It's hard not to notice how detached people are from reality as of late. So many people are blinded by confirmation bias and voluntarily allowing themselves to drown in manmade rivers of denial as the world we once knew is disrupted. As previously noted in our ongoing best bands of 2019 list, rock is in the midst of a renaissance in response to this dramatic shift in our modern society. We're finally seeing the space become more vibrant as the demographic expands beyond outdated systematic barriers, and the attention falls on outsiders that have no intention of fitting into any boxes.
This is where Canadian band Chastity comes into the simulation with their pop punk tinted noise rock bangers that are radical anthems for the voiceless. Even though frontman Brandon Williams is a white man with plenty of privilege on the surface, he's hyperaware of the problems that deeply plague this generation. Furthermore, he wants to do something about solving them and that starts with opening the dialogue. Today, we're premiering the captivating video for their new single, "The Girls I Know Don't Think So."
The cover art for the track is a photo of Marxist revolutionary Alexandra Kollontai, a champion for women's equality in the workforce, universal maternity care, and women's advancement in education during the Soviet Russia era. The visual continues where "Sun Poisoning" left off as it follows the young man in a devil costume learning about solidarity as his wise babysitter guides him through a real protest for basic human rights.
"The Girls I Know Don't Think So" marks the second single off Chastity's Home Made Satan album due out on September 13 via Captured Tracks. Highsnobiety recently spoke to Williams to learn more about the project, his humble Ontario roots, and the demons that keep him up at night. Scroll down to read the condensed conversation after you watch the full video, and catch Chastity on tour with DIIV this fall.
What was the vision for your forthcoming album, Home Made Satan? What is the theme for this new installment in the series following Death Lust?
Death Lust was about looking for relief in death but finding survival on the way out. Home Made Satan is about fear. It’s a concept record about a young person who stays at home and lets fear fuck with him. His fear hatches a million other fears. It's a narrative about America, seclusion, how brutal leaders win people’s favor. The collision of the uneducated electorate and the uneducated leader. It’s happening and has happen in Canada too, of course, but I think America is the most poignant example of afraid people, prejudice, xenophobia. Right now, the most basic of progressive ideas in America are seen as radically leftist, when they often just represent pretty basic human rights.
At the beginning of the record, the young man is scared, he feels like he is without a voice. Along the way, I wanted him to radicalize to the left - because I wanted him to start to care about others as he got to know them. The left is where people who care about other people fall politically. That's sort of the big picture outline of 'Home Made Satan.' It’s about finding our voices, about how we can live for others once we survive.
Sonically, Home Made Satan feels a little less heavy in comparison to its predecessor. It made me feel more hopeful by the end and I couldn't figure out why until you fully explained the concept which makes sense. Given that this is part of a trilogy, were you working on all of this material simultaneously or in stages? What does the process look like for all of these bodies of work that are coming together?
I write lyrics first, and write toward a theme. This record isn’t out yet but I've got the bulk of my lyrics finished for the next record after this one done already I think. I think Chastity’s songs are sort of homes built around poetry or something. I labor over this project, but I’m most focused on the words. I want these songs to be great, and I want them all to work together to make a great record.
My friend Nicole told me that Gerrard Way envisioned his first few records all at once? I think that inspired me to push my clarity with writing a trilogy. This project is one thing in my life that I feel I have some healthy control over. Outside of this I feel like my life is pretty out of control.
How have you managed to cope with fear and death in your own personal life?
As a teenager I felt fear and death quite strong, like a lot of young people do I think. I found a lot of my peace in this basement venue in Oshawa, Ontario called The Dungeon. I think for a lot of us who went there; it became a sanctuary, a safe spot to runaway to. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety, and back then, I found myself lucky to have have access to formal therapy, and I started going when I was 15 or 16. I still go now when I can afford to. But beyond that, I had really good informal therapy at The Dungeon.
Therapy is medical. And because that fact isn’t necessarily reflected in public policy the way that it should to be—it’s a political bone that the public’s gotta pick with policy makers. We’ve got socialized health care in Canada, to an extent. It often still costs people like a hundred bucks an hour to go to therapy. Poor mental health is a big obvious blind spot in healthcare that costs lives. In my hometown we have these barn shows, to try to raise money and awareness for a youth mental health facility here called Frontenac Youth Services. When I was young I didn't know about Frontenac, but the place is unreal. It helps 12 to 18 year olds in their battle with behavioral and physiological challenges. Therapy and medicine is a need in my community, and in every community, and it's a need that’s gotta be met no matter people’s class or income. It’s political, everything is.
I've been seeing so many articles about how we're the "therapy generation" and everybody's going to therapy now. Living in the States, you're really limited to what you can actually have covered with healthcare. It's pretty insane because yeah for the longest amount of time that we're in school, that's when all of the attention should be one mental health. Everything is in development and it's such a shame that a lot of people don't get the help that they need earlier.
Yeah, big time. Trauma is often a lifelong battle, so if you can equip young people with the tools to deal with these blows in their lives, then we should! People in power and politics are often obsessed with money, obviously, and they love showing off the growth that’s taken place in the economy during their time in power. Treating trauma, depression and anxiety at its root by providing people with therapy and pharmacare will in turn help people make it to work, which is a long term solution to a good economy for these damn politicians! Mental health and economic health can correlate, mutually benefiting each other. Trauma debilitates people, therapy and medicine help heal them. Why not build infrastructure in our communities that will help people? Is the world that fucked? If we are the therapy generation then maybe we will experience some healing.
Steering back to the record, can you elaborate on the emotional and political concept? You touched on it earlier, but I was wondering what other sociopolitical issues you're speaking to since Death Lust combatted police brutality, institutional racism, white privilege, and mental health. What conflicts are you trying to raise more awareness about on Home Made Satan and why is it important to you to amplify marginalized voices?
A straight shot of politics is often heavy and overwhelming. I've had times over the last few years where I've felt politically confused and challenged by all these voices I’ve heard. It’s taken me time to sort my political shit and I’m still learning everyday obviously. I hear about new shit all the time and I’m like oh, I’ve got to check that out more, I’ve got to listen more. People are emotional, especially when they long for change, and I want to be real and emotional when I speak or sing about politics.
This record is about the people’s struggle. There are songs about the evangelical right, reproductive rights, broken power structure. There are also songs about romance, about what an emotional thrill it would be to attack a klansmen with a partner. "Sun Poisoning" is about feeling this weird melancholy—even when you do feel happy, you're feeling sorry for so much. The mask is political to me, but on the surface it's emotional.
I don’t ever want to approach politics from an ivory tower, because I don’t take very well when that happens to me. I want to stand up and sing the song that’s in the air-for those in need or often without a voice. I’ve become more committed to the causes of the far-left, and if I don’t use this voice that I’m lucky to have right now, then I’m fucking up. I have a voice that some people listen to now. Standing up for those who are most vulnerable is what I need to be doing, what anybody and everybody needs to be doing.
Could you tell me about the inspiration for "The Girls I Know Don't Think So" and where that name comes from?
"The Girls I Know Don't Think So" is inspired by amazing people in my life. The record is from the viewpoint of a young man, and that has been my lived experience. I think with this song I can hopefully try to represent, or even amplify, extremely valuable voices in my life. The lyrics in the chorus are tongue in cheek, purposely singing some redundant shit we’ve probably all heard. At least I’ve heard in my life, and I’m afraid the femme representing people in my life have experienced dumb shit much more. Like, situations that are rightfully hostile for a marginalized person and some privileged shithead who speaks up to say “Hey, no need for hostility!” I mockingly sing that this type of shit is going to “keep on happening,” and then I rebuttal with “The girls I know, they don’t think so!”
The second verse’s about cat-calling. I've seen it happen right in front of me and it’s the whackest thing in the world. I wrote the second verse initially, and I wanted to fact check what I had written with Julia in my band. I called her as I was finishing the song and I was like, "Can I email you these lyrics and make sure I’m not fucking this up?” I've never really done that, I'm hoggy with my lyrics, but with this song it was obviously important that I'm not going in blind, degrading other people's negative experiences by just guessing them.
What was your concept for the accompanying visual? We have the young man in the devil costume at a protest, so I'd love to hear more about what you had in mind for that?
These music videos all fit into a bigger film together, with the 10 tracks all falling side by side by side. This song is track eight. In this part of the film, the narrative’s on the young man finally finding a voice of his own and becoming less afraid. There's a part in this video where he sees his babysitter write “black trans lives matter" on her poster board at the protest, and he writes that down himself in an blatant showing of allyship to her. The boy finds his voice by caring enough to hear hers, leaving him inspired to use his own voice for change.
Charlotte, who plays the babysitter, is so politically sound in real life, and when we were at the protest she just wrote what she felt. Holden is just 10 years old, but he is sooo sick. He's got the coolest parents, his dad plays in the band Fucked Up and his mom works for an amazing non-profit. We went to this protest, and there were weird yellow-vester Canadians on one side of the street, and cool progressive people on our side. I got shivers being there with Charlotte and Holden, it was moving. We were filming for this, but it was real and sick. Charlotte and Holden using their voices to amplify a real message together, for a cause they actually stand for IRL.
A lot of the time we'll see videos that are politically charged and staging events, but you don't necessarily have an authentic connection like that. This feels very genuine and now knowing that these are real people involved in these causes, that's very powerful.
Yeah, neither of them are like practiced actors, though they both could be! They were just both cool and seamless while they were being filmed and it turned out.
How would you describe your relationship with your hometown?
Ah, I worry about it. Our region is called Durham and for years the area has been without an all ages community space for visual art, multi-media, and music. 500,000 people in the surrounding area, and nothing. I feel afraid for the kid with the mohawk, or just the kids on the fringe, you know what I mean? Without a spot to go and meet people of common interest and thought. We try to do what we can with the barn, and we hope to do much more in the future.
What keeps you grounded during these tumultuous times?
I've got sound and like-minded friends. To be honest, I recognize my privilege in being able to create my immediate reality around me. The privilege of being able to meet my rent creates a bubble of comfort around me, and that isn’t a privilege that belongs to everyone. I think I feel grounded in some hope for change via a collective voice, and being apart of that collection process.