Unconscious Dreams: An Interview With Cinder Well

Cinder Well is one of the most well centered projects in the emerging world of left and antiracist neofolk/dark folks/traditional folk, being made up of musicians from a range of projects coming together to riff on regional folk music. Emerging from the songwriting of Amelia Baker, now based in Ireland and studying/teaching Irish fiddle, the music is a haunting blend of styles that feels draw from the stories of communities often forgotten.

In this interview with Amelia Baker, we talk about how Cinder Well came together, how its instrumentation developed, and why they have made it a priority to speak up against white supremacy.

Also check out this story on Cinder Well and several other West Coast antifascist neofolk musicians.

How did your project come together? Is it the first musical project you have done?

I started writing music under the name Cinder Well to have a solo project that could evolve over time. I wanted to be able to perform solo, but also collaborate, perform and record with other musicians. The first Cinder Well EP and early shows were mostly solo – but tours have happened in many configurations. The Unconscious Echo was a collaboration with a full band – several members of Blackbird Raum, and members of Vradiazei were in the mix.

I’ve been writing music since I was a teenager – at first for no one, then for myself, and then for various projects in Santa Cruz. There was a really active, creative and supportive music scene when I lived there around 2008-2013. Playing and touring with Gembrokers and Blackbird Raum was hugely formative for me, and Cinder Well definitely grew out of that same vein of music, ideology, and community.

Cinder Well feels like a story that’s unfolding and being told from many angles and I’m there to kind of guide it along.

How do you go about songwriting? What instruments are involved?

A song usually starts with a melody in my head that is so gloriously satisfying that it needs to have something built around it. I start singing the melody, or playing it on something, and then words fill in. Sometimes I have a really clear image or story that I’m trying to portray, but other times the words just come out and create images and concepts that may end up making more sense to me later on.

I use lots of different instruments while I’m writing music. Often I’ll switch between them to get ideas for chords, harmony, and melody, and to find the right groove. Many of the songs that I play live on my resonator guitar were written on other instruments (banjo, piano, bouzouki) that I don’t bring around on tour.

I wrote a lot of the string parts on The Unconscious Echo, but more recently, I bring the bones of a song to my bandmates, we all talk about the concept, and we collaborate on where it goes. On this recent tour, Marit and I rearranged some of the songs to play as a duo that we had recorded as a full band, which was really interesting and exciting to see how the songs could continue to evolve and feel new to us again.

Strangely, when I try to remember where and when I wrote a particular song, I often find that I have no memory of it. I have found that the best songs come out almost all at once. When I find myself meddling, overthinking, theorizing with a piece of music, its usually not going to make it out of the mill.

What genre do you consider your music? Do you see yourself as a part of the larger neofolk scene?

I guess I consider it original folk music because I am so completely immersed in folk and traditional music, but the majority of the material we record and perform live is original.

I live in Ireland, where I study and play traditional music and ballads, and Mae and Marit play Klezmer and Scandinavian music (check out their string duo, Varda). But myself and everyone who plays/ has played in Cinder Well started playing music not really in folk scenes but rather in DIY, punk, anarchist crossover communities that was Santa Cruz and the West Coast in the first, say, 15 years of the 2000s.

I don’t at all consider Cinder Well to be a neofolk band or as part of the neofolk community (other than, by some fluke, Cinder Well being tagged as neofolk on Google, and I don’t think this interview will change that algorithm!). I’ve never entirely understood what neofolk music is, but I do know that many of the pioneers of the genre (i.e. Death in June) experimented with fascist aesthetics. Therefore I’ve had zero interest in personally trying to identify with the genre and redefine it as antifascist. I suppose the genre of neofolk was born out of punk and folk elements from a certain era, and so was Cinder Well, but a different era altogether.

Why is it important to be an antifascist band?

It’s important to be an antifascist band because it’s important to be antifascist – and for that to be 100% clear. I used to be somewhat “benefit of the doubt” when it came to bands that “seemed cool” but used maybe kind of sketchy imagery. But I had some experiences in the past few years with people and bands who use mysteriously fascist imagery, that as a Jewish person, I found to be terrifying and invoking of generational/historical trauma that I didn’t know I even had. The Unconscious Echo really came out of that process; the album as a whole and especially the title track. The experience of the irrational fear that arose in me in the presence of that symbolism, while being told it isn’t fascist, made me realize that NO ONE should have to be made to feel unsafe like that.

I am a white, Jewish, cis-gendered woman. And as white people we are all complicit, consciously and subconsciously, in white supremacy in the way that it benefits us. It is only with white supremacist privilege that a white person can use a symbol that looks like a swastika and redefine that meaning for those it was used against. For Jewish people. People of color. Queer and trans people.

When a swastika is used by a white person “not in a Nazi way” it can provoke a huge amount of fear and panic in people who have a deeply engrained story of what a swastika means. So if you’re antifascist just fucking say it and BE antifascist, to provide solace and clarity for everyone who is seeking that in art.

Music creates vulnerable spaces for both musicians and listeners. All I can ever hope to do with my music is to provide an environment where people can safely feel all the things they need to feel, and have a moment of reflection from the world we live in. Safely, without question.

What is coming next for you?

We have a tour coming up in October on the West Coast, and there’s an album in the works. In the meantime I’ll be playing some solo gigs around Ireland and the UK.

We recently had two amazing tours in Europe and the UK that have left us feeling excited and encouraged about what we’re doing. We’re just going to keep writing, playing, and recording, because we love it, and see what comes our way.

 

Check out some of the Cinder Well tracks below from their Bandcamp, and they have been added to our Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify!



Advertisement

Against the Witch Hunts: An Interview With A Stick and A Stone

 

Screen Shot 2019-06-28 at 9.29.15 AM.png

A defining feature of the neofolk scene and the genres surrounding it is the revolving door of musicians, based in the shifting sands of collaboration. This has been the power of the scene of experimental neofolk, dark folk, ambient, and otherwise bands we have been covering recently, working out new musical terrain together. A Stick and A Stone has been one of these projects that we have been watching for a long time, and with their upcoming release we thought it was a perfect moment to sit down with them and talk about how this incredible project came together, how folk music draws inspiration, and how they are existing in the new antifascist world.

 

How did this project come together, and how did the relationship form with your collaborators?

Elliott: I formed A Stick And A Stone in 2007 as a solo project, though frequently collaborating with a wide range of guest musicians. When I started playing with drummers in 2013, and first with Dani in Philly, I got a taste of what it was like to have more participatory collaborators, because writing rhythmically was foreign to me, and I couldn’t play those songs solo.  

I met Myles in Portland through playing shows together, and in 2015, I started working with him on recording viola for The Long Lost Art of Getting Lost. (Oddly enough, after a year of playing together, we found out that both of our estranged dads also coincidentally play in a jazz band together back in Philly!)

Soon after, I met violist/vocalist Maria through working on the Black Lives Matter-inspired recording project of our mutual friend Sina. Then, we met violinist/cellist Stelleaux through a queer classifieds post that Myles made. Suddenly this magical string trio was formed, and when we all started practicing and performing together, something clicked. Four years later, they’re all somehow still putting up with me (mostly, hahah).

I also still love playing with guest musicians, and hope to find more drummers to work with soon.  

 

How does your music and lyrical writing process work?  Does it come together in collaboration, or is it very solitary?

Elliott: Mostly pretty solitary, though I always welcome input in fleshing things out. I write best when I am alone and in motion, with very little distraction. These days, this often looks like walking in the woods and belting at the top of my lungs when I think no one is around, then hiding behind a tree when I see other humans approaching, hahah. Back in Philly, I didn’t have any nearby woods to walk in, so I wrote by singing while I rode my bike through the streets late at night.

Unless I’m playing piano or bass when lyrics come through, I usually start with the vocals. The lyrics unfold simultaneously with the vocal melodies, the same way that the cadence of speech comes through naturally when you’re in a conversation. Most of my songs are some sort of conversation, even if just a conversation I’m having with myself.  

The instrumental arrangements I write often start off as vocal harmonies, then later get transferred to whichever instruments fit the part. I used to notate my ideas on sheet music, but I’ve been spoiled with collaborators who can mostly learn everything by ear.  

Screen Shot 2019-06-28 at 9.30.01 AM.png

What folk traditions do you draw on for inspiration?  

Elliott: Melodically, I’m definitely influenced by the Jewish traditional music I grew up immersed in, and still listen to. Some of my first experiences on stage as a child involved singing Hebrew songs at religious gatherings. (My religious upbringing is really complicated, though, so I’m not going to unpack that can-of-worms here!)  

I’m also largely inspired by the droning harmonies of traditional Balkan choral music, which I was first introduced to while singing in a protest choir, then got to know more deeply when I later formed an acapella Balkan trio. I was fascinated by the ways the lower harmonies seem to move up and down throughout the scale, but when you look at the sheet music, it’s all just one note.   

Myles: Interesting — I’m part Lithuanian, and something that struck me recently was learning about the Lithuanian dainos vocal tradition of Sutartinės, which are these very layered old cannon melodies chanted on top of each other in groups. The vocal intervals are alternately dissonant and harmonic, depending on where they intersect. Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of recording my viola parts knows how much I love creating a similar wall of sound.

I also crawled out of a major depression once by impulsively joining a Georgian polyphonic choir that rehearsed in a friend’s house who had been singing the music since she was a child. In Baltimore, I  played in a Gamelan group that raised money for tsunami relief performing inside the embassy of Indonesia in Washington DC. 

A current bandmate of mine who’s involved in radical Jewish music preservation in Philly was nice enough to teach me some Klezmer music this year. I’m really grateful for all these experiences.

 

Paganism, particularly heathenry, immediately jumps out in the music, largely from the art and the instrumentation.  How present is that in the music for you?

Elliott: This depends on how you define Paganism. I don’t worship any gods or goddesses, and I actually don’t know much about Heathenry. I do know that the word pagan originally came from the Latin word ‘paganus’ which meant rural, rustic, or ‘of the countryside.’ To me, this speaks to the relationship of pagans with plant and animal spirits, the animist nature of paganism. I’m an animist in the sense that I experience everything as alive in some way. Not just plants and animals, but all material existence,  everything.

I used to do rituals with some activist pagan communities (of the Reclaiming tradition, mostly). I was originally drawn to paganism because it is a Mystery tradition. After leaving the fundamentalist religion I was raised in, I became a devoted agnostic, as a path of striving to embrace the unknown and let go of the urge to explain or define everything. Over time, though, I have started to feel weird about the religious conviction and Eurocentrism I’ve encountered in many pagan spaces.

These days, I feel most at home in “Jewitch” circles, and still practice what some might refer to as witchcraft, though the increasing commodification of  “witchy-ness” has left me seeking other language for my practices.

Myles: I am not a pagan, or religious at all for that matter. I feel no void of faith there, personally. I do have distant relatives on the Lithuanian side who practiced elements of Romuva. I’m wary of a lot of elements of paganism and heathenry for the same reasons Elliott described. 

 

There is a mention of witch hunting in your tracks, is that a theme that plays in the music?

Elliott: I wrote Witch Hunter when I was thinking about the commonalities between witch burnings and modern-day police repression. Though that’s the only song that directly alludes to what we think of as witch hunting, a lot of the issues confronted in my music have roots in the same imperialist ideologies that fueled witch hunting. (Silvia Federici’s work, particularly Caliban and the Witch, probably makes these connections better than I can explain here.)

 

How does antifascism inform the project? How does the climate crisis play into your work?

Elliott:  Well, we currently live under a fascist regime. There is a very small oligarchy of the mega-rich who own and control everything, including armies of cops and military forces to keep it that way. We live in a post-apocalyptic era; the ongoing genocide of indigenous peoples and cultures was, and is, an apocalypse. Climate crisis, already underway, is inextricably linked to fascist colonization, and so much knowledge on how to live with the land has been burned and destroyed.

These are crushingly devastating times to be alive in.  

I write music as a means to get through these dark times. Not just to survive them, but to grieve them, to heal through them, to keep building the strength to protect what is left of land and culture. Grieving all that has been lost to fascist colonization is necessary to move forward and keep fighting it, and there is very little room for grief in a capitalist system that profits off of every form of distraction possible.

One of the radical potentials I see of dark, emotionally heavy music is that it can make space for such mourning. It can de-stigmatize openness around death, or the emotions we’re supposed to hide in order to uphold the status quo. It can be a rebellion against the pressure to put on a happy face and pretend this is all ok, just business as usual.

That said, I’m not trying to get stuck being bogged down by this shit, either. I also write music to honor and uplift what I hold sacred, what I love fiercely, what I am fighting to hold together and defend. This is especially apparent in our upcoming album, Versatile, which we’re releasing this summer.

Click here to pre-order on the Kickstarter

 

Why is it important to be publicly an antifascist band?

Elliott: In this white supremacist culture, it’s important for all white people, whether in a band or not, to be publicly and outspokenly anti-racist. Put simply, silence is compliance.

In the context of the music scene, this is particularly important because there are unfortunately a lot of crypto-fascist bands who are very discreet and covert about it, and we want to do everything we can to separate ourselves from them. Our violist Maria’s other band, Aradia, whose art and merch is now adorned with anti-fascist symbols, were inspired to make their values more explicitly identifiable after cancelling a performance when they discovered that another band on the bill were crypto-fascists.   

Aside from visibly representing ourselves as anti-fascists, it is also important for us to actively engage in anti-racist organizing and resistance. Many of us who play in A Stick And A Stone also work with various grassroots activist groups, such as Critical Resistance, an organization working to dismantle the prison industrial complex, which is one of the main tools that the current fascist regime uses to control us.  

I’m going to include viola collaborator Myles for the rest of these questions because he’s had more encounters with the neofolk scene than I have.

Myles: We’re culturally nearing a boiling point where being apathetic and not having some solid position against fascism is becoming less and less of an option for anyone sharing this planet, given the extremity of some people’s increasingly “proud” negative racist misogynist politics.

 

Have you experienced any far-right or racist attitudes in the neofolk scene?

Elliott: This is an interesting question because we actually have never referred to our music as neofolk or considered ourselves to be a part of the neofolk scene. To me, ‘neo-folk’ has always been primarily  associated with neo-nazism. That said, some people have classified our music as neofolk because bands in that genre tend to use somewhat similar instrumentation and minor-key tonalities as us, though often hold vastly different values.

I do want to note that we are a band of mostly white people, usually performing to audiences of mostly white people, and wherever you have a group of white people, you’re inevitably going to confront racist attitudes. Whether they’re outright bigots or well-meaning liberals, no white person is completely immune to racial ignorance. We all have ongoing work to do to unlearn colonialist mentalities, and it’s our responsibility as white people to educate and challenge each other.  

Myles: While trying to find a home for the previous A Stick And A Stone release, Elliott and I dropped an offer from a European record label when we found out they were also pressing Death in June recordings. More specifically, although I don’t consider any bands I’ve played in to be neofolk, I have had the misfortune of problematic people from the neofolk subculture lampreying onto some my bands, mainly my old chamber group Disemballerina.

Like A Stick And A Stone, we were made up of all queer people, but at one point magnetized this fringe population of embarassing Nordic-pagan folk-music enthusiasts with closeted racist politics.

On more than one occasion, a band I was in got asked to play private events, only to later learn, with great disgust, that we had inadvertently shared the room with random attendees who wrote for alt-right publications and hosted holocaust-denier author events. We got the fuck out of that whole scene pretty fast, burned some bridges with sketchy people and eventually, after some friends reported alt-right book tabling at the neofolk festival Stella Natura, reached a point where we wouldn’t play with any band under the “neo folk” banner whatsoever, just to be safe.  

As a disclaimer, I have plenty of friends who are involved in that subculture who aren’t alt-right racist garbage bags, I know they exist. We just weren’t taking our chances. The patriarchy and homophobia we encountered being a part of metal scene is bad enough.  

 

What is next for you?  

Elliott: After we finish releasing our next album Versatile, I have enough songs written for two new E.P.’s that I’m looking forward to record. One will be an acapella album akin to Björk’s Medulla. The other will be louder, with doom-inspired bass riffs, drum collaborations, and of course, more string arrangements.]

Myles: I’m about to move to New York for my boyfriend. I’m excited for A Stick And A Stone’s new record! I built a glass harp for this one and really love the lyrics on this new album.

Elliott: Thanks, Myles!

 

Are there any bands, or antifascist neofolk bands, we should be checking out?

Elliott: I don’t know of any neofolk, but I can recommend some anti-fascist folk music.

(Of course, since it is Euro-centeric to use the term ‘folk’ only in reference to European folk music, I’m using ‘Folk’ in its true definition here, to mean any traditional cultural music that is played by the common people, that is accessible and speaks from the people’s experience.)

Some folk-inspired musicians at the top of my list include the Turkish revolutionary psych-folk-rock of Selda Bağcan (especially Selda 1976), who was imprisoned three times due to the radical political nature of her music. Or Miriam Makeba, who used her music to raise awareness about apartheid and, after being exiled from South Africa, became active in the US civil rights and Black Power movements. Both of these singers have really powerful vocals. As a vocalist primarily, I’m always seeking out vocal inspirations of any genre.

Other examples include Syrian protest singer Samih Choukeir, or the anti-colonial music collective  Tinariwen, whose cassette tapes were used to pass tactical communications between scattered Tuareg independence fighters. The list goes on…  Our cellist on the new record, Sei Harris, runs a show of non-European music on Freeform Radio under the moniker DJ Mock Duck, which could be another resource for finding other anti-fascist folk musicians from across the globe.

I also want to highlight the music of a couple of our fellow anti-fascist transgender musician friends who died this year: Nia of Displaced who was sent frequent death threats from alt-right bigots, and Dani SummersI actually met Dani on the street at a counter-demonstration to a march organized by an alt-right group. We were both walking with canes that day, and he came up to me, saying, “Hey! Us anti-fascist cripples gotta stick together!”

Myles:  I play viola now in a two piece band called Forgotten Bottom. We’re named after a Philadelphia neighborhood and are inspired by working in the city shelter system here, the extremely depressing level of gentrification happening in my home city, and the opiod crisis that has killed many people I  love. We have a tape coming out this summer

I’m also in an A/V improv project called Ominous Cloud Ensemble, which has a rotating lineup of musicians, currently and perhaps most proudly including members of Sun Ra Arkestra.

Apart from that, some current bands I like a lot: Jupiter Blue, Leya, Ala Muerte, Ooloi, Spires That In The Sunset Rise, Persephone (dc), Show me the body, Las Sucias, Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Eartheater, Du.0, Darsombra, Lurch and Holler, Rectrix, Moodie Black, The Dreebs, Like A Villain, Ariadne, Solarized, Blew Velvet, Dolphin Midwives, Madam Data, Human Beast, Irreversible Entanglements, Dream Crusher, Burning Axis, Møllehøj, Mal Devisa, Caspar Sonnett, Daes, B.L.A.C.K.I.E, Hermit High Priestess… I’ll stop.

 

Byssus is Creating the Mournful Soundtrack for the Battle Against the Empire

What does it mean to build an anti-colonial dark folk sound in the heart of a colonial empire?

Byssus is a two piece, Burl Wood and Taylore, using their guitar and accordion to paint a dark melody that is equally sun drenched and spiked from the cold of the woods. There is an incredible simplicity to Byssus that also hails to the synthesis that their music provides, equal parts folk melody, singer-songwriter storytelling, and the dark hum of an accordion.

We interviewed Byssus about their history, how anti-colonialism drives their music, and what antifascism means to this ghost of a neofolk genre (which they may or may not really be a part of).

How did Byssus come together? Was this your first project?

Prior to the formation of Byssus, we played in a similar project called Inle Elni. We picked up some of the most resonant threads and wove them into a new incarnation, with similar themes of grief, celebration, and resilience.  We have been members of many different music projects and musical communities throughout the years across genres and subgenres: folk (traditional, dark folk, and folk punk) hardcore, crust, etc…

 

What does the name Byssus mean?

Byssus is the name of a type of traditional weaving that uses gold threads from the mussel species Pinna nobilis, which involves maintaining a relationship with the mussel sea beds and diving hundreds of times to collect sea silk for a single woven piece. There is only one known remaining byssus weaver in the Mediterranean that continues this art. In a recent interview she spoke to the impossibility of this practice being commodified. It is not scalable and it is not practical. The art of byssus weaving is a beautiful example of devotion to deep connections with other species, and with the sea, which involves slow, painstaking care, and a refusal to be alienated from ones creations.

How do you write songs?  Where do the lyrics come from?

Most often, we will independently bring ideas to one another, stories with melody in an almost complete song-form, and then invite new layers and directions from one another, resulting in an ultimately co-created song.

Taylore: The lyrics to many of the songs I’ve brought to the project emerge from states of grief and wonder, and often involve some kind of invocation or invitation. They are songs for healing, courage, defiance, and steadfastness in a simultaneously horrifying and beautiful world. I’ve used song-writing to bolster my own discouraged spirit, to collect fragmented parts of myself and tie them back into the natural world, and to share the strength I found in that deeply personal process.

Burl: I start most songs on the piano or guitar, and often write words later that layer over the main melody. For this album, a lot of the lyrics were inspired by anthropological works about mutualistic species networks of survival and the possibilities revealed by acknowledging that the earth is not made up of individualist competing species, but made possible only through the ingenious relationships between living beings. Our forgetfulness of these intrinsic ties (often obfuscated by imperial propaganda) is something that has been termed as our “amnesia”, whereby the cultural memory of these sacred and vital relations to one another is either immediately lost because of our forced severance from the land, or systematically written out of history through what we are taught. I guess a lot of the words in these songs were informed through a deep listening to the landscape and what has happened here, and how life finds a way in the midst of disaster.

What instruments are you working with?  There is a strong guitar core, but you seem to layer sounds, how does that usually come together?

Resonator guitar is present in all songs, accordion most. Songs begin with and are either led by guitar or by accordion, and we very much center our voices. We’ve both been involved with very vocally driven projects in the past including choirs. The most ecstatic part of crafting and playing the songs is harmony. The droning and bass is held in most of our songs by the accordion, played in a fashion unlike the jaunty or bouncing stylings of accordion, more like an organ. We usually bring a series of parts (often without a clear chorus-verse song structure) to one another and then accompany and support the core with harmony and complimentary melodies.

 

There is a strong sense of anti-colonialism in your work, how does that inform the music?

Our songs are written from the relentless grief and terror that results from disconnection and also from the desire to be woven into deeper relationship with the natural world. It all starts with a recognition of the story of the land, and the ongoing effort to displace people from it. We write from occupied Ohlone territory, where many waves of colonization have brought dramatic and horrific assaults to the Indigenous communities that have been living here since time immemorial. Despite this, there are incredible and resilient efforts on the part of native peoples to protect and restore their cultures, traditions, and the land. We believe that knowing this ever-unfolding story, what has happened and is happening, and how that shapes everything around and inside us, as well as  contributing to a culture of solidarity and responsibility is integral to our work as musicians, story-tellers, inhabitants of this place. Empire is insidious, the experience of dispossession, disconnection, and disenchantment is what we are trying to undo.

There is also a persistence to survive in the face of ecological collapse, how does this spirit inspire the music?

We turn toward the wisdom and creativity of other species and the bonds between them (both obvious and subtle) that are enduring this time of ecological devastation and loss. We also believe that through turning toward grief, rage, and wonder we find hidden reserves of strength and the motivation to keep moving.

Our album is dedicated to the resilient interspecies entanglements that defy the logic of empire by their very existence. This is where we draw strength and inspiration. We learn about interdependence, mutual aid, solidarity, seasons, cycles, and larger time and it helps us understand what is needed to outlast and dispel the global industrial society of alienation, extraction, and domination.

Why is it important to be an openly antifascist band?

Colonialism, nationalism, fascism, racism and the industrial growth societies that requires them to keep growing, effect everything, all of us, all species, restricting migration patterns, destroying habitat, while disrupting traditional ties between people and their ancestral land and driving police violence and murder on the border and in the cities. We live in a country that was built through genocide, slavery, and ecocide. The white supremacist and neo-fascist ideologies that have always festered below the surface or behind the smoke mirrors of politics, have been emboldened as of late, and to outwardly express opposition to them, to refuse them at every turn and in every form, shouldn’t even be a question, when their creeping tentacles are searching for whatever population, whatever subculture will let them take hold and strangle any life worth living out of existence.

How does antifascism inform your music?

We need beacons of strength and solidarity. We need art and music made in defiance of fascism and empire. We need art in celebration of life and the legacy of resistance the precedes us and will live after us. These sentiments imbue everything we do. What feels important is telling the stories that have brought us here and what realities are possible when we are connected to each other, dreaming something else into existence.

Have you experienced white supremacy in the neofolk music scene?

Taylore: I wouldn’t necessarily call our project “neofolk.” But in terms of the overlapping dark folk, neofolk, black metal, doom, and punk scenes, I have witnessed at times a disturbing tendency to reject any sense of social responsibility. Beyond complacency, people sometimes adopt an attitude of hipster anti-morality, which is fucking dumb, and very obviously stems from both benefiting through and having distance from the very real and violent consequences of racism and white supremacy. I think when people begin to flirt with ideologies of a crypto-fascist sort or anything with racist over or undertones, or are producing nothing other than masturbatory shock-value experiences, then it is undeniable that white supremacy is at play. I’m unimpressed with and uninspired by the edgelords out there, which isn’t to say that music and art can’t be brutally provocative and interesting but it’s pretty obvious when people aren’t being sincere and performances are not connected to anything real or meaningful.

I think people can create music that is inspiring and moves people to lead deeper lives and they don’t always have to have the same political identity, subcultural references, or alignment with a particular scene. We don’t have to deliver identical tropes but I do want to know what people are about. I haven’t felt the need in general to pigeon hole this music project with a genre. My music has personally been influenced by punk (and the ethos that comes with it,) crust, metal, Eastern European polyphonic music, Americana, and heavily by the experimental/chamber/post-rock bands like A Silver Mount Zion and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Not to mention all the misfits and freaks with their lovely spirits that I have played with throughout the years.

Ao to sum it all up, I just want to know what drives people and if a part of that isn’t liberation for all peoples and the earth then, well…that’s pretty pathetic and uninspiring.

 

What can fans and musicians do to stand up to fascism in the scene?

Don’t be a hipster edgelord. Give a shit about the people and land around you and participate in the struggles for liberation that exist everywhere. Live a big, beautiful, engaged, and defiant life, and don’t settle for anything else…don’t be seduced by false power or cling to statuses, don’t buy into the illusion of hollow belonging offered by insular scenes. To participate in the old and ever-unfolding story of resistance to empire, civilization (whatever you call this thing we are undoing) will inevitably involve acting in solidarity with those who suffer the most at the hands of it. Make being a part of this story your everyday goal and you will see where things need to be rooted out, inside and outside yourself, then root them out, however slow, and painstaking that process is. Write and share music that inspires resistance and fierce love and make your whole life about bringing something better into being, you’ll have to fight for it, so find the people who are down for that.

What’s coming up for the band? Any tours or releases in the works?

Another album in the works. A West Coast tour (this summer.) A Violin (we hope, we are looking.)

What bands do you recommend for antifascist neofolk fans?

There are too many dear, sweet people out there to name…really.

Along the lines of dark folk projects, we really appreciate Sangre de Muerdago, Latona Odola, Organelle, and Vradiazei.

Ragana (Oakland, sludge/punk) and Divide and Dissolve (Melbourne doom/drone) aren’t folk at all but are excellent and not shy about their ideas. And so is Thou (Baton Rouge, doom).

Taylore: I’m pretty excited about Vouna, a black metal/doom band from Olympia with members of some of the bands listed above.

I also gotta say. I got records by Ludicra (Another Great Love Song) and A Silver Mount Zion (This is Our Punk Rock) when I was 17 and it changed my world forever. So I recommend them, just cause.

Burl: Lankum (anarchic-folk/traditional) out of Dublin, Ireland, the Warsaw Village Band (traditional choir-esque) from Poland, and the Cranberries (obviously).

***

We are embedding Byssus’ latest album below from Bandcamp, but they are unfortunately not on Spotify yet so we cannot add them to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify. Stay tuned because we are going to be adding a huge number of tracks to the list in the next few days!