It's not often that a Brooklyn-based band takes up an interest in Arizona. In fact, it's usually the other way around. But for punk rockers Outernational, our desert home is of particular fascination. Their members see Arizona as both a real and symbolic frontier, representing most of the political unrest and lack of social justice present in the country
This became especially clear when they played a show opening for street punk vets GBH in Tempe back in June, shortly after the passage of SB 1070 and at the height of tense discussion and debate on the subject.
In case you missed it, comparisons made by front man Miles Solay which likened Arizona to both Nazi Germany and apartheid-era South Africa did not sit well with the audience. That in combination with some politically motivated songs and a few other side remarks had the crowd trying to boo them off the stage. There were verbal confrontations both between the band and audience, as well as among crowd members. What resulted was an overall uproar that really looked as though it was going to break out in a physical fight. Solay said, "That melee at the GBH show... that's still the most fun I've ever had at a show. It made me feel rock and roll was dangerous again."
Outernational are adamantly against most of Arizona's policies, including and especially SB 1070. But unlike many other artists they do not believe boycotting Arizona is the best solution.
They are one of the few bands that articulate what most level-headed Arizona music fans are thinking: It's possible to be against SB 1070, play in Arizona, and encourage open discussion, dialogue, and live shows by bands that take these issues seriously.
Outernational is working on a new six song EP titled Todos Somos Ilegales, which translates to "We are all illegals." The record, which will feature originals, covers, and collaborations is set to be released this spring, and will be available for free download. To raise funds for the project, the band is utilizing Kickstarter for donations.
The members of Outernational are not new to social consciousness or political activism, though. They came to Arizona to demonstrate last May, they recorded a cover of Woody Guthrie's "Deportees," they've been writing songs with strong themes of human rights, resistance and revolution for years, and they are supporters of Bob Avakian -- the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and a social theorist who has sought to revolutionize and restructure communism as it had previously been practiced. The members of the band consider themselves "internationalists," and believe that country borders, often created by colonizers, hold little bearing. (After all, Arizona did used to be part of Mexico.)
It's great that rock and roll is dangerous again. But it'd be more great if discussing human rights weren't such a radical thing anymore.
Outernational is currently seeking video footage from their previous Arizona shows for a music video they are working on. Any photos or video will be helpful, even if it's just from a cell phone. If you have some, send it to: [email protected]