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25 Oct 2017

Music in Protest: Musicians Across the Country Are Creating Songs That Express Displeasure at the Trump Era

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A while back, Independent contributor Baynard Woods put out a call for alternative publications across the country to share information about musicians who are writing and performing protest songs in the era of President Donald J. Trump.

The response was amazing: More than 20 publications—including the Coachella Valley Independent—did writeups on protest songs created in their markets. Many of them are fantastic.

Here is the compilation—and we’ll start off our abbreviated list with the Independent’s contribution. —Jimmy Boegle

The After Lashes, “We the Sheeple”

Coachella Valley

The After Lashes is a new all-female punk band that features Ali Saenz, the wife of former Dwarves and Excel drummer Greg Saenz.

Frontwoman Esther Sanchez explained the inspiration behind the band’s song “We the Sheeple.”

“‘We the Sheeple’ was an easy song to write, because it came from a place of frustration and growing resentment toward the current powers that be, and, of course, more specifically, Donald Trump,” she said. “We have a president who calls anything he doesn’t like ‘fake news’ while simultaneously spending an insane amount of time tweeting nonsense and lies like a crazy person.

“The policies he intends to establish are harmful to pretty much everyone who is not wealthy; unfortunately, so many who voted for him were unknowingly voting against their own best interests. The song is very much about uniting against a tyrant, because that is precisely what we believe Trump to be.” —Brian Blueskye

Keith Morris, “What Happened to Your Party?”

Charlottesville, Va.

Known to at least one of his fellow musicians as “our rockin’ protest grouch in chief,” Keith Morris has a slew of protest songs, such as “Psychopaths and Sycophants,” “Prejudiced and Blind” and “Brownsville Market,” from his Dirty Gospel album, plus “Blind Man,” “Peaceful When You Sleep” and “Border Town” from Love Wounds and Mars. His latest release: “What Happened to Your Party?” —Erin O'Hare

Thunderfist, “Suck It”

Salt Lake City

Sure, there are more articulate ways to denounce Trump than a song called “Suck It.” Countering blustery, bigoted bullshit with artfully composed, well-reasoned takedowns is how we’ll effect change. That doesn’t mean we can't occasionally vent our rage by strapping on Les Pauls, cranking up Marshalls, raising middle fingers and offering a blues-based, punk-rock invitation to fellatio. And maybe also, as the final, snarling chord slides into silence, by calling him a “fat baby fuckface.” —Randy Harward

Dooley, Lor Roger and TLow, “CIT4DT”

Baltimore

This Boosie-tinged Thee Donald diss from Baltimore, which dropped long before inauguration, still thrills: “Boy ain’t even white, you yellow / You said you’d date your own daughter; you a sicko.” Stakes are high here, too—the mastermind behind it, Dooley, is Muslim—and right-wing semi-fascist snowflakes took the song totally seriously, denounced it as a “death threat” (“CIT4DT” stands for “chopper in the trunk for Donald Trump”) and bemoaned its Baltimore origins. Meanwhile, the trio responsible for it thought the shit was hilarious. —Brandon Soderberg

Trombone Shorty and Dumpstaphunk, “Justice”

New Orleans

Trombone Shorty and Dumpstaphunk teamed up on a song called “Justice”—released on the day Donald Trump was inaugurated president. A mélange of funk, jazz and New Orleans brass band sounds, the video for “Justice” slyly marries video footage of Trump against pointed lyrics.

“Inauguration day seemed to be an appropriate time to voice the need for equal say and opportunity for all people,” said Dumpstaphunk’s Ivan Neville. “We entered a New Year with a lot of unanswered questions on the subject of ‘justice’ that we all felt a little uneasy about. But there’s only so much we can do and this track is our way of expressing our worries.” —Gambit Weekly

Lonely Horse, “Devil in the White House”

San Antonio, Texas

Shots fired! Lonely Horse comes out guns-a-blazing with the track “Devil in the White House.” Opening with a sludgy cadence that crescendos into a tumultuous rock ’n’ roll explosion, the “desert rock” duo of Nick Long and Travis Hild make very clear their feelings about the 45th POTUS. —Chris Conde

Mal Jones, J Blacco, Lost Firstborne, and DJ Shotgun, “CODE RED: Hands Up, Don’t Shoot"

Jacksonville, Fla.

The spate of deaths at the hands of law enforcement led Mal Jones and his collaborators to take action.

“We came up with this song after all of the recent acquittals in the cases related to the steadily rising murders of unarmed black men in the hands of law enforcement in America,” Jones said. “We wanted to protest about this issue in the most effective way we know how—through song. Blacco explained how the song came together.

“My inspiration for writing my verse was, first, the climate of events going on at the time,” he said. “It was right after the Alton Sterling situation (Alton Sterling was shot and killed in Baton Rouge, La., by police while he was being held down on the ground.) When my man Lost Firstborne played the beat, that’s just what the track was speaking to me. It had a haunting soulful vibe about it, so once I heard it, everything flowed rather easily,” —Claire Goforth

Lingua Franca, “A Man’s World“

Athens, Ga.

Shortly after Inauguration Day, two Athens studios invited 19 local bands to commemorate the dawn of the Trump Age, tracking 20 songs in a marathon 48-hour session. While much of the resulting album, Athens Vs. Trump Comp 2017, is suitably bleak, ascendant emcee Lingua Franca’s “A Man’s World” stands out for its sheer defiance. “Frenzied and indiscreet,” it’s a fiery feminist anthem for the resistance. —Gabe Vodicka

OG Swaggerdick, “Fuck Donald Trump”

Boston

Among diehard hip-hop heads as well as artists, Boston’s underground rap scene is renowned as one of the most lyrically elaborate and intellectual anywhere. But when it comes to straight-up protesting and verbally impaling the potty-mouthed POTUS, there’s something undeniably satisfying, even admirable, about OG Swaggerdick’s simple and straightforward election anthem, “Fuck Donald Trump.” From the fittingly filthy rhymes—“never give props to a punk ass trick / motherfuck Donald Trump, he can suck my dick”—to the strangers on the street who gladly join along in rapping in the video, these are protest lyrics you’ll still be able to remember and perhaps even rap for relief on occasions when the president leaves you otherwise speechless. —Chris Faraone

Clint Breeze and The Groove, “Blood Splatter”

Indianapolis

Featuring more than a dozen guest contributors—including poets, rappers and jazz musicians—Clint Breeze’s album Nappy Head weaves a phantasmagoric assemblage of words and sounds into a razor-sharp critique of racial oppression in modern America.

“I wanted to symbolize the state of oppression that black people experience every day,” he said, “from not getting fair treatment in the justice system, to getting shot and killed by law enforcement, to being unfairly treated in the workforce—you name it. I wanted to make a statement on how we as black people view this oppressive society that we live in. I also wanted to give a different perspective from white people. I have a couple of my friends who are white on the album speaking about the nature of white privilege.”

“Blood Splatter” is the record’s most cutting track, featuring spoken word artist Too Black, with cascading cymbal cracks and careening sax. —Kyle Long and Katherine Coplen

Priests, “Right Wing”

Washington, D.C.

There’s been no shortage of scathing political protest songs coming out of D.C. since, well, the birth of punk. But in recent years, post-punk quartet Priests has succeeded in reminding the rest of the country that D.C. is, and always has been, pissed the fuck off.

“Right Wing,” off the band’s breakthrough EP Bodies and Control and Money and Power, so perfectly captures the ass-backwardsness of living in a country controlled by capitalists, fascists, racists, and war mongers. “Everything everything / So right wing / Everything everything / So right wing / Purse searches, pep rallies / Purse searches, SUVs,” sings Katie Alice Greer. It reads like a short, poetic treatise on how the toxicity of right-wing ideals infects everyday life. —Matt Cohen

Withdraw, “Disgust”

Columbia, S.C.

On its 2017 debut EP Home, Columbia’s Withdraw oscillates violently between bristling, pedal-to-the floor emo (think At the Drive-In) and brutal, clawing crust punk. And on “Disgust,” the band proves the virtue of its versatility, shifting from an unflinchingly blackened hardcore blitz that bashes sexual abusers to a more expansive, anthemic coda that seeks to lift up the victims— “You are not tarnished!” It’s a potent statement, a searing declaration of alliance in musical realm more often derided for problematic gender politics. —Jordan Lawrence

NODON, “Alt-Wrong”

Burlington, Vt.

NODON is an anti-fascist, anti-hate power-punk duo born out of the 2016 presidential election. Seething with caustic epithets, the duo’s songs condemn xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, white supremacy and, above all, President Donald Trump.

“Alt-Wrong,” from the 2017 EP, Covfefe, delivers a swift and vicious kick to the alt-right’s figurative crotch. Over razor-sharp guitar riffs and seething drums, NODON screams its battle cry: “Annihilate this hate! Not right! Alt-wrong!” —Jordan Adams

Rmllw2llz, “So Amerikkkan”

Louisville, Ky.

Nationwide, when you think of the Louisville music scene, your mind probably bounces to My Morning Jacket, Bonnie “Prince” Billy or maybe even White Reaper—all who are great—but the city’s hip-hop scene is packed with poignant hip-hop artists, and if you’re looking for a pure protest song, look no further than Rmllw2llz’s “So Amerikkkan,” in which he says: “Fuck Trump, he’s a bum and Hillary trash, too.”

The song was released a few months ago, but if you give it a listen, you can hear a lot of the country’s past, present and future angst packed into a few powerful minutes. —Scott Recker

Michael Bone, “My Peace Will Outlive You”

Chico, Calif.

Michael Bone is a Chico musician, husband and father who has a day job teaching music to developmentally disabled kids, a night job playing drums for jazz-combo Bogg, and dozens of side projects including running the 1day Song Club. The latter is a songwriting group that receives a one-word prompt every other week, after which participants are tasked with writing, recording and submitting a song to be posted online (at www.1dayclub.com) within 24 hours.

“My Peace Will Outlive You,” an angst-ridden yet hopeful slice of psychedelic pop, is Bone's contribution to the prompt of “Trump.” —Jason Cassidy

Dais, “Atrocity”

Rochester, N.Y.

Dais tells you exactly where it stands on “Atrocity,” the first track off its self-titled debut EP. The post-hardcore band makes a racing, pounding apology to the Earth before (sort of) slowing down to confront the powers that be.

“Show us a tyrant / And we’ll show you our grievance / Fuck that, we will fight this,” vocalist Travis Rankin yells and strains in defiance.

“The person who the States had elected was talking about withdrawing us from The Paris Climate Accord,” Rankin says. “We felt betrayed and began writing this song. It’s an apology to the Earth for us not being as good to it as it has been to us.” —Jake Clapp

Iris DeMent, “We Won’t Keep Quiet”

Iowa City, Iowa

Back in February, Iowa City held a Solidarity Rally Against the Ban, proclaiming support for immigrant populations and refugees in the wake of Trump’s first and most ridiculous attempted travel ban. In between the community leaders, local politicians and youth speakers, a variety of area musicians performed, including the brilliant Iris DeMent. She debuted a song, “We Won't Keep Quiet,” that captured the feeling in the crowd that day in a really powerful way. —Little Village

Joshua Asante, “No Time for Despair”

Little Rock, Ark.

Joshua Asante, best known for fronting the bands Amasa Hines and Velvet Kente, is also a photographer—someone who delights in the tangible process of making art. It’s in his latest work as a solo artist that this becomes most evident, Asante hunching down over a briefcase stuffed with loop stations and processors.

Of “No Time For Despair,” Asante says: “In times of distress and turmoil, it’s easy to get kinda caught up in the collective despair, so the lyrics are very much about, like, ‘Yeah, times are tumultuous, but there’s also a lot of really wonderful magical things that are going on in your life.’ ... That is probably the supreme act of defiance—to be joyful, to be loving.” —Stephanie Smittle

The Whiskey Farm, “Flag Pin”

Madison, Wis.

The Whiskey Farm is an Americana/folk rock band from Madison, Wis. Formed in 2010, the band has produced four albums and won Madison Area Music Awards in the Folk/Americana and Ensemble Vocals categories.

The band’s most recent album, Songs of Resistance (2017), is the band’s first record comprised entirely of social and political music, covering topics including immigration policy, faux patriotism, money in politics, gun control, equal rights and gerrymandering. “Flag Pin” is a tongue-in-cheek blues-inspired indictment of opportunistic patriots, including Trump.

The band released Songs of Resistance as a benefit for the ACLU of Wisconsin. —Catherine Capellaro

E-Turn, “Ill Legal Alien”

Orlando, Fla.

Orlando MC E-Turn raises a particularly eloquent middle-finger in the face of Donald Trump. The Persian American, outspoken, femme MC is a firebrand on the mic, and her lyrics deftly meld the personal with the political in ways that hardcore dudes could only dream of. The fury and technique with which she drop bars—and other, usually male, MCs—onstage is the proud definition of a nasty woman. Her anthemic “Ill Legal Alien” may predate Trump’s election, but the Swamburger-produced track (Solillaquists of Sound) is still furiously of-the-moment. —Matthew Moyer and Bao Le-Huu

Cheap Perfume, “Trump Roast”

Colorado Springs, Colo.

Cheap Perfume is a four-piece Colorado Springs band who followe in the tradition of feminist punk acts like Le Tigre and The Slits. “Trump Roast” is, not surprisingly, one of the band’s biggest crowd-pleaser, as Stephanie Byrne and Jane No deliver a “Dear Don” letter to the resident president, culminating in a final verse that grows more timely, and more serious, with each passing day: “You wanna ban Muslims? Well, we wanna ban you / Your fascist ideas wrapped in red, white, and blue / Your KKK clones won’t be the ones to choose / Enjoy your last gasp ’cause racism’s through.” —Bill Forman

DBL DRGN, “Trim the Bushes”

Charleston, S.C.

Several election-reflection songs that came out of Charleston following Nov. 7, 2016. One of those that stood out is by a local hip-hop duo—Damn Skippy and Bad Mojo—dubbed DBL DRGN. Before releasing the audio, the guys filmed the video for the song “Trim the Bushes” on Election Day. With Bad Mojo dressed as a dragon, high-fiving passers-by, the silly aspect of the visuals was meant to complement the circus-like atmosphere of the 2016 election; it also brought a smile to the faces of voters on an otherwise stressful day. The video was released on Inauguration Day, another attempt to lift the spirits of those who felt the doom and gloom all too well that January morning. The duo rather brilliantly mashes up George Bush (“Fool me once ... can’t get fooled again”) with Bob Marley (“You can fool some people sometimes but you can’t fool all the people all of the time”), while the video shows footage of Donald Trump’s remarks on everything from immigration and Mexicans to birtherism, Putin, John McCain and women. The acknowledgment of all the things progressives find disturbing about the current administration, coupled with the sense that folks should keep their heads up (and alert) and stick together for the duration of the hand we’ve been dealt, made for a perfect combo. —Kelly Rae Smith

Media

Protest Songs: No Time for Despair from Gerard Matthews on Vimeo.

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