Finding The Strength Of Memory In The Midst of Colonialism
Underpass is a band split between San Diego, CA and Vancouver, BC. The huge expanse between them is fitting symbol for the terrain the band covers musically and politically. They weave in their personal pasts, ancestral histories, and real time experiences on this land, creating a sound of resilience and recognition. Since their last EP Assimilation in 2014, they’ve performed extensively, opening up spaces for thinking about pain, trust, and voice. Their latest single Red Reflection – off their upcoming album of the same name out on No Sun Records on July 16 and available now for preorder – is a mediation on memory and how to hold “on to what you’ve lost.” The drums drive forward at a melancholy but powerful pace, as singer Alexander Miranda struggles through what to remember, what to forget, and how to use both to exist in the present: “Those nights frozen in time / Teach me how to see,” he sings. It’s a ballad for considering the memories and histories that we put deep down inside of us because we need somewhere to hide them from the systems that colonize the land outside of us.
SPARK MAG: How does this new album diverge or connect to your previous album, Assimilation? That album seemed to open up a door for people to learn about the colonial project in the United States and its influence on the past, present, future, and specifically your body and mind.
Alexander Miranda: Both albums, much like a lot of my writing come from a place of depression. Depression linked to internalized self hatred as a result of colonization of my people. I’m indigenous to southern California as a part of the Luiseno tribe. But also from a place of rediscovery and resilience. It gets complicated for me. Things just come out that I’m not really sure of, you know, like I’ll say one thing and think it means something but then a few weeks after I wrote it see it in a whole new light that makes even more sense then it did before. It’s wild.
What brought you to music as a platform? What do you write about?
Music has always been a huge part of my life, be it listening to Metallica with my mom in the car or dancing to Zapp and Roger with my dad and cousins at family parties. It’s an all encompassing thing for me. Again that goes back to my indigenous roots. Songs have been our way of maintaining our traditions. When the shit head missionaries came to California and forced my people into boarding schools and missions, we lost a lot of our culture and they tried to take everything away from us, and for a long while were successful but one thing that we never lost were our bird songs… not saying we lost everything else, but as a whole we did lose A LOT.
I love the line, “Bring me closer to me” in Red Reflection. What is that all about?
That line is about family. When you lose something so dear like a relative, a lover your culture, and you only have a few things left like a photograph or a memory, you know? And when you look at that photograph or replay that memory in your mind it brings you closer to who you are, making you feel whole again.
What other things are you up to outside of Underpass?
I have shifted much of my time to running our label No Sun Recordings we’re putting our new LP out as well as some other stuff early 2017.