by Lia Weisbecker-Lotz The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board. February is Black History Month and for a while now, I’ve wanted to write about Black punk bands. Punk has always been a community meant for those angry at the world, for screaming for change, for the chance to be heard, and most importantly, to be able to be themselves without backlash. Even so, after my last article on female punk bands, I realized that punk has not been so perfect at making sure everyone is heard and appreciated. But it’s the groups that aren’t as heard that are the most important to listen to. Black punk bands help spread not only a form of education as to what the Black community is going through, but also offer each other a sense of belonging in a largely white community. While the bands listed are Black punk bands, some are also infused with people of different races. However, this doesn’t change the importance or the impact of their messages and how they help the Black punk community. I do want to leave a disclaimer: I’m a white person who has never dealt with racism or its horrors, and I will never claim to. I can only hope to learn from the Black community about the problems they face and ways that I can support them through it.
Red Arkade[caption id="" align="alignright" width="403"] Image from Afropunk[/caption] Red Arkade is a high-energy, aggressive band from New York City. They released their first EP, Livewire, in 2016 which introduces the group’s main message: the desire for and importance of freedom. Red Arkade’s songs largely focus on being who you are and doing what you want with your life. Strangely for a punk band, their music is incredibly positive and invigorating, full of speedy riffs and hard-hitting drums. Red Arkade consistently mixes elements of hip hop and hard rock into their songs, which adds to their uniqueness in the punk community. Their latest EP, We Don’t Sing Pretty, was released in 2018 and seems to be about them claiming their spot as a punk band.
Big Joanie[caption id="" align="alignright" width="401"] Image from Rolling Stone[/caption] This London-based trio formed in 2013 to join a DIY festival and quickly started cranking out EPs. Big Joanie has become a haven where the members can “be completely themselves as Black women.” The three of them work to bring attention to the Black punk community in the UK and the fact that POC members of the punk scene exist. Big Joanie’s members even created the Decolonise Fest, an annual London DIY festival specifically for POC punks, and the Stop Rainbow Racism campaign. Their music is strongly reminiscent of post-punk bands, experimenting with heavy, harsh, and slow sounds. Most of Big Joanie’s songs center on the emotion behind the end of a relationship, full of a certain bitterness and longing. Some of their other songs discuss the racism they and others have dealt with from both individuals and society. Sistahs was their 2018 debut album, and they plan on releasing a follow-up album this year.
The TxLips[caption id="" align="alignright" width="400"] Image from VOX ATL[/caption] A musical collective, meaning that membership and participation are flexible and rotated, The TxLips currently have 14 members. Established and led by Gabriella Logan, this all-black, and mostly female group has been making music since 2018 and has been working toward its goal: to push “the status quo of what the world says artists of marginalized identities can do.” With a variety of artists, the music The TxLips produce is diverse, influenced by a lot of different backgrounds and genres. Many of their songs do contain consistent emotions regarding angst, anger, and the desire for a different life. In 2020, they released their album Prison of Life, which contains some remakes of songs from their original EP, Queens of the New Age.
FEVER 333[caption id="" align="alignright" width="399"] Image from The Guardian[/caption] FEVER 333 is a punk band that was created to be the soundtrack of the rebellion. They formed in 2017, debuting in the most punk way imaginable, an “unpermitted” demonstration at an LA landmark to share their ideas. Shortly after, FEVER 333 worked on releasing their first EP, Made An America, (its title song earned a Grammy nomination) a year later. The group’s songs are vehemently, unapologetically about the rampant amount of racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and general inequality in the U.S. The trio has songs calling out the unjust system capitalism is built on: “BURN IT,” “Walking in My Shoes,” “SUPREMACY,” “Soul’d Me Out,” etc. Often labeled post-hardcore, FEVER 333’s music is rapid and raucous, while experimenting with elements of rap, trap, and metal music. They use their latest EP, Wrong Generation, which came out in 2020, and continue to use their unique sound to spread their message demanding change.
The Muslims[caption id="" align="alignright" width="404"] Image from Scalawag Magazine[/caption] Another trio, The Muslims are an all-queer punk band that was prompted by the aftermath of the 2016 election to come together. They released their first album, The Muslims, in 2017 where they specifically call out the Islamophobia that’s pervasive in the U.S. They regularly use satire and humor to make songs that both mock white supremacists, transphobes, fascists, etc. whilst furiously pointing out the impact they have on African-American, queer, and other minority communities. The Muslims’s music is energetic, fun, and full of disgust at the current state of society. The trio’s lyrics switch between clever and blunt and are always complemented by the gritting, potent riffs and drums. Gentrified Chicken was their last album; it was released in 2020 and is focused on the government’s failures in recent years.
The 1865[caption id="" align="alignright" width="404"] Image from Musical Notes Global[/caption] Created in 2017, The 1865 was launched by well-known music journalist and producer/director Sacha Jenkins. Jenkins has stated that he created The 1865 to be able to “voice his frustrations and expressions of the current political landscape.” The band is named after the year the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished. While this was a turning point in history, The 1865 uses their music to point out how slavery continued to have an impact on African-Americans. Their songs are based on the perspective of enslaved and previously enslaved African-Americans during that tumultuous time. The 1865’s music matches the intensity of their lyrics, with powerful bass lines and full of violent energy. Their last album came out in 2019 and is titled Don’t Tread On We!
Sources: Afropunk, Big Joanie, BTRToday, Chardine Taylor Stone, Ebert Fest, Facebook, Genius, IMDB, Indy Week, Kerrang!, Kill Rockstars, Kit Monsters, Gal-dem, Play Alone Records, Riot Fest, Spotify, The Fader, The Grammys, The Guardian, The Muzlimz, The Txlips Band, This Magazine Images: Afropunk, The Guardian, Musical Notes Global, Rolling Stone, Scalawag Magazine, VOX ATL Featured Image: Scalawag Magazine