Tough Cuffs, one of Pittsburgh’s premiere hardcore groups, is undergoing a lineup change coming off the release of their February 2023 EP, Bliss Point.
The four-piece noise rock collective, led by frontman, rhythm guitarist, and OG Pittsburgher, Max Kraning, formed in 2020.
When asked who he was and how he fits into the band, Kraning replied, “I am 400 years old and I hate God.”
Lead guitarist Jay Molinaro is the self-proclaimed old man of the group at 28 years of age, even compared to his 400-year-old cohort.“I pour my heart and soul into music,” he said. “It’s my favorite thing in the world.”
22-year-old drummer, Aidan Briggs, describes himself as a “fake sunshine and rainbows punk.” Making up the other half of the rhythm section is 23-year-old bass player, Evan Rubin.
“I try to up the unhinged factor and make it more abrasive,” Rubin said. “I try to make it hurt more.”
While each member of Tough Cuffs is demented in their own fantastic way, there will be a gap to fill with the departure of their rambunctious bass man. Rubin played his last show with the band at Collision on April 16, which crescendoed into an emotional ending with Kraning embracing Rubin immediately after smashing his guitar on the ground.
In true DIY spirit, mayhem and electrical mishaps didn’t stop the party. If anything, it amplified it. Bodies crashed into Kraning’s pedal board while beers rifled across the room at full speed.
“Going into DIY it’s not going to go perfectly, and at these venues, that’s a given,” Briggs said. “Sometimes the sound is going to be shitty, sometimes equipment is going to completely fall apart on you. The beautiful thing is the energy and what the kids will give you.”
Rubin cited his personal mental health as the reason for leaving.
“Sometimes you only have so much capacity to do activities in your life, even if you enjoy them,” Rubin said following his final Tough Cuffs performance. “As you enter into adulthood and build up coping mechanisms, life can hit you like a truck.”
The band announced Rubin’s intention to leave earlier this year and held open auditions for a replacement.
“I’m doing fine, but I am dealing with all kinds of shit,” Rubin added. “I don’t have the capacity for music like I used to. I love these guys so much, they are my emotional support system.”
Tough Cuffs composed their own orchestra of mayhem at Collision that evening, and have been conducting it all along the east coast, hitting venues in New York City, Philadelphia, Morgantown and beyond following the recent success of their new EP.
The group trucked into May and June with a vengeance, ripping through shows in and around Pittsburgh, most notably at Oakland DIY space, The Deli, which is gaining prominence in the city’s music scene with lineups including indie powerhouses Feeble Little Horse, String Machine, Melt, and more.
The Tough Cuffs show there on June 17 was their last in Pittsburgh for a while, according to the band’s Instagram, and the first to feature new bass player, Gino Michelangelo. Despite this being his first formal group, the Tough Cuff boys were impressed enough to set their sights on him amid the lineup changes.
Asked what he thinks of being in Tough Cuffs, Michelangelo replied, “It’s hesh, it rips.”
While fans may not be able to see the fresh four piece again soon, there is talk of new music on the horizon. “We are going to be putting out a five-track EP in the fall,” Kraning said. “It is going to be very much like this one (Bliss Point), with a new sound, a very heavy, post-whatever the fuck.”