In four short years, punk band Strike Anywhere has grown, traveled, been detained by Japanese police and have now recorded a second full-length album, Exit English.
The Richmond, Va. group preach a fiery brand of punk, filled with condemnations of police brutality, the apathy of modern life and the inequities of capitalism.
But “the catharsis is personal,” not political, said lead singer Thomas Barnett, whose combination of harmony and screaming gives voice to these concerns on the album.
“It’s not the duty of musicians and artists to refine and redefine ideologies of politics,” he said. “[We] talk about social issues and tell stories. And that’s all we’re doing. It’s the struggle not to have an agenda.”
Although the issues resonate in communities across the country, Barnett said Richmond is “the muse for the writing of all the records.”
Barnett lived in Richmond for most of his life, until he moved to New England two months ago, where his wife is completing a graduate degree in environmental education at Antioch University.
When the band is forced to leave Virgina, Eastern Europe is a favorite destination, Barnett said.
The name Strike Anywhere comes from “our ambitions to play in a lot of places that bands don’t usually want to go,” he said.
Plans for a stop in Japan this summer went awry when Japanese immigration officials detained four of the five musicians for not having their travel documents in order.
After several days under house arrest, Barnett said, the police “sent us early to Australia, of course at our expense.”
The new album draws on local problems in Richmond, as well as an international perspective the band has absorbed while on tour around the world.
“From the ashes we’re learning/ Richmond’s burning/ disrupt and disorder at the empire’s borders,” Barnett sings on the album’s “Extinguish.”
The theme of empires makes its way into several of the new songs, reflecting a key critique the left has had of the U.S. since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“Several of the songs ring internationally. The band has traveled a lot since [first album] Change is a Sound,” Barnett said.
“It has a lot to do with traveling and meeting people face to face. It’s a little about growing older and connecting you with your own heart.”
Unity is also at the heart of Strike Anywhere’s message, he said.
Many of the songs on both of the band’s albums touch on this theme and on the damage being done to it by society and those in power.
“At the end of the day your mind and your body have been in someone else’s service, lining their pockets. [We are] trying to get beyond cleaning your house and balancing your checkbook,” Barnett said.
“None of us want to be bled dry by that.”
Brian White can be reached at email@example.com.