Working Class | An Interview With Rid Of Me

Months removed from the release of its sophomore full-length release, Access To The Lonely (Knife Hits), which was originally released at the tail end of 2023, Rid Of Me has reaped the whirlwind and seen so much support. The album follows the band’s debut effort, 2021’s Traveling which obviously followed a similar wavelength. The only difference there is the comfortability the group has gained from one release to the next which seems to have instinctively made Rid Of Me a much more ferocious musical beast.

It wasn’t an easy road or point for the group to get there as it maneuvered through shifting band membership arriving at the point where they are now; settling in with a powerful release that compares to nothing else. But it wasn’t easy. Rid Of Me comes from the ashes of defunct bands like Fight Amp, Legendary Divorce, and others, but we’re not here to offer up a history lesson of Philly/Jersey bands that have ripped stages and released an assortment of musical output that would later leave a blueprint for the group to build upon. No, Rid Of Me is a group with its own identity. While the band may have dealt with departing group members, thankfully, it didn’t collapse under its own weight with the core group of guitarist Mike McGinnis, drummer Mike Howard, and bassist Itarya Rosenberg finding its fourth permanent member in guitarist Jon Dehart. This isn’t where the strings come in, this is where we get Access To The Lonely, a bludgeoning force of an album that can shake you to your very core, and also indulge your sweet tooth with melodies that are destructive and catchy AF at the same time.

I caught up with guitarist Mike McGinnis as well as vocalist/bassist Itarya at different points in our conversation, and with Mike it began revolving around baseball and the pennant series. We both watched really good games between the Phillies and Diamondbacks that showed a competitive spirit,t which eventually led to Arizona’s loss to the more powerful Texas Rangers. It was what it was. As with anyone I speak with, there’s an attempt to get in-depth with the band’s music and where the band is mentally, individually, or as a group. Both Mike and Itarya were forthcoming with their respective responses.

McGinnis: It’s good to finally talk to you.

It’s good to talk to you too, man! You know what, I was initially expecting, when we were texting earlier on, you know, a bit more arguing about the Phillies and the Diamondbacks. But I was like, okay, he’s not giving me that.

McGinnis: Hey man, you know. It just is what it is, gotta accept it. I wasn’t the one out there playing baseball, so…

Yeah, true that.

McGinnis: I’m very bummed, and the whole city – there’s a black cloud above the city now for sure, but it just is what it is. I will tell you, out of all the teams in the playoffs, that were gonna do it, I’d rather be the Diamondbacks than some of the other teams. 

Yeah I was actually surprised. I don’t know if I told you that, we actually went to a Diamondbacks game. Someone we know had season tickets and they had really good seats.

McGinnis: Awesome.

Went to a game against the Padres, and it was just like, “alright, they’re about to get washed”. 

McGinnis: Hahaha. Yeah. 

We were leaving early, and were in the store downstairs – we’re watching it on the video monitor, and all of a sudden they rallied back! They lost, but they didn’t lose too badly. It was surprising.

McGinnis: Yeah, I mean – young scrappy team, it’s kind of cool to see. 

So I was actually just taking a quick listen, you know, skimming by some of the tracks on the album. 

McGinnis: Yeah, yeah. 

But I wanted to mention that, from one album to the next, it’s as if the first album was a call to arms, this one you guys are going on a full attack. Have you gotten that reaction from anyone? 

Thanks. Yeah, definitely. I mean, like, that’s – especially people who have heard the whole thing. Because I do think, like, it’s kind of meant to be listened to as an album. I know we did like, fucking single mania, but we just did that because everyone says that singles are thing you gotta do. But we still love making albums. I think when you listen to the album front to back, there’s something about the rollercoaster of it that I think is powerful, you know?


McGinnis: A lot more than the first one, Traveling. But you know, aside from the reaction we kind of knew that too. The way we made it was way more focused than the first one. 

Did you guys have an actual plan or theme for the album going in?

McGinnis: You know how it is, just life circumstances fell into this place where the first album was us – we were, number one, we wrote most of that first album in 2020. And we know what happened then. So it was like, a very disjointed process. We were not all in the same room a lot, just trading demos back and forth. And we were just trying to figure out what the band was on the first album. This one we kind of knew what the band was. So the songwriting, just from jump street was – we all knew our roles very specifically rather than looking at, “Who’s going to do what? Who’s going to write this next thing?” …we all just kind of knew our own personal roles and what they were. And so it was just really focused, and we knew, I mean – the conversations we had during the songwriting, throughout the process, we always knew what we were looking for in the next step, you know. Alright, we’ve got 5 songs, what are we missing here? “We’re missing something like this, or missing something like this”… we were just inspiring each other a lot, I think, and it was just focused. Way more than the first one. 

Itarya, now you’ve offered a bit of insight into your own personal life regarding your own mental health. You shared with New Noise “I am often suicidal, but consistently persevere. I think about being a tree and dying among them when I focus on taking my own life.” You said “Gutted” reflects a lot of that but have you at all ever considered therapy or some other source to help deal with it? 

Itarya: I have been in and out of therapy over the years. It’s hard because I am currently uninsured and very poor. Healthcare in this country is beyond fucked so… I am constantly trying to focus / be present and do my best. 

I get that. Band member shift. You guys have shifted band members?

McGinnis: Just in one of the roles, second guitar. 

Alright, but you guys have shifted band member roles, well band members, I’m not even going to say roles any more, but band membership – and did that get you guys more pumped for this album, or a bit dejected? Because I know you guys are coming from other projects as well – that have put out releases and it’s just like “alright, this is great!” but then that’s it. 

McGinnis: It was a huge part of it, because we – so, me, Howard, and Itarya started the band –  and we started as a three piece. But before we played any shows or anything we recorded our first EP, four songs as a three-piece, and then after that, because the pandemic hit, we weren’t able to play any shows –  and we started writing the first record. And we were like, “We think this band would benefit from a second guitar player” like, you know. 

I was writing a lot of the stuff and I was writing, like, two guitar parts. And I’m like, it would be good to have a second person to play the other guitar. And so yeah we had Ruben first and we parted ways with him, but he didn’t really… he wasn’t a big songwriting force in the band. He kind of was just, like, slipping in between the cracks and just strictly playing rhythm guitar or, you know, he wasn’t really writing very much. And then we put the first record out and we parted ways with him. Right as we started writing this record, and he had contributed a couple of songs, but when he left he was like “hey those songs I contributed, would you mind scrapping them?” And we were like, “of course, we’re not going to use those songs that you wrote the initial ideas for.” So those got scrapped, we kind of went back to the drawing board. And we had another guitar player, Kyle, who joined the band. But he was in the band for literally just a few months, and he did the tour with Kowloon Walled City with us and after that ended… he never contributed songwriting-wise. All he did was learn songs, play them on tour, and then that was it. After he left, we started and we were like “Alright let’s pump the brakes a little bit here and really get to writing this record”. So we wrote over half of it, we wanted it to be a two-guitar player record, but we didn’t know who was going to play second guitar yet. So I wrote on a ton of the songs, both guitars. ‘Cause I have a mini studio at my house, so I just recorded demos of all of it. I think that really helped, you know, doing the first 6 or so songs that way.It really set it down a path to what it was going to be. And then when Jon (Dehart) joined, he filled in for a couple of shows and then we were just like, “do you want to just do this?” I grew up with Jon, he was in Fight Amp with both me and Howard and he was in Low Dose with me and Itarya. It was just – as soon as he started playing with us, it was obvious that it was such a natural fit. And he helped round out the songwriting, he helped add those cherries on top at the end. That had a huge part in the album and I don’t think – if it didn’t go that way, I don’t think we’d have the album we have now. I don’t think we’d be as happy with it. 

With the history you’ve had with other bands, was it important to keep going with Rid Of Me? Legendary Divorce was my shit.

Itarya: Hell yeah, thank you for the Legendary Divorce compliment! Music is my safe space, whether I am playing it or listening to it, or seeing a band play live. I think Rid of Me was and has been pretty crucial to me and the other members of the band.

Alright. Everything seems to fall into place on this album. You know, it’s the songwriting, the power, the intensity, it’s all there. Now, I don’t know if you answered this, but was there an album theme, or no? 

McGinnis: Thank you. I mean, see this is a question that if you follow up with Itarya, I think that’s an Itarya question.  Because there are themes, and it felt like we were going through such a turbulent time when we were writing this album, you know. We all had major life changes, like, I mean, there were, you know, career changes, there was a divorce in there, like all while we were making this album. Band member changes,  people, you know, having to sell their homes. So our personal lives were, like, kinda rattling around while we were having to make this album. So I think, you know, I can’t speak to all the lyrical themes as much as Itarya can, but it is just this relatable thing, it is just about, like, having this rollercoaster of an experience, the human experience, and just, like, the way we were connecting with each other while all this turbulence was happening, but we were still, like you know,  doing this thing we loved together. But a lot of the themes in the songs are even a little more boiled down and simple than all that – I mean, you know, there’s, it’s just about, like, just the struggles of life, I guess, you know.

Itarya: I write about what’s up with me at that moment. Whether action-based in real-time or present in my mind upon reflection. If that is considered a theme? Catharsis perhaps. 

Now the album, I’m not going to say all the songs are this way but the album overall is pretty dynamic. 

McGinnis: Thank you – that was intentional. 

Yeah, and there are some tracks that I wanna say are even radio-friendly, from my perspective and my standards, I guess. Like, you know, I can think of a couple of songs like ‘I’m So Lonesome’ and even, what’s the other one? ‘Hey You Say It’?

McGinnis: ‘How you Say It Is’

Yeah! ‘How you Say It Is’. Those two songs… I mean, I can listen to the album completely through over and over. The way the album flows, everything is seamless from one track to another.

McGinnis: Right on, yeah. Man, thanks a lot. I mean, something’s working. Because I’m on the inside looking out. So sometimes I lose the perspective. I know that we were very, very, like… everything that the way the album flows, like the sequencing of the songs… All that stuff, we were very deliberate about it. So it’s not like, there’s no… none of that’s an accident. So I’m very happy to hear that, that you’d want to hear it again. That’s what we were hoping we could achieve. I’ve heard it so many times now that I don’t know anymore. You know, like, through the mastering process and all that, I’m like, “oh my God, I’ve heard this album a thousand times”, or something. But, it’s really cool to hear that. So I appreciate it. 

I get it. But it’s like, and then you have songs that are just, I mean – everything you guys do, I could probably point out the different sources. Your influences, because it’s like those groups, you know, I love and I listen to as well. You know, like, say ‘Hell Of It’ is just monstrous. Or ‘Librarian Noise’ is completey crazy. 

McGinnis: Yeah, I mean, and it, you know… I love those songs. Those are definitely the like… We wanted to make sure we put in a couple of those urgent, heavy, discordant tracks, but still, like, find a way to make them catchy. And I have to thank Itarya’s vocals for some of that, but you know, I think we pulled it off. 

I’ll tell you one thing, you did pull it off. 

McGinnis: Thank you. 

You did pull it off and it’s, you know – I’d be surprised if someone didn’t like it.

McGinnis: There’s always somebody, right? 

There’s always that one guy who…

McGinnis: Always that one guy!

There’s always that guy that has an issue with something. But I think that’s probably it. I mean, what are you guys planning right after the release? Are you going back on the road, going back in the studio? 

McGinnis: Yeah we’re doing like just a little regional short, like a mini tour in December. Just four record release shows. Just ‘cause we just toured the country a few months ago. So we’re going to do four record release shows in December it’s just like  Richmond VA, DC, Philly, New York. But, it’s like Cherubs and Kowloon Walled City are both flying up for the shows.

And that’s amazing!

McGinnis: So it’s kind of a big family reunion. They’re our two, like, kind of family bands and they’ve never played together. So having all three of us together is awesome. And we’re kind of teaming up with Brutal Panda Records, who’s doing their fifteen-year anniversary. So it’s our record release, but it’s way more, too. So, we’re doing those, and then probably tour on the record – gotta let the holidays pass, all this stuff kind of pauses once the holidays hit, so probably touring the record in spring, early summer, something like that. You know, we’ll wait and see what kind of comes our way. But we’ll definitely be out there supporting it. And, you know, I mean –  we’re in the very very beginning stages of writing right now. Just starting to kick around new ideas and themes and stuff of what we want the next album to be. So we’re just lucky to be in this position where there’s 4 of us and we’re all in our late 30s or early 40s. But it’s like we’re all playing music with our best friends. And we’ve all been best friends since we were kids. 

Not everyone gets to do that. So we’re always happy to see each other, and work with each other, you know. There’s nothing negative to say about the band itself, we’re all just happy to be doing it when we have the opportunity to do it. And when life allows us. So yeah,  we’re just going to make another record and tour to support this one. 

Okay. Well actually I did have another question, I almost forgot. Philly. How much of a part does Philadelphia play in influencing you guys? 

McGinnis: I mean, a lot. You know, it’s a unique place. It’s hard nosed, working class but also, you know, like a place where people love each other. So we’re all from here, none of us were born and raised in the city itself, all right outside of it. And, you know, we’ve – Itarya and I have both lived in the city for over 20 years. So it’s just a part of our daily lives. The way the people are, kind of like the Northeast urgency and… it’s, everyone’s a product of their environment in some way or another, so it certainly influences us. Sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. You know. And the city’s changing a lot these days. Some of the parts of town here are, it’s turning into, like, some of the neighborhoods are kinda losing their working-class…

The gentrification. 

McGinnis: Which every town in America is, in some way. You know what I mean. But it’s a little bit extreme here in some places, so coping with the change is a little funny. 

Yeah I know, because I’m originally from New York. So I hear it a lot from family and friends that it’s so different, you know, the places we grew up around are different or gone. 

McGinnis: Totally. 

And it’s pretty bland. 

McGinnis: And I like, I guess it’s inevitable – you get older and you watch things disappear and change. But it seems right now like it’s a different version of it. __ It seems like, hyper – like pushed to the extreme in some way. We’ve always seen neighborhoods change and everything but this is like “Woah, what just happened?” It’s happening here rapidly, I mean obviously New York is going through it. To maybe the most extreme in the country, parts of Brooklyn especially. 

It’s sad, but I think we got out at the right time. 

McGinnis: Yeah, when was that? 

That was 2010. So we’ve been out here for a while. 

McGinnis: Right on. How do you like it? 

It’s a lot different living out here than living in a 800 foot square feet space. We went from 800 square feet to 3,400 square feet. 

McGinnis: See that’s what I crave, you know, sometimes – some more space. I’m in a row home. 

Yeah, I grew up in the Bronx on a street with row homes. They had porches but still, they were all attached. 

McGinnis: I don’t have any complaints, we practice here in the basement somehow – couple of cool neighbors, luckily. 

Well that’s good. Because in New York you can’t do that, people will bitch and people complain, and people will fight. 

McGinnis: Same with here, you know how it is. 


McGinnis: Oh man, yeah –  Philly?  it’s the Northeast thing, for sure. 

Out here, I’m still able to go out and catch some shows now and again, but I don’t do it as often as I’d like because, you know, kids are getting older. 

McGinnis: Yeah, right. 

I end up doing things with my kids. And that’s why I missed the show when you guys came to town, because my son wanted to do something last-minute. 

McGinnis: I hear you man, you know. Howard’s got a few kids of his own, so we’re always having to work around that schedule, and that’s the most understandable thing in the world. 

Rid of Me – working class band! 

Yeah, I mean, it’s true, for sure. 

So did you start Knife Hits just for your own music? Or was the intent actually to put out your music and a lot of other music? 

McGinnis: It’s weird because it’s had multiple phases but it was originally started back in 2004, and it definitely was started to release Fight Amp stuff back then, and continued in more recent times as, like, a way to release some of my own stuff, but I wanted to expand. I’d wanted to expand for years, and finally I’ve been able to, you know, to incorporate friends’ bands and just, like – other music I like, you know? 

Right, because, I mean, a lot of the music you’ve released, I mean it’s been on similar wavelengths, but it’s also been different. You know, I mean, you have some stuff that’s a little more pop-ish but experimental. 

McGinnis: Totally. 

Did you guys release that Grand Mantis?

McGinnis: Yeah!

Yeah, yeah, that’s one I was thinking about too. ‘Cause hearing it, I’m thinking – that’s a lot different to what you do, or anybody else on the roster that you have does as well. 

McGinnis: Yeah, like 100%. I mean, that’s very intentional. I’m not, like a big… I’m not really big on, like, genre allegiance, so I want my label to be something that’s anti-genre. If it’s something I like and I believe in, then it can fit. Grand Mantis is one of them. Yikes, who is the main MC, one of two main MCs in Grand Mantis and he’s a super underrated Philly hiphop dude, and has been for years, and I love his records – pretty much anything he does, no matter what name it has on it. So it was awesome to finally be able to collaborate with him.

Yeah man, ‘Cause it’s like I remember when I first heard it and I was like: okay, this is fucking different. 

McGinnis: Yeah. Totally. 

It’s just ‘different.’ It’s like, when I think about, say Hip Hop because I do a lot of stuff on Hip Hop as well. One dude that stands above the rest, who I can say differentiates from everyone else, is New York’s dälek, because he’s so different. Like way the fuck out of the box, you know? Incorporates noise and so much more. That’s what I thought about when I first heard the Grand Mantis stuff. That was just deviated from everything else. I don’t think they’re trying to do anything that’s sticking to just one sound. 

McGinnis: Nah, definitely not. And, like, I think that they know that it was not just a pure Hip Hop record too. Like it’s intentional to be experimental and like incorporate guitar heavily into it and stuff. But I will say that I bet Yikes, I don’t know this for sure, I probably should ask him next time I see him, but I bet that he’s into the dälek stuff for sure because that’s totally the right comparison, you know.

Yeah, exactly. But now with your album, you know, how’s the reception been so far? 

McGinnis: It’s been great, man. It’s exceeded expectations, honestly. Like, it’s just been awesome, I’ve been kind of like taken aback by some of it. Since we last talked, it came out and like, that week of release, last couple, few weeks since it came out, you know –  there’s been some very kind words said and high praise from many, many sources. So I couldn’t be happier. 

Nice, that’s cool. I mean, it’s what I expected because it’s just like I’m here thinking: if anyone doesn’t like the record, then they’re just wrong. 

McGinnis: Ha, well I appreciate it, I love to hear that. You know, I never know – you know how it is. When you’re part of the project itself, eventually you’re like, I heard it so many times while we were making it that I stopped being able to hear it. You know. As other people are hearing it, because I’ve just heard those songs thousands of times at this point. So the perspective gets a little skewed. And so it’s just nice when it actually happens and then it’s like, “Oh shit, okay, people are connecting with it.” Whether people love it or not is one thing, but I just see, like, a genuine connection – which is what’s really important, you know. 

Right. I mean, has kind of releasing it on your own helped the fact that you could do things your own way, through your own label? 

McGinnis: Yeah. I mean, that’s why we insisted on doing it this way. We got Den Of Wax involved on like, just they did the deluxe vinyl package, but, you know, they were sort of just like part of the split release, it’s mainly released on Knife Hits. And I insisted on doing it that way.  You know, I had multiple people tell me that we should shop it around, that we should hit up this label or that label, I did have multiple labels – I don’t wanna say who – but there were multiple labels who gave us soft offers and stuff. But it was just really important to us to have this one as ours forever. And that’s the big thing is that no matter what happens next, we’re gonna make another record and no matter who puts it out, this one is ours and we can always say that. I just wanted one that was like that, you know. 

Yeah. Now, have you thought about the future? One with the band, and one with the label? 

McGinnis: Yeah, 100%. I mean, we’re – I’m ready to make another record, for sure. I think we all are. But we haven’t got back to the real drawing board yet. It’s all just been kind of talk and ideas – which is part of it, that’s the genesis of the process, for sure. Talking about what we want to do and, you know, what we see or foresee, all that  stuff. But you know, I just want to do another full-length. But we might do, like, something short first, like literally release, like,  two new songs or something like that – but until the songs are real, can’t say for sure. But I know I want to build towards another full-length. And get started, like, in the new year. Start pumping out some songs and saving them up. So.  We’ll see where that takes us. I know it’s going to build off this release, and let it take us to the next one. The label, like, yeah, you know –  I’m like intentionally, like, you know –  it’s still a one-person operation, so it’s like I have to rein myself in sometimes. I have, like, releases that are getting lined up right now and everything, but I say no to a lot. People want me to release a lot of stuff, but I can only do so much. So I say no to some things that I actually really like and believe in, but I just can only do so much unless I think it’s going to go fucking crazy on sales. But you know how that is. But being a one-person show, it’s like – my time and energy and finances are finite.