By Nicholas Persad
“If you got Herpes let me know, I ain’t gonna tap that, No No No,” Many people if they heard this song on the radio would be offended and repulsed by such as crass statement. They might be even more shocked to learn that it is a line from a song by a band whose oldest member just turned 16. But that is exactly what it is. ‘Herpes’ as the song is uniquely titled, is an original song from ‘Made in China’ a group based in Upstate New York and whose six member’s ages range from 13 to 16.
The subject matter of the musical lyrics of artists and bands in mainstream music is a very controversial topic that continues to be fueled by artists such as ‘Lady Gaga’ and ‘Trey Songz’ who have sexually explicit songs and Caribbean sensation ‘Buju Banton’ who blatantly sings about violence toward homosexuals. Some critics believe that music referencing anything that is considered ‘taboo’ such as sex, violence or different lifestyles should not be allowed to be played on the radio and there should be restrictions as to where and when these songs can be performed. Other critics appreciate the realism and honesty that certain artists give even if it degrades or offends an entire group in society.
In Upstate New York one of the concerns that plague many of the unknown bands is whether or not they will have to ‘throw out’ their musical integrity in order to become successful. “I wanted to make the band more mainstream, and marketable enough to pull in the big crowds,” said Benny Peyton, who was previously a member of the now disbanded ‘Autums Obsession’. He said the reason for the band’s ‘break up’ was there were conflicts as to which path the band should follow. “I wanted to move the band into a more pop genre, but the other members did not want to do that,” Peyton said.
Peyton described ‘Autumns Obsession’ as a band that was heavy metal and had some screaming. He said that the lyrics did not have cursing, but it did get somewhat violent. He recalled that when the band was still together in October 2009 they performed at the ‘Expo Center’ in Watertown, New York, and out of all the bands that performed that night they were the only one whose music created a ‘mosh pit’.
Chris Smith, a guitarist with the band ‘Clinch’, said that the lyrics of his band are just based on funny stories. “They are explicit, but it’s not like porn or anything,” Smith said. He also said that he believes their lyrics suit their music, but they would be willing to censor it for certain reasons. “We could edit them to make it more radio,” Smith said. ‘Clinch’ currently performs primarily in bars where the content of their lyrics is not an issue, but Smith said that if the band wanted to become mainstream they would probably consider censoring their music but still be reserved about it. “Personally I think that’s ‘selling out’.” Smith said.
Jake Yaeger, who goes by the stage name ‘DJ Mynd Tek’, belongs to a musical genre that he knows is not normally associated with the North Country: Rap. “In the North Country a rock band is definitely going to get the gig over a rap artist because their shows are guaranteed to draw a crowd,” said Yaeger. Yaeger, who is now based in Florida, said that branching out is key to being successful if you’re in the North Country, and that the rap scene in Upstate New York is completely different than in Florida. “Upstate New York rap is not like down south music,” said Yaeger. “It’s more like poetry. You are rapping about your life whereas down here people are rapping about drugs and violence.”
Some bands, however, have found a strong following even though their music is much darker than what is considered mainstream. “The darker stuff that I do write, people dance to it,” said Evan Bujolb of the Potsdam based band ‘Echo Drive’. “It’s a way for me to express myself and to get my message out there but not depress anybody.” Bujolb does not consider the band’s lyrics to be explicit or too graphic but did say that they have a song about a lobotomy. He said that he would not consider changing his lyrics because the music scene in the North Country is not strong. “A producer in New York City, who runs an indie label, is really feeling us.” Bujolb said.
The overall viewpoint of North Country bands is very convoluted. Some of them would consider changing their lyrics while others would not. “I don’t think we will change,” said Charles Stevens of ‘Made in China’. “We like the rock genre.” But how serious do you take a band that talks about Herpes.