Bandcamp Friday is fast becoming as exciting a time as any other music street date. On March 20, as the COVID-19 pandemic was putting the world on pause, the indie music service waived their revenue share on all music and merch sold, allowing indie artists and labels a chance for some steadier income as concert tours began to halt. The event was a resounding success, and has been repeated on the first Fridays of May and June, with another to follow on July 3.
This Friday, June 19, in recognizance of Juneteenth – the holiday commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States (a full two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and with the Civil War all but over when Union Major General Gordon Granger made a crucial announcement in Galveston, Texas exactly 155 years ago ending the racist practice in the state) – Bandcamp is stepping up again. On this Juneteenth and all henceforth, Bandcamp’s cut of revenue will be wholly donated to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
The Second Disc remains fully committed to standing up as allies alongside our black friends, fans and fellow citizens. Black Lives Matter – and black music and culture has shaped much of the catalog releases we’ve celebrated over the past decade. With this in mind, we are proud to present a list of some of our favorite artists of color whose music you can purchase today – not only some classic favorites but exciting new discoveries as well.
Meet Me @ The Altar: Coming across this amazing pop-punk trio during June’s Bandcamp Friday was such a delightful surprise, we had to circle back to make sure you checked them out. Singer Edith Johnson, guitarist Téa Campbell and drummer Ada Juarez (of Georgia, Florida and New Jersey, respectively) bring hook-filled bops with boundless energy and melodies that will not quit – as good or better as Paramore at their height.
The group is staying active and resilient during the pandemic, uploading must-see playthroughs of some of their songs on YouTube (like recent single “Garden” and recent killer “May The Odds Be In Your Favor”) and sharing a playlist of formative tracks for Flood Magazine just yesterday – and if you’re looking for a reason to get excited about live concerts again, the trio was added to next year’s Riot Fest lineup, taking place in Chicago in September 2021. They’re on a bill with heavy hitters like My Chemical Romance, Run The Jewels, Pixies, Taking Back Sunday, Living Colour and many more. Simply put, you’re going to want to meet them wherever they turn up next.
I was so excited by what I heard, I had to learn a little more about Meet Me @ The Altar from the source – and Téa Campbell was kind enough to answer some of my questions!
Who are your most formative musical influences?
Our instrumentals are heavily influenced by the early 2000s pop punk I grew up listening to like Cartel, Hit The Lights, The Starting Line, etc., but we also like to add modern riffy elements into it as well. Edith’s vocals are inspired by a wide range of influences, ranging from classical to pop to rock.
What are your preferred ways of discovering music?
Spotify playlists are a great way of hearing about new music. It makes it so much easier to find smaller artists and some really great music you wouldn’t have heard about otherwise.
The band started after you connected with Ada over some of her performances on YouTube, and the three of you still live across the country. What are some unexpected challenges of being a band across multiple states?
When we first formed, we were very naive in how things would work as a band. We didn’t take into account how expensive travel for the band would be. We get a day, maybe two days max to practice for shows and tours, so we’ve had to learn how to work around that so it doesn’t take away from our live show. We’re also all best friends, so it sucks not being able to see each other that often, but it won’t be this way forever!
What is your writing/recording process like?
I usually get a guitar idea that’ll pop into my head and I’ll record it on my phone and send it to the girls and see if they like it. If they do, Edith usually starts writing a melody over it right away and we decide what the song feels like it’s about and write lyrics based on that feeling. When we actually get together to record, we fly out to Chicago to work with our boy Roye Robley. He’s a great producer and makes our music sound exactly how we want it to sound.
Your newest single, “Garden,” was released earlier this month. What inspired this song?
We really wanted to write a positive song about being there for the people in your life. A lot of pop-punk is really negative, so we wanted to do something different. To our surprise, the entire world kind of went to shit and the song was released at a really good time to let people know they’re not alone in how they feel and they do have people who support them.
What’s the first song/album/EP in your discography you’d point a new fan toward?
It would definitely be “Garden.” I think it’s a really good indication of where our sound is heading. The songwriting is a little more mature than our previous releases instrumentally and lyrically and it’s a really lighthearted song.
How have you stayed active and in touch as a band and with your fans during lockdown? What are some things you still want to do while in lockdown?
All of us talk nearly every single day, so quarantine hasn’t affected our relationship at all. We already can’t see each other that often so it’s really no different to us. We’ve been super active on Twitter trying to engage with our supporters as often as possible. We’ve also been posting content such as playthroughs that we normally probably wouldn’t do so there’s some kind of supplement without touring. We’ll luckily all be together in July for the first time since March, so we’re hoping to be able to do livestreams and talk with our fans while we’re all together.
What was touring like, pre-lockdown? Can fans expect to see you perform live when it’s easier to do so?
The difference in our tours pre-lockdown to post-lockdown is going to be literally insane. We have doubled in size in two weeks when it took us five years to get to where we were before. The shows we used to play on tour were all like 100 cap rooms and maybe 30 people would show up for us. We’re definitely not complaining because they were very fun shows, but there is going to be an ENORMOUS difference when we’re able to tour again. We’ll be touring a lot more consistently once we’re able to, so fans can expect to see us often.
As women of color who play pop-punk, your music boldly occupies a space often held by white men. What have your experiences been like in these spaces?
We’ve gotten mixed responses, but there’s good and bad in everything. We’ve had shows where we get side eyes and basically rejected by the other bands on the bill, but we’ve also had shows where we’ve been made to feel welcome. The bad experiences are inevitable so we use them to fuel our motivation to be the best possible version of MMATA as we can be. We may have to work three times as hard to get the same opportunities as our white male counterparts, but in turn it makes our art so much better.
Bandcamp is taking strides in offering musicians fairer compensation and is donating their share of revenue on Juneteenth to the NAACP Legal Fund. What are some other causes or charities that matter to you?
Special Olympics is a very important organization, because they’re all about inclusivity for people with intellectual disabilities no matter what color they are. I volunteered for them throughout high school and genuinely believe it made me a better person. They deserve all the support they can get!
You’re all young, but you’ve been playing music for some time. What do you say to aspiring musicians who see your work and want to follow your examples?
Go for it. There is not a single thing that can stop you. We are and will soon be a good example of that. People will discourage you and tell you that you can’t do it, but you can.
André Cymone: Known among Prince fanatics as the first bassist in The Artist’s live band from 1979 to 1981 (his biggest solo hit, “The Dance Electric,” was a Purple Rain-era outtake written and produced by his childhood friend), André Cymone turned pro behind the scenes in the late ’80s, co-writing and co-producing hits for then-wife Jody Watley (“Looking For a New Love,” “Real Love”) and Adam Ant (“Room At The Top”). In 2014, he emerged from a long hiatus with The Stone, a deeply-felt rock record. As most of his solo material from the last decade proves, he’s not afraid to write from the heart about issues that matter to him (the bluesy, almost Dylanesque “Black Lives Matter,” from 2016’s Black Man In America EP and 2017’s full-length 1969; the newly-released single “Our World Is On Fire,” which is benefiting the Sabathi Community Center, the Movement For Black Lives and Dream Defenders). His is a voice worth catching up with.
Blood Orange: Dev Hynes has an impressive CV as a writer and producer, with credits on albums by Carly Rae Jepsen, Blondie, Mariah Carey, Sky Ferreira and Solange Knowles. But his own solo work as Blood Orange is not to be missed. His second solo project after the mid-’00s rock outfit Lightspeed Champion, Blood Orange showcases Hynes’ affinity for electronic R&B and has attracted a small galaxy of guest vocalists. For Blood Orange’s most recent full-length, 2018’s Negro Swan, Hynes recruited heavy hitters like A$AP Rocky, Diddy, Georgia Anne Muldrew and actress Janet Mock for a record serving as, he put it in a statement “an exploration into my own and many types of black depression, an honest look at the corners of black existence, and the ongoing anxieties of queer/people of color…and the lights we can try to turn on within ourselves with a hopefully positive outcome of helping others out of their darkness.”
Neneh Cherry: Born in Sweden, the stepdaughter of jazz musician Don Cherry decamped to London as a teen and broke out worldwide with the dance smash “Buffalo Stance.” (Her debut album which featured the single, Raw Like Sushi, was reissued and expanded last year.) Cherry ended a long hiatus as a solo performer in the last decade, and her albums The Cherry Thing (a 2012 collaboration with The Thing, a Nordic jazz trio) plus 2014’s Blank Project and 2018’s Broken Politics are all available on Bandcamp. The latter album, created alongside producer Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) through a disparate, reflective group of found samples, is even available as an autographed LP!
Anthony Braxton: Nominally considered a free jazz artist – “an African-American with a saxophone? Ahh, he’s jazz!” he once quipped – Anthony Braxton has been expanding the limits of musical expression for decades. The 75-year-old multi-instrumentalist first gained widespread notice on recordings with Chick Corea before releasing a burst of fascinating, ambitious titles for Arista in the mid-to-late ’70s. Long a free agent, label-wise, more than 60 of his works are available on Bandcamp, from small-group arrangements to pieces to be played by multiple orchestras. There’s no right place to start, but these two samplers are offered as pay-what-you-want releases.
Noname: This Chicago rapper first gained widespread notice thanks to a guest appearance on Chance The Rapper’s Acid Rap mixtape in 2013; she’s since garnered acclaim for her personal, poetic flow on mixtape Telefone (2016) and debut album Room 25 (2018). She recently also made headlines for “Song 33,” a bold response to rapper J. Cole after his recent “Snow On Tha Bluff” seemed to criticize her tone in urging more activism within the hip-hop community.
Sly & Robbie: Drummer Lowell “Sly” Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare are the legendary rhythm section of The Compass Point All-Stars (the backing band on albums like Grace Jones’ Warm Leatherette and Nightclubbing) and producers of everything from Chaka Demus & Pliers’ “Murder She Wrote” to No Doubt’s “Hey Baby.” There’s a healthy amount of great reggae material on the duo’s Taxi/Tabou1 label that’s available on Bandcamp, including their most recent album as a duo (2014’s Dubrising) a 1985 live set with the late singer Gregory Isaacs, and even a generously expanded edition of roots trio The Abyssinians’ 1998 collection Satta Dub.
Starchild & The New Romantic: I caught Bryndon Cook, better known as Starchild, at Brooklyn Bowl a few years ago, leading a specially-assembled band through a full performance of Prince’s masterpiece Sign “O” The Times. His charisma was indelible, and his releases with his band The New Romantic, 2016’s Crucial and 2018’s Language, were fast favorites. His new album Forever was just released today, and his Bandcamp page features some otherwise unavailable material, like 2012 Soundcloud jam “GEMINI.”
Additional shout-outs: Björk’s critically-acclaimed catalogue arrives on Bandcamp today, and she’s donating part of today’s earnings to Black Lives Matter U.K. Some acts admired by The Second Disc have contributed to some compilations raising money and awareness for worthy causes today: a new compilation by Pittsburgh label Sparrow Heart benefiting Black Lives Matter features a new track written and performed by Dylan Roth of The Hell Yeah Babies, while Palo Santo Records’ Compilation For Change (benefiting Color of Change and Black Lives Matter) features a recent track by Alex Dezen of The Damnwells as well as an unreleased track by his new band, Broken Baby. Additionally, TSD favorite Mark Mulcahy has released an EP sold on his 2005 tour, Franks and a Flag, on Bandcamp to draw attention to the fundraiser today.
Additional resources for discovering black artists on Bandcamp can be found here, and here is a list of other special releases and promotions tied to today’s event.