Let's talk about some good guys; let's talk about the troops; let's talk about Propagandhi's new record, guitarists and the rise of the alt-right.
For those needing to be brought up to speed: October 2015 saw the departure of guitarist David ‘Beaver’ Guillas who, after racking up just over a decade in service, left to follow a career in teaching. With Beaver's exit imminent, the remaining members put the call out to audition a replacement. Enter Sulynn Hago – and a revitalisation of the band's live performances and ever-progressing sound.
The latest record, a follow up to 2012’s Failed States, features both past and present guitarists. The writing process for Victory Lap had begun prior to Guillas’ farewell, as vocalist and guitarist Chris Hannah explains. “We had songs in place before Beave [Guillas] left and we thought they were good enough to keep,” he says. “Beave played all those songs on the record. Originally, we planned for Sulynn to play two songs on the record. She did such a great job at those songs, but when she got here, she was like, ‘Can you pull up this other song? I have some ideas.’ She kept doing that, and ended up playing on almost every song on the record.
“Beave is a very cerebral player. He’s kind of like me in that sense – to a degree he could do without playing live. He’s more interested in the crafting of the song and I’m kind of like that, too. But Sulynn is full bodied. She really invests herself into all aspects. To her, it’s all about the performance, the songwriting. She really likes performing the songs live and feeling the energy of the crowd, whereas Beave wasn’t so concerned about that. To simply and crassly put it – I think it’s just more exciting to watch us now.”
It’s fitting that at the height of alt-right identities in today's political climate, Propagandhi rears its head, injecting politically motivated thrash punk into a global melting pot of opinion. Avoiding politics when interviewing Propagandhi is like trying to avoid it at Christmas dinner with relatives – at some point, once inhibitions are reduced to a comfortable low, it's going to happen.
But, with a band that has been vocal about its political stance since day one, and considering the clusterfuck of a time we live in at the moment, where does one even begin? Starting from the ground up, we discuss what it's like being a punk band in 2017.
"For us, it’s like it’s very much like it was in 1997," Hannah says. "Well, that’s not true. Let me roll back on that. I think the way we saw the world back in 1997, we could kind of see where things were going. This current reality is so cartoonish; it would have been difficult to predict it to this degree. I’m bewildered that Donald Trump is the president of anything on this planet. At the same time, I’m not really surprised about the advent of the alt-right. It’s always been there. It’s just been waiting for somebody to give it the OK, and now the gloves are off.
"Maybe this is a glass-half-full kind of approach, but I wonder if that’s a good thing at this point. Now we know. We don’t have to waste time arguing whether or not we live in a de facto white supremacy or not – we now know it. This person in power – the ultimate power – has conceded that in his lifetime, and through the people he surrounds himself with. They are representatives of a white supremacist movement. Now we know, let’s deal with it. That’s the good thing about it."
Victory Lap is out now via Epitaph.