On Tuesday afternoon, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed into law HB 1523, the nation’s most sweeping “religious freedom” bill to date, and only the most recent in a long line of discriminatory policies promoted by right-wing elected officials. Entitled the Freedom of Conscious from Government Discrimination Act, the new regulation explicitly allows private, religious, and individual worker denial of service on the grounds of their “deeply held religious beliefs” to LGBT patrons. The backlash has already proven swift and widespread, as city councils passed opposition resolutions in coastal Biloxi and the capital, Jackson, with multiple states also issuing nonessential governmental travel bans to Mississippi. A number of national businesses withdrew investments in the area, and a protracted appeals battle is all but guaranteed—an ironic fallout for what was advertised by supporters as a method to protect and promote commercial interests.
While these headlines can paint a bleak depiction of Mississippi, local artistic and musical communities are making sure to quickly respond to Governor Bryant’s recent string of discriminatory measures, and perhaps none are more explicit than an anonymous thrash punk EP succinctly entitled Fuck Phil Bryant. Although technically released late last month on Bandcamp, the album addresses the current state administration’s hateful legacy of social and economic measures stifling progressive change in an already maligned and misunderstood region. The messages are clear with track titles like “WOMANHATER” and “REFUGEE,” and so is the vicious energy and anger blasting from each song. Aside from being protest anthems, the EP is also just a kickass burst of thrash punk, barely clocking in at six minutes but packing a lasting punch.
Speaking on a condition of anonymity, we talked with the man behind Fuck Phil Bryant about this DIY protest project.
Noisey: It's pretty clear why someone would want to make something like this, but was there as specific moment in Mississippi's current legislation that constituted a breaking point for you?FPB: I think I started on this in December. I don't have the statistics or shit…but most of my friends [in Mississippi] are normal people and share the same [beliefs]. I noticed a lot of my friends were mad about it. It's just a toss-up as to whether anything is ever going to get any better. I feel strongly about it, too, because I went to a public school there, and I worked in theater. I grew up in Mississippi my whole life. I moved to another state recently, but for other reasons. There's actually stuff going on here, and I don't have to worry about…being stuck in a backwards, shitty fucking environment. There's at least something moving forward here, and that's nice to be around. I have family there, so I still go back, though. I don't think there's anything wrong about moving out of Mississippi. There's nothing holding me there. Some people want to make a change, and I say good luck to that. I just made this because I wanted to do it as a fun project for me, but also I knew it would make some people happy. Turns out it did, I guess.
How long did it take to record?
Not long. I think I worked on it for about a month, slowly and in short bursts. I did all the guitar, bass, vocals, lyrics, and drum patterns, but I got a friend up here who is not related to Mississippi just to play [live] drums over it.
Are you planning on releasing any follow-up material?
Yeah. We're actually working on another one right now. Somebody emailed me, and said how [Governor Bryant] hates gay people, and I totally forgot about that part [laughs]. I realize it's relatively a gimmick…but I like to think it maybe stands on its own as a hardcore punk noise rock record. If you don't know the political side of it then there's half of it out the window, I guess. But as long as he's in office and doing stupid shit I've just got an endless amount of source material.
You can buy a cassette of the recordings for three dollars on your website. What's the money going towards?
Right now I have it just to cover costs, basically. I'm in a couple other bands, and all the money I make just goes back into these projects. I usually just try to reinvest it back into itself. I've already got more orders for tapes than I actually have, so I gotta order some pretty soon. I just got a bunch in the past couple days because [Governor Bryant] signed that stupid bill. Phil Bryant's failures are good for my business, I guess [laughs]. I'm not trying to capitalize on it, though. I think three bucks is a decent price just to cover the costs. They're all handmade. It's a DIY operation.
Mississippi's not full of backwards people, but it's hard for the forward-thinking people to do anything because it's run by men whose policies are dictated by old, fascist, religious ideologies. I did this because it needed to be said. I didn't attach my name to it because I'd rather have it just be about what it is. I've seen a lot of stuff passed around by people wondering who this is, or when we are going to play. I don't have a band together necessarily [laughs]. I'm working at my own pace and trying to keep it interesting. Mysterious identities and all that isn't really the point. It doesn't matter, I don't care. I don't need credit for it. I just want it to be there. It's not like I have a job I could get fired over this. I'm not gonna get sued or anything. If somebody tries to sue me, I'll just make another one about the First Amendment.
Andrew Paul is thinking forward on Twitter.