I caught up with PWR BTTM before their sold out show at Workman’s Club in Dublin to talk a little bit about their new album, the idea of shows being safe spaces, queer liberation and more. Words by Blathnaid McElduff and photos by @larapinkertonphoto
How are you enjoying Ireland so far?
Ben: I fucking love it here. It’s cute as hell and everyone is so helpful in a way that doesn’t feel forced or annoying! Our cab driver yesterday from the airport was really nice and super non-intrusive and cool. And everyone in the bar has been really nice. Yeah, it’s great. Liv: I feel like generally people here are so accommodating and one thing I’ve been connecting it to mentally is the fact that a lot of the architecture is thousands of years old. Whereas in America it’s like “if I don’t like something I’ll just knock it down”. Everyone seems really nice in Dublin. There’s a lot of tourists here too. Ben: Yeah, Grindr has let me know that. I just deleted Grindr though. Liv: Oh? After last night? Ben: And today… Anyway, ask us about rock n roll! What do you wanna know?
So your new album comes out next month, and you already released Big Beautiful Day and Answer My Text, and you just released the song ‘LOL’ so: what are each of your favourite songs from the album?
Liv: That wouldn’t be very fair on the other ones would it? Ben: We play Styrofoam now as a two-piece with Liv playing drums and me playing guitar and it’s really fun to just shred on that. And I love playing drums on Answer My Text because I have found different ways to play it every time that make it even bigger - that’s a song where I feel like I actually challenged myself on the drumming part. Those are the ones I’ve been enjoying most but I don’t think I’ll ever have a favourite song because they’re all a part of one thing. Liv: The song that I had the most fun writing was probably Kids’ Table. Pretty much every other song on the record was very laborious and involved so much second-guessing and drama and revising lyrics and stuff. Kids’ Table is the only one where I came up with every word in about a day and didn’t change anything. I don’t think that way of song writing yields better results than the one where I struggle and heave and groan over it but it is way more pleasant! When I first started writing songs they pretty much all came that way so it was exciting to write Kids’ Table and know that I still have that method available.
Have you been playing much of the new record live yet?
Liv: Yeah, if we write new songs before a tour we try to play them to see how they work. I actually get pretty nervous about doing that and I need to have my lyrics finished before I do it, I can’t really improvise with them. Ben forces me off the ledge. Ben: Which is so weird to think about because in any other situation I would not have that function for you in your life. Liv: It’s the one place where I let Ben do that! Whereas if Ben tells me to order a cheese Danish I’m like, ‘hi can I have the elephant steak?’ I shouldn’t say Ben has to push me off a ledge, it’s more like Ben has to push me out of a plane where I’m parachuting. Which is what I think playing a new song live is like. Ben: One thing I’ve just started to enjoy doing is playing covers! I’ve been playing guitar for three years and now I’m just starting to get really into this idea of learning covers. We haven’t done any covers live yet but we started playing The Chain by Fleetwood Mac in sound check today and it was really fun! And I really wanna cover Lorde.
In regards to your live shows – I’m not sure how much you know about Girls Against but we’re all about raising awareness for safety at shows since it’s obviously a big issue and I know loads of people say that PWR BTTM shows are safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people as well as POC and women. Do you think that’s important and do you think you have a responsibility as someone with a platform to speak out about it?
Ben: I think so because we have a certain degree of control, right? We’re not politicians or people who go fight and get bills passed but we’ve been given this degree of exposure and been given this responsibility of being the ones that are on the stage so we have the chance to make sure the space is in line with our political values. Especially with things like making sure the venue has gender neutral bathrooms – that was Liv’s idea – and things like having people not mosh. It’s all sort of stuff that has developed over time but its stuff that I would feel would make us hypocritical if we didn’t do it. It feels like it makes a lot of sense.
You can tell too that there’s still a lot of straight cis men who come and can still have a good time because they’re into the music.
Ben: Yeah! And that’s totally chill. Liv: Yeah, I love straight cis men. Ben: Yeah and if we’re gonna have a community that’s not just a queer community – those people who are down to respect us and the values and expectations that we set, and also just enjoy the music – that’s great. And this was never our intention but I find that a lot of people I know have come to understand some parts of queerness through seeing people at a PWR BTTM show. That has nothing to do with us, that’s really to do with the people who come. But I’ll never forget being picked up by a group of frat boys in Atlanta who came to one of our first shows outside of the North East and they crowdsurfed me and shit and were like ‘Ben dude I just love your fucking gay ass band!’ That’s cool! I hope I can have more experiences like that in my life with people who I would initially be judgemental of.
And you’re only getting bigger too – loads of shows on this run are sold out, including tonight which is saying something considering hardly any bands ever sell out Irish shows.
Ben: It’s funny because we were meeting all these Irish people when we were on tour who were flying to different shows and that was crazy for us. My great grandfather’s an Irish immigrant so I wanted to come to Dublin and rock out! And also we’re from the North East and there’s lots of Irish people there. I feel like there’s people who’d like PWR BTTM almost anywhere, which is something we didn’t really understand about our band. We just make rock music, everybody likes rock music. Or everybody can at least tolerate rock music. We’re not that complicated of a band at the end of the day.
As more and more LGBTQ+ artists come out and speak out about those specific issues it seems like the media start to talk more and more about how queer music is just ‘beginning’ and becoming a thing even though it’s been happening forever. What do you think about that?
Ben: It has been happening forever! Liv: Yeah, this is maybe the first time in history when someone can be open about it and not worry about it harming their career. So many of the iconic queer musicians from even ten years ago were put under pressure by their labels, PR staff, management to not tell people they were queer and not acknowledge it openly, and not write about it or to write about it more subversively. I think we’ve just reached a stage in many societies, but not all societies, where it no longer harms an artist’s career to be open about that. Which is great but it doesn’t mean that anything is over. There’s this Angela Davis book called Abolition Democracy where she’s talking about getting black authors into the canon of western literature and having the western canon include black authors and she says that that doesn’t necessarily solve anything or fix anything but that it opens up new terrain for struggle. And while there are many ways that queer liberation is different from racial liberation and black liberation – I don’t want to suggest that they’re the same struggle and that one success automatically means the others’ success – I think that that’s very true and that idea carries over to queer liberation. The open existence of queer musicians doesn’t automatically fix anything but it creates new space in the conversations we have with our elected leaders and things like that.
And lastly, in regards to the rest of your plans for 2017 – I saw you just got announced for Reading and Leeds! Are you excited for that?
Ben: I’m not sure who’s headlining our stage but our day is Eminem, right? GA: No, your day is Muse! Liv: I don’t know how it is in Europe but in America – I shouldn’t even say this in print – a lot people think it’s tacky to love Muse but we love them. Ben: Muse are my shit, for a three-piece they make such a huge sound. Matt Bellamy shreds. Maybe we’ll get to go see Muse! Liv: One thing we learned the last time we were in Europe is that the culture of music festivals here is kind of different than in America. In America I think people decide whether or not to go based on how many artists they like that are on the bill but in Europe it seems like people show up because they like going to festivals and they like music in general and they are willing to spend all day seeing bands that they’ve never seen before. Ben: And there is a segment of people in America who have that relationship with festivals but a lot of the people I know go because so-and-so is headlining. Liv: I just think festivals are such a cool challenge for a musician to try to be the one that the audience go home and listen to and buy a record from.
pls like/reblog if any of these apply to you/your blog:
social justice, human rights
lgbtqia+ things, you’re trans
science in general
clothes/fashion, like mori kei
stephen universe, gf, nge, jjba, pokemon, splatoon..
it’s a pretty broad list but i’m not too picky, i’ll check your blog out & most likely follow you! tag w/ what you blog abt if u reblog! ty!
I can’t believe I stood here, on this day in Portland, Oregon. I have never seen a presidential candidate before that has been so much for the people as this man has. A man who is active in fighting racism, gender inequality, global warming, and social justice. Not to mention the decriminalization of marijuana @✌ this is what real democracy looks like. Power in the people’s hands, saying enough is enough, America. Thank you Bernie sanders for restoring my faith in humanity. Also, for influencing me to register to vote.🇺🇸 @berniesanders
“For people in these communities, eating junk food was not merely a lifestyle choice, she said. “People say to drink water from the taps, but some of the water in these communities is not safe to drink, so sugary drinks become a cheap alternative,” Doyle says.“People tell them to give their children two pieces of fruit each day, but if an orange [in remote area communities] costs $5 and you have four children, that’s half your pension packet gone.“You can’t expect people to be broke and have their kids go hungry for the sake of meeting fruit and vegetable quotas. So if a packet of chips costs $1.50, that’s what you’ll buy.”“
See what undocumented immigrants carry across the border February 7, 2015
1. Carlos Gomez, 34, from Guatemala. He already had lived in Miami for 10 years until he was deported five months ago. He tried to go back to the U.S. but was deported again from Mexico. In his bag was a shirt, scissors, a pair of pants, razor blades, pills, shampoo, deodorant, a can of coke and a T-shirt.
2. Alfredo Núñez, 46, from El Salvador. He wants to go to the U.S. but he thinks it would be okay if he can reach the north of Mexico and find a job there. In his bag, he has a pair of shoes, a bible, toilet paper and a cell phone.
3. Delmis Helgar, 32, from Honduras. She is in a hurry to reach Houston where her little daughter is living with relatives, after her ex-husband was recently deported. In her bag was a make-up set, hand mirror, lip gloss, deodorant, a shirt, a small bible, face gel, a wallet, a cell phone, pills, a battery charger, hair band and two pantyliners.
4. Andres Sanchez, 42, from El Salvador. He lived and worked in Virginia. Two years ago he was caught during a normal police check when he was driving. He was deported. He’s trying to go back to Virginia. He’s traveling with no bag because he wants to look like a local.
The Magic Project’s aim, as quoted from its Facebook page, is to bring marginalised communities to the forefront of popular culture and discussions of social justice issues using photography and art. It was a pleasure being a part of their Black Girls are Magic project! 💁🏾👸🏾
Protests against Pegida and for a “colourful Dresden”
After two weeks without protest of Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident) they are marching again today in cities like Dresden and Munich. But fortunately there are people standing up against Pegida and the like! Two weeks ago, while I was walking through Dresden, I got caught up in one of their protests. And needless to say I was relieved to see that there are people not being susceptible to fearmongering. Here are some of the pictures I took that evening.
The signs say:
(1) Refugees welcome. Bring your families. (I)(2) Prejudice against foreigners is so 20th century. (3) Refugees welcome. Bring your families. (II) (4) Those who reject refugees do not need to celebrate Christmas. (5) Don’t take out your temper on the weakest.