The artist must elect to fight for Freedom or for Slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative.
– Paul Robeson
Why do we think that we never have enough with just what’s inside of us? Today, today we must scream at the top of our lungs that we are Brown, we are smart, that nothing that they do can push it away!
– Victoria Ruiz, Downtown Boys
Paul Robeson was a seasoned actor, both in Theatre and Film productions, as well as a popular singer in the early 1900s. He was so talented, he was considered the 10th most popular star in British Cinema in 1937. Robeson was also a very outspoken activist against racism, fascism, and even the United States government itself for its imperialistic practices. He went so far as to put his career aside to concentrate on advocating against the fascist side of the Spanish Civil War. He used the platform he earned as an artist to advocate for the political and social causes he believed in. This, among other things, got him blacklisted by the US government during Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare, and subsequently, denied a passport. This rendered him unable to work, and by the time his travel status was reinstated years later, he had already moved into retirement and isolation due to his dwindling health.
That was almost 100 years ago.
You would think that the world would be in a better condition by now, wouldn’t you? 100 years is a long time.
After all, plenty of science fiction writers thought it would be possible, didn’t they? They dreamt of an end to problems like hunger, war, and poverty. That without these kinds of issues civilization could finally move on and be perfect. That our greatest obstacles should exist no further than the constant entropy of the universe and maybe even just getting over this whole “mortality” thing in the process. This was the future they imagined and expected. Hell, it just plain made sense. Right? This was science, you guys. Not eugenics, oh no no no nooo.
Well, here’s the funny thing about those writers–and I call it funny because it actually makes me laugh, haha–the sweeping majority of them, if not damn near all of them, were 1. White and 2. men. So, when it came to naming the definitive titans of dilemmas that were keeping our “great human race” from thriving on this planet in peace and harmony, racism and sexism didn’t make the cut.
That’s like saying “Traffic? What traffic?” when you’re the asshole facing the open road blasting Nugent going 56 in a 70 one-lane-one-way with everyone else stuck behind you slamming their horns with their heads.
The fucking nerve.
Well, as time progresses, some people smash open some new lanes. A good chunk of them don’t survive the jump, but have made way for other cars to get through nonetheless. Despite this, the first car keeps trying to stay in front of the others. It doesn’t get why the other cars are trying to pass it. It hears their honking and thinks they’re being rather rude. It then takes it upon itself to try and run them off the road. In some cases, it succeeds. And so, the Struggle continues.
But, in this day and age, the voices of struggle are louder. They reverberate from all corners of the world, and make the planet tremble with fever. Some write, some paint, some speak, and some sing.
Some even scream.
Downtown Boys are a beast of a band hailing from Providence, Rhode Island. They play a charge of punk so electrifying it’ll short out your senses. The guitars sound like they’re coming out of a fucking tesla coil, the drums are a sonic beating, the two saxophones in the band bring the songs to an entirely new wavelength of expression, and above all else, the vocals. Victoria Ruiz leads Downtown Boys with an unapologetic snarl that is meant to rouse even deaf eardrums.
Things that Downtown Boys actively oppose and fight against include: “the prison-industrial complex, racism, queerphobia, capitalism, fascism, boredom, and all things people use to try to close our minds, eyes and hearts”.
The quote at the top of this post is taken from their new single, “Monstro”, which you can stream on YouTube below. The full-length it comes from, Full Communism, is out May 4th on Don Giovanni.
Their earlier releases are also available for purchase/download/streaming at their bandcamp. They go everywhere from jazz freakouts to Kleenex/LiLiPut style insanity. They even do a great cover of one of the greatest punk songs a lot of people haven’t heard of, Pekinska Patka’s “Poderimo Rok”. I’ll be crossing my fingers for them to play that one at Galax Z Fair IV.
As a music lover, Downtown Boys’ music fills me with a whole universe of emotions. But as a person of color, their music makes me glow from within. I’m filled with a radiant light of courage and purpose. I feel validated and empowered. I hope everyone reading this listens to them and goes to see them at the Fair. Especially people from my neck of the woods, the Rio Grande Valley. I really think you’d dig this.
Get your tickets here or at Melhart’s Music in McAllen.
So lately I’ve been watching the new Cosmos series hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. It’s reminded me just how much of a fan of questions I am. I love mysteries and solving them. Something about solving a problem is very gratifying for me. I especially love questions that don’t as of yet have answers. The infinite space of “what could be” is so damn intriguing and exciting, aching to be explored, in my eyes.
I’m reminded of a time in my life when I had nothing but questions. Questions about my body, about who I was, who I was “supposed” to be, and whether anyone was really “supposed” to be anything. From the ages 12-18, I was plagued with a ridiculous pressure to take my fluid and shapeless form and mold it to something that would have helped me be a more palatable person in the eyes of my peers. Being in the oldest child in my family, I didn’t have an older sibling to influence me, and I don’t think my parents had much more of a grasp on who I was than I did myself, which didn’t help me in terms of “figuring myself out”. This is a formative period in any young person’s life. You’re still a sponge, but a much more picky sponge. Guidance is essential in whatever shape and form. Like most kids my age, I’d find my guidance in bands I listened to. Certain songs would make sense of everything in the world no matter how convoluted it all could really be. But I have to admit. Not once in my younger years did a band hit me as hard as Makthaverskan has in my now mid-twenties.
The way vocalist Maja Milner sings “Fuck You, Fuck You” near the end of the first track on their latest full-length, Makthaverskan II, has so much blood and guts in it, it should have teeth. Throughout the album, the same honest and brave voice occasionally sheds its outer shell to get some fresh, vulnerable air. It’s a much more confident and empowered sound than what I initially heard on their self-titled debut, which is still amazing, but somehow doesn’t shake its fists at the sky quite as uninhibitedly as their second album does. Makthaverskan is exactly the kind of band I needed when I was trying to figure my shit out as a young kid, or to at least feel like I had a grip on things. Especially at that age, when the feeling of control and being empowered, even if for a second, lasts a lifetime in memory. And at a point in my life when that wasn’t something I really knew, it would have been so amazing and helpful to have had it in such a pure and powerful form.
Listen to Makthaverskan II in its entirety from their bandcamp page here.
Musically, Makthaverskan takes pop structure to anthemic proportions with an approach which rivals that of every great emo/pop-punk band I could have fallen ass-over-tea-kettle for. The guitars, drums, and bass are all geniusly written; take the simple and elegant “Something More” for example. It begins on such humble notes and bursts so beautifully like a star that can no longer contain it’s pressure. That kind of grace is rare in a band. Every twist and turn throughout this record is a moment of pure illumination. I honestly can’t wait to see them at Galax Z Fair IV this year. I can’t wait to bear witness to this beautiful band.
Not to mention, they’re making one hell of a journey to get here. Poor Makthaverskan has JUST RECENTLY (like yesterday) gotten their travel visas approved. They’ve already missed dates on their tour. And they’ve posted on their Facebook page apologizing for it! I don’t know about you, but that means something to me. These people just really want to come over here and play. All the way from Gothenburg, Sweden. Here’s a file called “Makthaverskan is this far away.jpg” to give a little geographical perspective.
They’ve also started an Instagram account (@maktmaktmakt) that you can follow to join them on their journey. It’s quickly become one of my new favorites, seeing as I’m on there quite frequently as well. Here’s the first photo:
If you speak the language of feelings, I recommend you come feel this band at Galax Z Fair IV.
I say to you, those still searching for purpose and belonging, but whom have yet to taste their fruits with your tongue: your heroes will arrive in 5 days.
Below are the rest of their tour dates w/ Self Defense Family (ALSO playing GZFIV this year!) Finally, is it really fucking cool to see McAllen on this thing or is it just me?
Off to feel up a storm.
A few weeks ago, garage punk outfit NOBUNNY ventured down to McAllen to absolutely tear Simon Sez apart. It truly was a night to remember for all parties involved that could still recollect the night before the following morning. As luck would have it, prior to their performance, my good friend Natalia was able to interview the band’s frontman and namesake, NOBUNNY. This will be her first contribution to The Photon God. We are excited to present to you her interview with NOBUNNY below.
I, Natalia Rocafuerte, did not know what NOBUNNY looked like. :( I walked up to who I thought NOBUNNY was, and asked him if I could “interview NOBUNNY” or if he could point me to someone I could talk to. I’m sure he picked up on me not knowing what NOBUNNY really looked like and after a few “I don’t know”s, I said “thank you” and walked away. Only to find the “I don’t know” guy coming after me and saying “I’m sorry, I’m messing with you. Okay, I’ll do the interview. I’m ‘NOBUNNY’.” After misleading me and confirming his identity, I attempted to interview him, only the interview kept getting delayed; he needed a lighter, a car alarm went off, and people kept passing by. So, we moved toward the parking lot, away from the dark alley. There, smoking a cigarrete with NOBUNNY, I began the interview.
Natalia: When is your birthday?
NOBUNNY: NOBUNNY was born, uh it was…it was Easter 2001, in the desert of—45 minutes outside of Tucson, Arizona.
Natalia: What’s your favorite Elvis song?
NOBUNNY: Oh boy…off the top of my head, “Teddy Bear”, but I reserve the right to change that answer later.
Natalia: Why “Teddy Bear”?
NOBUNNY: ‘Cause I like sweet and salty snacks. But I reserve the right to change that answer later maybe, but for now, “Teddy Bear”.
Natalia: How do you choose your album artwork?
NOBUNNY: The first one just kinda happened, I suppose. Raw Romance was found off a fireworks package, the artwork for that. Then it was altered by the guys in Burger Records then, First Blood, my friend Shannon had painted a portrait of NOBUNNY and I really liked it and decided it was going to be a poster for the second, like, tape I guess but I liked it so much I decided to save it for an album cover.
Natalia: What’s your favorite home-cooked meal and can you cook it?
NOBUNNY: Hmm, my favorite home-cooked meal. Ahh, I like grilled cheese a lot and yes I make a pretty tip-top, greasy grilled cheese if I do say so myself. (laughs)
Natalia: Any mustard or mayonnaise?
NOBUNNY: I love mustard, I’m a mustard fanatic. It’s the only thing I’ll spend money on sort of. I have a lot—well when I had a refrigerator. I don’t have a refrigerator right now—but when I had one I had a lot of different mustards in there.
Natalia: Thumper, Roger Rabbit, Bugs Bunny or female Bugs Bunny (Lola Bunny), which one would you dress up as or be?
NOBUNNY: Wahhhhh…hmm once again these are good questions. I’ll go with the lady Bugs for now just cause why not? I like…I like Bugs a lot but lady Bugs is cute. You know? So…I wanna be cute.
Natalia: Who’s your favorite Ramone or which one do you like the best?
NOBUNNY: Hmm, I use to always say Dee Dee but my official new answer is Joey. Just cause he was uh, the messiest. And he’s messy like me. I’m a mess. (laughs)
Natalia: What are your beauty secrets on tour and off tour?
NOBUNNY: Just water. Nothing but water all the time. And not too much sun. Try not to get too much sun.
Natalia: What do you pick as your pizza toppings?
NOBUNNY: I like pepperoni…kinda keep it simple you know? [I’m a] pepperoni kinda gal-guy.
Natalia: Three things everyone should know about NOBUNNY but don’t.
NOBUNNY: Hmmm…nothing, everything, and something.
Natalia: What do you do before you perform? Do you request French Onion soup, smoke a cigarette outside or get to know the place? Is there any routine you have?
NOBUNNY: Honestly no, not so much. Not reaaaally. A lot of water is good. Stay hydrated. I’m trying to think, honestly, if there’s any answer. I don’t think so. Uh, just kinda go with the flow. [I’m a] take it one day at a time kinda bunny, you know? No ritual, just keep it loose, keep it loose.
Natalia: When you perform, you’re famous for taking off your clothes. Why don’t you just take off all your clothes?
NOBUNNY: Um, I don’t know. I don’t have many clothes so I guess I just get hot up there when I’m—you know, it starts getting sweaty, rock n roll. [I’ve gotta] keep going without overheating.
Natalia: Tell us about your tattoos. How many do you have and which means the most to you?
NOBUNNY: I…I don’t know how many I have. Not that many. Probably ten. And uh, which one do I like…I don’t like any of them. I got them all when I was really young and I kinda regret all of them. But not big regrets, just little regrets. I would’ve changed it if I could, I don’t know. I do have a Nazi nurse from Mars on my leg, though, that I’m kinda fond of, I suppose. That one’s alright.
Natalia: What turns you on/off?
NOBUNNY: How long we got here? (laughs) Um…………next question.
Natalia: It could be music…It doesn’t have to be…anything really…
NOBUNNY: Right. I like sweet stuff and puppies and kittens and fuzzy…fuzzy rusty things. And turn offs…I don’t like littering.
Natalia: What advice do you live your life by?
NOBUNNY: Besides the whole Carpe Diem thing…one step ahead from the law. And umm….stay high or die tryin’.
Natalia: Truth or dare?
Natalia: Can I dare you to kiss someone in the audience? Or should I dare you to try something you haven’t done before?
NOBUNNY: I want the world, I know that. If you can dare me to take over the world right now I would accept that Pepsi challenge. I might fail, but I’ve failed before, you know? [I’ll] just get back up and dust myself off. So yeah, I guess that’s the truth on that dare.
Natalia: Can we be friends?
NOBUNNY: Surely, why the hell not?
Brooklyn’s Miniature Tigers are playing the Historic Cine El Rey Theater in McAllen, Texas tonight. More specifically, 6 hours or so.
Opening for the Mini Ts will be local flavors Sick/Sea and Darm Darm Dudes.
Doors open at 7:30. Music starts at 8. $10.
Miniature Tigers – “Gold Skull”
There’s a fantastic show going down tonight in McAllen, Texas at Cine El Rey.
Moi Je Joue
I’m personally very excited for this show. I hope to see you all there!
It’s time I mention some upcoming shows going down in my neck of the woods. There are some really great acts coming down for the first time that I’m personally very excited about. And these are all thanks to this new ghost promoter that no one knows absolutely anything about named Galax Z Bear. He popped up out of nowhere and started bringing down some pretty sweet bands to the McAllen, Texas area. Who is behind all of this doesn’t really matter. Let’s hope this trend continues. I welcome this bear with open arms. The shows are as follows:
April 7 – SICK/SEA EP RELEASE SHOW w/QUIET KIDS, COUNTERPARTS @ Cine El Rey
April 28 – WHITE RABBITS w/Special guests @ Cine El Rey
May 6 – JULIANNA BARWICK @ Fallback Records
June 7 – TWIN SISTER w/DIGNAN @ Cine El Rey
Tickets to these shows are available at both Fallback Records and Ambrosia Coffee in McAllen.
Two Wednesdays ago, Israel’s Monotonix paid our little corner of the country a visit. It was an incredible show; arguably one of the more memorable shows I’ve been to in my neck of the woods.
(Photo: Gabriel Elizondo)
Before the show, I had the pleasure of pulling the band aside for a bit to talk about shows, songwriting, and getting older.
TPG: So, introduce yourselves.
Yonotan Gat: My name is Yonotan.
Haggai Fershtman: Haggai.
Ami Shalev: Ami.
TPG: What’s that?
Yonotan: Sacci. It’s his nickname.
TPG: Oh okay. How did that start?
Yonotan: When he was an activist, and he used to work at Whole Foods, he changed his name to Sacci for a few years. Then when he quit, he went back to being Ami.
TPG: Oh, (to Ami) when were you an activist?
(Ami turns around)
Ami: I am very activist; especially in bed. (they laugh)
TPG: Are you married?
Ami: Married. Buried.
TPG: (laughs) Alright, so you’ve been a band since 2005?
Yonotan: Yes. (to the others) He did research. He talked to me about Mono Addicted Acid Man.
Haggai: Good band.
TPG: Yeah, how did you all meet?
Haggai: In a club in Tel Aviv.
TPG: How long ago?
Yonotan: 10 years ago?
Haggai: 10 years ago.
TPG: How old are all of you?
Yonotan: I prefer not to say my age.
TPG: Okay, is it true that you were banned from all the venues in Tel Aviv?
Haggai: No, almost all of them.
TPG: Almost? Why?
Ami: They say that we [were] playing too loud.
TPG: Too loud?
TPG: But you’re a rock band…
Haggai: But this is Israel…
TPG: Oh, well yeah. Israel is more conservative?
Haggai: Ehh, yes and no.
Yonotan: When it comes to certain things.
Haggai: Like, if you do Eastern music, they go [thumbs up], but if you do rock [thumbs down].
Haggai: It’s a matter of culture.
TPG: Hm. And I guess rock isn’t a part of that culture?
Ami: For example–I can give you an example. A friend of mine; they play in a band called The Bee Gees, back in the 60s. And I said to them, “Guys, you playing too loud” and they listened to me, and look at what happened in the 70s; they became one of the biggest bands in the world.
TPG: That’s right.
Ami: So, it might be bad for us that we didn’t listen to the people in Tel Aviv that telled us that we play too loud.
Yonotan: They also tell us that we look like the Bee Gees.
Yonotan: In Tel Aviv, yes.
TPG: Haha, do you agree with that statement?
Yonotan: I wish.
TPG: Can you sing like The Bee Gees?
Haggai: I can!
Yonotan: Haggai has a really good falsetto.
(Haggai proceeds to sing into my mic)
Ami: But you can tell by the way they walk! He is the woman-man!
TPG: Yeah, with the hips! So, you were injured earlier this year, Ami.
TPG: How did that happen?
Ami: I dont’ know, because I didn’t do anything in particular that made it happen.
TPG: It just happened?
Ami: I just tear up the meniscus.
TPG: Are you better?
Ami: Right now, yeah.
TPG: How long did it take to recover?
Ami: (thinks) Two months.
TPG: So no walking or anything?
Ami: No, walking, lot of practicing, a lot of physical therapy. We played shows in Australia, but we had to cancel one show.
TPG: That’s cool. You guys play a lot of shows. You’ve played…
Ami: Thousands of shows!
(Photo: Gabriel Elizondo)
Haggai: We feel it, we feel it!
TPG: That’s really good. I’m really glad about that because there’s a lot of young bands nowadays that burn out, you know? They stop playing really young…
Yonotan: We wouldn’t know anything about burning out. That’s never happened to us.
TPG: That’s really cool. I really, really admire that. So you have your third album coming out next year. It’s called Not Yet.
TPG: Why did you call it Not Yet?
Ami: I dunno, it’s a long story. It happened in Tuscon, Arizona.
Haggai: Yes, Tuscon, Arizona.
Ami: Someone in an interview asked us “do you have a name for your last record”? So we say “Not Yet”. Then–“Oh! That’s a good name”! (laughs)
TPG: For your last record? So it’s your final album?
Ami: Ah! No. He asked us “what is the name of your next record” and we say “Not Yet”, then “Oh! That’s a good name”.
TPG: Yeah like a little light bulb appeared above your head.
TPG: I wanted to ask, I was looking at the track list and you have a song on there called “Before I Pass Away”.
Ami: That’s correct.
TPG: What inspired you to write a song like that? You have other songs like “Set Me Free”—very exciting songs, that seems very mature.
Haggai: Because we never died before. You mean like there is a ‘gloomy’ atmosphere to our [music]?
TPG: Maybe, something more contemplative, mature even. Would you say that there is something like that?
Ami: Well yeah, we’re getting older. You can’t say that we’re getting younger.
Haggai: And this is like, in the eye of the beholder.
TPG: And in your eye, you’re getting older?
Ami: You can’t ignore it. We’re getting older.
TPG: But I’m sure at shows you’re younger in spirit?
Ami: Uhh, yes, we try to but—I don’t know.
Haggai: Time will tell.
(Haggai and Ami say something in Hebrew)
TPG: Okay then. On the new record, you worked with Steve Albini.
TPG: That’s awesome. Are you fans of Shellac?
Ami: Of course!
TPG: What was it like working with him? I’ve always wondered…
Ami: It was really cool.
Haggai: Down to business.
TPG: Down to business? Is he very serious?
Haggai: No, you could joke with him but he’s very functional. Very simple, very straight forward. It’s very simple to work like that. You know what you see, you know what you want to get—very clear.
TPG: Did you do it digitally?
Haggai: No, never.
TPG: Oh okay, cause I know Steve only works with analog.
TPG: Okay, do you think that you represent Israel well?
Ami: I hope so!
TPG: Given that you don’t play there very much—I was talking to Yonotan earlier and he said you don’t play there any more.
Ami: No, we don’t any more.
TPG: Would you want to play there again?
Ami: Neh. I don’t think so.
Haggai: It’s more embarrassing.
Haggai: (bashful) Cause it’s home. Hehe.
Ami: You have to see these people tomorrow when you wake up. (laughs)
TPG: Well one last question. Why do you play on the ground?
Haggai: We are a band of the people. We want to play at the same level as them. That’s why we play on the ground.
TPG: No stages, no masters.
Haggai: (laughs) Yes! No stages, no masters!
TPG: Well, it sounds like next band [The Young Maths] is setting up. Whaddya say we go check ‘em out?
Haggai: Yeah let’s go!
Not Yet is out on Drag City Records January 25th of next year.