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First Play: Downtown Boys, Cost of Living

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Andrea Gin

Editor’s note: lyrics contain profanity.

Providence, Rhode Island’s Downtown Boys are very much a political band — and aren’t afraid to show it.

On their new album, Cost of Living, the punk collective's members brings a compelling mix of lyrical subjects to the table. Latinx, queer, and bilingual, they tackle issues of racism, queerphobia and inequality in their songs with unapologetic defiance.

“A lot of us have worked or are still working on campaigns against wage theft, in support of collective bargaining for workers, immigration rights and demanding an end to deportation, police accountability, ending police brutality, and ending racial profiling,” vocalist/lyricist Victoria Ruiz told Noisey last year. “Also, some of us are People of Color and some of us are women, and some of us are Queer and that makes our survival an act of resistance.”

The band members initially made a name for themselves as sax-punk heroes, winning over audiences in basements and DIY venues with their genre-bending, manic attack. Group vocals and horns adorn their hardcore punk, with Ruiz’s powerful voice always at the forefront, roaring and full of life. Cost of Living, which was produced by Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto, shows the band growing into a sound that is more visceral and sonically refined.

While it is their third full-length, it is Downtown Boys' label debut for indie giant Sub Pop Records. Since their signing, Downtown Boys' profile as radical activists has increased: in March they joined the list of bands demanding SXSW change the language of its contracts for musicians that seemed to suggest they would be deported if they “acted in ways that adversely affect[ed] the viability of their official SXSW showcase.” In April, the band published an open letter to Coachella criticizing the festival's low wages and its owner for donating money to anti-LGBTQ organizations.

They also take on the current U.S. administration’s talk about building a wall between the States and Mexico on the album’s opening track, which features the shouted chorus: “A wall is a wall/ a wall is just a wall/ and nothing more at all.”

It’s an incendiary, cathartic release, and we have an advance stream of the album for you to hear a week before it comes out.

Cost of Living will be released on Aug. 11 via Sub Pop Records. You can pre-order it here. Find tour dates for Downtown Boys here.