Interview: PWR BTTM

“I’m curious about bands who can exist in a world with all these conversations happening about safety and inclusion, and not want to get with the programme,” Liv Bruce challenges. Preaching self-confidence along contagious punk refrains, PWR BTTM are breaking through the mould of rock music stereotypes with a glitter-spangled attitude and a resolute sense of optimism. Ensuring the music they create occupies a space that’s safe for everyone is something that’s always come naturally to the queer punk duo.

Performing in discount shop dresses, with faces adorned by makeup and glitter, switching roles between guitar and drums mid-set, this has never been a band to adhere to any sense of expectation. Using their voice to be positively rebellious though the simple act of self-expression, the duo promote empowerment and inclusivity for anyone who wants to hear it. “It’s important because it’s what we believe in. It’s as simple as that,” Ben Hopkins expresses. “It’s using our privilege of this voice to speak about things that we feel very strongly about, and also to stand up for people who don’t have the same voice.”

Swearing that they will “never pass any opportunity to tell a group of people who have come to hear our music about how we feel about the state of the world,” PWR BTTM wear their hearts on their sleeves – and invite everyone who encounters them to do the same. Presenting a united confidence against adversity is evident in everything the duo do, from their energy they embody to the lyrics they write. “There are men in every town who live to bring you down,” Ben cries on the band’s latest single, before rallying “my advice is to look incredible as you make their lives regrettable by being your damn self.”

“There are so many things in life – especially right now, in this contemporary political climate – that make you stop in your tracks and dwell on how terrible things are,” Ben deliberates. “I wanted to write a song that would remind me to keep on going, regardless of how terrible the actions of others.” The feeling that the world’s becoming an increasingly darker place is becoming harder and harder to shake, but PWR BTTM are adamant in presenting hope, wherever they find themselves. “We got to see Diet Cig the other night – they give us a tonne of hope,” Liv enthuses. “They had food poisoning, and they still gave such an incredible show. Talk about carrying on in the face of adversity.”

Whether it’s through checking in with their audience between songs, or requesting venues provide accessible gender neutral bathrooms at their shows, much like their peers, PWR BTTM make every effort to ensure their music embodies a safe space for any who wants to access it. “It’s a huge honour to be a band doing that,” Liv enthuses. “But it’s a huge honour that there are people who even want to show up to see the show that we’re playing, and then use the gender neutral bathrooms,” they laugh.

In America, in the wake of the recent rescinding of the right for transgender students to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, the safe space that bands like PWR BTTM offer at their shows has become even more valued. “If you can’t access the restrooms in public spaces, you can’t really exist in public,” Liv states. “It’s starting with schools, but that’s not necessarily where the people in power want to end this conversation.”

Making sure your voice is heard hasn’t felt this imperative for generations. “We all need to be working right now to fight back,” Liv resolves, continuing to express that “we also need to be working to take care of ourselves and make sure that we don’t burn out.” “History swings to the left and the right,” Ben mulls. “We’re feeling a very hard swing to the right, but that means it’s just going to go further to the left once we keep fighting for it.”

It’s a conviction that PWR BTTM have the upmost faith in. “I’ve never seen people be so politically engaged and stand up for disenfranchised folk as I think we’ve seen in the past two months,” Ben marvels. “Keep your ears open as to how you can help protect people who are vulnerable in ways that you are not,” Liv urges, “and also as to how you can show up for people who are being threatened in a way that you might not be.”

Continuing to do what they’ve always done best – offer validation and acceptance through their own self-expression – PWR BTTM’s mission is simple. “Have you ever seen the movie Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure?” Liv queries. “I don’t remember specifically where this comes up in the movie, but I remember that one of the takeaways from it is that people should be excellent to each other,” they depict. “I just want people to be excellent to each other.” Faced with an increasingly more heinous world, it’s a sentiment that everyone can get behind. Party on, PWR BTTM.

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