Interview with vocalist Adam Hooks, guitarist Colin Dowell, and bassist Jeremy Keith | By Caleb R Newton
On their new A-F Records release, In the Parlance of Our Times, out June 21, New Mexico punk rock band Russian Girlfriends craft confident music that rushes to address the unique social and personal challenges plopped into our laps in the present day. To that end, their music veers in and out of a variety of different styles, allowing physically intense music to shine right alongside more “poppy” elements. Describing their creation, the band say this synthesis reflects the need to crack a smile in the midst of the mayhem.
“You have to be optimistic. Otherwise, what is there worth fighting for?” vocalist Adam Hooks asserts. “I spent so many years on the nihilistic end of the punk rock spectrum that, at a certain point, I hit a wall and the depression, anger, and substance abuse that came with that became too much of a weight to bear and I had to reset. Writing these songs helped me focus that negative energy and rearrange it into something powerful and motivating.”
That negative energy has a clear origin, such as issues In the Parlance of Our Times confronts like white and male privilege running marginalized groups into the ground.
“Sometimes, the optimism is presented in strange ways,” Hooks adds. “In the song ‘White Guilt White Heat,’ the end of the world is imminent. The main character finds themself making their way home to the only person they’d want to spend the last day on Earth with. The optimism of the song comes through the peace the character experiences through death and the destruction of our modern consumerist culture.”
Russian Girlfriends transform deeply affecting music and themes into an alluring space the listener can step into where, even as the metaphorical and sometimes literal bombs drop, one can claim a sense of empowerment and maybe—just maybe—even have a good time.
Guitarist Colin Dowell chimes in, “A lot of the themes on the album may come across as pessimistic, but they are actually realistic. If anything, the album begs people, ourselves included, to be better. Musically, we’re trying to be a party. Hopefully, that’s an appropriate vehicle for our album about destroying the world.”
The band share that they had an especially “good time” recording In the Parlance of Our Times, getting a chance to really dig into their process after having been more rushed when creating their debut album, 2015’s All Around. Continuing to add more nuances to their sound, the band have their own backgrounds to draw from, with histories ranging from acoustic songwriting to heavier rock.
“I think it’s our reverence for older rock that we all have which makes us want to write complete and full-sounding songs,” bassist Jeremy Keith explains.
Despite their musical variety, Russian Girlfriends’ songs come together around the themes they share.
“In a time when people flat out ignore history or subscribe to ‘alternative facts,’ it’s important to shine a light on some of our darker truths and reconcile them with our reality now,” Keith asserts. “I think, before things start to get better, music and art have to start reflecting the reality we’re living in and not some slick, shiny social media depiction of what reality is or should be.”
Of that hoped-for process, Hooks adds, “Everything will eventually end, including this world, so let it happen with our middle fingers in the air and smiles on our faces.”