As a generalization, pop stars write generic songs about love, make absurd amounts of money, and then throw a miniscule portion of that money at issues they care about. (Or, possibly, that their PR handlers deem appropriate to care about.) For example, back in 2010, Lady Gaga partnered with Virgin Mobile for her Monster Ball tour and raised $80,000 for homeless youth. Of course, the tour itself grossed a whopping $200 million, so she's not exactly Mother Teresa. Or Neil Young, for that matter. Farm Aid? Bridge School? Those are just regular happenings for a musician who seems to get press as much for his philanthropic work as for his music.
Independent artists, since their earnings are miniscule to begin with, can't afford to throw money at their own problems, let alone the causes of global strife. Instead, they have to use the only means at their disposal, their music, to make an impact. Using music as a medium for social or political change can risk turning people off. However, on occasion, a band figures out a way to charm its listeners into taking note of the issues the members care about.
"Giving a shit is the new not giving a shit," says Future Twin singer-guitarist Jean Yaste, who is also a member of the local all-women moped gang called the Lockits. While Yaste feels (or hopes) that the era of apathy, is drawing to a close, drummer Antonio Roman-Alcalá disagrees. A native of San Francisco, he remembers a time when the content of bands' music, and not just their social circles, was tied to political beliefs.
"Now, a distinctly anti-political attitude is more prominent in the music scene," he says. "If your band chooses to make a statement about a certain issue, people are like, 'How dare you impede on my fun-having? This is about me and my hedonistic lifestyle and here you are bringing politics into it. I don't want to have to think about that.'"
"We live, work, and play here," Yaste says when asked why local politics are of interest to the band. Yaste's goal is to organize an event in October before the elections for Board of Supervisors. By choosing an open-air setting like Dolores Park and booking local bands to play in between short presentations by political candidates, they hope to lure politically inactive citizens to take part in civic affairs. "We're not forcing it down people's throats. Passive engagement, I call it," she says. "Which hopefully leads to active engagement," adds Roman-Alcalá.
Another issue close to their hearts is the Mission's historic Clarion Alley and the Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP). Roman-Alcalá has helped put on the annual block party since 1998, but recent changes in police force personnel, neighborhood demographics, and newly installed bureaucratic red tape have threatened its existence.
"A lot of people don't know that the block party is currently under persecution," Yaste says. "We're trying to help people be informed in a way that isn't dogmatic, so that it's not so difficult to stay abreast of what's happening in your own backyard."
I sat down last week with Yaste, Roman-Alcalá, keyboardist Stephanie Rose, and band name originator/artistic director/Lockits founder Yuka Ezoe, who, along with designing the band's artwork, works for Mission mural arts organization Precita Eyes. True to their multimedia DIY aesthetic, the band asked their friend Winston Merchan of 12 Frames per Secondto make a video of our interview. Set to the single off Future Twin's eponymous debut EP, "The Situation," Roman-Alcalá explains why the Clarion Alley block party, and the alley itself, could soon find itself on the brink of extinction:
Future Twin plays this Thursday, March 8th, at the Knockout. That so happens to be International Women's Day. I won't get into the absurdity of dedicating one day each year to women, but hey, at least we're up there with the ranks of holiday-deserving presidents, veterans, and laborers! In honor of the outdated, Nancy Pelosi-endorsed holiday, Future Twin is even making it a Ladies Night, meaning ladies get in free before 10 p.m.