Downtown Boys to Emphasize Political Themes with Multilingual Lyrics

Andrés Gonzalez

Who are the Downtown Boys? In the lead-up to their performance tonight at the ’Sco, many Oberlin students have surely asked this question. As friend of the band and member of New York hardcore outfit Nine of Swords Jack Tomascak succinctly said in a conversation with the Review, “Downtown Boys are the future of punk-rock music, of underground music, of radical music.” As sweeping as this claim may seem, it befits a band whose intentions, both musical and political, are as grand as they are radically progressive. It is in that spirit, perhaps, that Downtown Boys defiantly titled their upcoming release, Full Communism, out via Don Giovanni Records May 4.

Attendees of Friday’s show should expect a high-energy, fast-paced set likely split between tracks from Full Communism, including the powerhouse pre-release track “Monstro,” and cuts from their self-titled 7”, which has attracted a devoted following for the band since its release in February of last year. Downtown Boys have differentiated themselves from an often tamer, less political scene in New York and in the DIY music community at large through brazenly political lyrics split fairly evenly between Spanish and English, a strong sense of melody and a pummeling horn section.

Lyrically, the band’s decision to sing in Spanish is, to them, a purposeful and crucial element of the band. “For people who speak or identify with the Spanish language, I think it is powerful to hear it in this music that’s so typically Englishdominated,” guitarist Joey DeFrancesco said in an email to the Review. Downtown Boys’ politics do not stop at a celebration of Latinx identity, additionally emphasizing the importance of creating positive spaces for youth marginalized by race, gender identity, class and sexuality through their music.

Positivity also runs through the band’s instrumentals, which are easily as diverse as its lyrical themes. The motifs, energy and aggression of hardcore punk are all fundamental aspects to the music of Downtown Boys, and in the genre of hardcore, positive thinking and social consciousness are oft-explored themes. However, Downtown Boys also express an interest in dissociating themselves from the tropes of “political punk.” “I think we are a political punk band, but people have certain connotations for that phrase and we want to get away from that,” DeFrancesco said. “We try to take our ideas and emotions and beliefs and explode them into a cathartic two or three minutes. With the tools we have, what comes out is something you can move around to, is loud and shouted and has the additional soul-searching element of the horns.”

Catharsis and soul-searching may seem like lofty goals for a punk band, but Downtown Boys take themselves seriously and have thus far managed to inspire the punk and DIY community on the east coast to do so as well. That said, Downtown Boys’ emphasis on ethics does not stop them from having a good time.

Downtown Boys’ Latinx influence is evident in many of the rhythms and melodies they use. College first-year and fan of the band Justin Jimenez characterized this undercurrent when he said, “It sounds like my mom’s old salsa records were corrupted by a punk band in the most beautiful way.”

Downtown Boys’ music is ambitious and expansive and their live shows strive to be a manifestation of their ethos. The band acknowledges that all its efforts are in service of growth and positivity in their fans. DeFrancesco mused, “It’s more about the people you are playing with and who show up in the audience than … anything. We have a pretty special experience every night we play when we’re able to connect with people we need and who might need us.”