The Muslims album release party
The Pinhook, Durham
“Punk is gay as shit, queer as shit, brown as shit, all of these different things,” QADR says. “It can obviously include white folk, but it’s about having experiences that make you wake up and push back against the normativeness of society.” That’s the battle cry of Durham-based punk band The Muslims, which QADR sings for, using humor to flood a white-dominated scene with actual radical content and queer anti-establishment sentiment. On April 1, the band celebrates new album Mayo Supreme (Don’t Panic Records) with a release show at The Pinhook, and we recently sat down with QADR and drummer FaraH BaHbaH to decode the punk pun of the album’s title and discuss the productive friction between anger and humor.
INDY: Can you talk to me about this title and the overarching concept for the album?
QADR: When we formed as a band, we had all of these kind of fun, suggestive names for future songs. We still have a running list of funny-ass phrases and words that we’re like, “We could make a song out of this, and it would be really funny.” Mayo Supreme is a kind of play on “white supremacy.” [The album] is basically, we’re not going to respectfully put up with the fact that you’ve been committing very intentional ethnic cleansing of people of color worldwide. I know that when we talk about Second Amendment rights and gun rights, they’re not talking about my black ass. You’re afraid that there’s this race war that’s coming, and you’re out here shooting up Muslims in New Zealand, using horrible acts of religious, ethnic, and political terrorism, because you think we’re out here to attack you. All of those things that have happened, all of the racial slurs, all of the very intentional laws put in place—what if we upped the ante and threw that shit right back at you?
Why is it important to y’all to reclaim space and rage through an almost tongue-in-cheek or humorous lens?
FARAH BAHBAH: It’s so much about being black or brown or a Muslim or an immigrant—so much about the experiences that we hold, as individuals and as a band. I can only speak for myself, but having been afraid of power or what it’s like to wield power for so long, this band is the most beautiful vessel to show up with all of the rage and joy and resentment and things that we’ve always wanted to say but could never say, because it would be wholly discredited in every aspect of our lives. We can say it as a punk band without ever apologizing.
QADR: I second that one hundred percent, and I think like there is something to be said about being put into this one conventional box, Muslim or black or a woman. You don’t see nuanced representation of us in movies or on TV. From a very young age, I experienced white people as being able to be multifaceted. But if we do something, it’s our whole fucking identity. [The Muslims] is really about being able to talk about the hard, heavy, violent-ass ways that we are experiencing the world—and being able to be funny! Because we’re funny people. We’re funny, foolish, sweet, tender people, and it is beautiful to be able to come with that level of rage and be funny.
People seem to finally be talking about structural white supremacy and how it shapes every aspect of our culture. You deal with these themes head-on in your music. How do you hope this album contributes to that conversation?
QADR: I hope that people who are not familiar with the idea of white supremacy, or haven’t heard the term POC or anything, but love punk—people who are just not having conversations about how white people move through the world differently—I hope that they hear it and then they have this deep, existential, depressive-ass crisis: “Wow, oh my god, bro, is this true?” I hope that it starts something for folks because they like the music so much—like, “Damn, this is really tight, I really enjoyed it, but these people are also kind of dragging me from track one to track twelve! And I’m kind of wrestling with what that means.” Even in my political work separately, we get stuck kind of just living day to day. We don’t pay attention to this overarching way that our existence and our societies are structured and how it affects you differently based on your identity. So, I hope it kicks up some good shit for people.
FARAH BAHBAH: I hope that other black and brown punks hear this music and are like, “Fuck yes, I feel so vindicated. I feel like this was made for me.”
Your Bandcamp page says, “The Muslims rage for the beginning of a new future and narrative.” What does the new future and narrative that we should all be working toward look like to you?
QADR: That new future is one where supremacy has been thoroughly eradicated and destroyed, based on so many people taking different types of effort. It will require organizing, it will require new people in office, it’s going to require people reclaiming land, reclaiming their indigenous or cultural practices. It’s going to require music and art really helping to contribute to this narrative. At least for me, it looks like a world where a black child can actually be a child. Where they can go to a store and not have to worry about somebody profiling them. Where they can walk home to their dad’s house and not have to worry about some random-ass racist citizen shooting them and killing them because they’re black, and then claiming that they felt threatened, and then that motherfucker gets off. It looks like a world where white supremacy is actually fucking named, and people are attacking it for being the cultural and societal cancer that it is. Where Palestinians can actually be fucking free, and Israel is actually named as a country that upholds white supremacy. That’s what the fuck we’re raging about with the beginning of a new future and narrative.