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Folk-Punk is Definitely a Thing. An Interview with Cistem Failure

UK trio Cistem Failure is the epitome of everything revolutionary. As self proclaimed nomads Cistem Failure is determined to share their music for both melody and rhetoric; one tour stop at a time.

No Apologies– My name is Tricia. What is everyone’s name and what role do you play in Cistem Failure?

Cistem Failure– Hi Tricia, thanks for inviting us to talk about what we are doing.
There are at least 3 people in our band, but a lot of our friends play
music and like to travel so the upcoming tour is going to be five
people playing. At the moment there are Rover and Emili on banjos, and
Joel on the fiddle. We all sing and shout and Joel is the best
whistler I have ever seen.

NA-You say you live out of your backpacks, what do your backpacks look like? What is each member’s essential item?

Emili–  Essential item is always a sleeping bag because squats
always end up being colder than the outside. Plus its harder to get
scabies when you don’t share blankets…

Rover– My most important item, [umm] my banjo and my notebook, I really need those.

NA– Your band has strong convictions and I find that admirable. I have a broad question, how do you all define anarchy?

Cistem Failure-Well, of course we all have our own ideas about what anarchism means
to us. But I think generally we can agree that the anarchism we
practice is striving towards an existence that is non-hierarchal,
fighting with varied tactics and methods against intersectional
oppressions such as sexism, racism, speciesism, transphobia, ableism,
homophobia etc (these are not in order of importance and of course there
are many more). We believe that institutions and systems of
domination such as the state, patriarchy and capitalism need to be
destroyed, whether that manifests itself in physical or social
destruction.  we try to live in a way that does not exclude our own
behavior and how we interact with the world from our politics, so
acknowledgements of our privileges, being able to constructively
criticize our actions and the actions of each other is very important.
Also some of us strive to be active participants in some struggles.

NA- “Smash The Freaking Patriarchy” is an epic title for the upcoming tour. Which venue are you most looking forward to performing at? Are you planning to play any shows with other bands?

Rover– I am looking forward the most to playing shows for people
where it actually means something to. I mean, when we say we will go
and smash the fucking patriarchy, then we mean that. I secretly also
hope we will be put up with a lot of sexist bands or in scenes where
it is super male dominated, since, if you want to smash something, you
need to go there and smash it. Ranting on stage and demanding
that space is so important for people that have never seen something
like that. I remember the first time I saw a political band…
it blew my mind. To be honest I have not seen many events where there
are more bands playing then us, so I think a lot of it will be a
surprise, and I am very curious.

NA- That’s awesome that you have put together badges. What cool zines are going to be by your side for the tour?

Cistem Failure– We have such a huge collection now but some of the themes covered
are vegan anarchy, police state/surveillance, body/health autonomy,
anarchist praxis vs theory, sustainable activism/burnouts, animal
liberation, and probably loads more things to read. Hopefully we can
make a full list of what we have and share it on our blog for everyone
to take a look at.

NA– Your album is like punk rock and bluegrass had a baby. I’m curious what bands or artists you all draw inspiration from.

Emili– Yes! It was only a matter of time before that baby had to be born. I
think we take some musical inspiration from our friends and their
projects, but also from the different genres of punk that we have
all grown up with. An important aspect of our influences is not
necessarily musical, but more political. It matters a lot that to us
that we are taking the space as non-binary queers to sing about what
we do, and that has probably been fuelled by listening to other
anarchist feminist bands confronting the sexist scenes in which they
play. So i guess we have a lot to thank them for, for being part of
this momentum.

Rover- For me it would be a combination of bands like:
Rail Yard Ghosts, Dresden dolls, or just very crappy folk punk bands
that made me believe even though I could only play a couple of chords
on the banjo, i could still record a EP and be part of that, and I
think that’s really great.

NA– Is “Stick Together” about leaving home and only having each other on the road while at the same time trying to maintain the relationships you left behind or am I completely off base?

Emili– I guess it can be interpreted in this way, for sure. But the song
was actually written about the consequences of ‘doing things the state
does not like’, the kinds of repression that people face from
police, from corporations, from every aspect of state control that can
be anything from curfews and a criminal record to being killed. The
song was written from a purely anarchist perspective but it can be
applied to any person who experiences their lives with some kind of
fear or danger because of their gender presentation, skin color,
sexuality, ability (physical and mental), and the ways that we have to
be super conscious about our choices because of how that might put us
in danger against the police, rapists, racists on the street etc. Of
course, anarchism is a political choice, and the reactions of the
state are influenced by the social contexts (i.e a trans woman in
prison is more likely to experience brutal and regular violations than
a cis male prisoner) but it maybe is not comparable to the
institutionalized racism, sexism, transphobia etc that people
experience on a systematic level regardless if they have any interest
in political activity or not.

NA- I thoroughly enjoyed the album as a whole but find great enjoyment from “You Should Be Terrified”, If you all had to pick what track strikes a special chord (pun intended) with you?

Emili– I think I have to agree with your favorite, Tricia. When we play
Terrified live, people come up to us after to thank us for
being so honest and blunt about the topic of rape and sexual assault,
and when i hear people singing along to the last chorus (our physical
threat to rapists), that feeling is fucking powerful.

Rover- My favorite one might be “Boot On Your Face”. I wrote that song originally to be
very punk and distorted and in the studio more and more silly suggestions came up, and it is just completely  different than I would have ever imagined it to sound like.

NA- With “Tear Apart These Walls” I found myself thinking about the United States prison system which is a profit based system that thrives from keeping people in jail. What does this song mean to you all and where did you draw inspiration?

Rover– This song was written at a time where around me a lot of police
repression was taking place and one of my comrades got imprisoned. I saw the effect this had on my friends, and their friends.
Prison punishes everyone, the people on the inside but also the people
on the outside who can not cuddle with their partners anymore, or kids
that don’t see their family. The idea that putting people into prisons
is a valid solution to crime (whatever that means) is so outdated
and ridiculous. These things of course I knew and read about before
but to see your friends come back from jail with bruises and when you
realize the well being of one of your friends is completely in the
hands of the state, that does something to a person and well, then I
wrote this song.

NA– Last but not least what hobbies do you all have outside of music and being a part of Cistem Failure?

Cistem Failure– We have quite a lot of different interests but I think the thing
that brings us together more than music ever will is food. Maybe
without our shared love of food, everything would just fall apart…
Also, we are usually going through quite similar situations
in our life, with being active in places, and leaving our partners
behind all the time to travel, and confronting our mental health. I think
we are very good at relating to each other. relating to each other is not really a hobby though.

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