Village Voice 05.10.2017 : Page 18

20 May 10 -May 16, 2017 PWR PPL TO THE Welcome to the guitar-shredding, glitter-mad, gender-fluid world of PWR BTTM, the hardest-rocking queens in America BY ALEX FRANK | PHOTOGRAPHS BY DRIELY S. VILLAGE VOICE.com E verywhere Liv Bruce and Ben Hop-kins take a step transforms into a scene. It’s a chilly spring day at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Prospect Park, and the two of them — the duo that is New York punk band PWR BTTM — are strutting and mugging in between the rows of cherry blossoms that bloom for only a couple of weeks each year. “Linda Evangelista!” Ben screams — a super-model mantra projected to no one in par-ticular — while jumping on a bed of pink petals that have fallen from the trees. A tall blonde fan, recognizing them, yells “Holy shit!” and, with a friend, asks for a hug. Liv, the daintier of the two, is straight-faced and serious, with deep-red lipstick and a knowing smirk; Ben, face swirled with glitter and blue and green makeup over an amber dusting of facial hair, is teasing the hem of a delicate blush-colored dress up both legs like some ruffian Claudette Colbert. “This happens more and more,” says Ben, of the fans who recognize them. “We’re getting used to it.” They better be. Since forming in 2013, PWR BTTM have exploded into the public consciousness off of two EPs, an album from 2015 called Ugly Cherries , numerous fun and funny music videos that capitalize on their charisma, and live performances that jolt between the chaos of a punk show and the witty raunch of cabaret. This week they are releasing their second album, Pageant . Like the two artists who made it, Pageant is both bombastic and sincere, a weaving ride through plainspoken songs about what all the most powerful rock ’n’ roll has ever been about — love, despair, excitement, depression, being young and weird — but updated for the 21st century with jangly guitar, beaming choruses, and a burst of slapstick humor. Take “Answer My Text,” likely the most relatable song of 2017. It was writ-ten by Liv (the two of them split songwrit-ing duties throughout the album, with Liv predominantly on drums and Ben on gui-tar) as a kind of therapy about a real-life boy who just wouldn’t respond to a series of flirty texts, a pain and simmering rage anyone who dates in the iPhone age knows intimately. But then you left again and I just felt confused and nerdy/My teen-age angst will be with me well into my thir-ties , Liv sings. Answer my text, you dick . “When that boy doesn’t text me back now , I can freak out a little bit less be-cause I have written a song about it,” Liv says, settling into a sunny part of the park in between the trees. “I think that although the medium through which that happens is contemporary — cellphones — the story is timeless.” Pageant is quite contemporary in one way, though: The band has been open and honest about the gender journey they’ve been on over the past few years, and their songs reflect their evolving sense of self — Ben has, since after the band began, started to identify as queer, and Liv has grown into identifying as queer, nonbinary, and transfeminine, beginning to take hormones in August of last year, a process that shows up as a theme on the album. “ ‘Styrofoam’ is about when I started estrogen,” says Liv. “That’s, like, actually a really special time.” That, Liv says, is the entire point of being in a band to begin with: to express in visceral terms the things that can be difficult to talk about. “This is such a bratty way to answer, but everything I have to say about that that’s for public consumption is in the music.”

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