TALK: Strike Anywhere

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For anyone who has ever seen hip-hop legend KRS-One in concert, you know one of his famous boasts is: “The real hip-hop is over here!” If a similar boast was made in the punk rock world, it would seem very appropriate to say it in the vicinity of Strike Anywhere, a fiercely political punk band originally hailing from Richmond, VA.

I met up with their frontman, Thomas Barnett (pictured left), on the opening night of their current East Coast tour, and was very relieved to find out that there are still some wonderful souls out there carrying the punk rock torch with great passion and sincerity. At face-value, Barnett does not look like your typical punk frontman–he favors dreadlocks over mohawks, and his on-stage attire of what look to be wall-climbing sneakers and a pair of paint splattered work-shorts (that sometimes ride a good six inches above his knees) don’t necessarily scream anarchy or uprising. But as you’ll soon find out, judging a book by its cover, may be one of the most un-punk rock things you can do.

Jim Shearer: The first time I saw Strike Anywhere, I got the same feeling I had when I first started listening to punk rock music as a teenager. I think you’re one of the few “punk” bands doing it right these days.

Thomas Barnett: That’s really kind of you. We don’t know if there’s one correct way. Punk is interesting, because it’s like trying to push and pull. There’s this tension between getting the word out and the liberating, cathartic quality of the shows themselves–even beyond the academic parts of punk–the messages, ideals, and footnotes. If you had to take it down to the emotional roots of it, that’s the thing that keeps us here on independent tours with our peers in the East Coast punk music scene. All of this stuff at once feels like a beautiful exercise in anachronism, and also, the only thing we have left that feels real–not to be too dramatic.

Jim: You guys seem to be coming at it from a very pure place. Do you see many other bands sharing your ideals, or are they becoming fewer and fewer?

Thomas: They are becoming fewer and fewer. This tour right now–especially–is the one where we wanted to gather like-minded souls, people that inspire us. We also see the necessity to tour with bands that are really different, and show their audiences that we still exist. Not just us, little ol’ Strike Anywhere, but the movement that punk’s about–not being afraid to not look cool and to give a significant amount of your intelligence and your creativity to helping the world–and to being critical of yourself, your own laziness, your own materialism, and all of that.

Jim: 10 or 15 years ago, what was not okay to do in punk, may be acceptable today for a band’s survival–going out on a sponsored tour, having your song in a car commercial, etc. Where you do guys stand on all of this?

Thomas: We tend to take things on a case-by-case basis. I think we would feel more emotionally comfortable if we only stayed in the finessed, operationally pure, basement level of the punk world, but there’s been so many times and so many moments where we’ve played a Warped Tour or some strange festival that a radio station put on that didn’t make a lot of sense to us, but it felt like we broke through and those kids kept coming back to our shows. Not only did they come to our shows, but they engaged in the punk scene in their hometown as well. It speaks to the thing that got all of us into this in the first place–you have to have a “window” to jump through. If you’re not going to have that “window”, then you’re just going to be aching for something different, something that didn’t insult your vulnerability, depth, or intelligence–but maybe you’ll never have a chance to find it.

Jim: Because you’re in a “punk” band, does it ever become tiresome when the purists nit-pick?

Thomas: Honestly, those conversations end up being positive no matter how badly they start out. We think it’s really important to have this critique, even if not every person lives up to it, or if the way you live your ideals changes year to year. All of us can be hypocrites, all of us can contradict ourselves, even when we mean something with our whole hearts. We’re always happy to have the raging discussion by a bond fire with people in the punk rock community that are so underground and off the grid.

Jim: Would you consider Strike Anywhere a “political” band?

Thomas: Yeah, sure. We write songs strongly symbolic about radical history, human uprising, human rights, and animal rights. I think you owe it to yourself, to your ancestors, and to the future, to try to speak the truth.

Jim: There are many bands that make “political” music, but seem reluctant to take their message any further. For example, when Green Day was winning awards for American Idiot–an album which was obviously anti-George Bush–I would have loved to hear them say certain things when they took the podium.

Thomas: Kanye West was the only one–when the big bright lights of the media got on him–that just said it. I wish more people had said it too. A lot of folks in punk bands are shy and they’re only used to having courage in that punk-show environment. I think when you put them up on podiums and stuff–not matter how confident they seem–they’re going to start to remember that they were the outcast kid in middle school that everyone made fun of and lose it a little bit. A lot of people join punk bands so they can express themselves in a raging, furious, and often violent forum where they can feel protected by all that chaos. That’s why I haven’t made an R&B record.

Jim: (laughs) I feel if Strike Anywhere ever won an award, you would have the courage to say something.

Thomas: I would hope so. We always try our best. I think also, sometimes things get so diluted by the spectacle of big media, that no one is really going to hear what you really mean to say in the first place. Maybe that’s the reason why people shy away from it too.

Jim: I want to applaud you for a track on your Dead FM album called “Allies”, a song in which you show support for the gay community. Sadly, it’s still very acceptable in pop culture to use a gay person as a comic punch line. Do you find it happens as often in the punk community?

Thomas: I heard recently about a show that happened in my hometown where a band had a song written about the same issue and someone in the crowd heckled them drunkenly. The band stopped playing and kicked the person out of the show. Those are the kind of things that happened a lot more in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I don’t know? In our community it seems we don’t see that very often. People are pretty dialed in. When we do tours with bands in different genres, that have more of a regular suburban-mall-Hot Topic following, we do see that–people that don’t think homosexuals have rights and don’t want to hear about it. That’s another reason we can go in and play those shows and have those forums–we feel like we make a difference applying these ideas to the reality that these people live in.


Jim: Your band’s logo is the anti-fascist circle. Who discovered it? When did it become your trademark?

Thomas: I guess I did. A friend of mine was living in England in the early 90’s and was involved in a lot of anti-racist demonstrations. I noticed it on a flyer my friend brought back from London. I researched it and slowly found out that it was the symbol of a group called the Iron Front. In the 30’s, in Berlin and other cities when the brown shirts and the proto-Nazi party was heating up, this group was the only one who was trying to fight them in the streets, block them, and to let people know [who the Nazis] were and what they were about to become. Obviously, it’s not just our symbol, and it’s not even a symbol like an anarchy sign, an equals sign, or a peace sign that are used in punk. It’s something that has really deep historical roots and we’re proud to carry it, but other folks should too.

Jim: You always talk about how government and pop culture needs to be improved. If you had your way, how would you improve pop culture? What needs to be done?

Thomas: I think niche marketing and telling different age groups what they should be entertained by is a big problem. I think, obviously, the lowest common denominator is the viciousness of a lot of reality television. There’s not enough credit given to people’s intelligence or the amount of collaboration from the bottom. There are huge arts in working class communities that used to inform the things that everyone else thought was cool. I’ll even take it back to jazz or the Zoot Suit Riots. Now it’s all coming from the top down, it’s just another aspect of the grand consolidation. I wouldn’t tell you what media company I would destroy first or who I’d fire from executive boards of different music television programs. I think there’s people better qualified, possibly at this table right now, that could give me better suggestions about that. I just resent the sense of hollowness, condescension, and distortion of art that is happening. We see it with the youngest kids that come to our shows. They want to be dialed into something real and they’re trying, but the distance they have to go is so much further than we even had to go to find something authentic.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.