The state of punk rock in the 2010’s can be taken in numerous directions. It’s a genre that’s ever-changing and consistently accessible while also staying true to taking a stand against what’s wrong in the world. Providence’s Downtown Boys confront various issues in today’s society with their third full-length LP Cost Of Living that’s out today (August 11) via the legendary label Sub Pop Records. There’s a noticeable change in sound quality that has a subtle clearness while maintaining the band’s trademark raw aesthetic. During a year that has seen an uptick in political and social turmoil, Downtown Boys could have very well released the most important album of 2017.
“We actually recorded the record at the same studio as the previous one”, guitarist and backing vocalist Joey DeFrancesco says on the making of Cost Of Living. “Most of it was written right in Providence as with our previous releases, so our environment hasn’t changed much. Obviously, the broader social environment has changed a lot in the two years since our last release, which has put a weight over everything anyone is doing in any field.”
“We were spending 16 hours a day in a pretty much windowless recording studio, so it was for sure different than playing shows or practicing”, adds lead singer and head energizer Victoria Ruiz. “The most difficult part of the environment was that we recorded a few days after the new regime was inaugurated in Washington and when the first Muslim ban came out. This was very terrifying and the broader environment of our country was feeling yet another new level of white supremacy.”
A big part of the album’s production comes from the work of Greg Norman and Guy Picciotto, the latter who is known as the co-founder of art punk trailblazers Fugazi. “Guy is fantastic and such a nice guy”, DeFrancesco mentions, “Sometimes such a big name can eclipse the rest of the record, so I should say that we of course wrote and arranged all of the songs ourselves before we even started working with Guy. His role was definitely one in the studio while getting the record done. That said, I think his presence really helped us make the best version of this record that we could. He has such a mystique around him, but he’s actually very humble, kind, and brilliant person.”
“He is the greatest”, Ruiz says on working with Picciotto. “He was not at all a mansplainer. He was the most gracious, humble, knowledgeable person to work with in addition to Greg.”
The album wastes no time getting intense with “A Wall” starting it off. Along with being inspired by the infamous plan the current President talked about during his campaign, the track is an electrifying anthem that examines what divides people and who wants to keep it that way. “Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas)” has a feverish chorus that reaches higher levels of energy with each time Ruiz and DeFrancesco combine on vocals. With a downbeat anchoring the track, “Violent Complicity” rages from start to finish. The rhythm section of drummer Norlan Olivo and bassist Mary Regalado shine while saxophonist Joe DeGeorge adds a poignant element.
Downtown Boys will be ringing in the release of Cost Of Living at Aurora in Providence tonight with brass dynamos What Cheer? Brigade, who are putting out a new album of their own titled You Can’t See Inside Of Me, and local rock act Milkmaid II. Rap tunes will also be spun all night long from DJ’s Schliefdog and Cathawk. On top of all this, Charlotte Abotsi and Esteban Coronado are supplying poetic interludes as well. Donations to organizations in Rhode Island working on housing access and anti-foreclosure will be accepted at the door. While you’re at the show, don’t forget to grab a copy of the new album and listen to music with substantial meaning.