Let it B-side
Flip the Record
For over three decades, punk rock has provided an initiation process for adolescents into a world of critical thinking and social action. With a current generation of teens inundated with a repetitive cycle of cynical, sexualized pop music, facilitated by the ease of the internet, what hope is there for deviation?
“It’s true, there’s not as much punk around anymore,” said Niki Kates, bassist of Truckee’s Flip the Record, of her peers.
“But you can still feel the pulse,” insisted guitarist and drummer Ellie Hassell-Cramer.
Five of the six members of Flip the Record attend Forest Charter School in Truckee, California. They agree that not much has changed in how the punk rock crowd is viewed by their fellow teens, even after generations of high schoolers. It’s still widely misunderstood, due equally to a lack of exposure and to distorted representations of punk in popular media.
One telling experience came at a school dance. After blaring Dead Kennedys through car speakers in the parking lot, the band members entered, where a dubstep song called “Mosh Pit” was playing.
“They weren’t ready for a real mosh pit,” said Hassell-Cramer.
Ready or not, the young punks say they provided one. Another time, at a Flip The Record show in Tahoe, teenagers looked uncomfortable as they backed away from the band members, who had leapt down from the stage to start a pit. In both cases, they encountered peers who harbored abstract concepts of punk culture, but ran away when confronted with its reality.
Songs are written by all members of the band, who often swap instruments: lead vocals, drums, guitar, and trumpet. Lyrics vary thematically, but they come from the same emotional space.
“We do best when we’re pissed off,” said Bennett Mitchell, the primary lead vocalist of the band.
Mitchell’s songs often discuss matters of family. One deals with the imprisonment of her cousin. Another is dedicated to an uncle who passed away. In general, all of the band’s lyrics regard their families in respectful terms, due in part to the supportive nature of their parents toward the band’s music.
Freed from the tired tradition of teenage rebellion against parental guidance, Flip the Record choose to direct their rage towards forms of oppression largely ignored by their peers. They’re particularly passionate about combating brutality and condescension towards women, a topic they don’t feel is adequately discussed in school.
“Most people think feminism is all about saying, ’fuck men,’” said Kates. “It’s a common misconception.”
“It just means equality,” added Mitchell.
Flip The Record believes these attitudes are supported by sexualized and demeaning portraits of women in pop culture. They see girls being taught to use their bodies as tickets to visibility. Other singers emphasize obsessing over acquiring boyfriends, and deeply grieving the break ups, rather than inspiring independence in young girls.
They’re critical of pop music, but not necessarily belligerent toward it.
“Pop music isn’t what it is because it makes people think or feel something,” said Hassell-Cramer. “That’s just not what it’s for.”
Though they admit to some recent pop favorites, their reverence for punk and ska is evidenced in the band’s name. It was halfway through listening to the 1981 compilation album Punk & Disorderly when Mitchell first spoke the phrase.
Flip The Record agree that graduation will most likely send the members their separate ways. They’re sad to part, but optimistic about the future.
“My dad likes to say we’re called Flip The Record because all the good songs are on Side B,” said Hassell-Cramer.