The self-induced destruction of PWR BTTM
May 15, 2017 10:34 AM   Subscribe

On the eve of their sophomore album release came numerous accusations of sexual assault and harassment by PWR BTTM's Ben Hopkins. Since the news came out on May 11, PWR BTTM: have been dropped by their management, dropped by their label (which offered full refunds to anyone who had purchased the new album), lost touring band members, have seen their openers drop out of their tour, been dropped as festival headliners, and reportedly canceled their entire tour. (tw: sexual assault)

The band issued a statement:
Unfortunately we live in a culture which trivializes and normalizes violations of consent. There are people who have violated others’ consent and do not know. Ben has not been contacted by any survivor(s) of abuse. These allegations are shocking to us and we take them very seriously. Further, the alleged behavior is not representative of who Ben is and the manner in which they try to conduct themselves.
Hopkins has previously been accused of anti-Semitism for a 2011 photo which showed him drawing a swastika in sand.

Former opener, T-Rexstacy apologized to fans on Twitter, saying statement on Twitter that a private source had warned them about PWR BTTM but they put their success above the safety of fans.

Another former opener, Nnamdi Ogbannaya, said on Facebook "...in light of the allegations I can't comfortably continue. I hope that truth is found/admitted and I'm incredibly disappointed at this type of shit continuously happening."

previously
posted by palindromic (51 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Very sad. I'm unfamiliar with this band- are they/were they very famous? Sometimes allegations of this nature get a reaction like this, and sometimes it seems like nobody cares (I have a few high-profile entertainers in mind); it's hard to understand where the collective line is drawn.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:43 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


They were sort of just on the brink; the speed of the label drop, compared to other similar cases, has prompted speculation that there may be more going on behind the scenes than has made the public eye.
posted by ominous_paws at 10:48 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


If they were really famous, we'd have people here rationalizing Ben's actions, citing drugs, the intensity of the musicians' life, and "But in spite of all that, his music really speaks to me."

The unusual thing here isn't the sexual assault and harassment, but that for once people aren't minimizing or defending it.
posted by happyroach at 10:51 AM on May 15 [18 favorites]


I would know nothing about this except that I taught sex ed this weekend for a bunch of teenagers, mostly queer, and they were heartbroken. They really looked up to this band as queer icons and they were torn between hoping it would turn out not to be true, and accepting that it was but not knowing how to feel about still listening to music that meant everything to them.

A lot of them were at least hoping that the other person in the band (can't remember the name, not going to look up this particular band name at work) was not complicit and might at least go on to future projects.
posted by emjaybee at 10:52 AM on May 15 [32 favorites]


The unusual thing here isn't the sexual assault and harassment, but that for once people aren't minimizing or defending it.

or deleting comments that mention it
posted by thelonius at 10:54 AM on May 15 [11 favorites]


I mean the previously was a month ago and look at that mod comment. I guess enough people came forward for the mods to allow this FPP. Kinda not loving that the warnings about this guy were ignored.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:57 AM on May 15 [8 favorites]


It does seem like a lot of people knew something was wrong but were afraid of doing or saying anything because of PWR BTTM's status as this fun, inclusive queer band (like T-Rexstacy's comments). And it really feels like PWR BTTM took advantage of the fact people viewed them as a fun, inclusive queer band to get away with being predatory. (That's mostly about Ben, but it does seem like that Liv is somewhat complicit in this. Even if Liv didn't outright condone it, it does feel like there was a lot of looking the other way.)

It's just really depressing that so many of people that feel like should be on your side turn out not to be. I think most of us know we can't trust our enemies. It's sad when we think we can't trust our allies either.
posted by darksong at 10:58 AM on May 15 [6 favorites]


PWR BTTM was getting some serious inertia. Their new album was very well-reviewed, was on NPR's First Listen, and so on.

It's disappointing that they've done this shit. Trying to scrub their melodies, which have been bouncing around in my head for the past week or so, right out of it.

T-Rextasy, otoh, has found a listener in me for their honesty.
posted by entropone at 11:01 AM on May 15


Setting up an email address via which victims can discuss with you, the alleged perpetrator, the crimes they have been subjected to is ridiculous.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:13 AM on May 15 [26 favorites]


Setting up an email address via which victims can discuss with you, the alleged perpetrator, the crimes they have been subjected to is ridiculous.


Thank you for verifying that. It was so ludicrous, I figured I must have read it wrong.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 11:16 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


I'm devastated. I'd been looking forward to the album, their single LOL was contender for my favorite song of all time. It hits a very personal note, being a person who's had consent been violated at varying levels. I know what that feels like, I know what the victims are going through, and it's honestly breaking my heart that someone I looked up to as a fearless queer role model made those people feel that way.

Setting up an email address via which victims can discuss with you, the alleged perpetrator, the crimes they have been subjected to is ridiculous.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:13 PM on May 15 [+] [!]

According to the source, the email was actually monitored by a hired professional mediator. Neither condoning or condemning the setup, but it's important to keep facts straight.
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:18 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


On further review, it looks like their post had been edited from when it was originally sent out (i've been nauseatingly following this from the start). Which, honestly, doesn't reflect good on them. I thought they had already procured a mediator. But, still, it stands that no, the alleged perpetrator has no access to the email where victims can voice concerns.
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:24 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


According to the source, the email was actually monitored by a hired professional mediator. Neither condoning or condemning the setup, but it's important to keep facts straight.

It's not just about the sketchy setup and that you cannot verify who has access to the email account, but the dangerously naive idea that the band is now going to enable victims to voice their concerns. There are zero reasons why victims/fans should voice concerns to the band instead of the police.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:33 AM on May 15 [11 favorites]


This has been total bummer and a sobering reminder than those who seem the most progressive and outspoken can often be serious predators in private. Nthed that the speed at which this has exploded suggests there's been smoke for a long time, at least for those in the know.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:37 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


I mean the previously was a month ago and look at that mod comment. I guess enough people came forward for the mods to allow this FPP. Kinda not loving that the warnings about this guy were ignored.

Althought I was the first to snark about this, I'd like to say that it is a tough mod call, to let unsourced allegations stand or not.

a sobering reminder than those who seem the most progressive and outspoken can often be serious predators in private
It's just really depressing that so many of people that feel like should be on your side turn out not to be.

It's very often a mistake to assume that people in bands you like are OK.
posted by thelonius at 11:41 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


It's not just about the sketchy setup
Okay that's fine, but that's also not what you said or what I was responding to. You're moving goalposts, even tho I said I don't condone the method, so I'm not really sure what you're trying to argue about because I was just pointing out misinformation.
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:49 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


There are zero reasons why victims/fans should voice concerns to the band

ok I'm with you (they're trying to do restorative justice and did not pick a good approach)

instead of the police.

Disagree. There are nonzero reasons for not reporting one's assault to police.
posted by clavicle at 11:55 AM on May 15 [18 favorites]


So, PWR BTTM was one of my favorite new bands. I really loved their music, had tickets to their show in Philly, and was so excited for their album release. I linked their NPR Tiny Desk Concert to a ton of people. I loved the fact that they were getting major indie attention as a queer band that promoted their shows as safe spaces for their often-LGBTQ fans.

And now this.

I've taken all their music off my phone and computer because it makes me sad to listen to it. I'm so disappointed that someone would use their power and position to declare their shows a safe space for queer and trans kids to come out and have fun and then violate that trust.

The one small thing I'm glad about is the immediate response by the community to protect their own. This is a really, really shitty thing to have happened and I'm so upset on behalf of those that were assaulted and hurt, but there is a tiny glimmer of hope in the overwhelming response to it.

darksong: I think most of us know we can't trust our enemies. It's sad when we think we can't trust our allies either.

Yes, this, absolutely.
posted by rachaelfaith at 12:06 PM on May 15 [14 favorites]


I think a bit of what's missing here for some of you is the culture that pwr bttm came from and also helped to foster. To say there are zero reasons why victims shouldn't go to the police is really naive and privileged, I think. Most, if not all, of pwr bttms fans are queer. They come from the underground scene, the DIY scene, these are not mainstream people. Rape and sexual assault allegations are hard enough for straight, white, middle class women. Imagine being a brown genderqueer person living in a collective with 6 other art students, and then you go to show the officer photos of your attacker, he's a self-proclaimed gay man with makeup and glitter smeared on his face and he's wearing a lace dress. I'm sure that would go over really, really well.

Also, in the underground/DIY culture, they absolutely prioritize the idea and notion of Community First. They don't involve police, many of them on principle, not just for fear of repercussion. The swiftness with which the other touring members, the opening bands, the record label, etc, dropped pwr bottm is a testament to how this community functions. And they're doing a great job, I've never seen something like this handled so well. Everything that has happened should have happened. But, yeah, they don't like outsiders, and definitely not the police.

It's very often a mistake to assume that people in bands you like are OK.
posted by thelonius at 2:41 PM on May 15 [+] [!]

Again, I think it's different this time. It's so much harder to accept this coming from Ben, knowing who he is, the circles the band came up in, etc. Like, I have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to racism, sexual assault, domestic violence, etc. I drop artists quick, with no regret. But this was a hard hit. Look at how the fans, the other artist, the touring artists, etc, look at how they handled it. that alone should be enough to make people stop and say two things: 1)"Wow this community really cares about safe spaces and prioritizes the fans and actually takes responsibility for the space they foster", and 2)"If thats true then holy shit this guy fooled a lot of people, in a really devastating blow."
posted by FirstMateKate at 12:11 PM on May 15 [41 favorites]


Having played a lot in queer punk circles in the UK, this possibly surprises me less than many - not PWR BTTM specifically necessarily, but holy shit there are a lot of people in the scene who give me the heebie-jeebies.
posted by Dysk at 12:18 PM on May 15 [6 favorites]


both members of pwr bttm are nonbinary and use they/them pronouns btw.

it's heartening to see that they are finally being held accountable (though disheartening how many people knew, for so long, and did nothing). but i wonder if the scene would be so quick to eject them if they were a cis man. i hope so.
posted by sea change at 12:21 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


both members of pwr bttm are nonbinary and use they/them pronouns btw.

I know Liv does, but do you have a source for Ben? I have one, but it's 2015 and things change.
posted by FirstMateKate at 12:36 PM on May 15


the jezebel link in the FPP states they are both nb and they/them
posted by AFABulous at 12:40 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


this jezebel article says they use gender neutral pronouns and this article from noisey uses them for both members.
posted by sea change at 12:41 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


I know Liv does, but do you have a source for Ben?

The band's own statement on their facebook page, copied in the OP, uses "they/them" for Ben, that's about as recent and definitive as it can get.
posted by muddgirl at 12:43 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I recall from an interview that Ben uses they/them and Liv uses they/them or she/her. Liv's Twitter bio confirms the latter.
posted by rachaelfaith at 12:51 PM on May 15


Famous enough for this to cause a stir in their corner of the internet. Not famous enough for people to be getting rich off their success and sweep this under the rug.
posted by thecjm at 2:08 PM on May 15 [4 favorites]


Everything that has happened should have happened.

Everything happened once allegations hit a critical mass, and once one person put their foot down about not tolerating this band anymore. Looks like these allegations have been floating around for a little while (see their opener's comments). Which brings up back to things like Bill Cosby - how many allegations have to bubble up before people take them seriously? Even in an inclusive community like this band comes from, it's clearly still > 1.
posted by thecjm at 2:15 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


Any thoughts on the swift retribution happening against a perpetrator of same-sex rape while plain old male-on-female rape by artists and celebrities goes unpunished? Seems like this, while heinous, was even more heinous to labels, et al than say, oh, R Kelly or the POTUS.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 3:35 PM on May 15


getting some serious inertia.

Well they are now anyway.
posted by spitbull at 3:57 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


Abehammerb Lincoln, I think it's relevant that the communities PWR BTTM cultivated as an audience are powerfully committed to safe spaces, believing survivors, and protecting their members (See FirstMateKate's comments for a glimpse at this).

The infrastructure surrounding this group - existing in explicitly queer spaces - has much clearer expectations, and much stronger boundaries than more mainstream artists
posted by AAALASTAIR at 4:06 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Any thoughts on the swift retribution happening against a perpetrator of [let's say 'sexual assault in queer communities' since that describes the situation more accurately and more in line with people's self identifications] while [sexual assault against women by men, often cis men] by artists and celebrities goes unpunished?

To the extent that this is true, queer communities skew left, are smaller and have stronger internal norms, also there's less money in play. Women and femme people have more power than in the straight world, even though discrimination, marginalization and violence are still pervasive realities. I imagine that the more a particular queer social milieu is friendly toward non-binary people, people of color, femmes and women generally, the more likely it is to have some response in these situations.

Queer communities also have some community-creating explicit language about mutuality and feminism, and against hierarchy and capitalist/patriarchal norms. While obviously just saying stuff doesn't do anything, it does mean that there are resources in terms of shared ideas and language that larger, less explicitly political social formations don't have.

Honestly, I think that less gender inequality is a decisive factor - as much as queer communities don't do fabulous and awesome at dealing with sexual assault, they do a damn sight better than the straight punk scene, for example. There's a lot more traction among straight punks for just saying "I don't believe this accusation and I don't care anyway, also women are lying liars who lie". You can say that in queer spaces, sadly, but there's a lot less social support for it.
posted by Frowner at 4:08 PM on May 15 [9 favorites]


i've been following this with some interest because it really defies a lot of the image and message PWR BTTM was conveying. while not a huge fan of their music, i appreciated what they were doing and happy to see their success coming.

one piece that resonated with me that hasn't been linked yet is jes skolnik's on accountability. it talks about restorative justice without involving the survivor, but also the media's role in this. it was interesting to see who was covering it (or not) last week.
posted by kendrak at 4:34 PM on May 15


I guess anyone can be an asshole.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 5:19 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


That bit about accountability... bothered me. In large part, it bothered me because most of what the author listed is stuff tons of people do on a regular basis. Journal entries? Really? Not playing shows "until you've proven that you're better"?

One thing about rape is that it happens a lot. And it happens a lot without punishment. And the people who do it reoffend a lot. And what that means is that it's really stupid to say that some admitted rapist ought to just be accepted because they feel really guilty about what they did, because there are pretty good odds they're lying. And that also means that real repentance needs to be performative, because the message otherwise becomes that you should totally accept that other rapist back into your group.

You know what would prove commitment to me? Self exile. Walking away from your community completely. Never performing again. Moving. Taking a job at some remote ranch in Texas or at a gas station somewhere. And then donating your money to RAIIN or some such. And doing this for the rest of your life.

And yes, that sucks. It means in this case they'd be in a place where most people aren't accepting of genderqueer people and that they'd be subject to a lot of discrimination. They'd be miserable.

But that's what happens when you betray the only community that accepts you. You become an example.

(Also, isn't it interesting how restorative justice gets used for crimes that aren't taken seriously by the outside world? It's almost like people expect us to accept anything because we can't expect anything more.)
posted by steady-state strawberry at 5:28 PM on May 15 [13 favorites]


Any thoughts on the swift retribution happening against a perpetrator of same-sex rape while plain old male-on-female rape by artists and celebrities goes unpunished?

Can't find the source but I read that there were many victims - mostly recent Internet fans - and that at least one was female. IIRC all were queer.
posted by msalt at 9:18 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


Evan Minsker at Pitchfork: “PWR BTTM’s Music Removed From iTunes, Apple Music”
Pageant is no longer available on iTunes, Apple Music, Tidal, Google Play, or Amazon. PWR BTTM’s older records released by Father/Daughter Records, including their debut album Ugly Cherries, have also been removed from iTunes and Apple Music. Currently, none of PWR BTTM’s music is available through Apple. Spotify remains the only streaming platform where all of PWR BTTM’s music is still available. According to a Polyvinyl representative, the label has asked for it to be removed from Spotify, as well. Representatives for PWR BTTM were not immediately available to respond to Pitchfork’s request for comment.
It’s very strange to see an artist’s output get memory-holed. I would say it echoes what happened to Milli Vanilli, but based on a quick search that material seems to be available again. Not commenting on the rightness or wrongness of the action, but it feels surreal.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:56 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


All of the above said, it seems like the album can still be pre-ordered from PWR BTTM’s bandcamp; it hasn’t been as completely written out of the universe as initially appeared.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:05 PM on May 15


it hasn’t been as completely written out of the universe as initially appeared.

I'm writing them out of my universe. I had liked their music but now it's going to make my skin crawl.

Back to playing 7 Year Bitch's "Dead Men Don't Rape" on repeat, I guess.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:54 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]


As a recent fan of PWR BTTM's, this breaks my heart — it's hard to relate to music and feel like it speaks directly to you, then find out the person speaking to you is being accused of inexcusable actions. I'm a victim of childhood sexual abuse and I know what it's like to not be believed, or worse, to be believed but be told to let it go because "they're really sorry" or otherwise treat women well.

I discovered PWR BTTM through an interview in Out magazine, where they mention they wrote the song Big Beautiful Day for a friend of theirs who was fat-shamed at the doctor. 90% of my comments on Metafilter have to do with my experience as a fat woman, usually talking about the harm fat-shaming does to mental and physical health, so you can imagine that I felt this band really got me and would have my back as a fat queer woman.

My knee-jerk reaction was to want to wait for Ben to issue a further statement before I stopped listening to their songs on repeat, but I realize how hypocritical that is of me to insist we should believe abuse accusations instead of believing the accused who is in power... but then not wanting to do that myself when it comes to an artist I really like. There are artists who have done disappointing and offensive things that I still listen to (Ani DiFranco, somewhat reluctantly) but for the most part I'm not able to excuse who an artist is personally from their talent.

I'm glad this is on Metafilter and that I got to read what people I respect had to say. Most of the comments I've seen about this elsewhere are from people talking about how they wouldn't listen to the band anyway because of their dumb hipster name missing the vowels (I believe they did that so you could google them without getting porn) or saying "who cares, they're a little known band" or misgendering them and deciding the band's gender identity means they couldn't possibly commit abuse.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 11:10 AM on May 16 [5 favorites]


Whelp that explains why they disappeared overnight from the local radio station then.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:25 AM on May 16


One of their songs was on my Apple Music My New Music mix a couple days ago; I just checked and it's no longer there. I'd marked it as "Dislike" when it came up on my mix, having heard of the allegations. It is weird to see the music memory hole'd like this, and I doubt this would happen with any more established artist. I think it's because PWR BTTM was at the exact right cusp of getting bigger that it's all shaking out this way, and from the label's perspective, it's got to be preferable to wash their hands of all of it. That said, I can't say it's the wrong call, especially when artists and fans have closer connections these days.

I do idly wonder about the legal end of things though. Are they likely to have had a morality clause in their contract with the label? Is the label in the clear dropping them? I mean, morally, obviously they are, but geeze. What a mess to pull an anticipated and well-reviewed album like this. I really do respect the label for their swift action in doing so and offering immediate refunds.
posted by yasaman at 12:48 PM on May 16


Let me tell you, I've never been angrier to have a song stuck in my head.

Taking suggestions for stuff to listen to to get rid of it.
posted by dinty_moore at 1:04 PM on May 16


Taking suggestions for stuff to listen to to get rid of it.

Richard Thorncroft’s “You Can’t Handcuff The Wind”
posted by Going To Maine at 1:07 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


Sasha Geffen at Pitchfork: “Queer Kids Deserve Better Than PWR BTTM”
posted by Going To Maine at 1:10 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Tacocat is a pretty great alternative to PWR BTTM — I don't know if any of the band members are queer, but they're fun and catchy and socially conscious. For sure they'll get stuck in your head and replace the space PWR BTTM takes up. My favorite is I Hate the Weekend, which perfectly sums up why I left Seattle after ten years, thanks to the techbros turning the gayborhood into a place where hate crimes were rising at an alarming rate and the lesbian bar felt increasingly unsafe with men leering in the windows and posturing: "Paint the rainbow shades of beige
 / Take down everything we made / 
The neighborhood walks home afraid"

Another favorite is Men Explain Things To Me, about, you guessed it, mansplaining, and FDP, which stands for "First Day Period".

I'm watching for more suggestions, because I honestly can't think of any other (recent) bands who I related to in the same way that I could listen to at full volume and sing along.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 4:29 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]


Is the label in the clear dropping them?

Almost certainly, although not because of a morality clause. For all that Polyvinyl is a cool small indie label, virtually all record contracts give the label plenty of veto power for no other reason than feel they should be allowed to decide on a case-by-case basis if their investment in a band is worthwhile and likewise should be allowed to not throw good money after bad. Best case scenario (for a band) is something like the band & the label are equal partners, the band provides the talent and the label provides the cash and infrastructure to manufacture, distribute, and promote the records, and any profits get split more-or-less equally. But tons of contracts give the label the lion's share of the power in the contractual relationship - plenty of albums or singles have gone down the memory hole for months/years/forever just because the label thought the material was shit.

PWR BTTM may eventually get back their material and the right to release it themselves, and this might involve some lawsuits, but chances are good that Polyvinyl is contractually allowed to refuse to release any record they choose to because Reasons.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:31 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Statement by PWR BTTM
posted by nikoniko at 3:55 PM on May 18


Unsurprisingly typical. I could have predicted it save for the veneer of social justice language. The story is always the same. At least they didn't try to claim that it was just "awkward sex."
posted by muddgirl at 4:30 PM on May 18


I have to be honest, when reading that I kept thinking "well how would I defend myself against allegations against me in a way when everyone has gathered round with pitchforks?" Like, that statement could read like someone who is trying really hard not to come out and say "this person is lying and it's fucked that they're accusing me of this because it's ruined my musical career" to a hostile audience. On the other hand, it can also read like someone who's lying through their teeth. I honestly don't feel like there's any way to prove who is lying or not based on the tone of Ben's latest statement. The only thing I'm comfortable with doing is believing the one doing the accusing because that's how this has to work.

I'm trying to place the statement into the thing I heard once (almost certainly here on MetaFilter) about how people who are lying will give you all the reasons why they couldn't have done what they're accused of without denying they did it (so, gaslighting) , and people who are innocent will just deny the thing out right. Based on that lens... yeah, okay, the statement sucks.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 4:47 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]


Oh, also, I asked a question a few days ago inspired dinty_moore's request above for songs to get PWR BTTM out of their head. I hope it's okay to self-link in this way to my own request for alternatives to PWR BTTM on the Green. Per the usual the response from mefites was stupendous and I'm really enjoying listening through all the links.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 4:53 PM on May 18


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