You’re a fox. You’re standing on the shoulder of I-76, just outside of Philadelphia. It’s midnight. The road is dark and quiet, but there’s a glimmer of light at the horizon and a distant voice gaining in pitch and volume, growing more intense as twinned headlights get brighter and closer. Suddenly, a scream comes across the night. It arrives in a war of rubber and metal hurdling past you. And then it’s gone. You don’t know that it’s Billy Werner—the singer of the short-lived but hugely-influential screamo band Saetia—in the driver’s seat, screaming at the top of his lungs. This is his nightly ritual, his test to see if he can still keep up with his bandmates after a double-decade break. But you don’t know that. You’re a fox. You probably didn’t even know Saetia was back together. It’s okay. Until a couple of weeks ago, no one did.
Then three shows at Brooklyn’s Saint Vitus, which will benefit the Global Action for Trans Equality, sold out in less than a minute. Suddenly, everyone knew. Twenty Three years after their last show, at the collectivist artspace ABC No Rio, Saetia is back.
And people are losing their shit. Despite producing only one full length record and a pair of 7” singles in their two-and-a-half year lifespan as a band (1997-1999), Saetia’s stature has only grown in the 23 intervening years. Subreddits have popped up to debate whether it was the musical dynamism of the band or vocal expressionism of Werner that made Saetia the best band of the pre-skramz underground.
Critics have claimed that the band “accidentally defined a subgenre.” A generation of younger bands have grown up, wanting to be the next Saetia. How is this all possible for a little DIY band from twenty years ago? It really boils down to one simple reason: the band ruled, and they didn’t stick around long enough to start sucking.