993’s Slip and 1995’s Manic Compression albums stand as groundbreaking classics that still hold up today, and were undoubtedly ahead of their time. Tracks like Delusional, Landmine Spring and Head to Wall broke new emotional ground and stretched the idea of what musicians born out of the macho hardcore scene were capable of doing.


Though Rival Schools saw Schreifels reuniting with drummer Sam Siegler once more, the band’s sound was actually a perfect extension of what Schreifels had done with Quicksand. Rival Schools was emotive post-hardcore that was infused with a melodic edge, where Quicksand had held onto a grittier, more metal guitar sound. 2001’s United by Fate album was one of the greatest rock records released that year. Unfortunately, it took an additional ten years for second album Pedals to get released, thanks to a band hiatus – but it was worth the wait. (Fun fact: the 2011 video for Wring it Out stars a possessed and pre-Girls, Jemima Kirke - who plays Jessa).

Quicksand plays London’s Electric Ballroom on June 12, and the Download Festival on the June 13.