With their debut album about landing in the UK, PWR BTTM are already looking ahead to their next.
Words: Jessica Goodman.
Vitalising rock’n’roll with addictive hooks, radiant humour, and a seemingly never-ending supply of glitter, PWR BTTM are an outfit unlike any other. The duo – comprised of Ben Hopkins and Liv Bruce – make the kind of open-hearted music it’s futile to try to resist. Ripping up the rule book and tearing through gender norms, the band use their expression as a vehicle to permeate acceptance.
“As a kid in America, I’d see a lot of queer artists not very well accepted here going over to the UK and being really well accepted,” Ben recalls. “It’s always been like, ‘Damn, if I ever get to make anything it’d be so cool to do that, to see the ways that people in other places understand it’.” With headline tours of the UK and Europe ahead of them, the band are about to do just that.
It’s been over a year since PWR BTTM first released their debut album ‘Ugly Cherries’ into the world. From the storming self-affirmation of the title track through lingering heartache, whimsical ambition, and everything in between, the record is equal parts wide open introspection and echoing resolve. Questioning the world around them with a tenacious sense of self, the duo are screaming out until their words become real.
Eternally striving to feel less alone – and to help others do the same – it’s of little surprise that the album was met with a wave of heartfelt adoration. Released in the UK this month, that tidal wave of excitement is going stratospheric. “It’s been so cool!” Ben exclaims. “And I’m so excited to tour Europe for the first time this year.”
Promising “disaster, drag, and shredding,” PWR BTTM are ready to not only make their voices heard internationally, but to hear what the world is saying to them in return. “My favourite thing about touring in America is getting to see little glimpses of what people are like, and especially what queer people and queer communities are like, in all these different places,” Liv enthuses. “The same goes for touring in Europe. I think it’s going to be so interesting.”
Equally as eager when admitting that “it’s the most fucking American thing to say, but I just want to wear a beret and eat a baguette in Paris,” the pair are raring to see all they can. “What I’m most excited for is obviously, er, the men,” Liv professes. “Uncut dick!” Ben shouts, laughing.
Discussing the possibility of adventures on the road, a sense of fun is a huge part of the band’s identity. In order to preserve that freewheeling energy for everyone at their shows, since November of last year the duo have been including with their rider a request that every venue they perform at provides easily accessible gender neutral bathrooms.
“It’s just a basic level of respect,” Ben states. “There’s so much that has been said about public bathrooms, and about gender neutral bathrooms, in the past year – at least in America,” Liv gripes. “It’s self-evident. It just makes sense.”
Ensuring a sense of safety in public places for anyone who – much like the band – doesn’t feel completely comfortable identifying as male or female, in a genre and an industry somewhat typically dominated by macho ideals, PWR BTTM are taking concrete steps to make DIY venues and punk shows a welcoming place for all.
With tour buddies The Spook School following suit, while peers like Speedy Ortiz and Modern Baseball strive for a similar sanctuary at their shows through the introduction of “Help Hotlines” for any fans who feel unsafe, PWR BTTM are just one band endeavouring for inclusivity – together making a difference. “We’re not the first to do it, and we won’t be the last,” Ben states. “It feels awesome,” they grin.
Furthering notions of social change through their music, PWR BTTM are making the most out of every moment. Their debut is only just seeing release on these shores, but the band are already well on their way to making album number two. “We’re excited to get to lay more jams!” Ben shouts with a grin. “It’s going really well,” they enthuse.
Sure, they might describe what they’re working on as either “a disaster” or sounding “like the Hindenburg exploding for forty-five minutes,” but behind their tongue in cheek humour the duo are gleaming with excitement. “We have a good feeling about it,” Liv expresses. “We’re hoping we still feel that way by the time it’s done.”
Stating the new album is expected for release “next summer”, PWR BTTM are on a trajectory that shows no sign of slowing. Paving the road with acceptance and glitter, there’s no more magical place to be.