We live in strange times. Will that quote ever not be true? 2017 finds a world divided, apart: Countries and their respective citizenry are more aware of their differences than ever before. Our media highlights conflict without embracing resolution, thus heightening our polarities and negatively shaping our view of others. Thankfully, there are emerging artists like Stay Inside to help counter those negative effects. The band’s new single “Blockbussa” is a potent plea for harmony in discord.
Wake Up, I’m in the parking lot,
Torn Up, I can’t be seen cos I’m soul struck,
And I can’t get in.
Wait for my friends, But they won’t be here til’ December.
And I’m still awake,
Right by the lake,
But all the things we could take (all the way).
I can’t be seen anymore.
Listen: “Blockbussa” – Stay Inside
Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering “Blockbussa,” the final single off Brooklyn-based emo/post-hardcore band Stay Inside’s debut EP As You Were (independently out 4/21/2017). Comprised of Bartees Cox, Jr., Chris Johns, Vishnu Anantha, Bryn Nieboer, Stay Inside’s forward-thinking music “seeks to tell stories about fighting back and bringing more people into the fold of their impassioned scene.”
“Blockbussa” is grandiose, brooding, and emphatic: It encapsulates the clash of emotional and intellectual energies that make Stay Inside a front-runner for tomorrow’s hard rock scene. An ominously stripped-down electric guitar plays dark, minor arpeggios in the song’s stark entrance as vocalist/guitarist Bartees Cox, Jr. wrestles with identity, politics, and culture.
“This song was written pretty shortly after the election,” recalls Cox, Jr. “I was overseas when everything went down, and it reminded me that there’s this whole other side of America that people don’t see or believe exists. I happen to be from one of those hyper-conservative parts of the country, so even though a lot of folks were shocked at the outcome of the election, I wasn’t too surprised. Mustang, Yukon, my hometown in Oklahoma, felt like a sundown town until the late ’80s, early ’90s.”
In the second verse, Stay Inside evoke the day in question: We hear the dualities shuffling about in Cox, Jr.’s head, each with its own values and view of the world. Conflict like that can drive a person mad.
There’s this day I remember,
Walked down the street,
there were folks screaming timber
and they’re not for me.
But my god don’t it hurt
when you buckle at the knees.
And they look at you sideways
there’s nothing for me
The songwriter continues: “Beyond that, this song walks the line between having these old school country boy values, and then moving to the northeast and meeting all of these educated, culture rich, accepting people – and grappling with the idea that even though I’m reconciling some things in my past, and learning a lot about myself in this new environment, people from back home and the people in my new home are so far from understanding each other that it leaves me a little hopeless.”
There’s a loneliness to this culture clash: You’ve got one foot in both worlds, and each doesn’t really understand the other one. There may be others like you, but it’s difficult to talk about because of the inherent prejudices held by out-groups on both sides. It’s hard to deal with it alone, but in a way, it’s also easier to deal with it alone.
And “Blockbussa” feels so very, very alone.
Watch yourself, This is my soul!
Wait and see, somebody’s changing,
Fighting fair, it’s good when you’re lonesome.
Take me there, back where I’m from.
How do you reconcile such disparate identities? The weight compounds; Cox Jr.’s lament is like a whispered cry into the night: “And it’s all, oh it’s all, on me,” he despairs. His voice is profoundly evocative: The singer has tremendous depth and soul in his lungs, and he lays himself on the line as he confronts this internal/external demon, head-on.
I don’t wanna be the same thing
that I was when I was walking clean.
Nothing’s gonna save me here,
there’s no more left there’s no more kings!
Thankfully for Cox, Jr., he isn’t fully alone. Members in the band have had similar experiences, and their collective wisdom, thoughts, and feelings show in the powerful way each of the four wields his or her instruments. Stay Inside thrive inside existential chaos, examining the world from multiple points of view. “Who are we in such a polarized environment and how do we bring both sides together?” muses Cox, Jr.
Stay Inside’s mission is “To show folks all over that whether it’s about significant others, family, cops, misogyny, racism, or anything else, they have four friends in Brooklyn yelling and screaming for them.” The band challenge norms through their embrace of deeper thought and feeling; through their defiance of “taboo” topics and inherent drive to speak out in a climate that is so full of mistrust, anxiety, fear, and doubt.
I believe that there’s something here to be said of grace!
And I can’t help but love you, I can’t help but love you.
Even with, a heart that breaks like
The promises that you made.
The promises that you made!
And I, and I!
God it’s good and great.
God is good and great.
It’s sometimes hard to speak up, but it’s also necessary. Intensity grows in “Blockbussa” as Stay Inside externalize that messy, complicated circuitry of cultural divide. The band speaks for so many people in this world, who are struggling with those same internal juxtapositions.
Stay Inside may not find all the answers they’re looking for in “Blockbussa,” but the mere fact that they vocalized this issue and these feelings so well give this release profound substance and import. There is a light at the end of this long tunnel, but it’s going to take a lot of effort on all sides for us to get there – both as individuals, and as a society.
Those in the New York area can catch Stay Inside live at their record release show at The Gateway on 4/20. The band’s debut EP As You Were is out 4/21; spread the word, and help Stay Inside spread their message! It’s about time we all had a meaningful conversation.
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