PWR BTTM have been protested against, they’ve had their van robbed and all their equipment stolen, but they’re still here, still standing proud. A joyous, life-affirming force that is, technically speaking, a punk rock band, PWR BTTM have taken their debut album ‘Ugly Cherries’ around the world – and found that the world kinda likes it. In fact, there are people out there who love it.
Speaking to Clash in the aftermath of an exhilarating Glasgow date, PWR BTTM are exhausted but delirious.
“It’s been awesome!” Ben Hopkins exclaims. “It’s funny, if you look at the history of American queer artists making music overseas they seem to be received even better at first. And at different times in American political history better received in Europe. Everyone has been super cool, and all the venues have been lovely.”
Fans in Glasgow took packets of glitter, the mosh pit exploding into sizzling colour within the first few notes. This abandon, though, can only act as a temporary salve for what lies outside the venue, and what awaited the American duo on their return home.
“It is nice to get out of America and get some air,” he admits. “The whole world has taken this interesting turn towards nationalism and conservatism. Which is obviously terrifying to a queer person like myself. But I don’t know, history tends to bend back and forth between liberalism and conservatism.”
“We were all very much overdue for someone as evil and offensive as Donald Trump. I just hope he dies. It’d be great if he dies tomorrow.”
Often facing outright prejudice PWR BTTM have elected to fight back in the best way possible: with the most energy, humour, and fun that they can muster. “It’s very easy to be neurotic and negative about the environment that you’re in but to actually engage with enthusiasm and actual political values is counter cultural. Like, it’s punk.”
“Either you stand up to oppression with enthusiasm and joy or you don’t,” he continues. “It’s a deliberate effort because there’s a lot of people who don’t think that people like us should be able to have fun or express ourselves. We’re just doing it because it makes us happy.”
Loading their stuff into the van and hitting the road, PWR BTTM have also faced the dual task of crafting a follow up record. Laying down material during a stint on home soil, the pair have been gradually mixing the album from the back of their tour van.
“We have a good pair of headphones that we’ve been using the whole time so we always have the same reference to go with,” Liv Bruce explains. “It means we have to be pretty aggressive about finding the wi-fi when we get somewhere, as the files are pretty big and we don’t want to be downloading them on our data plan.”
The band face the tough task of following up a debut that has not only connected with many more people than they may have expected, but also on a deeper level than they originally anticipated. “I’ve noticed that for a long time,” they states. “Even before we were touring frequently people seemed to like us a lot, and I’m very grateful for that. It’s nice to be able to make something that people enjoy so much.”
“It’s an ongoing process. It’s very possible to have a lot of pressure given that people feel so strongly about our work, but I think that we’re pretty good at leaving that outside the studio and making something we enjoy ourselves. That’s kind of what worked before, and what I hope will work again.”
Completing a run of European shows, PWR BTTM are now looking forward to some decompression, even if it is haunted by the spectre of Trump’s inauguration. “We love doing it,” insists Ben. “It’s an amazing thing that we get to do with our lives. Everyday I think how lucky I am to be a professional artist. I definitely need some time off – I’m tired, but I love playing music so everyday is great.”
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