Among Criminals - Jaxon's Local Shots Artist of the Month

Four years ago, Among Criminals’ Ryan Gaughan had a wake-up call. The frontman, guitarist, and primary singer-songwriter for the punk alt-rock band found himself alone and cast out of a comfy existence. Close to being homeless, and doing any job to pay the bills, he quickly found the band was all he had. He put his everything into writing and recording a new album.

The Philadelphia trio’s latest, Kill The Precedent, is pissed and passionate. It documents a triumphant, against-all-odds story, and is the first missive in a new fiery era for the politically charged band.

“You can hear a rebirth in this album,” Ryan reveals. “I realized I had to take control and put my entire being into my music. There was no safe backup plan. It was this band or nothing.”

Among Criminals threads together alt-rock, modern indie rock, punk rock, and Jamaican dub, ska, and reggae. It’s an adventurous aesthetic that conjures the fearless musicality of the Mars Volta and At The Drive In, Nirvana, and Manchester Orchestra. The band’s recordings are visceral and dynamic, and also subtly layered for a multi-dimensional “headphones experience.” The trio originally formed in 2008, but burned out after a grueling schedule of 250-300 shows a year that tested its sanity, creativity, and commitment.

The making of Kill The Precedent is something of an underdog Rocky Balboa story dating back to 2014. At the time, Ryan worked over 60 hours a week slinging suds as a bartender, delivering pizza, driving for Uber, and even doing nude art modeling, among other sketchy ventures. He bounced back and forth between living in a van that kept getting broken into, and sleeping in a warehouse that necessitated he wear shoes and a winter coat each night to fend off the frigid temperature conditions. Any money made over basic bills, was used to fund Kill The Precedent —he had an unexplainable desire to finish the album.

During this time, Ryan reintroduced the band as a live entity, via three European tours and six West Coast tours. He even did a jaunt in Iceland as a solo artist. For this go around, he was unfazed by the grueling schedule, van breakdowns, and lean tour conditions, and he even found time to write and record Among Criminals’ quintessential album. Kill The Precedent is a distillation of the Among Criminals sound down to its most potent essentials. The album’s vitriolic political message is the perfect torch-burning soundtrack for these charged times. Its immediacy is also a product of Ryan’s personal struggle to persevere despite his dim future.

The album opens with “Patience and Regret,” a raised fist of good times and good feelings with a soaring chorus and a concise and impactful punk presentation. An opening volley like this is a playful sequencing move, as, from here, the album delves into the personal and political with claws bared.

The album was tracked in the epicenter of Ryan’s world at Spice House Sound, in the heavy environs of Fishtown, Philadelphia. He tracked with producer and recording engineer Alex Santilli who he actually met randomly at a dive bar. The album was cut blood raw live in the studio with punk wunderkind Chuck Treece who has worked with Bad Brains, Underdog, Urge Overkill, and Pearl Jam on drums, and Bhauraw Avhad on bass. Bhauraw was a pivotal creative ally for Ryan in the relaunch of the band; he co-wrote tracks and helped flesh out arrangements.

Ryan is now on the other side of these dark times, and thinking back on his journey he says: “You have to fight to see the light on the other side. If I had not gone to those difficult places, and gone through went I’ve went through, I wouldn’t be able to go to where I’m headed. I hit bottom with no plan B, and now I’m not afraid of anything.”

Among Criminals - Glow In The Dark

Glow In The Dark music video Among Criminals Like us! Join our mailing list for FREE music! Download our album FREE Directed by Phil Miller

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See the band LIVE at Milkboy in Philadelphia with Alright Junior on Friday April 7th!


Hear even more Philly-based music on Jaxon's Local Shots Podcast!