With lyrics that confront white supremacy, the police state and homophobia, Downtown Boys channel the resistance.
The queer Latinx band’s Sub Pop-released album The Cost of Living, which features production from former Fugazi member Guy Picciotto, delivers their sharp political message through a fierce whirlwind of punk. Driving through the chaos is singer Victoria Ruiz, whose urgent vocals ring out like a megaphone at the front line of a protest. Here, Ruiz takes us through some of the music that fuels the fire.
The track that reminds me of my childhood
My Grandma is a mixtape aficionado. She makes a lot of mixtapes with Mexican music and Selena’s Bidi Bidi Bom Bom (EMI Latin, 1994) was the first Spanish/English music that we both discovered together. Selena was a big influence on me growing up, this Mexican American woman who was loved in Mexico and in the States and had this dual identity.
The track that reminds me of New York
I remember first hearing M.I.A. – Paper Planes (XL, 2008) in college in NYC. I was shook, I think I listened to it over 1000 times in two weeks. It made an impact, this idea that it’s ok to be a girl or a woman and not fit into these respectability politics, to have an edge. The music video portrayed a lot of the things I loved about NYC. There’s these deli guys in it. She gets a sandwich. Just the mundanities of being in a really cool city with these idiosyncrasies.
The track that defined the early stages of my band
A couple of us in the band used to run a DIY space in an old factory building in Rhode Island. The shows we played there were really monumental for us. With our cover of Dancing In The Dark (Don Giovanni, 2015), we all have different feelings toward Bruce Springsteen, some of us love Bruce, some of us didn’t even want to cover the song but the crowd’s reaction and people coming together was a big deal. A few lines are so intense: ‘You can’t start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart‘. That idea has such a great impact, it speaks to the feeling of loneliness and alienation as well as desire and wanting to push through that.
The last record that shocked me
Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. (Top Dawg Entertainment, 2017) really spoke to me. Every song is timeless. The themes on the album are vulnerable and show how he struggles with his political world, his personal world and how he finds this space to be his true and honest self. And the line, ‘I can’t fake humble just because you’re insecure‘, I think often times women and people of colour are asked to be fake humble, especially to white people or people who perpetuate whiteness, and it’s only because they’re insecure, it’s not because they care about how we act and who we are.
The record from this year with lyrics which speak to me
Sheer Mag’s new album Need To Feel Your Love (Wilsons RC, 2017). They are not afraid to be truly beloved by a very punk scene, but simultaneously be speaking to a wider audience. A lot of songs are macro-level political, they’re anthemic and not nihilistic at all, they’re about not giving up and continuing the fight. I love how honest they are, it’s almost a form of political education. Right now there is a desire to create products out of protest and that’s going to lead our protests to being co-opted and not having the sharpened edge they should have. This album and DAMN. are very sharp tools for your mind.
The Cost of Living is out now via Sub Pop