In my second year of grad school, a classmate wrote me asking to provide a quote for an essay she was working on. The classmate was reviewing a film about a fictional punk band, and wanted to include some explanation of what punk means in contemporary culture. Not for the first time, I felt like a weird ambassador for some seedy, graphic print T-shirt clad cabal — asked to speak on and translate a subculture that is either opaque or outright invisible to the uninitiated. But it was a fun thought experiment trying to articulate my relationship with punk in a soundbite. After playing, listening to and/or obsessing over this music for more than half my life, my engagement with punk culture is at this point something that is more intuitive than effortful. In the end, I sent her this:
The aesthetic of punk is less about any particular kind of couture or set of signifiers and more about embodying energy, irreverence and imagination. It can be punk to wear leather and hair dye; it can also be punk to channel that same trademark disaffection but with vegan leather and a shaved head. I always think the best punk looks and sounds find ways to synthesize the glamorous with the cantankerous. Every generation of punkers reimagines this basic question: how can I subvert, dodge, dismantle or thumb my nose at norms and expectations with such jauntiness and panache that even those who are committed to conventionality begin to ponder what they ever saw in it? Punk's best answers to that question manage to be surprising and yet also somehow inevitable.
It incidentally amounts to a fitting mission statement for our band, Baby Got Back Talk. The band started as a "G'Ra and friends" type recording project in the spring of 2014 at Emerson College. Between classes and campus jobs I'd schlep my Marshall half stack to and from the Emerson recording studio in the odd hours it was unoccupied and track weird, wordy, lo-fi-ish pop tunes with a school friend engineering and some dudes I met on Craigslist backing me. When I relocated to New York for graduate school, I was fortunate to connect with lead guitarist/vocalist Jake Lazaroff, violinist Rhiana Hernandez and drummer Derek Schildkraut, who fast became permanent and integral parts of the BGBT recipe. Our new mixtape, Take This The Wrong Way, is our latest step toward actualizing the manifesto I laid out for my classmate's film review. We're what punk looks like in 2017: driven by a DIY ethic, conversant with social issues — especially as they pertain to gender and race, enabled by interweb, bankrolled by day jobs, resonant with the most venerable iterations of punk but firmly committed to injecting some new flavor into the mold.
- G'Ra Asim — vocals/bass
- Rhiana Hernandez — violin
- Jake Lazaroff — guitar/vocals
- Derek Schildkraut — drums