Social Stigma is: Adrian-Guitar, Barrett-Vocals, Jaromy-Drums, and Kole-Bass
WCW: How did Social Stigma become a band? How did you guys meet?
A: We were from the Salt Lake hardcore scene. Barrett contacted me one day and asked if I wanted to put something together. We wanted a affirmative response to the political environment and so we decided that this band would focus on that lyrically.
B: There wasn’t really anyone locally making angry political music that was vegan as well, so I reached out to Jaromy and Adrian to see if they wanted to get something going that fit that description. They were both down for it and we started writing with one bass player at first, we later learned some things about him that didn’t sit right with us so we kicked him out and brought Kole in to take his place. Like Adrian said, we all come from the Salt Lake hardcore scene, so we have all known each other for years before we started this project up
J: Barrett hit me up to play drums for the project, to which I agreed based on our views being in line and wanting to be a part of something political and angry.
K: Me and Adrian played in a band together a few years ago he mentioned to me they needed a bass player and they lucked out with me being vegan and absolutely no bass playing abilities, but they all have been patient haha. Jaromy and Barrett have been in the scene for years and we were friends before that so it just fell into place.
WCW: You guys released an EP at the end of last year [Dec. 2019] called “Veganarchist: Red Blood/Black Flags.” Between the title, the soundbites, and the lyrical content on the EP, leftist/revolutionary politics are a very prominent theme. How have revolutionary politics inspired or influenced you not only as musicians but as individuals, in particular the pairing of veganism and Anarchism?
A: It’s everything. What I mean is, to me hardcore by its nature is political and is both about the collective community, and defending/advocating for those can’t or are oppressed in some way. Animals can’t speak for themselves and our veganism is our advocacy for them, but also, we’re about standing and fighting with black, indigenous, and all people of color who’ve historically been oppressed in this country. To me if hardcore music isn’t political what’s the point. You have to stand for something. For us it’s veganism and leftist politics.
Personally, anarchism is a stepping stone to building a better socioeconomic world. One that is equitable, sustainable, and centered on the preservation and fostering of healthy communities, as opposed to a world that values property and wealth over lives.
B: For me personally I am an anarcho-syndicalist. I believe strongly that as a society we can’t achieve our peak if we aren’t all working together, and I think a major component of that is workers having a say in their workplaces, and a more direct approach to democratic processes nationwide. I also fall into the category of people who believe that no one is free until every living thing is free, that includes animals. Growing up in the hardcore scene I heard from a young age that a key part of existing in hardcore is taking a stand for something, if that doesn’t exist then it’s not “real” hardcore. I think people focus so much on a specific sound as making something hardcore these days, the message just gets lost now. I didn’t want that for us as a band, so I try to write things that all have a message to them.
J: To me, everything is for the animals honestly. Racism is stupid childish bullshit and I grew up in a racist family with my step dad being sac n saw. It’s a worthless cause such as most causes, I think the world is stuck on the side of the fence where things are convenient while the other side is used to take and dump upon. There needs to be a reform in order for things to work in the future but frankly it won’t happen until people are woken up.
K: I’m working class as a sheet metal worker so standing up against all forms of injustices against our peers and community is instilled in me. Activism comes natural for me to stand up for everyone who is being oppressed and making sure that we all can build the community we all want to be a part of. I have only been vegan for only 8 months now i needed a change in my diet and saw the hypocrisy in my lifestyle so i made the switch.
WCW: The first song on the EP “Proud of What?” seems to address the issue of neo-Nazis and other fascist sympathizers re-emerging and trying to infiltrate the punk/hardcore scene. Is this an issue that’s specific to where you’re from [Salt Lake City] or do you see this as a nationwide issue?
A: I personally don’t know anyone in our scene that is a nazi or fascist sympathizer. Salt Lake City hardcore is pretty vigilant about stuff like that. However, there are several armed groups, including Proud Boys, here in Utah. They show up to protest and rallies and attempt to instigate shit with people. All these assholes work closely with local police gather intel on activist too. I think “Proud of What” is our way of saying to them to not come to our scene expecting anything less than a fight.
B: In Salt Lake we definitely have a few kids with alt-right views that fluctuate in and out from the fringes of the scene. A few formerly prominent (in as much as you can be prominent in a still primarily underground scene) people from the Salt Lake hardcore scene have started affiliating with, and joining, the proud boys group, which is always a bummer to see.
J: Nazis here aren’t nazis to your face but people who made dumb decisions previously, at least that’s how they will show face. The people involved in that are red neck idiots driving farm trucks from their parents to their uncles to move hay, and listen only to their parents’ lessons and churches. They aren’t people that are going to make a difference in this world let alone our hardcore scene. There are sharp skins here which are against the racist stuff too
K: As a sharp we try to keep the boneheads out of our scene they re emerge every other year it seems but they are swiftly taken away from our scene.
WCW: Can you explain the meaning behind the songs “Fuck John B. Calhoun”, “God Changed His Mind”, and “Euphoric Dysphoria”?
A: I’ll have to defer to Barrett on that.
B: Fuck John B. Calhoun is about the scientist of that same name. During the 1940s he conducted a series of experiments on rats to test his theories on the effects of overpopulation. He dug a giant hole in the basement of a barn and filled it with rats, and then documented it as they all slowly went insane. The rats ended up killing most of their population off, and the ones that remained were so mentally scarred that they would often refuse food, and became violently antisocial. The book and movies about the rats of NIMH are all based on these experiments. The song itself is a criticism against animal testing as a whole.
God Changed His Mind is about my struggles in coming to terms with being trans/non-binary and queer while growing up in a religiously conservative family. I stayed in the closet until I was 30, and had been moved out for 13-ish years at that point. There is a very real fear of being ostracized by your friends and family when you are considering coming out in general, many people face violence and abuse for wanting to live as their true selves, I was fortunate to have amazing people in my circle that supported me when I finally felt ready to. The title comes from the LDS church changing their official stance on LGBT membership a year after saying the not only could LGBT people not be members, but also their kids and immediate relatives unless they publicly denounced their LGBT family members. The church caved to public pressure and tried to say they had received new revelation from god on their position.
Euphoric Dysphoria is about struggling with mental health issues like depression, PTSD, and suicidal ideation. For a lot of us it’s hard to see the point in fighting for tomorrow when you can’t get your head clear of today’s fog. I’ve struggled with all of those for many years, often times without the financial resources to seek help, it’s a deeply personal concept for me. The title is an oxymoron of euphoria being ultimate pleasure, and dysphoria being ultimate discomfort (which is kind of an understatement/oversimplification). To me the conjoining of the two creates a numbness that I experience when I find myself in the middle of a mental health episode.
WCW: How does it feel to write a song like “Blue Wave” that addresses police brutality and find that it, as well as the plethora of other anti-police brutality songs, are still painfully relevant, perhaps more so than ever?
A: Yeah, anti-police brutality songs from 30 years ago are still painfully relevant. I mean I may have started out as a reformist a decade ago, but now I’ve only strengthened my resolve. Yes, it’s frustrating and saddening, but it’s also all the more reason to continue fighting for justice, police abolition, and liberation.
B: It’s always painful knowing that as much as we hope things have changed nationally in regards to racism/sexism/homophobia/transphobia, they have still very much stayed the same in so many regards. Police brutality directly impacting marginalized communities is something that we have seen continue to be an issue over and over and over again, with no apparent end in sight. I remember Ferguson and Baltimore 5-ish years ago being a huge moment in bringing awareness of this issue, and then watching as soon as the protests stopped things just went right back to how they were. I’m hoping there’s enough momentum this time to make actual lasting change, but I will wait to hold my breath.
J: Sad and pathetic. This shouldn’t ever had happened in the first place.
K: Cops are fascists and have been the bane of humanity’s existence rich corrupt business men created an institution to promote bigotry and racism and instill fear in our communities.
WCW: “Refuge Refused” seems to address the injustices that immigrants and refugees have historically faced when coming to America (Eddie Murphy aside). Why do you think this is still such an on going issue especially for a country that prides itself on accepting tired, poor, and “huddled masses that yearn to breathe free”?
A: First of all, that whole thing apparently means only white European immigrants are welcome. Also, I would argue that the so-called immigrants that being violently detained and imprisoned by the fascist ICE agents are indigenous people. Many of them are fleeing socioeconomic situations that were created by US imperialism in Latin America during the 1980s and 90s. Efforts made by our government to thwart socialist leftist countries by inciting violence and installing oppressive right-wing dictatorships have created the conditions these poor people are facing.
B: My family came here as immigrants and refugees fleeing violence and persecution for being Jewish. Prior to WWII you didn’t need immigration papers or visas to immigrate to the US, those policies were implemented to try and prevent Jewish people from coming to America, and many other countries followed suit as well. The inscription at the base of the statue of liberty very much has only ever applied to white people throughout history, with bonus points if you are affluent as well. The side note to that being one thing that many groups of people don’t want to acknowledge, is that Jewish people historically have never been treated as white, despite many Jewish people (mostly Ashkenazi) being fair skinned. As far as why it’s still an issue I think that is a discussion that will take way longer to type up than will fit in this format.
J: Because they are lying and terrible people. Closed borders and any creed stating they own land is just fooling themselves. People have the right to do whatever they wan’t, you don’t need to sign a paper of follow suit to rules created by rich cucks.
K: The American dream is a lie we see it every day from our tv screens and phones. Society as a whole has been bred to hate different cultures besides our own.
WCW: Who is featured in your cool sound bites?
A: You’ll hear Fred Hampton speaking about fight fascism during the opening of Veganarchist, it also features, Malcom X and Howard Zinn. Our latest release is a 3 song EP called “Under No Pretext” you’ll hear Stokely Carmichael taking about reform v. revolution, as well as Noam Chomsky.
B: We kick off Proud of What with Fred Hampton of the BPP. FJBC has a sample from a documentary about the Montauk Project, where the US military treated homeless children like lab rats for psychological testing, the man speaking is retired CIA. God Changed His Mind has a sample from a Malcolm X speech. Blue Wave has one from the movie Midnight Run. We end the EP with a Howard Zinn quote about neutrality not being an option when it comes to struggles over human rights. We just released a new three song EP as a fundraiser which has samples from Stokely Carmichael/Kwame Ture talking about the differences between reformists and revolutionaries, a sample from a protest against the NYPD, Noam Chomsky talking about corporate interests taking precedence over human rights, a sample from Kimberly Jones extremely passionate and moving speech about social contracts, and the first verses from Bella Ciao and No Pasaran which are historic protest/revolution songs. Bella Ciao has its roots in the partisan fighters in Italy who fought against Mussolini’s fascisti party, and No Pasaran was from the Spanish revolution and was sung by the anarchist, socialist, and laborers who rose up against the government.
J: Refer to Barrett
WCW: How has COVID-19 affected you as a band (aside from not being able to play shows)? Your local scene? Adverse effects? Silver-linings?
A: Local venues are hurting, especially the all-age ones. There have been some virtual fund raisers, but a few have had to close their doors for good. But, we try and stay positive and hope everything will bounce back at some point. If there’s any silver lining it would be that we’re getting a little better at recording our own stuff.
B: We have still managed to get together semi-regularly to practice, write, and do DIY recordings, so not too much has changed in that regard. Not being able to get out and play shows is definitely a bummer though.
J: Same as most places, everything stopped. There isn’t anything going on and we are going to deserts to play shows again.
K: Local scene hopefully will come back more strong. One silver lining we get to hone our craft and give it all we have
WCW: Do you think that after COVID-19 ceases to be a problem that the music scene will bounce back to where it was before, or will it be better/worse than before?
A: PMA! I’m sure things won’t be like they were before, I mean maybe as far as frequency of shows, but the venues will be different for sure.
B: I’m hoping that venues will be able to survive long enough to actually go back to having shows, and I definitely think the first few shows back are going to be a bit on the crazier side, everyone just wanting to go off after not being able to for so long. Only time will tell.
J: It will be a bit different and I’m sure a lot of inactive bands may drop off but being in this for this long now, change isn’t a bad thing. It’ll pick up again in no time at all and hopefully be even better.
K: It will be better is my hope.
WCW: Do you think that the current hardships brought on by the pandemic and the failures of not only the current Republican administration but our economic system as well, will cause the public to consider rejecting capitalism and embracing leftist/socialist ideas?
A: I think more young people are embracing it more now than ever, but I’m hearing from older generation people too about how they now see capitalism’s failures and what better. It’s definitely a beginning, but the fight will continue no matter when the pandemic ends or who’s in office.
B: I see more and more people from gen X and younger starting to move that way, while the older generations cling to their ways of life desperately. I think the current candidate list from the major parties is extremely evident of this. On the right we have a pedophile, rapist, anti-LGBT, misogynist, and racist incumbent president, with a Christian fundamentalist VP, and on the slightly less right we have a racist, rapist, with a history of anti-LGBT and misogynist policy promoting presidential candidate, with a racist, transphobic cop VP candidate. The establishment views those things as acceptable because they don’t seek to disrupt the status quo too much. Meanwhile, younger candidates that swing further left are quickly moving up the ranks in their local and congressional elections. I think things are going to be dark for a while, but it’s looking like there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
J: Probably, though not enough to sway anyone. The media is nothing but negativity right now and the suits will only follow. I think hope needs to rely on anti fascism becoming more of a unity to care and take care of others, leaving the masks at home and facing the world as people, not an organization, not as a force but as an aid. We are people, we don’t like fascism, so let’s stop causing riots and take matters to courts/press charges/file appeals and use the power of numbers to non violently make the world a better place. You can knock a nazi out, but he won’t change and only come back with a sore face, or you can ask him what he is failing to understand and correct it. Accept that you aren’t able to change them all and become a bigger person. There will always be naysayers, the only way they can get a foot ahead is when we do something stupid and violent.
K: It would be a dream come true but in my eyes, kids need to be learning trades instead of trying to be millionaires and further the corrupt institutions.