Punk politics

Just-legal political punks Raygunomics are paying their dues as novices in the bar scene. Chris McCluskey follows their trajectory.

photo Jon Hutt

Since forming two years ago, hardcore punk group Raygunomics have become used to performing for a loyal all-ages following. Now that all four members are of legal age, they are facing the challenges associated with making the transition from dry to drinking establishments.

“We’ve played shows for literally two and five people, and that never happened at The Pavilion,” says 19-year-old drummer Adrian Bruhm. “When you’re used to doing all-ages shows you kind of expect more people to be at the bar, just…because it’s at a bar. There was always at least 20 or 30 people watching you.”

The Nova Scotia Community College recording arts student admits bringing the group’s political message to an entirely new audience has been an exciting one. However, he and his bandmates—vocalist Mike Parks, guitarist Solomon Vromans and bassist Justin Poulain—have also noticed the different atmosphere at bar shows that so far have been an impediment.

“We base ourselves mostly on the lyrics, because that’s what we’re about, being politically charged and all,” Bruhm explains. “At bars, people don’t always pay attention to you. And at all-ages shows there’s nothing else to really pay attention to. Also, there’s more of a reaction. At bars people are standing around, drinking their beers, head-bobbing maybe.”

Raygunomics, who hit Gus’ Pub on December 22, have been playing regularly to their new demographic since last June, coinciding with the release of their debut record Capitalize, Capitalize, Capitalize. The band has undergone several line-up changes, with this incarnation a constant since last January before the album was finished. The LP—recorded over seven hours and put together independently—is a collection of 12 songs expressing passion, infuriation and overt angst directed at an upside-down world. Many of the songs, including the riotous “Corporate War ’91” and “Coke Does Colombia,” exude annoyance over the thinly veiled ineptness of political systems that are supposed to be democratic, and the inhumanity of some of the world’s most powerful political players.

“The song ‘Coke Does Columbia’ is about how in Columbia, Coca-Cola bottling plant workers are being murdered because they’re being unionized,” Bruhm says. “I don’t know actually if that’s still going on now, but that’s a big issue we’ve been against. The rest is anti-establishment.”

The anti-establishment theme, in terms of the perceived failure of politics to work for the greater good, binds the group’s material. Bruhm says the band is an outlet for the member’s frustrations.

“We believe in anti-conservative morals, just…being a good person as opposed to wanting to go to war and kill people and stuff like that,” he says. “There are songs about burning the flag and stuff like that, which isn’t completely on colour, but it represents something that we all just sort of believe in.”

Given the collaboration’s anti-conservative convictions—hence the name of the band—it is easy to pin down who the band members will not be voting for when they go to the polls next month. Both Vromans and Poulain will be casting votes for the first time, which will be once more than a certain former band member.

“Our old guitarist went to vote and he ate his ballot, literally,” says Bruhm. “I don’t know about them, but I am voting NDP.”

Having said that, anyone but Stephen Harper is fine with him.

“I am content with a minority government with the Liberals in the lead, if they align themselves with the NDP,” Bruhm says. “You can’t have one leading everything. It just doesn’t seem to work.”

As for future aspirations for the music itself, the Raygunomics’ drummer says you will not see any of them looking to become politicians; their aim is to influence through music. Bruhm says so far local bands in the same vein have taken a liking to the album.

“There seems to be a community of punk rock bands that always play together,” he says. “There’s us, The Plague Dogs, The Insubordination, The Hold and System Shit. And we all rotate around different club shows.”

I’m Dreaming of a Drunk Christmas w/Raygunomics, The Hold, The Plague Dogs and The Insubordination, December 22 at Gus’ Pub, 2605 Agricola, 10pm, $4, 423-7786.

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