Philadelphia’s Ink & Dagger was an unusual hardcore band. Over the course of its career, the band played a hypnotic fusion of aggro punk riffs and noisy techno. Ink & Dagger dented the indie circuit with this sonic stew coupled with, at least in the beginning, a dramatic vampire theme that Vampire Weekend picked up on brought fame a few years later.
“It was very discouraging to have people only see us as ‘that emo-goth-core band that wears makeup’ when there was much, much more to the puzzle,” singer Sean Patrick McCabe said in an interview with Ink19, a fanzine. “I can understand that some people never really took this band seriously,” he added.
The group might seem odd to the uninitiated, but behind the noise and makeup it was a reflective punk unit fuelled by McCabe’s fiery but intelligent lyrics and a propensity to shock. “Think of a vampire as a metaphor for the world,” says Robby Redcheeks, Ink & Dagger’s former roommate and road manager. “Blood is a person’s energy and vampires feed off of it. It had nothing to do with vampires per se, but was more a metaphor for punk rock and the society.”
“Sean McCabe was an unexplainable force,” Robby says, “ One of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known and also one of the craziest.”
Ink & Dagger were extremely influential in the Philly hardcore scene, but it was only later that they reached a wider audience—a few years after they disbanded when the creators of Amped, a the snowboarding video game for Microsoft Xbox, snatched three songs from The Fine Art Of Original Sin without permission. The theft was settled out of court in 2006.
In 2000, shortly after finishing Ink & Dagger’s third and final album and on his way to a new job, McCabe asphyxiated in an Indiana motel room. He was 27 years old.