Show Me The Body:
Take It To The Streets
In the centre of Dalston’s Gillett Square, Julian Cashwan Pratt paces between two speaker stacks. His worn Tupac t-shirt rustles between each step. There’s a nervous sense of tension as an eager crowd of around a hundred draw closer together, pausing a few metres away from a microphone stand.
Skaters take recess, propping their boards against makeshift landing ramps, while a nearby hula-hoop class protect their designated practice space. Behind Pratt sits drummer Noah Cohen-Corbett, camouflaged by metallic stands and cymbals. With his Rickenbacker bass draped over one shoulder, Harlan Steed postures himself behind an FX board. An acute shrill, like the mutated crow of a megaphone, screams out from the amplifiers. There’s no stage or partitions. Zero security. Pratt forcibly waves his arms, urging the audience to come closer and fill the awkward three-foot divide. It’s a success – as they launch into their first song, bodies tumble towards them.
Hours before, the experimental punk band had announced details of a free generator show via social media, willing fans to contact the group directly for more info. As we speak after the event, the trio stand in a circle and pass around a joint. “We have to keep these sort of events a little more secret because when it’s not a secret it inevitably gets shutdown by city officials and the police,” Pratt explains, squinting from the beams of the mid afternoon sun. “We have to be clever. But that’s exciting. I’m excited to see a greater trend of these generator shows happening around New York too. Bringing music back to the streets and out of the clubs.” Steed and Corbett nod studiously.
Show Me The Body are a by-product of New York City. A bonafide manifestation of their urban surroundings. Across the Yellow Kidney and S M T B EPs and this year’s full length Body War, their convergence of harsh distortion, unorthodox time signatures and Pratt’s intense vocals has encapsulated the rebellious energy of New York’s youth culture.
Just under thirty minutes in length, Body War is an explicit combustion of disharmony and rage that’s fuelled by the coercive closing of art spaces and increasing displays of police brutality. The group are also closely associated with the NY based community, Letter Racer, a non-hierarchical company of likeminded artists and home for no wave rap crew Ratking. “The initial goal with Letter Racer is just to bring people together and make really cool shit,” Pratt expounds on the community’s common grounds, “regardless of anyone’s circumstance. We’re starting to witness a larger culture of people actually caring about New York life and how to preserve it. People are writing music specifically about that in a way that hasn’t been approached before. There’s a new aggression in the city. One that’s all about feeling free.”
Body War feels full of anti-establishment anger, yet Show Me The Body claim they’re not an explicitly political band. “We don’t make political music,” Pratt says, exhaling a swilling cloud of weed smoke, “we just address what’s happening around us.” Distributed through Corpus NYC, a label co-founded by industrial hip-hop experimentalist B L A C K I E from Houston, Texas, Corbett outlines their intentions are to “deliver music with a sense of urgency,” which the band hone through ballistic DIY shows and engaging directly with their fans. Pratt annotates Corbett’s answer, “It’s amazing to meet new kids and play for them. It’s a sick way to get a greater perspective as humans. But if anything I think it reinforces that kids feel the same sense of loss everywhere that needs to be dealt with in some way. Empowering people through music is a wonderful way to come together and experience that urgency.”
Despite their music being a repercussion to what’s eating away at New York’s art scene, Pratt argues the same pressures are felt on an international scale. “New York is a specific place but holds a lot of the same problems that are found all over America and, to some extent, the world,” he admits. “We were super surprised to pull up in Dallas and have kids screaming our lyrics back at us.
It was the first marquee show we had done. We were on tour with B L A C K I E and on one side of the stage it listed the line-up, and on the other side was a poster reading ‘We Stand With The Dallas Police’.” This show was just after the killing of five police officers back in July. That was a super crazy experience. To travel to a place where there was already a politically charged temperament. For us, it was hard because we don’t stand with the police but we also don’t condone senseless murder. To be in a small town and realise our problems are felt everywhere was eye-opening.”
Pratt has been arrested twice for minor incidents, once for being aggressive towards a police officer. “But that was just freedom of speech,” he assures, claiming he was an easier target due to the colour of his skin. “Being white plays a part in it. According to the cops, it’s a lot less dangerous to pick a fight with a white kid than a bunch of black kids.” His distress around police brutality resonates strongly with Steed and Corbett, who are listening intently, agreeing with everything. “Surveillance is crazy,” Pratt continues, “Watching cops beat up riders and homeless kids for no reason, shutting shit down left right and centre. It’s fascism – being muscled out so that out of town money can build bullshit. It’s a physical manifestation of white supremacy and capitalism. Part of our goal is to organise the youth against that.”
Body War is out now via Loma Vista