Pleasure Venom Reflects On Music's Role in Fighting Against Systemic Issues

Austin-based thrashers Pleasure Venom rock hard and follow punk’s philosophy of living to the fullest as your truest—plus, they reflect the times in their music.

“I’m fuckin pissed at the state of America and it shows,” frontwoman Audrey Campbell tells BTRtoday. “But I also want to fuckin dance and laugh at it, because what else can I do?”

Pleasure Venom, “Deth”

These punk rockers show you that rock’n’roll is always political, and that it is and always has been a Black artform. Campbell says her goal in life is to make having a Black female front woman a norm rather than an exciting headline.

“Hopefully, by the time I’m done, a Black person at a punk or rock show, whether playing or in attendance, being deemed as “strange” will be a thing of the fuckin past,” she says. “Rock music is Black music.”

The group is currently working on their debut LP and intend to release their first single from it, “We Get What You Deserve,” sometime this fall or winter. Listen to some of their tunes below and read the entire interview with Pleasure Venom’s Audrey Campbell below.

 

BTRtoday (BTR): What does Pleasure Venom mean to you?

Audrey Campbell (AC): An absurdist experimental punk rock project with loads of punk, soul, and dance influences—reminding you that rock is and always has been a Black art form. Hopefully, by the time I’m done, a Black person at a punk or rock show, whether playing or in attendance, being deemed as “strange” will be a thing of the fuckin’ past. Rock music is Black music. Don’t like it? Kick rocks or I can show you the door, or where to sit and spin on it, or where to shove it, or…you get it.

BTR: How did you guys all meet and come to form the band?

AC: Around Spring 2014 after I met our original bassist, Trevor Mason, at an admin job I had at the time. I talked about wanting to do a solo EP. Soon I met our drummer, Thomas Valles while celebrating our birthdays at a bar, and the rest is history, as they say.

BTR: What’s the group’s evolution been like?

As we began to write our 1st EP, Hunt, things shifted more towards an actual band/experimental project with a name Pleasure Venom, not Audrey and the Blah Blah Blahz or whatever, as we previously had planned. We all just wanted to dance, thrash, and go AWF a bit, and I needed an outlet for all the frustrations and depression I was going through at the time. It felt great to make jagged, dancey, heavy art that just made us all feel good. It was a much-needed release for me personally and still is.

Ever since that first EP, we have had a new lineup per release, with the exception of Thomas and myself. Our last self-titled EP featured the talents of Fern Rojas on bass and Brendan Morris and Scott Riegel on guitars, and we were super proud of that record. We toured it opening for Garbage in the states and in England.

I do think we are working on our best shit ever now with new members Chase Dungan on guitar and Joel Coronado on bass. So far, the mixes and masters we are getting back are blowing my mind. I’m fuckin pissed at the state of America and it shows, but I also want to fuckin dance and laugh at it, because what else can I do?

BTR: What have been some of the band’s most recent/strongest influences?

AC: Recently, we love The Muslims, Nova Twins, Danny Denial—all dope. Locally in Austin, Chris Conde, BLXPLTN, Bondbreakr, and Chief Cleopatra are amazing. There are just so many Black and Brown artists and creatives who inspire me every fuckin’ day. I just recorded a collab with the super-talented Jonny Jukebox. His upcoming album has a lot of features, so we’re really looking forward to its release. Working on my feature was really fluid shit. It saddens and frustrates me that there’s been an attitude of “there just aren’t enough Black musicians to book, to sign, or to play this.” [It’s a] bullshit excuse for laziness or lack of diversity in lineups, labels and in between, because there are loads of fuckin’ great Black bands and musicians, they’re just not looking very hard.

BTR: As someone whose life revolves around music, and is also trying to fight the injustices that have been going on for way too long in our society, how do you think music can or is playing a role in all of this?

AC: As Nina Simone famously said, “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” So I don’t have a lot of fear of addressing whatever the hell I want. Racism, politics, misogyny—if that’s where my head is at, that’s what I am going to “reflect,” because not speaking on injustice, particularly the loss of Black life due to police brutality and how the fuck all these cops can kill unarmed people and not go to jail, would just drive me insane or make me really depressed.

Music is going to play a huge role in honesty and representation, which is why I feel there needs to be a MASSIVE reckoning in the entire music industry as a whole if it wants to say, Black Lives Matter. I want to see action and reform. Streaming services are a joke and pay shit. The algorithm consistently pushes Black artists to the background, especially in rock and punk music.

Pitchfork, of all websites, dropped the “What It’s Like to Be Black in Indie Music” piece, which is worth reading if you’re non-Black and is a validating “been there” if you are a Black musician. There is less opportunity due to the racist and bigoted Catch-22 of “Black music is not valuable unless it’s profitable” when literally NO music is profitable out of the gate without backing. So why are Black artists not offered the same initial opportunities as frequently?

But it’s easier to share Breonna Taylor memes than to actually reflect on problematic and destructive systemic issues.

BTR: I believe punk rock to be very much about following your own philosophies—what are some of your own personal philosophies on life?

AC: For me personally, there’s always a focus on freedom and being free to fuck up and learn. Folks just want that W all the time, but the most I’ve ever learned was after I’ve taken a real L. You have to fail to get better, and not be afraid to be fearless in doing so. That shit has made me so damn tough and given me strength of mind and character. I don’t wish for success or failure at all anymore, to be honest. I just want to be free to do me and be the best version of myself as I can be today. The past is gone and tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone.

BTR: What should we be keeping an eye out for in the future of Pleasure Venom?

AC: We are really pumped working on our first full-length album here in Austin recording at Wolfshield Ranch. Should be out in 2021, but look for our single “We Get What You Deserve” dropping this fall/winter.

BTR: If your sound had a one-liner slogan or life motto, would do you think it would be?

AC: Freedom and free-bitch boss-lady shit. Fuck the rest.

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