Political division has fuelled the cutting edge of British culture for decades. Within the doubt and uncertainty, inspiration is found and figures appear who want to challenge the status quo, whether through politics itself, art or music.
In the latter camp are Feral Five, Sisteray and Spoilers (cover photo): bands taking it upon themselves to publicise the wrongdoing in modern-day politics. Creating music with a purpose, they’re raw, bold and unafraid. Their views may not always be the same but they all share the same drive to promote their message and to encourage debate with their words.
With the UK General Election on the horizon, it’s no surprise that it’s at the forefront of the discussion. While some believe that the election could be a game-changer, one that could perhaps even deliver us from Brexit, the others aren’t so easy to persuade.
Feral Five are in the former camp. A band who know all about sticking it to authority, they’re hopeful that the election could spark something special. A sign of change, even. When questioned about what they hope to see happen, you have to admire the optimism:
“A reversal of the disgusting ‘austerity’ measures that have damaged so many lives. The increase in inequality is a crime and would never be tolerated in other nations. Tax the bankers, save the foxes, exile the Tories. Post-election, we hope for a better, fairer, more equitable society where people start caring about each other and we have a government who believe in peace and not war. We want to be governed by consent, not coercion, respected as human beings and reclaim our self-respect by reclaiming this country for the many, not the privileged few. We really hope Obi-Wan Corbyn will take us out of the shadow of the evil empire that we’ve been living under for so long.”
Their views may seem to come on a little strong; however, you’ll find this style of little digs and straight middle fingers throughout their music. Sisteray, too, are releasing music that is raw and groundbreaking, but their optimism is more cautious and their demands a little more basic: “Shift away from 1984-inspired totalitarianism. In all seriousness, giant proportions of the electorate are having their rights to vote withdrawn and the opposition is now treachery, apparently. That is scary.” It’s very much the feeling of us vs them, left vs right. Being in the middle isn’t an option.
For Spoilers, the choice is simple: “Labour’s manifesto is great and ambitious. Whatever happens, I hope the party can stick it together. For Britain. The right doesn’t have a dream. Or any ideas. They just want less of everything. No one knew what Brexit was when they voted for it: a lot of the votes for Leave were based on false promises based on the NHS and immigration which were immediately abandoned the day after the vote. There’s no actual substance. Just anger and fear. And that’s connecting with a lot of angry, fearful bigots. I mean, people!” Anger is the flesh and blood of punk. Whether you’re rooting for Labour or the Tories, your opinions of the other side can’t help but be moved by music with a message, especially when it comes straight from the heart. Say what you like about their views but, musically, they’re connecting with a generation lost in a downward spiral.
While pop music has love songs, punk has politics, and it must be hard to write about other topics with the situation as fraught as it is right now. As Feral Five explain: “Every day brings a new low both at home and internationally. Even a year ago, you couldn’t have imagined things would get this bad. Rights dismantled, families torn apart, pumped-up government war machines, people scared to visit the US as they will face trial by social media at the border and be judged on what they’ve written! Politics has become really polarised over the past year; the shades of grey have dissipated and a real ideological battle is going on between those who want a better, fairer world and those who want to rip it apart for short-term gain. Recent political events have definitely influenced our lyrical approach. For example, our Man Cat Doll Machine EP, whilst challenging Picasso’s chauvinism, also channelled the 2017 Women’s March in London and the post-Obama political angst in the US and around the world.”
In fact, music is now so intertwined with politics, it’s hard to imagine one without the other. But it’s more than that, a change in the way we think and talk, as Spoilers have recognised themselves: “Politics has always dominated a lot of our conversation when we meet up. Singing about our politics only seems natural to us all. It does feel, right now, that you really ought to be saying something and we all have a lot to say.”
And it’s not just lip service either. Politics is having a direct effect on the reality of being in a band, often making it harder for music to get made in the first place. It’s a reality that Sisteray are having to struggle with: “Every rehearsal space we make home has their rent increased and we’re shifting. Scar Studios gone. Enterprise gone. Rehearsal costs go up and up. Venues closing down at an alarming rate. Opportunities for budding musicians are few and far between and [this] goes hand in hand with the cost of living and austerity politics putting a strain on the country.”
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by events, whether it’s news of another terror attack or the slow erosion of our public services, but there is something to take from having bands like these who are able to put meaning at the centre of their artistic vision, taking inspiration from current affairs and asking their listeners to engage with the world around them. Is it enough though? At the end of the day, this election is all about choosing what shit smells better.
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Cover photo: Spoilers by Owen Richards