- Justin Cook
- Caitlin Cary and members of The Love Army in 2013
Earlier this week, The NC Music Love Army released My Body Politic, the second of four releases this activist collective has prepped for the weeks leading up to the election on Nov. 4. It’s centered around a track by that name, a collaboration between Caitlin Cary and Shirlette Ammons that initially appeared on 2013’s We Are Not For Sale: Songs of Protest, plus five remixes.
The INDY caught up with Love Army organizer Cary and producer Alex Kotch, whose “My Body Politic” remix as Direwolf is the third track on today’s release, to talk about this series of releases, the growth of the Love Army and the election at large.
INDY Week: This release is part of a series of Love Army singles, running up to the November election. How did the idea come about to do this?
Caitlin Cary: We have been calling for and receiving submissions of new, original music and remixes pretty much since the We Are Not For Sale LP came out last November. It’s pretty amazing to see the passion of our music community for contributing to this effort. One of the main objectives of the Love Army is to try to influence this upcoming election—to try to stem the tide of immoral legislation and to show our resounding support for free, fair and representative suffrage—so it feels right to make this big push with all this music. It has also been a goal to broaden the diversity in the music and the contributors to the discography of the Love Army, and we feel like these new releases are moving us further in that direction; we hope to appeal to a wider diversity of ages, races and musical tastes with every subsequent release.
Alex Kotch: We had an open call for remixes and released a We Rise (original by Rhiannon Giddens) remix album in June, which included homegrown N.C. talent as well as producers from Belgium and the UK. We also had an open call for My Body Politic and put together a sweet album.
Meanwhile, we had great songs by I Was Totally Destroying It (featuring Unifier) and one by Lutie Cain. They paired well, and we asked Paul Leary, whom I went to music grad school with, to remix IWTDI’s “Parentheses.” Paul has always been into alt-rock, and I thought it would be a great fit.
Durham-based producers Funkleberry and Apple Juice Kid had submitted this awesome hip-hop track to us, called “Train Coming,” with Dasan Ahanu and Jrusalam laying down verses, and we knew we wanted to release that. We’re getting some remixes made and yet another great artist is donating her work for the original cover art, so it’ll be our last October release, out Oct. 28.
We had four amazing albums nearly ready to go, so we decided to make a big push in this last month before the general election and get them all out there, one each week! We aim to get people talking about the issues and excited to get out and vote.
As for “My Body Politic,” that song seems special to you, Caitlin. How did it feel to revisit it for the single?
CC: Yes, this song has been really important to me. All the Love Army songs mean a great deal to me, but this one is particularly moving partly because of my collaboration with Shirlette, whom I have known for many years now, and admire so much. It’s been just amazing to watch her development as an artist, a writer and an activist. To have the opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with her and intone these words, which seem so critical at this moment, it’s just amazing. All the other women of the Army get to sing—to rage, really—on the choruses. It’s really strong, and people really seem to respond to it. So having all these new interpretations of the song is very moving, very humbling. I hope it gives the words a whole new life as we send them out into the world again, re-imagined.
This is a song about women’s rights. What’s at stake, related to women’s rights, this election? What’s at stake in general?
CC: It’s going to take a lot of work and surely more than one election cycle to reverse the damage that has been done by this legislature. The right to safe, affordable health care for women, and the right to choose, are under threat. Women’s ability to manage their health and to control their fertility is vital to our ability to survive and to thrive economically, to educate ourselves, to provide for our families, and simply to live as equals in our society. It is vital that we make our voices heard on these issues and that we bring our concerns to the voting booths. I hope “My Body Politic” conveys this message as clearly as Shirlette and I mean it to.
AK: Everyone is saying women will decide the US Senate this year. While I think it’s more complex than that, women as a voting group are very important. They tend to vote for more liberal candidates than men do, candidates who will expand women’s healthcare options instead of restrict them, for example. So it’s important to get women out to the polls, especially in light of the huge restrictions on women’s health options last year. But every issue at stake affects women and men. We all need to get out and vote to combat the education cuts, tax cuts for the wealthy while ending the Earned Income Tax Credit, fast-tracking of fracking and loosening of environmental protections, increased money in politics and the end of judicial public financing, denial of the Medicaid expansion, end of the Racial Justice Act—there is so much.
The election seems particularly vicious. Is that your sense?
AK: The NCGA is extremely unpopular, and not just with liberals. Eventually, over time, people will vote them out. It will just take a lot of advocacy work and struggle.
CC: It’s certainly nice to imagine that the activism of so many concerned citizens who are trying to point out the deep immoralities of recent conservative legislation can eventually sway people to vote for more progressive policy, policy that will ultimately benefit them and their families. Clearly the conversation about change needs to continue, and it needs to be forceful. It need not be strictly partisan and it must not be polarizing. That’s terribly difficult, of course. It’s so easy to paint the “other side” with a broad brush, so easy to close our ears to dissent. Perhaps that’s another argument for music; maybe even if our ears are closed to talk, they remain open to song?
AK: I don’t think things will magically improve with fewer far-right, extreme lawmakers in office. People closer to my political leanings ran NC for years, and they let coal ash pits fester and pollute our groundwater, let labor protections remain ineffective, allowed our police forces to habitually discriminate against people of color, offered no protections or legal recognition for LGBTQ individuals, and a whole lot more. It’s going to take more than just voting out the extremists.
How has the collective grown since forming?
AK: Since adding in the remix project and electronic dance music this year, our ranks have continued to grow with each album we do. Our Hopscotch show included new members such as Emily Musolino as well as Charly Lowry, and Jrusalam, who premiered “Train Coming” with Dasan Ahanu. We’ve also added to our list of devoted engineers, who donate their expertise in recording and mastering our albums.
CC: We’re growing all the time, and my favorite thing to note is that when we ask for a contribution of a song, or for a favor from someone in the biz, or for contributions from our fans and supporters, we really get a whole lot of “Yesses.” That’s so gratifying.
Can you describe a situation where the NCMLA would no longer be needed?
AK: Speaking for myself here, but I don’t think that time will ever come. There will always be need for change, for forces outside politics to encourage people to stand up for their rights and counter big money, oppression, white supremacy, patriarchy… You name it. There will always be a struggle for human rights, and I hope there will always be all kinds of well-intentioned people trying to help push things in the right direction, whether nonprofits and advocacy groups, women’s health clinics, protest movements like the Forward Together Movement or Strike Debt/Occupy, or artist collectives.
CC: It’s fun to think about that, isn’t it? My understanding is that the redistricting will make it very difficult to change the political makeup of the legislature any time soon. But North Carolina has long been known as a leader within the South of progressive policy, and it is entirely clear that the progressive base is awake and ready to shake the walls. I am not a native to this state, but I’ve been here 20 years, and I dearly hope to be able to feel great pride in the policies of the state I call home. Our victory over Amendment One on Friday afternoon was a damn wide stride in that direction, and I think there are plenty of people who are ready to lead the march further in that direction. Hopefully our songs can spur them onward. That’s what we’re trying for.
AK: Just looking back a few decades in the US, you see how important protest songs were in the Civil Rights Movement, for many reasons. People like the Freedom Singers and Pete Seeger are super inspirational for me personally, and I can only hope to achieve a tiny fraction of what they did.