Interview: PWR BTTM, the band breaking the world with glitter
Liv and Ben of PWR BTTM, by Andrew Piccone
Now to the band I discovered in 2015 that has not only made a positive affect on me, but to all I know who loves their music and personalities. I try to stay away from commenting on the visual appearances of musicians, but with PWR BTTM, the way they appear when they perform is art. Not only is it them controlling how we see them, but it’s an inhibited way of controlling how they see themselves. How we see ourselves. Ever since I got into their music, I’ve been more unapologetic with how colorful I dress and with how much glitter I spread across my cheeks. The way Liv sings about hoping they’re embarrassing themselves, the way Ben screams off their glitter with such passion is impressive to me. Also inspiring to the point that I am wearing glitter in this very moment just to write about them.
They are honest and so is their music. They are breaking gender-norms…well, they’re really smashing them up to dust, step by step. They have one studio album out that has gotten nothing but love and praise. Ugly Cherries is more than well written, well produced, and impressive for a first album, but there is not a single song on it that doesn’t leave an affect on you. Let it be you having it stuck in your head and taking way too many bathroom breaks during work just so you can hear it one more time (happened to me with “I Wanna Boi”). Let it be, you sitting there overthinking one lyric until you have to go to bed because you’re about to break down (also happened to me but with “C U Around”). PWR BTTM is important to all people who feel embarrassed to be themselves, but even more important for the queer kids who feel embarrassed to feel alive. They are opening up doors for queer kids out there that love music, love what they are told not to love, and really just want to be proud in too much glitter. PWR BTTM is the kind of band that the world needs.
I got the honor to speak to them before their upcoming show presented by Different Fur Studios at Rickshaw Stop on the 25th of January and I’m still overjoyed.
The Bay Bridged: Tell us about the beginnings of PWR BTTM, I know you both met at Bard University, but what were you majoring in and how did it all begin?
Liv Bruce: I was studying dance and computer science.
Ben Hopkins: I was studying theater and performance, but my real goal was to accrue a biblical amount of student loan debt so I could have something to worry about for the next 30 years.
LB: I had had the idea to start a queer punk band called PWR BTTM floating around my head for a while. I asked Ben and he was like “sure”
Ben: I was like, “I don’t really play guitar, but if I’m brave enough this will just work out!” It did…I think.
TBB: It’s a New Year and time to think about last year as though it was decades ago. Tell us about the best memories of 2015 and what are you hoping for in 2016?
LB: Best memories of 2015: recording Ugly Cherries, wearing a floral romper for graduation, staying with my sister in her studio apartment for ~4 months when I was moving to New York. For 2016, my goal is to say what’s on my mind more.
BH: Also recording Ugly Cherries, getting to know all these incredible people in New York City, eating fish tacos on every stop of the Mitski/Palehound/PWR BTTM tour. I really want to keep writing a lot, and I want to further pursue the theatrical element of Liv and I’s collaboration
TBB: Let’s get serious, if you were a food dish, what would you be and why?
LB: Baked sweet potato. It has simple preparation needs and gets the job done.
BH: I am a bag of Sweet and Spicy Cape Cod Chips hands fucking down.
To me you are one of the most inspiring bands out there at the moment, and I just love how you talk about being embarrassing. You make being embarrassing seem revolutionary and almost like a bigger statement in itself. What would you like to say to those who are afraid of embarrassing themselves? How about those who are embarrassed especially when it comes to being unashamed in art and music?
LB: Like one of my teachers once told me, do it before you think you’re ready. Self-scrutiny and self-criticism are really important to making things, but I think those muscles can be overdeveloped in people who have spent any amount of time in a closet, worrying about being read by others. The voices in your head that tell you your art isn’t good enough are the same ones that tell you your desire is disgusting, or that your body is wrong, or that you will never be accepted as you are. Demand that those voices speak in specific suggestions rather than vague, doomy absolutes. Use their feedback to make your work better and then get someone else’s eyes on it before your fear kicks in.
TBB: Who is your favorite: Mary Kate or Ashley Olsen?
LB: easily Mary Kate.
BH: Well I was actually a member of the MK+A fan club as a kid (seriously), and I had a poster with them both on it in my room so I don’t think I can choose, sorry!!!
TBB: What are some bands that you are currently excited about and the bands you want everyone to go listen to right now?
LB: I haven’t listened to anything but Stevie Nicks’s songs with Fleetwood Mac for at least a week. BUT, some bands that I really think are worth checking out right now are: S, Sashay, andGemma.
BH: I’m also really into S at the moment, also our friends Palm from Philly are the band I go see every single time I have the chance to!
TBB: Is the bard.edu email in “I Wanna Boi” real? If so, did any cuties ever actually end up dropping you a line or two?
LB: yes and yes. I’m no longer single but I love chatting with people through my college email! Hit me up.
TBB: During the holidays I was working retail and what kept me sane was talking about music with coworkers or even at times customers. My favorite customer was a mother who was buying her kid all these arts and crafts kits as gifts for her kid and their friends. The mom and I started enthusiastically ranting to each other after she showed me a picture of her son dressed as David Bowie at the MOMA. Her kid is one of those 12 year olds who already has a grasp of gender and sexuality, and overall seemed like the coolest kid in the world so I had to mention PWR BTTM. When I told her about you, her face lit up, because she knew her son who had just begun to walk around their house with pink glittered eyebrows would connect to your music. Overall, this situation got me jealous of kids with parental support like that and reminded me how much representation in DIY and Indie music matters. You both matter a lot. What are your hopes for queer/trans representation in not only indie music and culture but mainstream?
LB: I want to see the world making space for us to tell our own stories.
BH: Simply put, I’d love to live in a culture in which that kid feels less alone, and like they can have pink glittery eyebrows every single day of their life and feel absolutely fucking spectacular about it.