In 2015, Rolling Stone hailed Downtown Boys as America’s most exciting punk band, and it’s safe to say that’s not just music journalism hyperbole. It’s been some time since a punk band actually acted on the social justice principles they so ardently defend; their music tackles everything from reparations to police violence to immigration reform. Whether it’s through lead singer Victoria Ruiz’s impassioned spoken word intros, their website Spark Mag, or their activism at New Urban Arts, a community center in Providence, Rhode Island, Downtown Boys are in the streets and onstage, leading the revolution by any means necessary.
The Providence-born quintet is also putting a brown face on the predominantly white punk world, carrying the torch for Latinx punk icons like Los Crudos and The Bags. Though Latinxs have been a longstanding force in punk music, that tradition continues to be forgotten with the passing of each generation. To that end, the band imbued their 2015 album Full Communism with the blue collar romance of Bruce Springsteen, and added a healthy dose of “fuck you” radicalism – all in the bi bilingual Downtown Boys tongue.
“White supremacy isn’t about skin color, it’s about a set of ideas, and about history,” Victoria Ruiz reminds me in our interview with the band during SXSW. That’s perhaps what’s most powerful about the band – their ability to speak to every member of the audience, to ask every concertgoer to reflect on their own stake in the structures that marginalize and oppress so many.
Check out our interview above, and be sure to watch the band perform their cover of “Dancing in the Dark” here.
Thumbnail photo by Itzel Alejandra Martinez