This is why, in 2011, Gepfer quit his position singing in a rising pop-punk band. Though he had made it to where he wanted to be—touring the country, performing music with his friends every evening—the ends simply didn’t justify the means. “For me, it was never my style of music,” he says. “I didn’t want to play those songs. I thought they were terrible. When people would react to them positively and say that they were really good, I wondered if I was good or not.”
“When I quit that band,” he continues, “there was always something in the back of my mind reminding me that I wanted to be in more of a dissonant punk-rock band.”
Gepfer started Placeholder with this purpose in mind, but also with the sincerest desire to express himself. With help from his bandmates (including drummer Marco Florey, who had followed him from the previous band), Gepfer found himself composing songs about the questions and challenges that pocked his life—songs that would comprise Nothing Is Pure, Placeholder’s debut full-length.
Released at the end of 2011 by Better Days Records, Nothing Is Pure is a melodic manifestation of frustration. Some songs center on a person with whom Gepfer was attached long-term; “Resent” rushes at a raging pace, inundated by a flood of foaming, swirling chords above which Gepfer’s hoarse cries fight to stay afloat. Others, like “Dying for Nothing”, show Gepfer searching for a higher power and finding nothing; one of the record’s most dramatic tracks, the song plows into its third verse, where it builds from a smolder into an inferno that finds Gepfer screaming over burning chords and Florey’s thrumming rhythm.
“The record’s about the struggle between believing in some kind of higher power, believing in yourself, and believing in another person and having them all kind of come in together and not have it blow up in your face,” Gepfer reveals. “Unfortunately, it blew up in my face.”
For Gepfer, songwriting is a cathartic process, one though which he is not only able purge his problems, but also sort them out. “If I’m feeling like shit, I write a song,” he says. “I don’t sit down to write songs when I’m really happy because, when I’m really happy, I’m doing something—I go hiking, or I go for a swim, or I go hang out with friends. That’s not the time when I want to write a song.”
In the fall of 2012, Placeholder released Thought I Would Have Been Somebody By Now. Though, lyrically, the four-song seven-inch draws once again from Gepfer’s frustrations, they’re explore a different—and no less personal—sort of struggle. “Originally, I had in my head these really angry thoughts about bands who, I feel, aren’t good that get popular and then bands that are really good and don’t,” he says. “I guess the original theme of the seven-inch was about how I thought things would be different—that these songs that I wrote, these shows that I played, these things that I’ve done could have spoke up for something more.”
Despite this seemingly depressing conclusion, Placeholder’s potential seems to have been already realized and in two ways. The first is expressed in Thought I Would Have Been Somebody By Now’s more focused, more ferocious power—in “Mary”, which bounces with abrasive, angry energy; and in “Bright Enough to Shine”, with its explosive peaks and obtuse, intense valleys. In less than two years, Placeholder has not only developed a dynamic punk-rock identity, but continues to sharpen it into something more searing, more melodic, and more meaningful.
The second, of course, is exhibited in Placeholder’s very existence. Gepfer is making the music he’s meant to make, which takes courage—especially since leaving the comfort of success for something more fulfilling meant starting from scratch.
But realized potential means nothing unless it is felt. Though Gepfer may want “something more” (it is, after all, the nature of the ambitious), he may or may not sense the “more”.
Gepfer recorded these tracks on a Sunday afternoon from Mechanicsburg, PA, where Florey's family lives and the band practices. The entire session--recording and interview--required three different phones, since each's battery drained at an inconceivable and inconsiderate rate.
"Mary" and "Tired For Me" appears on Placeholder's 2012 record titled Thought I Would Have Been Somebody By Now; "Give Up" appears on Placeholder's 2011 record titled Nothing Is Pure.
Visit the band's Bandcamp page for more music, including free downloads of Thought I Would Have Been Somebody By Now and Nothing Is Pure.
To download these tracks, click on the song titles and download them from the player at SoundCloud.com.
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