Boston punk trio shares new single and talks about the pressures on Boston DIY
Photo by Lindsay Metivier
“Day Dogs” – off Halfsour’s upcoming album Charm School, out on October 14 – is focused on the fleeting nature of friendships, particularly as economic pressures pull us apart at ever quickening rates. It’s about being on both the giving and receiving end of false promises, and adjusting our expectations of others and the world. “I once knew them / I’d see them every summer / I’d hope I’d see them / but summer’s gone,” sings frontperson Zoe Wyner, lamenting the changing seasons as well as the less natural changes happening to the social fabric in her city of Boston.
I first met Halfsour at a show one of their members set up in a Boston basement. It was my first Boston punk show. Eventually, as I joined a band and became some what connected to what was then a thriving Boston punk scene, I learned about the broad spectrum of Boston punk music. There were bands like People Watchin’ – whose members later formed G.L.O.S.S – Ursula, Free Pizza, Guerilla Toss, and Ben Katzman’s Degreaser, Tomboy, Ancient Filth, and Funeral Cone. There are incredible bands like The Kominas that are redefining “punk,” so much but don’t seem to always be included in a lot of DIY spaces in Boston, most likely because of racism and white dude-dom. There are so many different enclaves in Boston’s vast music scene, and all these bands and more have played key roles.
Now a few years have passed, and more than half of the previously mentioned bands have left Boston for other cities. While there are numerous spaces and outlets for independent music in Boston, rising rents and police crackdowns on DIY spaces have created an increasingly difficult environment for music.
So, what happens to the people who remain? I spoke with Zoe Wyner about her thoughts and experiences of being a female musician in Boston who grew up in the area and has decided to stay. Much of her band’s upcoming record focuses on the troubles surrounding the scene in their home city, such as on “Day Dogs.” On their previous single “Ten Year Tenure,” she also sings about the people who move to Boston for college then leave the scene after a decade once, in her words, “the city has sucked them dry.”
VICTORIA RUIZ: Are you all from Boston or the surrounding area?
ZOE WYNER: We all grew up in or have spent most of our lives living within an hour and a half or so of Boston. It’s definitely the place that, for better or worse, we all currently identify as home.
What should be the role of musicians in caring for the scene, in Boston or elsewhere?
I suppose that I feel that everyone involved in the scene, musician or otherwise, is equally responsible for being aware of what is happening around them and being held liable for their actions. The DIY scene in Boston is really fragile right now and it is really frustrating to see people continuing to report issues of assault as well as regularly witnessing a real lack of accountability. It is pretty insulting to see people take advantage of and disrespect people in a scene like ours, where house shows have become a precious commodity and where it is becoming increasingly difficult to exist financially and socially as an artist. So often, individuals in the scene only hold abusers accountable when it is convenient to do so. I guess I also feel that musicians, promoters, and anyone else who is heavily involved needs to constantly make it their business to be aware of what’s going on so that they can make informed decisions. There are some really wonderful people starting to hold open meetings around how to create safer spaces in our scene, and I am trying to give back in my own way by spearheading a second Ladyfest Boston – to be held April 2017 – but we are really just a small subset of the community.
Halfsour is one of those bands that doesn’t totally have a place in one scene – I feel like we fit in with a lot of different types of music and can play with a lot of different kinds of artists, which is something that I really love. All three of us have also been in Boston for a while now, so I feel like we sort of bridge a few generational scene divides. Since we do end up playing a lot of different kinds of shows, I try to introduce people to artists outside of their immediate friend scene.
What exactly are the pressures on the Boston music community right now?
Honestly, the overall change in Boston’s population has had a huge impact on the arts community as a whole. There are more and more tech bros every day. Sure, cities always change, but Boston is changing really quickly and it feels more and more like a huge playground for the upper class every day. Also, many people that do stay here have to choose their jobs over being musicians, and their place in the scene has to be significantly diminished or set aside completely.
This is obviously an ongoing thing, but the scene in Boston has always been very transient due to the high volume of colleges that specifically cater to creative minded people. There are always lots of people moving to the city for school and starting great new bands. Sometimes they stick around for a few years after they are done with school, but I feel like this is less and less feasible as the overall community in Boston shifts towards supporting a much smaller subset of the population, and people who are really great for the scene are all leaving after much less time. It’s pretty disheartening in ways and also further perpetuates the generational scene divides I mentioned before, as many of the people that are able to exist in the community have lived here for long enough that they were able to buy properties or stake a place in the community that makes them much harder to uproot.
How does this all come out in your new record?
Most of my songwriting actually directly revolves around my frustrations mentioned above – whether toward the city or the scene – and I guess a lot of it relates back to a feeling of betrayal and hopelessness. For example, Ten Year Tenure, the first track on our new LP, is all about people saying they’ll never leave Boston, “DIY until they die,” and then inevitably leaving when the city has sucked them dry.