"I'd like to mention one important point, where I made a mistake in the published letter," Jess Aurelius of Ascetic House and a member of Marshstepper (a band that we've referred to as "swamp disco," though Aurelius stresses "we have never used that term to describe our music") says explaining the collective's effort.
"I'd like to clarify that 'we' (myself, Ascetic House, or even the general American public) had nothing to do with imprisoning anyone. It's the state that is doing it. We have no say in the matter. I think it's important to stop thinking in collectivist terms like 'we' when referring to demographics that are made up of individuals."
We further discussed the group's goals and aims.
Up on the Sun: What inspired Ascetic House to take this stand?
Jess Aurelius: I suppose it's pretty straightforward . . . There are millions of human beings across the U.S. sitting in cages right now simply because their circumstance or morality doesn't match the status quo. It's really easy to remain willfully ignorant, and it's really easy to forget the struggles of people that you don't actually visually see every day. Whether there's anyone in prison that would actually enjoy the work we do is irrelevant. The letter was more so published to remind people of the struggle against the prison-industrial complex and to hopefully inspire other creators, businesses, artists to consider similar programs. Ascetic House is very much an apolitical organization, but we're not talking politics here. We're talking about real people in slavery. If we can help people get through a few days, it's worth it.
Have you had anyone take you up on offer yet?
We've gotten a few requests. The letter has only been published on our website so far, so I'm not sure how far the word has spread. Destruction Unit is making an unrelated announcement this week that I'm going to try and append the Upwards Program prison letter to, hopefully that will get it some more exposure. But like I said, the point is more to hopefully inspire other people with more influence or more capital to consider a similar program. We release a wide range of stuff though, from rock to pop to rap to poetry, fiction, non-fiction . . . and everything beyond. So there is certainly something anyone could enjoy. My initial idea was to try and get Destruction Unit's music onto the [inmate music program] Jp3 music player for free, but there's more bureaucracy involved in doing something like that.