PWR BTTM are totally over the 2016 presidential election

PWR BTTM in The Current studio (MPR / Leah Garaas)
PWR BTTM perform in The Current studio (full session and interview)
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  • PWR BTTM perform in The Current studio (full session and interview) 20:35
  • PWR BTTM - Projection (Live on The Current) 02:45
  • PWR BTTM - New Hampshire (Live on The Current) 03:22
  • PWR BTTM - I Wanna Boi (Live on The Current) 02:00

When an in-studio session airs the day before a presidential election, it's going to get political.

Before digging into the heated 2016 presidential race and their hopeful vision for America's future, PWR BTTM's Liv Bruce and Ben Hopkins do some good 'ole fact-checking with New Hot host David Safar (Wikipedia doesn't always get band bios 100% right).

The duo, joined by touring bassist Nicholas Cummins, also performed songs live in-studio including "Projection," the standout track off their debut album Ugly Cherries, plus two recently released singles, "I Wanna Boi" and the controversial "New Hampshire" (which wasn't actually written in New Hampshire).

Read a transcript of the conversation below while you stream their three-song set with the embedded player above, or enjoy audio of the full in-studio session and interview.

PWR BTTM Interview

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

So I would like to start off by fact-checking PWR BTTM.

Bruce: Oh my god. Please fact-check us.

Hopkins: Please do.

So we're going to use the trusted, reliable source Wikipedia. Alright, here we go: "Bruce and Hopkins met in 2013 while they were both attending Bard College in southeastern New York State."

Bruce: We met in 2011. [2014]'s just when we started the band.

Hopkins: We had a conscientious understanding of each other's existence as least two years before we started rocking out together.

So the fact checker would say, false.

Hopkins: I would say this is rigged. This is a rigged interview.

Bruce: WRONG!

Hopkins and Bruce: WRONG!

Hopkins: You're a nasty woman.

Alright, are you ready for the next line in the Wikipedia entry? "The band, PWR BTTM, was originally a trio, which played many shows at Bard College.

Bruce: "Many" is a difficult word to fact-check, but we were a trio and we played shows at Bard College as a trio, so yeah.

Hopkins: We started second semester of my senior year of college, which was like obviously the ultimate Hail Mary for anyone to try to start a long-term creative project. We never thought it'd be a long-term creative project, but I think we played like five shows at Bard when I was a student.

So I'm going to go say that that we're going to go –

Hopkins: WRONG!

Bruce: No, I think that was mostly true. PolitiFact would give that a "mostly true."

You ready for the next one? "[PWR BTTM] spent several months working together and developing their skills as a pair before playing their first show or releasing their first demo, Cinderella Beauty Shop (2014)."

Bruce: We put out Cinderella Beauty Shop the day Ben graduated.

So that's accurate, 2014.

Hopkins: That is. But also, we recorded it in December, which I think we had played like, one show.

Bruce: Yeah, we had played like once or twice and then over winter break we recorded Cinderella Beauty Shop.

Hopkins: We were trying to just make a demo so we could get shows, so we could get people out to come see us and book us places outside of Bard. I guess that's right. I guess it was several months of collaboration.

Bruce: [The Wikipedia quote] makes it sound like we tried way harder than we were trying.

Hopkins: [laughs] We were like, "Let's make a demo!" It was sick though. It was really fun. We mixed it ourselves, or rather Liv mixed it.

Bruce: Yeah, I mixed it. I don't know how to mix records, and you tell that when you go to our Bandcamp.

As we were fact-checking the earlier part of that paragraph, you said you didn't expect this to last, but it sounds like — at some point — it went around the corner and you started really working on booking shows.

Bruce: For sure. Well, here's the thing. We started this band to play shows for our friends at Bard because there was a great DIY music scene at the college we went to and in upstate New York where we used to live. So we thought that we'd be in different performing fields but music was just this magical thing that just wound up happening. It's really crazy. I had a moment today where I was playing drums and was like, "Oh my god, I play drums in a band. Like, that's something I do a lot." It's trippy.

You ready for the fact-checking to continue? "The duo's name is an alternative to the term "power bottom", which is described by Fusion writer John Walker in a September 2015 article as 'a receptive partner who eschews submission to play a dominant role during sex.'"

Bruce: That is the most true sentence in this Wikipedia article. There are no holes in that sentence.

Hopkins: So Liv came up with the band name way before the band was ever a thing, and in very much the Bruce fashion had an idea for a few years before it actually came to fruition. And then I had the idea of taking the vowels out so when you Google [PWR BTTM], you don't find gay porn, you just find some gay porn, which is already great.

So the next sentence: "Bruce and Hopkins both felt the name suited the group as a label of empowerment."

Bruce: Uh, I don't, that — sure. I don't think there was ever a moment where we were like, "That name suits us as a label of empowerment." I think that whoever put that on our Wikipedia page is probably paraphrasing that write John Walker who goes on to say basically that in the Fusion piece.

Hopkins: I mean, that is true though, in its own way. It's really the consciousness of this band was never, like we said, to do any of this awesome stuff we get to do now with it. The idea of it being called PWR BTTM for me was interesting when Liv asked, "Do you want to be in a band PWR BTTM?" because it was inherently queer and it couldn't be interpreted on many other terms besides that, and I always thought of that being – like when you hear the name "Bikini Kill," it's like feminist punk band. You can't not hear that. So something as transgressive as that was really appealing to me. We didn't pick it because it was empowering, we picked it because it was bratty and snotty and fun for us. It is empowering in that way.

For the listeners out there who have never experienced a PWR BTTM show — we're in this very sterile environment right now and you're playing these songs and they sound awesome — but what's it like being at a PWR BTTM show?

Bruce: It's not sterile, that's for sure. [laughs]

Hopkins: A PWR BTTM show will leave you covered in glitter, haunted by Liv's face. Your ears will be ringing from the desperate tones my guitar shreddery. You will maybe make a friend, and maybe buy a tote bag.

You started out as this band that you didn't necessarily know would go farther than graduation at Bard, put out your debut record, signed to Polyvinyl — that's in the Wikipedia entry — but figuring out the next step, is that one of those things where you're like, "I'm super excited to write a new record! And we're excited to go into the studio and record!" or is it terrifying?

Bruce: It's both. I feel like it starts the first way then gets more and more terrifying. It's like "Yeeeeeeeee ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!" That's kind of the transformation that happens.

Hopkins: It was also amazing to sign to Polyvinyl because we're such big fans of all the bands on that label and everything they've done for like 20 years. So the fact that they wanted to be a part of it was like, "Yeah, of course we'll do it!" It was an amazingly interesting experience writing this second record. I don't think we could be more proud.

Is it done?

Hopkins: It's being mixed right now.

When will we be able to hear it?

Hopkins: This summer. But maybe some songs will come out before that.

Excellent. I want to get back to the election talk.

Bruce: Ugh, thank god. There hasn't been enough of it.

The beautiful thing about election night, the thing that I like, is that the next day all the things that you said or thought about the election don't matter anymore. So what are the things that you want to get out the next before the election? This is your last chance.

Bruce: 30,000 emails! 30,000 emails!

Hopkins: Yeah, where are they?!

Bruce: I want to find the emails. I want to know about Benghazi.

Hopkins: Crooked Hillary stole my lunch money. she beat me up in the parking lot of Miles River Middle School and she stole my $2.50 to buy lunch.

Bruce: One thing I was thinking about today was like, can you imagine like training your whole life for a boxing match and then you finally get to it and you step into the boxing ring and instead of another human boxer, it's like a rabid Chihuahua you need to fight. Like, what?

Hopkins: But everyone's like, "The Chihuahua's qualified! It can fight!

Bruce: I feel like that's how Hillary must feel. And I'm just like, ugh. Woof.

Candidates aside though, I do want to ask: As individual people in America, what is important to you?

Bruce: What is important to us in this country?

Hopkins: I want there to be a large proliferation of anti-discrimiatory laws in schools and public buildings and offices and just – I don't know, can we just quit with all the crap? Can we stop pretending that civil rights aren't important?

Hopkins: I think that even though it looks pretty confident right now that Donald Trump will not win the election, what he has started, the sentiments in American that he's brought out from under the surface and implicitly told people are okay to voice, aren't going to go away for a long time. Even in a Clinton presidency we're going to have a lot of work to do as a society, just teaching everyone how to be nice to each other again because already — especially in high schools across the nation — there are a lot of upticks in bullying that the teachers are saying that kids haven't acted like this for years. But when [kids] see someone on TV behaving this way, they think it's okay, even if they don't agree with that person's view. That's what I'm hopeful for — equal parts hopeful for and worried about — is fixing that.

Hopkins: A giant return to empathy and understanding after this bloodbath of an election would be an incredibly interesting political gesture.

Will you two feel a sense of relief when it's all over?

Bruce: I think everyone will.

Hopkins: I think we'll get back to actually figuring out how to "Make America Great Again."

Songs Performed

"New Hampshire"
"I Wanna Boi"

"Projection" is off PWR BTTM's debut album, Ugly Cherries. "New Hampshire" and "I Wanna Boi" are singles.

Hosted by David Safar
Produced by David Safar
Engineered by Corey Schreppel
Visuals by Leah Garaas
Web feature by Leah Garaas

4 Photos

    Ben Hopkins of PWR BTTM performing live in The Current studio (MPR / Leah Garaas)
    Liv Bruce of PWR BTTM performing live in The Current studio (MPR / Leah Garaas)
    Nicholas Cummins performing live with PWR BTTM live in The Current studio (MPR / Leah Garaas)
    PWR BTTM performing live in The Current studio (MPR / Leah Garaas)