Institute have been kicking around Texas and the rest of the United States for a couple years now, but it was their debut album Catharsis that really threw me for a loop. Who knew classic early post-punk tribute could sound so fresh, vital and, well, unique? With lyrics as abstract and poetic as they are unabashedly punk in spirit (more than enough nihilism to go around), Institute spin classic Crass Records punk into two-chord tapestries that blend psychedelia with the mundane. I was able to get some words out of vocalist Moses Brown, although not too many, as he seemed to instantly sniff out my standing as an old-guy punk interloper rather than a glue-sniffing Toxic State intern (and he’s the only artist I’ve interviewed thus far who asked that I take one question and answer off the record for the final print). Fair enough!

Where does the name “Institute” come from? An acquaintance of mine thinks it’s a horrible name, but I think he’s crazy, that it perfectly captures the sort of mundane outlook / generic drudgery that your music seems to spotlight. Or am I crazy?
Institute came from a list of band names Adam had. We were working with Morale at the start, but thought it sounded like a screamo band so we dropped it and went with Institute. Can’t say it was chosen for its mood, but it ended up reflecting the music well.

Am I wrong in feeling despair/negativity from your songs? Does getting that sort of stuff out in your music help you mentally in your daily life from going crazy?
Oh yeah, definitely. I get to vocalize all the negative baggage inside my head. It’s a pretty great tool; it also makes playing good shows that much more enjoyable. I was in a slump. This record paired with love helped me pull out. I thought you were talking about our day to day personalities… We’re nice and happy people.

How did you come upon your vocal style? Was it a matter of finding a vocal approach that fits the music, or is this the only way you could ever see yourself singing? Is this your first time singing in a band?
Yeah this was the first band. Pretty much just wanted to sound like Steve Ignorant and PiL-era Johnny Rotten, haha. Just kinda played shows until I figured it out.

Is there some bit of British inflection I hear in your voice? Why don’t more ‘punk’ vocalists try to develop their own style these days? I appreciate that I can easily pick your voice out of a lineup.
I just try and do what sounds cool. You see hardcore bands recycling the same front-man character, but I would say there’s a lot of punk bands out there today with interesting front-people.

Who are some of your punk front-persons today? What do you look for in a vocalist?
Like Mary-Jane from Vexx, Kevin from Big Zit, Emil from Dawn of Humans. I love confidence. Doing whatever the hell you want, not sticking to any sort of trend… that is always going to make things exciting.

Institute seems to be lumped into hardcore-punk, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a sonic match. Are you used to playing hardcore shows? Should people mosh to Institute?
People don’t really mosh, I’d say they dance around and occasionally fall over. We get lumped into that punk scene because all of us are a part of that scene; this band just happened to sound different.

Photo by Renate Winter

Catharsis really jams out toward the end, meandering around further into something I’d consider closer to kraut-rock / improvisation than punk rock. Is that just a small part of your musical equation, or is that something you think you’ll be pursuing into the future, the sort of looser, open-ended tunes?
It could be called a nod to the roots of punk. I love when I hear psych-rock songs that sound like punk songs or vice versa. Maybe we’ll do another one… We’ve been playing an abridged version of “Christian Right” live recently – that’s probably the version we should be talking about.

How does the live version differ – is it just abridged, or do you change it up in other ways?
It’s shorter and harder with the punk-knob dialed up. I don’t really know what it sounds like. It’s a Can rip with anarcho vocals thrown on top.

Are you not afraid of blatantly ripping off previous musical ideas? I feel like there is this notion that ripping something else off is inherently bad in punk/hardcore, but I don’t think that’s the case. Attempting to rip something off can often yield unexpected results.
Punk is folk music. It’s a formula, a set of guidelines proven to make exciting music. As long as what you’re making has real heart to it or is pushing boundaries you can rip-off as much as you’d like. If you’re in punk today and worried about originality, maybe find something else to do.

You’ve got some pretty good moans and groans on Catharsis. Where do those come from? Are they just something that happens?
The moans? A moan is just another lyric.

What was the rationale behind signing with Sacred Bones? What were they able to offer you that, say, self-releasing your album wouldn’t?
We decided we’d go with any sort of opportunity thrown at us. They hit us up on our first tour, so we went with it. They’re super sick, genuinely nice people who care a lot about what we do. They make our shows bigger and give us cool opportunities. Pretty much we thought it would be fun, and so far we’ve been right.

Is Institute something you’d hope to live off of one day? Is that preposterous?
Nah. Touring should be fun, not a job. If you can do both, more power to you, but I don’t think we have the means to do that. We’re not interested in pursuing a “successful” music career as a punk band in 2015. We’ve seen what it would look like and decided we’d rather play basements.

Why did you decide basements are preferable to pro clubs for Institute?
Pretty much because your friends are booking the show, you get paid about the same, and it’s much more fun.