The Fever 333's Made an America owes a mighty debt to epoch-making Nineties LA alternative rock act Rage Against the Machine, delivering music with a purpose, bringing the vicious vitality of Killing in the Name up to date for the Trump era with a song that reminds all Americans that their nation was founded on the backs of black slaves.
On tour, The Fever 333 open each show dramatically and provocatively. A single man, or in some cases a row of men all dressed all in black, with black hoods covering their heads, appear on stage, standing with hands neatly folded in front of them, in front of a white sheet covering the width of the stage. Over the PA system, soundbites of a Ku Klux Klan rally are pointedly intercut with Donald Trump's call to ban Muslims from the USA and with Charlie Chaplin's unforgettable call for peace from The Great Dictator. And at the end of this two-minute vigil for peace, the figures raise a fist before whipping their hoods away to reveal themselves as band members and other accomplices as they launch into their opening song - switching in a moment from still and silent contemplation to frantic, incendiary rabble-rousing.
Since forming in 2017, The Fever 333's live shows to date have been characterised by lively performance, with vocalist Jason Aalon Butler (formerly of letlive.) and guitarist Stevis Harrison (formerly of Christian metal band The Chariot) being unafraid to launch themselves into the crowd whilst drummer Aric Improta (formerly of Night Verses), has been equally agile, despite being tied to his kit, frequently leaping onto his drum stool with a single hop and playing the drums at shin height. But while the music may be apocalyptically loud and exciting, it also has intent.
"The thing we’re putting forward is the idea of the three Cs," Butler explained to Forbes magazine earlier this year. "Community, charity and change. I think that kind of encapsulates the idea of giving a fuck about someone other than yourself, which I don’t think [Trump] has exhibited the ability to do. [He has] truly full-blown characteristics of a nihilist, an actual egomaniac, his frontal lobe is fucked, he’s crazy... If you were to distil the message, it would be three Cs and those encapsulate the idea of thinking about what happens when you’re not on this earth anymore. What are you doing today to affect tomorrow, next week, next year, next decade, next millennia?"
"We are not here to play for you but with you," Butler told Antihero magazine at Carolina Rebellion 2018. "We want everyone to feel as though they are included, no matter what background, no matter what theory they have politically, socially, ideologies - we want everyone to feel involved and then, because this is such a politically informed and a socially informed project, we want them to feel okay to have these conversations that we feel need to happen to advance the bigger one, which is trying to find a way to eradicate these divisive politics and the divisive nature that we seem to be fanning the flames of in this country right now. So, really, we're just trying to feel free, feel liberated and feel safe. And do whatever it is you want to do as long as you don't encroach on the safety and the beliefs of others".
Butler is being somewhat disingenuous, however. If The Fever 333 want to encourage conversation, welcome listeners with varying beliefs and heal the divide, they probably should not pepper their lyrics with deliberately inflammatory generalisations like the line "Cop cars, true killers, and they still at large" which clearly implies, at the very least, that the police are not to be trusted, and at worst that they are a murderous enemy to be defeated. Or, from their song (The First Stone) Changes, the implication that violence is the answer: "It's time to make changes / But change only comes with the first stone".
Far from starting a conversation, Butler et al want to start a war, fuelling the prejudices and passions of anti-Trump America. But perhaps there is a sense of positivity in the song title Made an America - a hope that today's America is just "an" America, one of many versions of what a global superpower could be and that another, better America is a possibility.
"We just wanted things to change," continued Butler at Carolina Rebellion, "everything: socially, artistically, we just really wanted thing to change. We believe that if you want something to change or if you want to see something done or you want to hear something, you've got to say it, you've got to act, you've got to perform it in order for it to begin. And we're just trying to be that change - not in a self-aggrandising or delusional revolutionary way: we're just trying to be the change as three men, as three people, as three citizens, as three humans."
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About the curator: Jon Ewing
After graduating from the University of Keele in England with a degree in Politics and American Studies, Jon worked as editor of a music and entertainment magazine before spending several years as a freelance writer and, with the advent of the internet, a website designer, developer and consultant. He lives in Reading, home to one of the world's most famous and long-running music festivals, which he has attended every year since 1992.
Unite and Fight – Mustard Plug
4 March 2021
A high-speed combination of punk chorus and ska verse, Mustard Plug’s singalong Unite and Fight is just one of a sensational 28 tracks on the Ska Against Racism album compiled by Bad Time Records in 2020 to raise funds for non-profit organisations working to improve education, opportunity and justice for black people in the USA and beyond. With a barrelling momentum and a repudiation of violent action, this uplifting song is a call to arms for those of us committed to disarmament.
KIDSTRIKE!- Jim Bob
8 September 2020
Celebrating the determination of “one hundred thousand teenagers” to take over the streets of London to save their future from calamity, KIDSTRIKE! by novelist and singer songwriter JB Morrison – aka Jim Bob – is taken from the UK Top 40 album Pop Up Jim Bob released in August 2020 and inspired by the real life activism of countless young activists. But the song is run through with a rueful recognition of the singer’s own fading urge to save the world.
Living for the City – Stevie Wonder
28 July 2020
Inspired in part by the fatal shooting in New York of a ten-year-old black boy by a white plain-clothes policeman, the audacious centrepiece of Stevie Wonder’s experimental 1973 album was a seven-and-a-half-minute meditation on the brutality of black America: Living for the City…
A high-speed combination of punk chorus and ska verse, Mustard Plug's singalong Unite and Fight is just one of a sensational 28 tracks on the Ska Against Racism album compiled by Bad Time Records in 2020 to raise funds for non-profit organisations working to improve education, opportunity and justice for black people in the USA and beyond. With a barrelling momentum and a repudiation of violent action, this uplifting song is a call to arms for those of us committed to disarmament.