edging believe in good sax for a better future

The Chicago self-described “landscaper punks” talk wanting to make you scream

edging believe in good sax for a better future
Edging, photo by Josh Druding

Edging are here to have a good time, and part of that process includes getting the bad stuff off their chest. How do you balance an at-times ridiculous approach with heavy subjects? “Honestly it's kind of a way to make those topics more digestible,” said singer Faith Callaway. “They are so serious, and especially live. I'm always down in the crowd and it's pretty aggressive because I'm screaming in your face, but then I always follow it with a giant smile, you know?”

The Chicago five-piece are goofy and loud and not afraid to get dirty—arguably more literally than most. Callaway, guitarist Will Sallee, and saxophonist Tyler Meneese formed the band while picking soil out from under their fingernails during their day jobs as landscapers, quickly bonding over their love of high-octane music, cheeky convos, and a need to push for better societal growth. Edging is both an expected double entendre in regards to its risque sexual reference, and an unexpected double entendre when it comes to its family-friendly gardening term. It’s form-fitting for a band of proud, hands-on punks.

On their sophomore album, April’s Concrete Cumming, Edging squeal through saxophone-driven punk songs with a rock’n’roll wink. Callaway screams with a petulant tone, dragging cops through the mud, flipping off people who get their pronouns wrong, and rolling their eyes at the stubborn people whose ignorance blocks tangible change. Grounding them in their emboldened sound are newest members Jimi Hargraves on bass and Adam Hatcher on drums. 

Rather than holding down the rhythm section, the two constantly speed it up, lending Concrete Cumming the sensation of nervous jitters that bubble into a talk-of-the-town performance onstage. Recorded live in Philadelphia with producer Evan Bernard and mastered by Grammy-winning engineer Howie Weinberg through a wild turn of fate, Concrete Cumming is what you wish basement gigs sounded like without wearing earplugs and before tinnitus became the invisible staple of adulthood. 

Over the course of an hour-long call in June, Callaway, Sallee, and Hatcher sat down together to discuss the patchy formation of their band back in 2018, their unlikely evolution over the years since then, and how a handful of unlikely events helped shape their ridiculously fun new album. 

Edging, photo by Trevor Prickett xx Jacqueline Lin

How did the topic of music first come up while y'all were working as landscapers? Did it take long to figure out you had this shared interest? 

Will Sallee: When we first moved here from California, Faith started working at this landscaping company and then got me a job there, too. We had been writing a little music together – Faith was playing cello at the time, I played keys. It was very different from what Edging is. Then Tyler [Meneese] got hired there within six months to a year of us, and he was the one that was really hounding us to play music. He was like, “I moved to Chicago to get to the city and play with people. I’m really enthusiastic to do this.” I was hesitant at first, but I was just going through therapy to be able to write music again, actually. 

Faith Callaway: Yeah, and I had another co-worker that also played music, so that came up right off the bat. Like, “Oh cool, we're going to be sitting in a van working together for hours. What kind of music do you listen to? 

So had Tyler just moved to Chicago at that same time?

Will: Yeah, we are all pretty much transplants. Tyler was from Carbondale in Southern Illinois. I'm from Miami, Florida originally. Faith's from South Carolina. 

Adam Hatcher: And I’m from Decatur, Illinois. Not too far south from here, but I moved to Chicago when I was 21 and just never really went back home after that. So I consider myself Chicago at this point, you know? 

What type of people do you meet, in terms of co-workers, in the landscaping business? Is it common to come across people into punk in that sphere?

Faith: I think it’s more common.

Will: Surprisingly, when you go to garden centers and stuff, the people that are doing the real physical install labor, at least as far as we go, I haven't met a lot of punks but– 

Faith: I've come across a lot of different people. I’m 37, and the older I got, I saw more and more people in it. Around your 30s is when people start to go, “Oh yeah, the trades.” Especially instead of working in the service industry. I saw a lot of people rotate into that, even floristry. 

Will: Punks and trades is where it will be. Faith was doing design and installs in landscaping, and I mostly do carpentry, but like landscape carpentry. 

When you first started deciding what Edging would sound like, what were the key foundations you built the band on?

Will: Personally, I knew I wanted to play loud. I had been in a lot of bands that were more reserved or loungy, even. So I knew I wanted to get angry and aggressive. 

Faith: I had been in bands and played other instruments, but I never sang before so that was a whole new process. I definitely knew I wanted to scream, even if I didn't know how to. [laughs] I was very into the idea of sax also, but Tyler has a really amazing jazz background and that took a second for him to get it. He came in and I was like, “Oh my god, you’re so talented! You’re such a great player. Can you just drag it through the dirt and fuck it up? Like act like you don’t know what you’re doing?” 

Will: Faith and I had been listening to the band Pill a lot at the time—RIP Pill—so immediately when he said he played sax, we both looked at each other and knew that was exactly what this band would be getting. It was perfect. It's funny because the first EP that we have online, I think Tyler plays bass, Faith is singing, I’m playing guitar, but my co-worker’s son recorded the entire thing and played drums on it, and that was when we first got Tyler to play sax on the songs.

Interesting that Tyler was pulling double duty then. So how did the saxophone initially come up? Did he know he wanted to play it in the band from the beginning, or did he reveal that was in his arsenal later on? 

Will: Tyler is a multi-instrumentalist who can play everything. When I was really writing these Edging songs with Faith, Tyler would come over and jump on bass at first. Faith and I switched off on drums while writing. Back then, it was a whole different thing, just us trying to figure out what we wanted to do. We all play a lot of instruments, so that was a period of pure creation. Before we even met up to play together, we were talking at work one day and one of the things that Tyler mentioned was that his main instrument and what brings breath to his life is the saxophone in general. The sax is Tyler and Tyler is the sax. 

Adam: They’re attached at the hip. He will not leave it in the car or anywhere. It goes where he goes. 

He keeps it on the neck strap, walking everywhere with it on.

Faith: I mean literally, yes. [laughs]

Adam: If he lived in New Orleans, he would. [laughs] 

Faith: We were on a flight where they told him there was no more room for carry-ons and it was too late to check it. We asked if it would fit in the carry-on and they doubted it, but he marched right on that plane sure as shit and stuffed it in. We had no idea if it would fit, and I don’t think he did either, but he wasn’t going to part with it. But it did! Wooo! Thank god. [laughs]

Adam: He was fully prepared to stay in Philly with his saxophone if it didn’t fit. Like he would buy another plane ticket to escort his saxophone if that didn’t work out instead of shipping it. 

Will: So it was almost like the universe aligned, because Tyler wanted to play the sax more than anything and we wanted a saxophone player more than any other instrumentalist in the band. Tyler is a great songwriter, great at bass, great at whatever he touches. He’s phenomenal. So we lucked out. 

In an interview with the Chicago Reader, Tyler said he's been playing jazz saxophone since he was 10 years old, but that it took some adjusting to learn how to play a looser, dirtier version for a punk band. When you know your instrument that well, it essentially becomes a process of unlearning what’s been ingrained in you. What do you remember from those initial first practices with him on sax? 

Adam: I got this because he’s talked to me about it a million times. Tyler approaches the saxophone like it is the lead guitar. That's the only way he figured out how to make those two things mesh, because he can play guitar as well. The sounds that he wants to make are as if he was riffing or playing chords on a guitar, but translates it to be dirtier. It’s a combination of jazz saxophone and southern rock, which he loves and is the shit he plays on guitar. It’s like if Lynyrd Skynyrd chose a saxophone instead of lead guitar. That’s what he’s trying to do. 

Saxophone has a pretty long history in punk, from X-Ray Spex or the Stooges or Flipper on through to Downtown Boys. Why do you think that instrument works so well within the genre?  

Will: It's almost like what Adam was touching on with the lead guitar aspect: it’s a sound that you can only get out of one instrument, and if you get it right, then it sounds cooler than a guitar. And that’s rare to have an instrument that sounds cooler than the guitar.

Adam: Because it’s still bright. It doesn’t not share the same range that a lead guitar would up on the neck.

Faith: Or even vocals! We play off of each other a lot in that regard. It’s almost a more intensified or exaggerated chorus or vocal line in response to what I'm doing. Our band would be empty without it. I can’t imagine it without him. 

Will: Plus, saxophone sounds pretty cool in most other genres, too. Don’t get me wrong: saxophone and punk? The shit. Saxophone in general? The shit.

Your new album, Concrete Cumming, is ridiculous and fun, but it also goes through some serious topics in the process. How did you balance those two tones without sounding like you're mocking yourselves?

Will: It’s the Mary Poppins theory: a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. 

Faith: That's also a thing that I couldn't imagine not doing. In the writing process, it’s kind of hard to make a joke. “Pissing in the Street,” for instance, everybody loves it and I’m like, “Agh, it’s not serious enough! It doesn’t have a good enough message!” 

Meaning you wish the message was more serious or people are misinterpreting the message?

Will: Well when we write, we try to write intentionally with a message in mind. Especially on Concrete Cumming, I would be riffing and Faith would ask what’s the next thing that's making us angry? We’re just yelling answers out, like, “Jeff Bezos! Amazon!” That’s how “Trash City” came about. 

Faith: Right. “ACAB” was one of our first songs for that album, and that one just came so easily. Of course, you know? Hot topic [laughs] but super fucking important. We’ve played that song a few times and, surprisingly, the crowd can be mixed on it. We’ve had times where someone’s like, “But my uncle is a cop! My dad is! He’s one of the good ones!” And it’s like “...Eurgh.” But I always try to write with severe intention while being playful. Or the sound is playful, but the message is very clear.

Adam: It’s like Faith writes almost independently of the music-writing process, so we are playful as instrumentalists. When I'm writing Edging songs, I always try to keep everything I play danceable. I try to keep disco beats in mind, or pop punk, things that make people move so that it's heavy but you want to jump around for joy. It's those kinds of dichotomies that we throw in there. A lot of times when we're writing, we'll start playing a song and then Faith will pull up something they’ve written down. That’s how those songs form: the serious content is almost completely adjacent to the song until we mash them together. 

Will: We’ll be piecing together our parts, fleshing out a song, and then Faith will be readjusting this entire poem they wrote prior to fit the music we just came up with. 

You sing with a lot of urgency, which by nature lends that same gravitas to the subjects you're singing about. What are some lines you're especially proud of, or maybe some lyrics that felt necessary to get off your chest or include? 

Adam: Well “Fuck You Sir” is a classic for a reason. It’s a thing that people experience constantly, where they’re misgendered. It’s an anthem to let that out, a catharsis. There’s a lot of catharsis in Edging music, whether it be from stuff that we’ve personally experienced or through a lens that people can view on their own terms. 

Will: For me, it's “All cops can suck my dick/All cops can rot in hell/Yeah, even the gay ones.” [laughs] Faith has some great lines.

Adam: “Sick Box” always sticks with me. That’s a pretty scathing critique of the healthcare system if you really break it down and look at the lyrics. It’s really just a thesis on how shitty healthcare is. 

Faith: Honestly, I always love screaming, “Fuck us” at the end of “Trash City.” That’s it. It just hits. 

There was a day where I listened to “Trash City” on repeat for two hours. It’s just so addicting and wild, like everyone is coming up with their parts on the spot but staying in sync. 

Adam: It's easily the song that all of us throw simple parts to the wind and play the hardest thing that we can possibly play at specific times. We usually play it last at shows, because if I play it before then, I use every last ounce of my energy.

Will: Yeah, Adam’s played it through injury while biting a shirt even. 

Adam: We got in a car wreck on the way to a video and— 

Will: That’s not a car wreck! We hit a speed bump and his arm bumped on some wood and it hurt his shoulder and— 

Adam: A car wreck is a car wreck, okay? I didn’t say it was a really bad car wreck. I just said it was a car wreck.

Faith: Oh god. [laughs] I actually chipped out a whole fraction of my tooth at a show. During the set, I was down in the crowd and someone bumped the microphone into my mouth and I was like, “Whoa my teeth feel crazy.” And Will asked if I was good, so I wiggled my tooth and a whole chunk fell out. I stuck it in my pocket and just started screaming. Then when we finished, I cried for like an hour. [laughs]

What did you learn from writing and recording your debut, Good Sex Music, that influenced how you approached Concrete Cumming?

Will: Where we spend our money, or at least how wisely we spend it. 

Adam: I got a lot out of the experience, because it was my first album that I learned with the band, since I didn’t actually write those drum parts on that album. The drums on that album are actually played by Kaleen [Reading] from Mannequin Pussy. So big shoes to fill and definitely not a lot to ask from someone, you know? 

Faith: We were like, “You can do the same thing, right? It’s just Kaleen.” [laughs]

Adam: Learning those parts definitely influenced me to think in a different way from my other band and the way that we play, which is a lot more ‘90s alternative. 

For Concrete Cumming, you recorded in a professional studio and hired a mastering engineer – both a first for the band. What was that experience like? 

Will: Man, it happened so fast. It was actually a pivot, not a plan. We were gonna do a mini tour and play Philly and New York because flights were very cheap, friends would lend us gear, it would be fun. Much to our chagrin, it’s very hard to book a show a month and a half out. So we lined up a fire show in Philly, but couldn’t in New York. One of my good homies who’s an engineer lives in Philly and his studio is there, so our pivot was to spend 24 hours at a studio re-record Concrete Cumming with Adam on drums and a better sound than the demos.

So you recorded this entire album in 24 hours? 

Adam: Yep, I did all the drum parts in seven hours. 

Will: And we recorded an EP in there, too.

Adam: Yeah, we did another five or six songs that will come out later. The vocals were recorded under a different session in Chicago, but with the same engineers. Then that engineer mixed it for us, and we were sitting on the mix, shopping it around, and of course Ben Katzman texts us saying, “Hey, I know a guy. I can send him your thing.” The guy ends up being Howie Weinberg. The same Howie Weinberg who got a Grammy for “Soak Up the Sun,” which I love.

Will: This guy did Jesus Lizard, Nirvana, Metallica, Beastie Boys, just prolific. Like everyone. So we’re like, “Thank you, but to be honest we don’t have much of a budget.” But then he offered to do it for cheap… and then he did it? And got it back to us in 24 hours? So we ended up with these crazy masters that just blew our mind by a guy with dozens of Grammys. Even our engineer pissed his pants.

Faith: Everybody was like, “Um…can you give me his contact?”

Will: We were still shopping it around with different engineers when Ben just casually made this connection to the mastering master himself. Of course. So casual. [laughs]

Adam: It all happened so fast that we didn’t even get time to process it. 

Edging, photo by Trevor Prickett xx Jacqueline Lin

Did you try anything new in the studio?

Adam: Just the five new songs that we recorded while we were there.

Faith: Yeah, that EP.

Will: I mean, we'll call it an EP. We might record more and turn it into a record, but we'll give you the name of it at least because it's sick. It's called Unload Your Shame. Five songs that we had been jamming on, had lyrics to most of them, and were just itching to try to squeeze them in. We were only really prepared for Concrete Cumming, though. Even Jimi was working on a couple of the basslines in studio there with Evan [Bernard]. It was really cool.

Adam: There were a lot of things. I didn’t realize we were going to record the album until three weeks before, because the original game plan was to do a mini tour instead. So I started rewriting a lot of parts. There are things I play on that record that I repeat now, but were completed in that studio session. Evan, who recorded us, has a keen ear. After the first take of every song, he made minor suggestions that really helped, especially on “Ghost.” In that 24 hour period, his suggestions helped beef up the record. He was the one who suggested that, on the last take of “Trash City,” I go full on wild, pull out all the stops, go as hard as I could for just one take. That’s the take that we ended up keeping and how I now play that song everytime. 

Will: A good producer can do a lot. Evan Bernard is one of the best musicians in the world, but also engineers. He will give you perfect feedback. He’ll always make a song better. He’ll tell you when you didn't do a good take, and when you did do a good take, and how to find your tone. If Ben Katzman is the unofficial sixth member of Edging, then Evan is the unofficial seventh member of Edging. 

Faith: We’re just slowly growing into a cult of some kind.

Adam: It’ll be the Edging Family Band eventually.

Will: But we won’t kill anyone, promise. We just yell about stuff.

Adam: Oh, I was thinking of the Partridge Family. I don’t know what you were thinking. [laughs]