Skitter, and Crooked’s other band The Vacancies, have enjoyed a long run on Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records. That run is not necessarily over. Just like the rest of us, Blackheart is not operating at full capacity at the moment and has suspended any new releases on the label.
As our good friend Henry Rollins has said time and time again over the past three and a half years, “This is not a time to curl up and hope it goes away, this is punk rock time.” Billy Crooked the singer and guitarist of Cleveland two-piece punk powerhouse Skitter couldn’t agree more. “I was watching these demonstrations in the streets of America and asked myself what can I do to help?”
So Billy and drummer Barrett Close cranked up the aggression to 20 and wrote the four-song, roughly six-minute EP titled Knock It Off. The EP opens with the classic “No Justice, No Peace” chant we’ve all become so familiar with this summer before diving into the single, “Say Her Name.”
“Say Her Name” is a song from the presumed perspective of Breonna Taylor on her last few minutes of her short life. Billy screams, “When you close your eyes, drift off to dream, demons will rise” the song is truly unlike anything Skitter has done before and ends in a large crowd chanting Breonna’s name, taken from a recording of a Black Lives Matter march.
Skitter’s most lacerating collection of songs also goes into the topics of police brutality against protesters in American streets, and checking one’s own inner voice to be sure that the hatred hasn’t seeped in. Truly powerful social commentary from veteran Cleveland punks.
The EP is also the first release for Billy Crooked’s brand new record label, Ear Hammer Records. Probably named after War Hammer and not the bone in your ear, just because he is a huge nerd. With Blackheart pumping the breaks Billy finally did what he had wanted to do all these years and started his own label. First he had to figure out the internet.
With the help of friends and his preteen son – and to his credit a lot of research on his own end – Crooked figured out how to create and brand his new label. “I remember finding Dischord and Lookout records, and being interested in all of the bands because they were on that label with my favorites. That is what I want Ear Hammer to be like.”
Billy’s first prospect on Ear Hammer besides his own band Skitter is Cleveland party surf favorites, Fawx. The two bands recorded dual live sets in front of a camera and sound crew at The Winchester recently to be released at a later date.
“The focus is on building a family of bands that get along and are all about promoting a healthy scene in Cleveland,” Billy says. “We’ll do compilations, splits, showcases, just build up music that people are into.”
The old school mentality behind Ear Hammer Records couldn’t have come along at a better time. We all miss our friends, we all miss live music, we all miss wild nights where everyone feels like a family united by our love of great shows and great times. Ear Hammer is ready and waiting to give that to us.