Downtown Boys Guide Us Track-By-Track Through Their Album 'Cost of Living' - Beat Magazine

Downtown Boys Guide Us Track-By-Track Through Their Album ‘Cost of Living’

Downtown Boys are on a mission that we fully support, their aim through their music is to, “smash racism, queerphobia, capitalism, fascism, boredom, and all things people use to try to close our minds, eyes and hearts.”

Following their 2015 album Full Communism, the Providence-based band’s third album, Cost of Living, is out now on Sub Pop (their first outing on the label). It’s giving us some serious X-Ray Specs feels and we’re into it.

Downtown Boys’ very own Joey La Neve DeFrancesco has sent us a behind the music style track-by-track guide to the album. Press play and read-a-long below.

▶️ ‘A Wall’
“We talked a lot about where to place this track on the album, but ultimately decided to have it open things out and I think that was the right decision. It’s got a lot of energy and a nice shape to it. The chorus is inspired by an Assata Shakur poem called ‘I Believe in Living’ where her point is that a wall is made by humans, and so can also be destroyed by humans.”

▶️ ‘I’m Enough’
“The melody and instrumentation on this song were fairly new to our band, so this was an interesting one to put together. We’ve got the piano on there and the higher guitar melodies, as well as the synthesizer in other parts. This might have the most layering on the record. In front of all that is a powerful message, and one our band is always grappling with, to fight against the ridiculous expectations placed against us by saying ‘I’m enough’ and ‘YES’.”

▶️ ‘Somos Chulas’
“It’s hard to translate this one directly, but we’re been going with “We’re elegant, We’re not Dumb,” though it obviously has more poetry to it in Spanish. On the surface this is a pretty straight ahead punk song, but It’s got really great harmonies and dissonance throughout, especially in how the melody overlays the synth chords on the chorus. The verse lyrics on this are inspired by a Nina Simone song.”

▶️ ‘Promissory Note’
“This song has the best dance groove on the record, a really strong bass line. Those big chorus hits are fun to play live. The lyrics are taken from a few different pieces. Victoria had that “I have come to cash a check” bit as a take on a Martin Luther King Jr. speech, and then the “What’s the matter you don’t like what you see” was a phrase we were saying for a few years, and those and everything else just fit together in the end.”

▶️ ‘Because You’
“We still often refer to this song by the line in Spanish on the chorus, “Es Por Ti,” or “It’s because of you” but changed the official name in the studio in the hopes the intended audience (the people who we are talking to when we say “this negative shit is because of you”) would take a closer look. I love the bass solo introduction on this. We had a lot of fun working with Guy on constructing the sounds in the intro of this one.”

▶️ ‘Violent Complicity’
“This song went through many forms before we settled on what’s on the record. This was actually the first song we started working on after Full Communism was completed. I really like the harmonies in the chords on the verses and chorus, it all has a nice color. I think there are a few themes happening in this song, but it boils down to the 3rd verse lines: “A seat at the table? Last I checked I built the table.””

▶️ ‘It Can’t Wait’
“This was maybe the second song we wrote for this record. I was messing around and just had that poppy rock riff and started to build a song around it. The message is clear: our survival on this planet depends on immediate and decisive action.”

▶️ ‘Tonta’
“This is the first songwriting contribution from our bass player, Mary. She wrote those main riffs and worked on the lyrics with Victoria and then we all got together to work on the arrangement. It’s hitting at “I don’t want to be dumb and thirsty” in translation on the chorus. The sax solo in the middle of this is a great part on the record.”

▶️ ‘Heroes’
“We were aiming to a have a few interludes on the records, but couldn’t clear all the samples, but we’re really happy we got this one on the album. The voice here is Aaron Swartz, who was a brilliant and tireless activist for internet freedom, the democratization of information, and against the surveillance state. He tragically took his own life in 2013 while being aggressively prosecuted by federal prosecutors. Here we hear him speaking about how we were able to win the fight for net neutrality the first time around, a fight we’re still sadly having to fight today. The music is a cut up of us jamming in the studio that Guy assembled.”

▶️ ‘Lips that Bite’
“This is maybe the most straight ahead rock song on the record and it’s really fun to play. It’s about fighting back with everything you’ve got whether that’s your words, your teeth, your body, your labor, whatever it is. Starts with a great drum fill from Norlan. The sax solo at the end of this is pretty interesting as Joe stayed away from blues scales and stayed in that minor scale you hear.”

▶️ ‘Clara Rancia’
“This went through a bunch of different versions before we landed on this arrangement. Victoria had had these lyrics for quite a while but making the music work took a while. I think it’s one of the more interesting pieces on the record; it just has some strange stuff on it we don’t get to hit elsewhere. The title translates as a take on “Rancid Clarity.””

▶️ ‘Bulletproof’
“The music on this was intended as an outro on ‘Somsos Chulas’, but ended up working better as a separate track here. The words as written and spoken by Vatic Kuumba, a poet and playwright and educator here in Providence who we’ve worked with on many events. He had this piece and we wanted to include him on the album and it worked really powerfully with the music here and seemed like a strong way to close out the record.”