Written by: Alex Green
Photo by Jen Turrell
With the U.S. mid-term election only hours away, our country hasn’t had so much at stake in years.
Or maybe ever.
President Obama spoke at a rally the other day and said that this very well may be the most important election of our lifetime.
And it’s true, because here’s what’s at stake.
A Blue Wave that finds the House and the Senate back in the hands of the Democrats wipes out Trump’s ability to act with impunity and keep handing out crushing defeats to the environment, human rights, the judicial system, the LGBTQ community, the poor, endangered habitats, animals, the Arts, science, and–well, pretty much everything else.
Meanwhile, a partial Blue Wave that just takes the House back for the Democrats cuts his power in half, which, at this point, would be a satisfying consolation prize.
A Red Wave?
Let’s not even have that chat.
Auspiciously enough, Boyracer have arrived at exactly the right time. While the legendary band put the finishing touches on a new 14-track album, they’ve released a scorching cover of The Style Council’s “Walls Come Tumbling Down” in an effort to mobilize voters to get out there and…vote.
The song finds singer Stewart Anderson at the helm offering a crisp and fiery take on a Weller classic. Amidst acoustic guitars and fabulous vocals from bassist Jen Turrell, the song has all the spleen of a protest song and the celebratory burn of being able to participate in taking down the darkness with a single vote.
Anderson and Turrell enlisted their pals for the energizing accompanying clip and the effect is nothing short of rousing.
“Governments crack and systems fall/ ‘Cause unity is powerful,” Weller once wrote.
Those words couldn’t be more relevant than they are today.
Stereo Embers Chats With Boyracer:
SEM: Were you surprised by the reaction you got from fans who were inspired by the song and the invitation to collaborate in the video?
Jen: Before meeting Stew, I thought songs, records, albums, anything important and worthwhile, took time. Then I met Stew and discovered a single could be finished and off to the pressing plant over a weekend. An album could be completed in a week. I love the speed and immediacy Stew brings to his projects and this instance is a perfect example. For the past two years we’ve been getting angry and frightened about the state of politics all over the world, but it is so hard to feel like anything we do makes any real and measurable difference. However, doing something like this, something that brings people together creatively to make a statement was great! I think I was more surprised by the response of friends and fans than Stew was. When he said he wanted to get this done before the mid-terms, involving dozens of people all over the world, I was slightly doubtful. But so many people rose to the occasion and we finished this in record time! Hopefully we can inspire some of the people who see it to get out and vote!
Stew: I know many people tend to overthink before they act, so a few hesitated. But I also know our friends are awesome and angry! Haha! It all came together very quickly. That’s how I have always approached music. I don’t do more than 3 takes of anything when recording. Which… in the past when I was younger and less focused, had tagged us as sloppy and lo-fi. That was never my intent musically, as my absolute belief is that the 1st take is the only true take., regardless of flaws. But it was very inspiring to see our friend get on board so quickly, and tune into our urgency. I am very happy with my vocals, which I am hardly ever happy with, ha ha. I only did 2 vocal takes, as I was so fired up at the time. We had more than twice as many people offer contributions than we had lines for the song. Which…. I hope is a bellwether!
SEM: Weller always knew how to write fighting words, and their relevance–especially in this case–are crackling with urgency. Tell me a bit about your relationship with the song and your feelings on Weller.
Stew: I remember a Paul Weller interview way back in the ’80s saying “buying a loaf of bread is a political statement,”and at the time I didn’t fully realize the gravity of that. But, yes, he was fucking right. Such an amazing lyricist. I was 11-years-old and buying Jam records because they sounded great, and yes, they were the biggest band in England at the time and couldn’t be avoided. But his lyrics I have come to be inspired by as I’ve gotten older. I can’t imagine a similar band of their commercial stature now writing such incendiary lyrics. “Unity Is Powerful!” – It seems a simple comment, but what a rousing statement. It’s fucking obvious when you say it out loud. (Do it now!). Stand up for your friends and family. There is nothing naïve or fluffy about being unified. I was inspired by Weller’s idea that you can change something on a local level. However small or insignificant you may think it is, just do it. Stand up if you feel safe and able. That’s the only way we can change things. Engaging a racist, homophobic, or transphobic co-worker could potentially set many people’s lives on a whole new trajectory.
SEM: What do you think it takes to get people to be politically active?
Jen: Art matters. It has always mattered. It changes the conversation. It changes culture. Politicians (especially the current lot) sometimes make fun of the liberal elite of Hollywood and pop bands, but the truth is that the movies people watch and the bands they listen to inform their world view. Just look at what happened with the groundswell in youth voter registration when Taylor Swift announced she was voting Democrat! When I was a kid, gay was still an insult, still a bad word. I remember the first time I saw Boy George and other gender-bending performers. It was both a shock and a revelation. The more people in the public eye have come out, the more comfortable everyone has become with the idea that gay rights are human rights. And that we all know someone in some way affected by different political issues. Art is essentially about communication. Communicating in ways that get through to people far more deeply, in a more primordial sense than speeches and political ads. Art elicits emotions! Which is one of the reasons why so many fascist regimes immediately outlaw certain types of art and writing. As long as we can create art and connect through art, there is always hope for freedom and progress. Musicians like Paul Weller, Kathleen Hanna, Billy Bragg, Nina Simone, Woody Guthrie, Alice Bag and many others understood and continue to understand that they wield the power of their art in protest for the greater good.