Downtown Boys: Gimme Friction

Downtown Boys deliver a multiracial, bilingual, queer-positive message

Rhode Island’s Downtown Boys may be the most challenging punk band in America. Their sonic barrage is relentless, driven by Joey DeFrancesco’s searing lead guitar, bright bursts from the sax of Joe DeGeorge and the visceral vocals of Victoria Ruiz; the punchy rhythms of drummer Norlan Olivo and bass player Mary Regalado send the music into overdrive. But it’s the band’s revolutionary message of inclusion that sets it apart from other groups.

The songs on third album Cost Of Living (Sub Pop) deal with racism, the struggle for human dignity and the daily economic uncertainties of living in a capitalist system. Their live shows always have crowds up and moving, but their realistic lyrics and the introductions Ruiz gives to the songs can cause discomfort for their audiences.

“We create friction,” says Ruiz. “The message resonates with a lot of people, but at the same time, the message can get warped or co-opted, or people wanna fight with it, or people wanna put me on some made-up pedestal because I am the one saying it. The hope is that people realize our message is coming from a collective consciousness, that I am simply putting words to what so many of us have learned. It’s messy and we’re imperfect, but hopefully we will all grow and continue to fight the war against toxic masculinity and colonial racism.”

“We do bring a different kind of connection to the crowd in the live setting,” says DeFrancesco. “That’s largely from Victoria’s introductions, where she’s able to relate songs to what’s happening in the moment, in the city, to whoever’s in the crowd, in a very direct way. It’s a super-important part of our music and really elevates the entire experience on both an intellectual and emotional level.”

j. poet