In the month leading up to the 2020 presidential election, Pop Can Records — an independent record label based in Los Angeles — released “Sound The Alarm, Vol. 1: Louder Feelings,” a compilation of politically driven electronic songs.
The multi-artist collection debuted on streaming services Oct. 21 with a limited tape run set for Oct. 23, though it was released earlier for a cause. The songs appeared on Bandcamp Oct. 15, with all revenue from the sales going to Street Watch LA, a group fighting for tenants rights in Los Angeles.
The five-month-old label was established in May by Pat Morrisey, Jesse Schuster and Maral Mahmoudi — a trio of artists and producers who have worked with the likes of Weezer, Lizzo and Jon Bellion.
While it was initially created as a way to put out an extended play (EP) by Safe Jazz, Schuster’s personal project, it continued as a way for the three to put out music that had been deemed “not commercially viable” by bigger labels.
Just months into the label’s tenure of releasing music, the three co-founders began bringing artists together to work on a politically charged compilation composed of the music they know best. While punk music and protest songs have historically not been based in electronic music, Mahmoudi said she believes it’s where the future of the genre lies.
“I always think of underground electronic music as the new punk music,” Mahmoudi said in an interview with The Phoenix. “That’s where I’m seeing a lot of the same ethos and energy that was in the punk movement.”
The music on “Sound The Alarm, Vol. 1: Louder Feelings” has a broad range of influences, though they’re all united by their digital instrumentation and punk-esque messaging.
“I think just in the feeling and tone, there’s a punk attitude about it,” Morrissey said. “I think you’re going to get this cohesive call-to-action tone.”
The duo ill Peach, which Morrissey is half of, opens the compilation with “American Pie.” The song drips with a casual angst while Morrissey’s counterpart sings over bass grooves and electronic percussion.
He said the song — influenced by the duo’s issue with the idea of American exceptionalism — was written for the compilation shortly after nationwide protests that made appearances throughout Chicago, including in Rogers Park and on Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus following George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis Police officers.
“We wrote it a couple weeks after George Floyd’s death,” Morrissey said. “We wanted to sort of take this picture that has been glamorized in American culture — a picnic, a Fourth of July celebration — that celebrates who we are, who we think we are and how America is the best. It can blind and distract us from having empathy for others and seeing the suffering of others.”
“Apple Pie” wasn’t the only track influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement, though, as one of the initial singles from the compilation, “BLACK BOY,” also takes on the systematic oppression and killings faced by Black Americans.
“They killed another black boy / His body on the street side / His mama on the TV crying,” DWY sings on the track.
The artist explained why he wrote the track in an Oct. 15 tweet, the day the single was released.
Why I wrote Black Boy pic.twitter.com/HKhQVa3leY— DWY (@itsjustDWY) October 15, 2020
“I wrote Black Boy to make an anthem for people who look like me,” he wrote. “Everyday Iʼm bombarded with images and videos of slain young black men and women and it makes me mad, it makes me cry and I just needed to express those feelings.”
Mahmoudi also contributed to the compilation with “Agitate,” a frantic, bass-heavy track with just a few seconds of a vocal sample to support the instrumentals.
She said her samples, which she uses sparingly, are usually in Farsi because of her Iranian heritage. However, this doesn’t hinder her ability to convey a message — or in this case, a call to action — to a broad audience.
“When I think of words that I’m sampling, they mean something to me, but to the listener, they’re not going to get that meaning,” Mahmoudi said. “The way I put in that sample in the sonic landscape, I hope that they get the meaning anyways. … I think that’s what a lot of producers are doing with the samples that they use — creating a sonic world that conveys it, not in a lyrically direct way, but you still feel it in your body.”
“Sound The Alarm, Vol. 1: Louder Feelings” is now available on all streaming services and is able to be purchased digitally or on tape for $15 on Pop Can Records’ Bandcamp page.