Kick-ass hardcore punk outfit The Elected Officials recently unveiled the music video for “Death For Sale,” the title track of their new album, on Grimace Records.
With their intense punk outlook, raw badass sound, authenticity (very important in punk rock), an aggressive stance on human rights and the environment, as well as the pathetic failure of big corporations and governments, The Elected Officials use music to expose frauds and charlatans.
Egregious, wild, visceral, and full of choleric energy, the band’s sound is pure hardcore punk, pervaded by marvelous effrontery and in-your-face defiance.
Tattoo sat down with frontwoman Sophie Rousmaniere to find out how she got started in music, her stint in Thailand, and what’s next for The Elected Officials.
How did you get started in music? What’s the backstory there?
I played the saxophone as a teenager in the high school band, but I was never very good at it. I loved Broadway musicals, poetry, and theater. I was performing Shakespeare when I was 13 in upstate New York. When my mother married a man from Buenos Aires, Argentina, I was just turning 14 and exposure to revolutionary cultural thinking began to saturate my brain. “The Mothers of the Disappeared” (*1) marched every Sunday, reminding the nation that a brutal dictatorship had recently been put to rest, but the “disappeared” citizens of Jorge Rafael Videlas’ (*2) rule had not been forgotten. I started protesting with flyers outside McDonald’s and discovered Rage Against the Machine. Eventually, through osmosis, I found punk rock all while I found my footing in a culture that was absurdly wasteful, brutal, and consumption-driven. After traveling extensively, I ended up in Thailand where I opened a punk bar with my Thai punk friends and helped birth a punk scene there which still thrives today. I played in a Thai/American Band called Atomic Influx and booked shows, tours, and festivals in South East Asia from 2000 to 2005. I had a tattoo shop upstairs and a punk bar downstairs. We got really into the spiritual experience behind traditional Thai bamboo tattoos and went to Cambodia to learn about the magic behind it.
It’s a long story but that’s how I got started…
What are the three things you can’t live without?
My daughter Nova, peace of mind, and a passport
What’s your favorite song to belt out in the car or the shower?
“I Wanna Rock” by Twisted Sister.
What musicians/vocalists influenced you the most?
Pete Seeger (revolutionary folk singer of the 1960s) (*3), Subhumans (*4), Rage Against the Machine (as mentioned above), and Ton, of Bangkok Alcohol. I did listen to quite a bit of anything Mike Patton related, and was into Bad Religion and DOA. In the end, spending so much time with MDC in the last few years, I have gleaned quite a bit of knowledge that continues to inform my work as a songwriter, filmmaker, and activist.
Who is in the band (names) and what instrument do they play?
Shane Pennington on drums, Steve Vile on guitar, a revolving door of fabulous bass players, and myself, Sophie, on vox.
How did the band get together?
I started the band with my former partner Jay Minton and Kimberly “Pyramid” Larson in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2009. By 2010, Jay and I were looking for new drummers but had written a lot of material. We found Shane Pennington, retired crustcore hot shot drummer at a Plant Nursery in Santa Fe. “We heard a drummer works here,” (not a lot of punk drummers in Santa Fe at the time, I must say), but we lucked out and when Shane came and started making sawdust in our living room we got our friend Blake “Robin Hood” on bass.
We started booking shows at the VFW in Santa Fe, the youth center, hotel bars in Taos, hair cutting studios in Albuquerque or anywhere that would have us. As we booked more, the scene grew up around us and by the time Jay and I moved to Austin, TX the Santa Fe scene was hopping and on its way to the very cool place it is to play today. Shane still lives in Santa Fe.
What’s the story behind the band’s name, The Elected Officials?
Jay and I. I knew when it came out (of whoever’s mouth it did first),
“The Elected Officials” after going over names and more names trying to see what was out there, I remember Pyramid was like – “no good bands start with the word ‘The.’”
Your new music video – “Death For Sale” – is hella-cool. What inspired the song?
School shootings. As we drove cross-country with kids and thought about how the nuclear fallout drills of our parents’ age and the fire drills of my time is now the school shooter drill at my daughter’s school. The band is always getting a stab in at lobbyists, so it was a shoo-in. Jay came up with the part “we’re giving hugs with our nuclear arms,” while we were driving to Santa Fe on our way to our first US Tour with MDC in 2017. I like to intro the song by reminding everyone that this country buys more drugs and sells more guns than anywhere else.
What do you want people to take away from the video?
That some people profit from the misery of others…
Undead Goathead called you “punk-as-fuck.” Why punk and not doom or death metal?
I like to hear what the vocals are saying, and I got into being a vocalist because I was writing political activist poetry and that, ultimately, is what my favorite kind of punk rock is. I do love some raw nihilist punk but my brand of punk rock is hardcore and political. The international punk community also offered me the community I craved without knowing it. Punk as a social glue that filled my soul in a way that popular American culture never could. Jay and I also formed Issue TV, a 50c3 organization using media to support underserved communities and produced documentary films translating our social justice messages from the stage onto the TV screen. Yellow Fever, our film about the Navajo people and uranium mining has aired several times to over 60-million American homes on PBS and Fracking The Contract has toured Portugal, where activist groups use it as a teaching tool to help engage community members in defending their region from exploitative petroleum drilling mega-giants.
What is your songwriting process? Does the music come first and then the lyrics?
The words and lyrics usually come separately. I write something, a tune may or may not come with it. Eventually, there is usually some research involved and sometimes collaboration in the verbiage from others, and musically we all put in our input to give birth to a song.
What’s next for The Elected Officials?
We had planned a tour to promote our new album Death For Sale on Grimace Records, a label I am working with John Hale of All Gonna Die and Dave Dicotr of MDC – Millions of Dead Cops. We are about to produce a podcast with Stig Stench Radio and use this time of hibernation as an opportunity to reflect on the madness we are all experiencing with the Coronavirus in relation to our perspective on life. By interviewing punks and thoughtful folks from around the world, we hope to engage in a conversation about punk rock, politics, and survival.