Pensacola, Florida
Thursday May 25th 2017

Archives

“Our Community Gives Us Hope”

By C.S. Satterwhite

Maximum Rocknroll —a.k.a. the ‘Bible of Punk Rock’— once called the Street Eaters “relentless.”

A quick look at their tour schedule confirms just how driven this two-piece “true wave” punk band is. They are currently touring the United States, Canada, the European Union and the UK, with a stop right in the middle in Pensacola.

Loud, heavy and political, their new album, “The Envoy,” may just be what the new era ordered. A concept album based off of Ursula Le Guin’s 1974 anarchist influenced post-apocalyptic science-fiction work “The Dispossessed.”  Megan March and John No were kind enough to speak me while driving back from Canada about Pensacola, their new album and the role of punk in the Trump-era.

INWEEKLY: This is your third time coming to Pensacola, right?
Megan: I think this is our fourth or fifth time.
John: We played Pensacola on our first tour outside of the West Coast at the second Sluggo’s.

INWEEKLY: Actually it was Sluggo’s part seven or eight or something, but that’s another story.
Megan: We like Pensacola a lot. We have a lot of friends who are still there, and a lot of friends that used to live there that now live in other places or back in the Bay Area. John and I both have separate histories in Pensacola, some of our best friends are from there.
John: We always end up trying to get to the beach, which sometimes makes no sense at all. I remember getting into the water one time when there was lightning, high waves and it was freezing, but I just didn’t care. It needed to happen.

INWEEKLY: I can see why. That’s why I’m here. With your new record, and especially considering your heavy tour schedule, do you feel like you’re on a mission?
Megan: Absolutely!
John: Minus the religious connotations.
Megan: We’re definitely going from place to place. We’re not going to let a busted tire stop us.
John: We’ve gotta get where we’re going.
Megan: Plus we want to see our friends and play music. That’s the whole point. Also, we have this new record, which we’re pretty excited about, so it’s fun to play the songs for people.
John: We actually didn’t tour last year mainly because of a lot of stuff that was going on at home, but also because we were working on this new record.  We spent some real time and energy putting together songs and recording because we approached it in a different way than we’d ever done before.

INWEEKLY: I know your new record is a concept album based off of Ursula Le Guin’s “The Dispossessed.” Can you talk about that a little bit? Why that book?
Megan: Sure, it’s actually based on “The Dispossessed” and her other book “The Left Hand of Darkness.” We realized that a lot of the main themes we wanted to write about were parallel with these books. At one point, we made the conscious decision that we’re actually making a concept record. That’s actually what’s happening. We didn’t have a set template for how the songs were going to be related to the book. Some of them were more loosely based on themes from the book… I would take certain quotes and text from the book, and then contextualize it in a personal way. Or we’d take actual excerpts from the stories and write music along to it as a way to interpret. So the songs were all kind of a different approach for writing a concept album around this book, if that makes any sense.
John: Also, with the instrumentals, we were trying to capture the journeys that were in those books because they’re very much about journeys. Envoys to other places, creating waves, or instability, or revolutions, or change in a place where they end up. So we try to follow a trajectory of the books in regard to the ways the instrumentals go, or the music progresses as well. There’s a lot of layering and a lot of textured noise, heavily saturated noise to try to capture wide open spaces. Almost the sound of the voyage. Sounds that would be evocative of ice cracking, and the harshness of the elements. But also the terrifying and important elements of human relationships, both macro and micro. There are quite a few instrumental songs on the record that give it a cinematic kind of feel, a feeling of going place to place. The last tune is actually an instrumental. It’s the second part of a movement between [the] ship that ends up ferrying Shevek [the main character] back to Anarres, which is the anarchist colony he originates from. It was an alien ship and an alien race. It was an unusually comfortable ride, but he was going from great turmoil, so [the ride] is the calm before the storm.

INWEEKLY: Do you think we’re in an era like that, a calm before the storm, even though it certainly doesn’t feel calm right now.
John: There’s no way to tell the future, but I’d say there’s definitely a storm already happening.
Megan: I think a storm’s been happening. There’s a lot of people who’ve been saying, “Oh, now that we have a fascist president, is punk going to get good again?” But anyone who says that hasn’t been paying attention, that things haven’t been good in a really long time. People have been making music in response to that. I mean our country was founded on white supremacy and slavery and patriarchy and theft through capitalism and colonialism. The response—people making art and music—has been going on for a really long time. I think that things have been bad and they could get worse.

INWEEKLY: What do you think is the role of punk right now?
Megan: That’s a tough one because punk is hard to define, to start with.

INWEEKLY: So how do you define punk?
John: Baring in mind that there’s a lot of different definitions of punk, I don’t know about the broader community, but I know about the punk we’ve always felt an affinity to was not the kind of punk that was the “do whatever you want whenever you want and fuck everyone else” kind of punk. That’s also punk, but that’s not the kind of punk we’re a part of. The punk we’re a part of has more of an insurgent, highly critical, semi-revolutionary approach. Crass [influential political UK punk band] split off from the excesses of the Sex Pistols in the ‘70s, and those scenes have never really re-merged. The collectivist scene that Crass built, and that a lot of people have elaborated on since then. Beyond that, in terms of the world today, I feel there’s as much important stuff going on outside of punk as within it. I feel wherever people can find their diversity of tactics to be able to make a change and call for a radical reimagining of what we do in the world, where all the more possibilities are, they should take it. If punk is the way to do that, great.

INWEEKLY: What gives you hope right now?
Megan: Well, directly being on this tour and getting to see our friends and meet new people that are going through the same processes. Like, what the fuck is happening right now in our country? With this rise of fascism, what do we do about it? What does that mean? And how can we find strength within each other and figure out ways to survive it and fight it? So I’d say our community gives us hope.
John: Solidarity within radical communities is really important right now.

STREET EATERS
WHAT: Street Eaters with CHEW and Dicks From Mars
WHEN: 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 17
WHERE: Chizuko, 506 W. Belmont St.
DETAILS: streeteaters.com or .facebook.com/chizukopensacola