Angst Amplified in Songs

From left, band members Niku Azam, Zak Cantner, Erik Schumacher, Alex O'Masta and Sid McClain gather for a rehearsal at O'Masta's house.
From left, band members Niku Azam, Zak Cantner, Erik Schumacher, Alex O'Masta and Sid McClain gather for a rehearsal at O'Masta's house. (Photos By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)
By Michael Alison Chandler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 13, 2006

In the basement of 16-year-old Alex O'Masta's Ashburn home, with the foosball machine and his little sister's dollhouse pushed aside, the teenager's screamo band plugged in one recent Saturday, shook the walls for a while and then took a break to contemplate the future.

With a few months left of school, three of the band members are looking toward graduation and what guitar player Niku Azam, 18, called "the most unsure time of my life."

The Fear in Faith, which plays an offshoot of hardcore punk music with screaming vocals, is recording its first album. The band plans to send it to bass player Erik Schumacher's uncle, who works in the music industry in Los Angeles.

"We'd like to be signed by graduation, so we know what we are going to be doing," said Schumacher, 18.

But they've run into some troubles lately, not the least of which is that their lead singer, er, screamer, might have quit.

Under a posting titled "Overwhelmed," Sid McClain, 18, had written on his account a few days earlier that he wasn't sure he wanted to scream anymore. "I don't know what to do? So much is about to happen," he wrote. He went on to say that he thinks the band could be a waste of his time: "Needless to say it's over, guys."

In McClain's absence, the other band members wondered what it would mean if he left: We're not hard core enough to be hardcore, they said, and not soft enough to be emo. We're not indie enough to be indie, they said, but without a screamer, can we still be screamo?

Their momentary musical identity crisis comes at a time when identity means everything, and anything could change in a matter of months. But perhaps it's the underlying question that drives their anxiety: Could their music, so much a part of their lives now, be a meaningful part of their future, or will it amount to just another passing fad?

Their angst is very screamo. It's a genre for the torment of adolescence, filled with aching lyrics about breakups and failed relationships, like emo music (short for emotional) but not as mainstream. Teens flock to it en masse.

By the following Wednesday night, McClain was back at practice. He said he didn't want to quit the band entirely, but he did want to talk to the other guys about switching to more melodious lyrics. The screaming was taking a toll on him, he said, leaving his throat sore and his voice hoarse, and he was concerned that it could affect his long-term ability to sing.

As the rehearsal wore on, though, he showed off his now trademark performance -- seemingly devouring the microphone, while he growled the low notes and wailed the high ones.

When the band first got together last spring, they played "really poppy emo music," and McClain was a mere singer.

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