Who the %#€ is Bob Vylan? The snarly, fearless London duo provides an answer in their track “Pretty Songs”: “I’m no pacifist, I’m smashing fists / At every single racist prick I meet / I’m not having it, there’s no ‘Kum ba yah’ / To be found ‘round here, no groovy beat.” The song itself does start off rather prettily until it ramps up to red-hued, blood-stained chaos, and it becomes clear they’re here for more than just “pretty little songs.”
In fact, the band members (named Bobby and Bobbie) are more likely to be found at the heart of controversy, battling injustice in their native England and beyond – be it racism, police brutality, even food deserts. Their tweet five days after the death of Queen Elizabeth II highlighted the plight of the poor amidst the lavish pomp and ceremony of the funeral proceedings: “They’re shutting food banks on the day of the funeral!?!? Who needs food when there’s all this national mourning being forced down our throats.”
Explosive, blunt, and unmistakably anti-fascist, with songs like “I Heard You Want Your Country Back,” “Fighting by the Church,” and “Pulled Pork,” Bob Vylan are the first band to reach the UK Top 20 with an album they recorded, produced, and released themselves. In March 2020, the pair caught the attention of the punk community with the release of the music video for “We Live Here,” a hard-hitting grime-punk salvo about being born and growing up Black in the UK, featuring front-man Bobby wearing a Crass t-shirt, a blatant shout-out to anarcho-punk devotees. The t-shirt might’ve gotten our attention, but it was the music that kept it; a heady mishmash of hip-hop, punk rock, grime, and sociopolitical incisiveness akin to Crass’ “Yes Sir I Will.”
Two years after the release of “We Live Here” and the accompanying music video going massively viral, Bob Vylan released “Bob Vylan Presents the Price of Life” to critical acclaim. They are now set to conquer the rest of the world, headlining sold-out shows in the UK, with a packed ballroom at Rebellion Festival (the world’s largest punk festival), and launching into a coast-to-coast US tour with Amyl and the Sniffers.
I was lucky enough to catch Bobby and Bobbie before their set at Rebellion, and they were incredibly gracious and friendly as we chatted about their connection with Crass and their American tour. Bobby said, “We feel very blessed to go to the States with Amyl and the Sniffers; they are one of my favorite groups.”
Bob Vylan headlines at the Echo in LA on October 10th and the Brick & Mortar Music Hall in San Francisco on October 14th, plus the show with Amyl and the Sniffers in San Diego on October 9th. Catch them while you still can!