Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Get on the Boogie Train


So i've been meaning to put something up about this for ages... as always i've procrastinated to the point of ridiculousness so now i'm going to do it when I should really be going to bed.

ANYWAY. As you might have seen/heard we have a split 7" out with a band called Beat Express. I'm pretty sure most people who are into our band probably thought, "Who the hell are Beat Express?!" and if they bought the 7" put on their side and were surprised to not hear double time and shouting.

Well, i thought it was probably best to explain and give some context to what we've done.

We've effectively done what I consider to be a pretty big first in music history and put out a record with a learning disabled band (Correct me if i'm wrong on this but I couldn't find anything else of it's kind when I researched it). We all thought this was an amazing opportunity to try and do something different and break out of the mould of a typical hardcore split 7" and maybe even try and educate people a little... as racism/sexism/homophobia issues are all well covered within punk rock we thought Disability Rights could have some attention. Especially now.

The way it came about was I started volunteering for a charity called Carousel just under 2 years ago now and through that I started working with Beat Express. At the beginning of 2007 I started playing second guitar and helping facilitate and support the band so they could rehearse, play gigs and do outreach. They're amazing people and a brilliant band. I always thought that they were way more punk than any band that I had been in. I was slowly finding out more and more about what they had to go through to just exist as a band, and this still blows me away. Their sheer love of writing and playing music, and their work ethic is unbelievable. I always wanted to find away to share their music and the things that i've learnt from joining the band.

Beat Express has a history that doesn't exactly follow conventional rock band stories I guess. They formed initially five years ago from a music project run by Carousel. The thing that puts aside Beat Express from a lot of bands is the difficulties they face in just being 'in a band' as 3 out of the 5 members have learning disabilities. This also gives context to their songwriting and the honesty of their lyrics, when Lee, Claire and Chris are screaming, "We Need SPEED!" you might be able to understand that for these guys visceral experiences can be hard to come by, often caught up in a labyrinth of risk assessments and often encountering people that treat them like children. Their songs are about themselves but reach out to their community, talking about their lives and offering a voice that understands them without being patronising or condescending.

If it wasn't enough for these guys to be in a band, writing songs, practicing and playing gigs around the south-east and London, they also work collaboratively with other art-forms and work really hard within their own community, as educators and positive role models. In 2006 they wrote, (in a staggering 24 hours over 12 weeks) the story and 14 songs for a Rock Opera called Debbie Rock Angel. This was a collaboration with learning disabled film makers from Junk TV and Carousel's Dance Company, 'High Spin'. It was performed live to two sell out audiences at the Komedia in Brighton and at several other locations across the south-east of England. The band for the last few years has also run outreach workshops in schools and after-school clubs for people with learning disabilities. Going in, helping groups write their own songs and perform them in front of the rest of the school. Beat Express have also been running a year long OCN accredited music training course, so far extremely successful, this has been an incredibly positive experience for all involved, teachers and students, creating a space where their skills and confidence can grow.

Ok, so i nicked a load of that from a press release i wrote for them, but you get the idea...

They're in a band, they write all their own music, rehearse, play gigs, record themselves, release their own records, go into schools to help kids to write their own songs, run a music training course for people with learning disabilities, educating and acting as positive role models... basically they're amazing.

I can't really say enough good things about them.

So, I hope this clears up a little of the confusion which may have arisen from the split 7". I do hope you enjoy it and I hope if any of this seems interesting to you you might want to do some research . A few starting points -

Self Advocacy
Social Model of Disability

Thank you for reading,

Richard "Telecaster Man" Phoenix.