Tuck Knee Espouses Straight-Edge Ethics With ’80s Hardcore Sound

Lisa Siciliano
Denver hardcore band Tuck Knee has been playing for a little more than a year and has released an album and EP.
Denver quartet Tuck Knee opened for legendary Detroit hardcore outfit Negative Approach at Lost Lake on a cold Wednesday night in November.

Once the bandmates finished their roughly twenty-minute set inside the small venue — during which kids in the audience jumped on stage to sing along — the band stowed their gear and promptly joined the raucous crowd that occasionally sent boot-clad members sailing into the low ceiling.

“It’s been really cool,” says guitarist River Ashmore. “Recently, we’ve been playing bigger shows. We played with Sheer Terror a month before [the Negative Approach] show. It’s cool, generally. We’ve been having better turnouts as the shows progress. A lot of people are learning the words.”

Though Tuck Knee, named after a skateboard trick, has only been playing for about a year around Denver (and they are all eighteen years old), they wouldn’t be out of place with the 1980s hardcore bands that inform their sound.

“A lot of our music is based off '80s hardcore,” says bass player Sam Rupsa. “It’s almost kind of Dischord [Records] style, a lot of Youth Crew stuff."

Rupsa, who likes to take photos at punk shows, joined brothers River and Ellis Ashmore and drummer Harlan Katzman last year. The Ashmores and Katzman have played together informally since they were in middle school, and brought on Rupsa after their first bassist left to focus on another band. In its relatively short run as a band, Tuck Knee has released one EP, Can’t Stand for It, and one album, The Way Back Up. It’s fast and aggressive music, with most of the songs clocking in at less than two minutes in length and some at under a minute.

"Currently, we have about twelve minutes of music," Katzman says.

Tuck Knee is working on another EP that could possibly drop online in mid-January. So far, its music is available on Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes and YouTube, but the bandmembers are searching for a label and would like to do a physical release at some point, possibly on vinyl.

“It’s definitely possible,” says Rupsa. “We just need to find the right people.”

River Ashmore says that he has taken inspiration from other Denver-area bands like Culture Shock and Combat Force, but he also likes classic hardcore bands like Washington D.C. legends Minor Threat as well as New York bands like Agnostic Front and Connecticut's Youth of Today.

“I don’t know if I’m fully on board with the newer direction hardcore has gone,” he says. “It seems a bit corny to me. It’s gone to this style of beat down, where it’s taken out a lot of the message, and it’s more about the dress and the dancing. It’s kind of got a tough-guy mentality. I like the hardcore that preaches a certain level of positivity.”

All four members are straight-edge, a philosophy within the punk culture whose adherents eschew drugs and alcohol.

“It’s just living clean and not letting other things affect how you live or your happiness or anything like that,” Rupsa says.

River Ashmore adds that the straight-edge philosophy isn’t as much about following a set of rules as it is living the best life possible.

“Especially in today’s society, with kids our age, it’s pretty glamorized, the partying lifestyle,” he says. “It’s cool to have a group of guys with the ability to have fun without all that stuff.”

Ellis Ashmore, Tuck Knee’s singer and primary lyricist, says many of the band's songs are about drug use. He admits that the songs are angry and concern issues that bother him. It’s hard for him to write positive songs.

“We’ve seen a lot of our friends go down the wrong path,” Ellis Ashmore says. “We’ve lost some good buddies who have deteriorated. That’s a pretty big topic in a lot of our songs, whether it’s directly or indirectly.”

Tuck Knee is playing as part of the Fatal Mistake IV benefit show at 7 p.m. on Friday, January 24, at Seventh Circle Music Collective, 2935 West Seventh Avenue. Donations will be accepted during the show. The Consequence, Videodrome, FOAM and Direct Threat round out the lineup.