DFW Music News

North Texas Artists Are Loudly Backing Black Lives Matter

AV the Great and Power Trip's Riley Gale are examples of North Texas artists who are contributing to social justice reform.
AV the Great and Power Trip's Riley Gale are examples of North Texas artists who are contributing to social justice reform. Wendell Johnson/Cash Vision 903/Angela Owens
As America burns and the revolution-within-a-pandemic rages on, many entertainers have spoken out about their  support for social justice reform.

Run the Jewels dropped its fourth album early, with critics heralding it as the “soundtrack of the George Floyd protests.” Doja Cat donated $100,000 to the Breonna Taylor fund to honor the birthday of the Kentucky medical worker slain by Louisville police. Rihanna, Britney Spears and Radiohead all participated in Blackout Tuesday.

Bandcamp also announced it would waive its share of sales on June 5 for artists affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Many of those musicians then vowed to give their proceeds to organizations in support of racial justice.

Several North Texas music industry kingpins have backed the movement themselves by donating funds, participating in protests or denouncing inequality. Here are a few of the loudest voices in support of black lives.

Riley Gale (Power Trip)
With politically charged lyrics and apocalyptic imagery, Power Trip’s music reflects our culture’s turbulent climate. Now more than ever, it’s time for true reform and police accountability, says frontman Riley Gale.

Last Friday, the band posted an image of two demonstrators wearing Power Trip shirts at a rally in Santa Clarita, California. In it, they hold signs with song lyrics from the band’s sophomore album, Nightmare Logic: “If not now then when?” reads one. “If not us then who?” reads the other.

Gale says it’s been nice to see his fans support the movement. He just hopes that the momentum doesn’t fade.

“People can’t just do this for a couple of weeks and feel good about themselves, and then go on to the next shiny new controversial thing,” Gale says. “We’ve got to keep the pressure on it.”

In an Instagram post, the band also promoted a fan’s auction of a rare Power Trip test pressing, with all proceeds benefiting Reclaim the Block and Black Visions Collective. If the sale reaches $1,000, they’ll send the winner a care package.

Although Power Trip has consistently donated to charities, Gale says that now is the time to focus on those that improve black lives. This year, they’ve already given upward of $4,000 to Dallas Hope Charities, which is dedicated to LGBTQ homeless youth, many of whom are black.

Gale says he’s proud of his diverse fan base, which has largely been supportive of the band’s unapologetic stance on inclusivity. People like them will usher in a sea change of political reform, he says.

“I think that racism is still very alive in this country and it needs to be dealt with,” Gale says. “It’s going to take a lot of work — but for us, I stand on the side of peace and love.”

AV the Great
Denton rapper Chris Avant, who goes by the stage name AV the Great, has long been politically minded. Starting in the late 2000s, he co-hosted a show on the local-access channel, where he and other youths would discuss ways to repair social injustice.

Now, Avant is joining hundreds of others in demonstrating during Denton’s George Floyd protests. On Saturday, he agreed to direct a march after being asked, but Avant says he’s reluctant to accept a leadership role.

“I don’t want no accolades for none of this, never,” he says. “We don’t need a new Malcolm; we don’t need a new Martin. We just need to all step the fuck up — that’s it.”

“I don’t want no accolades for none of this, never... We don’t need a new Malcolm; we don’t need a new Martin. We just need to all step the fuck up — that’s it.” – AV the Great

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On top of comprehensive police reform, Avant is calling to jettison Denton’s Confederate statue, which commands a prominent position on the town’s square. He says it’s unacceptable that there’s still a debate over its removal in the year 2020.

The statue is a testament to the South’s racist past. Plus, it makes Avant and other members of the black community feel unwelcome in their own hometown, he says.

“You’ve got to imagine how many people drive by that every day and just feel the hurt,” Avant says. “I feel uncomfortable every time I drive by it.”

Mark Lettieri (Snarky Puppy)
On June 5, Snarky Puppy guitarist Mark Lettieri announced that for the remainder of the month, he’ll donate all his Bandcamp record sales to the Equal Justice Initiative. He says the nonprofit organization appealed to him because of its stance on criminal justice reform.

Lettieri is humbled to join other artists in using their platform to effect social change, he says.

“People don’t know me as someone who has a voice about anything beyond guitar playing,” Lettieri says. “So if I can somehow include my music in something that’s much greater than just music, I’d like to do that.”

In a May 31 Facebook post, the Fort Worth musician also vowed to challenge friends and fellow musicians for their prejudicial views. Instead of ignoring a disparaging remark or an off-color joke, he says his duty is to hold his peers accountable.

While those confrontations may be uncomfortable, Lettieri says they’re conversations that need to be had.

“I feel like a lot of this can start on an interpersonal level,” he says. “It’s small work and it takes a long time, but if lasting seeds can be planted by it, I think it’s a step in the right direction.” 
click to enlarge Stefan Gonzalez is forgoing his only profits to further the cause. - WANZ DOVER
Stefan Gonzalez is forgoing his only profits to further the cause.
Wanz Dover

Stefan González (Yells at Eels)
Although he lost his service industry job as a result of the pandemic, Dallas percussionist Stefan González is donating all his June 5 Bandcamp sales to Dallas’ bail fund for George Floyd protesters. He says supporting the movement is far more important than enriching himself.

González estimates he’s raised a few hundred dollars for the fund. Still, considering the number of arrests that have been made, that’s just a drop in the bucket, he says.

“Even though I’m half-Mexican, I’m completely white-passing,” González says. “So I know it’s not about me right now, and anything I can do to contribute, I’m going to be trying my best [to do].”

González says he’s participated in some of Dallas’ protests. He and his partner were among the few people to escape arrest on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge last Monday.

Dallas’ underground avant-garde, techno, metal and jazz scenes have all been largely supportive of the movement, González says. Aside from demonstrating and donating, he’s also trying to learn how to be a better ally.

“I might be a little outspoken and say some harsh things here or there, but it’s necessary,” González says. “We’re all having to search ourselves a lot right now.”

Michael Briggs (Audio Engineer, Civil Audio)

Denton audio engineer Michael Briggs (Pinkish Black, Sarah Jaffe) announced in a June 5 Facebook post that he’s offering free mastering services to any black artist worldwide until the end of the month. The same goes for music with primarily anti-inequality and anti-police brutality themes.

The response so far has been great, Briggs wrote in an email. He hopes that by offering his services free of charge, he’ll serve to amplify black voices and anti-racist values.

“I would love to be able to help as many people as possible get their message out during this time,” Briggs wrote. “The more the better.”
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Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter