Punk fans don’t need an introduction to the Downtown Boys. But Rhode Islanders may not know they’ve got one of the hottest punk bands in their backyard.
The band is known for socially conscious music, and there’s about to be more of it. They’ve recorded a new album with Sub Pop records, which could help the band reach a larger audience than ever before.
Rolling Stone Magazine named Providence’s Downtown Boys “America’s Most Exciting Punk Band.” And Now? They’re likely to get even bigger.
The band is fierce. They sing in English and Spanish, the energy’s crazy, and they bring in elements, like horn riffs, that are not typical of punk.
And now, a major record label has taken notice.
"We were on tour and we played in Seattle and one of the Sub Pop ANR people got to see our performance," said Victoria Ruiz, lead singer. "And then one day actually like on Twitter, like I tweeted, it was like tongue in cheek, but it was just like “oh how does our band apply to work for you guys?” And then we just like, started talking."
Sub Pop is a big name in the recording industry. And the talk led to a record deal with worldwide distribution. They got Guy Picciotto of Fugazi, a punk legend in his own right, to produce the album.
"I think that they’re one of the most important bands politically in the country right now," said Picciotto. "In terms of what they’re saying and the way that they’re saying it. And then recording Victoria’s vocals was awesome.
"We came up with the idea of giving her a handheld mic so that she can attack the vocals in the same way she attacks it live," Picciotto said. "And that was amazing to watch because it’s such a physical experience and she’s putting out so hard."
The band’s focus impressed Picciotto. He says they were up until dawn on the final day of recording. The next day, instead of taking a break, they flew to Washington, D.C. to play a benefit show for the ACLU.
Ruiz says being at a bigger label didn’t impact the message of their music.
"We didn’t really face any pressure at all," said Ruiz. "I think that our songs musically are more mature, I guess. Basically there’s a lot more parts to them, they’re longer.
And they’ve added a synth, more pedals and extended guitar parts.
While it has a similar energy to their previous album Full Communism, the content and lyrics have also developed.
"You know, writing lyrics around concepts of like, walls and walls being broken down and words and how you use your body." Ruiz said. "Just being really open to lyrical ideas that dealt with that monolithic, infinite ways that we need to resist. So it’s a lot more nuanced and I think analyzes white supremacy and analyzes resistance in a new way."
The current political situation is also present in the new songs. But Ruiz says the music and its messages are part of a much larger history of resistance.
"Regardless of who’s living in the White House, I feel this very strong urgency to be part of this front that’s like we’re going to resist until freedom is there," Ruiz said. "And it’s really hard because a lot of people of color are gonna have moments where like, that’s not even a possible feeling. And I feel a lot of urgency to recognize that via our music too."
The new Downtown Boys album will be released later this year, with the official date to be announced by Sub Pop.