Apparently we have been living under a rock as we have only just stumbled upon Americas most exciting queer punk duo PWR BTTM.
Formed of New York natives Ben Hopkins and Liv Bruce; the pair met in 2011, while they were both attending Bard College in southeastern New York State. The duo played various shows at their liberal arts school where they spent several months working together and developing their first demo, Cinderella Beauty Shop (2014).
The following year while Liv was finished up their dance degree in spring 2015, Ben, who had graduated in theatre, began DM-ing labels on Twitter asking them to release the band’s first album, Ugly Cherries. His hard work payed off as Father/Daughter and Miscreant Records put out the LP in September 2015.
Ben and Liv write songs separately, each singing lead on their own compositions. Liv’s are cheeky, and often supported by to-the-point guitar lines and echoed shouts; Ben is fond of escalating instrumentals and brings a wistful, dad rock vibe.
Following the release of their debut album the band became increasingly popular on the underground, indie scene with their unique sound and stage performance standing them out among their competition.
In late 2016 the duo signed a new contract with Polyvinyl Records, releasing their sophomore record ‘Pageant’ the following year in May, 2017.
On their cross-gendered loo Liv recalled a stint in a “straight boy band” years ago. “I started wearing lipstick when we performed, and it just kind of stuck; it felt empowering.” Ben adds to this: “Drag is my armor. All you can do in life is to tell the truth,” Ben says. “A friend of mine told me that you should take your personal myth, and make it iconic.”
The pairs music, and stage performances combine punk sensibility and high art to dismantle notions of sexuality, gender, and normalisation in an effort to push the boundaries and binaries of society through critical thinking.
Speaking to girlsagainst the pair discussed being queer artists in the music industry:
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.