It's rare for a band to make such a huge impression despite only having 2 finished songs recorded, but Austin's BLXPLTN are something else. A mix of electro and hardcore punk, the trio's 2 singles “Train” and “Stop and Frisk” are positively bone-crushing. The trio of kQ, TaSzlin, and Javelin are coming to Brooklyn to play an AFROPUNK Showcase at Glasslands today (March 31st).
Interview by Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK Contributor
So tell me a little bit about how you guys got started. What's the story behind the BLXPLTN record?
kQ: I dunno. (laughs) Well, we started a band and then we were like “we should record some songs! They're really good!”
TaSzlin: (an awkward pause) Uh. Ok. So I was basically pretty stagnant doing music. Sorry if I have a lisp, I've got a gold grill in my mouth. And it's Texas. But uh. I was pretty stagnant and going through some personal issues. I was pretty depressed. Prior to this, I was a stylist, and I was really overworked. I wasn't doing any music. kQ started hanging around trying to get me out of my room and sober. She would play the acoustic guitar I had in my bedroom. I had like a rinky dink little Casio fucking drum machine that I got from Goodwill. And we'd play around with stuff and started making silly songs. And then one thing led to another, and the next thing I know she'd come over and be like “you ready to play?” And I'd be like “what do you mean, am I ready to play?” So next thing I know we're having fucking band practice. And it was just she and I, and we were missing an element, and Jonathan AKA Javelin, had been friends of both of ours for a while. And he's a great musician, and we wanted to take it seriously. So we hollered at Jonathan, and we actually thought he wasn't going to do it, cause he's such a great musician and would be doing a lot of the work. So when he said he wanted to do it, I was really surprised. From that point on everything started gelling together.
Javelin: And we got to have some really cool mentors on it. Between Autry from Trail of the Dead and Elliott from Ringo Deathstarr, and Ikey Owens who's playing keys with Mars Volta. To track with them, and learn from them individually on different levels has been insanely cool. And watching their different takes on recording, cause with a project like this, there's so many different ways you could approach it. First we tried to capture the live thing, cause our live shows are—at least for our band—are what inspires you to keep playing. So the first time we set out was trying to track all together, and then we realized we could create a project that was still representative of the songs we perform live, but is a completely separate standalone sort of thing. We're just taking our time right now trying to get it absolutely perfect and right.
kQ: Well, like Ta said, we were in a bad place, and we were writing songs to get these feelings out. And you read something in the paper that upset you—or on the internet. We were influenced to write songs about what we were moved by. So we didn't necessarily mean to be that kind of band on purpose, but we're just using what we have.
Javelin: You write about the current state of yourself. And if you're not walking around with your eyes closed, then what's going on in the world is effecting you, and that effects the current state of yourself. I wouldn't necessarily call us a “message band” but if you have a megaphone to use, to say something, say something that matters. I think that more aggressive music is a really good vehicle for that. I mean you can say “peace and love” all the time, like Kumbaya, but sometimes you have to burn some shit.
TaSzlin: I never wanted to be a message band, or like a political band. I just wanted to get some fucking beer tickets. We can't help but be a message band cause like we're all people of color here. And we go through things, and you can't help but talk about it in your music. And I think people are gonna politicize us anyway, cause we're all people of color. So it's like “shit, we gotta say something that means something.” But like, one of our earlier songs was called “Tomatoes Are A Fruit.”
kQ: Yeah! We're bringing it back!
TaSzlin: We're gonna bring it back.
Javelin: It's about social consciousness. If people are thinking tomatoes are vegetables...
kQ: They're WRONG!
I've always wanted to hear a really heavy band do songs where the lyrics are like “I went for a walk today and it was really nice!” But it's screamed so you can't tell.
kQ: We have a song called “Time Out” and it's about taking a time out before things escalate.
Javelin: It's a lot of reminders for ourselves too.
kQ: Like “I got so mad, but it's a good thing I took a time out. And then everything was better! And we can actually have a conversation about our differences.” One of our songs is called “Write” and it's about his bad attitude.
Javelin: Yeah, most the record is about TaSzlin's bad attitude. Instead of “fight, fight, fight!” the chorus goes “write, write, write!”
TaSzlin: Like “write some music.” Instead of fighting somebody, write about it. If you're frustrated with the things that are going on, write your fucking congressman. If your partner pisses you off and you can't communicate, write them a fucking letter, you know? Write “asshole” on the back of somebody's jacket when they're being an asshole at the bar instead of punching them in the face. Just write.
Javelin: Write about it, count to ten, we're basically just making songs for 8th graders.
So when you put out the record are you planning on doing a cartoon special like KISS? Like BLXTPTN Saves The World?
Javelin: We have PSA announcements.
KQ: That'd make me very happy.
TaSzlin: I always wanted a cartoon, of course. Have a cape of some sort. Or winged boots.
KQ: Wing-ed? (laughs)
Anyway. To change the subject completely. I've wanted to ask you about your song “Stop and Frisk.” You guys are based out of Austin, and Stop and Frisk is obviously a big issue in New York. Can you tell me about the Austin Police Department?
kQ: People of color—brown people—there aren't as many here. I went to make photocopies at Westlake, which is like the more ritzy part of town, with two of my friends who happen to be African American. I was driving my car at 35 miles an hour in a 40 zone. And I got stopped by the cops for “obstruction of traffic.”
kQ: We have it here. They saw three brown people in a car and were like “what are you doing?” And we were like “we're making photocopies.” “Are you sure?” They put stuff in my car, looked all over my car. I was pretty assertive, so he didn't give me a ticket, and I'm glad I didn't have any contraband or anything in the car. But people of color are target here.
Javelin: The APB, the Austin Police Department, has a history of—it seems like they get off on—shooting black men either in the back...
TaSzlin: Or in the back of the head.
Javelin: You can look it up. Even just recently. There's case after case after case, and there's never an investigation into officer misconduct. If there is, it's very short. There's a paid leave sort of thing, and then it's right back to business as usual. The local news will cover it, but it's not like a national thing. But it happens all the fucking time. But then just last week, a white woman's crossing the street—jaywalking. She gets arrested for jaywalking, and she makes a scene about it and that video goes viral. And now we're having a national conversation, finally, about the Austin Police Department and their abuse of power. But it took a white female being put in a position of police abuse. It's like one white female crying is equal to ten dead black men.
kQ: Dead! Like that.
Javelin: But Stop and Frisk, the reason that song was written, and is important is like, we don't just watch local news here. So a policy like Stop and Frisk being enacted in New York, it doesn't just effect the country, it effects the world. People see that this is a policy that a government is doing, like what fucking year is it? So people didn't know what that policy was. And we wanted to write a song, so maybe people would look it up, and see what that's about.
kQ: And also, everyone thinks I'm black. But I'm actually Puerto Rican.
TaSzlin: A black one!
kQ: A black Puerto Rican! (laughter) So I'm screaming in Spanish as another way of saying like “don't judge a book by it's cover.”
Javelin: What are you screaming in Spanish?
kQ: I'm screaming “who do you think I am?” Over and over. And I'm screaming “stop!” As a cry for everyone to stop judging each other. The cops included in this, but also everybody else.
TaSzlin: Yeah, even like people of color, stop judging each other.
TaSzlin: You know what I'm saying? I got a bunch of tattoos and gold teeth, but you don't know anything about me. You don't know that I've been a personal stylist. I've been to college.
kQ: You look like one of those rapper guys!
TaSzlin: Exactly! And when I was in New York for Afropunk last year, I was fucking terrified walking around the streets. I didn't have any weed on me, no molly, no shit like that. But if I'm walking, any time, a cop can just stop me and search me. And then I remember one time I did have some weed, and I was going to my boy Vortex's house, and I was trying to catch the train. And I was like “man, fuck this.” And I saw some dudes walking by, and I was like “Here. Here's some weed, man.” Cause I didn't want to get on a fucking subway with weed on me. They're gonna stop me if they see me. And they're standing there on the platform with some bigass black bag. Fucking NYPD were scoping me. They followed me around the whole fucking thing. But Stop and Frisk isn't a new thing.
kQ: It's like in Arizona.
TaSzlin: Yeah. We were always stopped and frisked. That's just called being black or being a person of color. We're always stopped and frisked, now you wanna put a label on it and try to make it legal. I think about like Nazi Germany and shit. Those people, Germans, they weren't bad. Just somebody said “you can do this. It's OK to kill these people. You can do whatever you want to these people, it's fine.” That's how I look at Stop and Frisk. They were like “you can do this.” And cops were like “all right.” And they just start fucking everybody over. When you give someone the power to fuck somebody over, they're gonna take it. That's just the way people are. That's my take on it. I don't know. Getting off my fucking soapbox right now.
kQ: So...we're screaming about it.