Pandemix started in 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. I (Shannon) sing, Matthew plays guitar, Tom plays bass, and Ryan drums. We recorded our first ten songs (8 became the “Scale Models of Atrocities” 12” and 2 went on a 7” single) that December, and then I moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to live with my boyfriend a week later. The band continued chugging along, but had an exciting new set of logistical obstacles.
Writing for “In Condemnation” began immediately after recording on “Scale Models” wrapped, because Matthew is an utter freak who cannot slow down. It’s interesting, because the band sends me pretty finished songs (although I can always make a suggestion here or there) and my lyrical/melodic approach develops in something of a vacuum. When Matthew and I lived together, sometimes we would just jam out Pandemix songs with me on drums, so I definitely used to have a larger role in how the musical aspects came together. “In Condemnation” will always be interesting to me as a document of a band shifting how it works. I was not in a super healthy headspace while penning these songs, and I think it’s very reflected in the lyrical results.
The boys recorded these ten songs over 2.5 days in Feb of 2018, and I recorded vocals (and directed people to do backing vocals) the following month in a half-day in the studio. The recordings sat around while we toured, worked on artwork for it (the LP comes with a poster and zine), and hemmed and hawed over mixes. It came out in February 2019 on Dirt Cult Records and Boss Tuneage Records.
1. No Monuments – The first track on “In Condemnation” is about choosing your own path and holding nothing sacred, including the canonical texts of rebellion. The chorus came to me during a popular political furor in the US about confederate statues, and I extrapolated it to a broader point about questioning your own accepted mythologies. Nihilism towards the nihilists. This is one of the songs that came about after Matthew and I agreed (only half-joking) that we should make an effort to sound more like the mall punk bands that really excited us in our youth. I think one of the cool things about Pandemix is that reviewers all hear different things in our music (Subhumans, Feederz, Aus Rotten, Poison Girls being some of my favorite comparisons we’ve garnered), and I think it’s because we’re just trying to make Big Tent Punk Music as opposed to being purists about any one subgenre – we love it all. I think I borrowed the image of a “carrion sun” from an Angela Carter book.
2. Can’t Assimilate – When we wrote the first batch of Pandemix songs throughout 2016, I very deliberately avoided aestheticizing my queer/trans identity. There were so many other contemporary bands that were putting those issues at the center of their message, and I wanted to see how my experiences as a trans woman would affect my approach to other topics. This song is my first time fully reneging on that intention, and talking about the intersection of street harassment with state surveillance and violence. I think we’ve probably played this song every show since we wrote it, and it’s absolutely one of my favorites. The second verse is about the annual tension in Pittsburgh between corporate, fracking-funded Pride festivities and the grassroots People’s Pride (run by a trans POC organization named SisTers).
3. A Pox – This is one of the songs on the record that Matthew wrote along to a “Ramones beat” loop backing track, which tend to be really enjoyable ones for me. This song is about hating the behavior of those who experience privilege that you don’t, but also seeing the seeds of the same behavior in yourself. A bunch of songs on this record argue that most people, in their complex social lives, experience both oppression and privilege. I’d like it if political punk could abandon the trope of the total victim, because it’s not the reality of the lives of most people fronting bands.
4. Synthetix – This is the first song of the bunch I wrote lyrics for, and consequently I’m completely fucking sick of it. Still, I enjoy the mixture of the more directly Crassy sounds with the heavier hardcore-punk chorus and the kinda Nirvana guitar solo. A big theme on this record is questioning what weight we should assign to our beliefs, particularly beliefs that have never been tested.
5. Patterns Repeat – This is one of those songs that you finish writing lyrics for on the drive to the studio. It continues exploring the anxieties over the distinctions between authentic and synthetic. “I think we’ve met before, or maybe I’ve just seen your picture” is the perpetual social condition of our time. A lot of the contents of my bag of vocal “tricks” is directly inspired by riot grrrl bands, which I think comes across in this number.
6. Downward Trend – If I’m remembering right, this is one of the ones that Tom brought to the table? As one of our purer punk pummelers, with me packing the verses as densely as I can, I really love this one. It was a lot of fun to fill the dissonant bridge with maniacal laughter. This song is about the failures of punk as a community of mutual aid, and how the subculture can allow people to bury their heads in the sand as their life goes down the toilet. It’s, more than anything, a song of anger that we allow ourselves to be distracted by the trappings of lifystylism while our friends kill themselves.
7. Oblivion Lullabies – I think we’ve only played this song live once, maybe twice, right around the recording of the album. I like it a lot, but I think some other bandmates are kind of sick of it. This song was my most deliberate attempt to write lyrics that wouldn’t necessarily read like a punk song on the page, which was a fun juxtaposition with the fastest, darkest track on the record. I think the first couplet does a really good job of distilling some of the records themes into a single verse; “what’s the point of youth if it’s not wasted? What good is authenticity if you don’t fake it?” The lyric about feeling “like a voyeur in [my] own life”, for me, recalls the feelings of being pre-transition/early transition really well.
8. Through The Night – Like “Downward Trend”, I think this is another one where the boys were surprised where I took this structurally/melodically. The bridge where my vocals are triple tracked was super fun to plan and execute. That part of the song lifts a line from Kate Bush’s “Lily”. I feel this run of songs (Oblivion-Night-Past Selves) works to capture a dream/nightmare vibe – you’ve flipped the record and a lot of the imagery is surreality, body horror, paranoia.
9. Past Selves – This was actually one of the first songs to start to take shape musically, although it took quite a while. This is probably the most ambitious song we’ve done yet, at a whopping five minutes and with a lot of different dynamics. The lyrics have been interpreted by a few listeners as being about BDSM, which didn’t occur to me at all – it’s about sex as a coping mechanism, particularly for depression and dysphoria, and fighting your way out from under those things. I set out to make a record that was lyrically more personal and revealing than our first one, that explored the political dimensions of daily life more than “Scale Models”. There are lyrics on here that connect directly back to the first track, which is the kind of thing that I’m not sure if anyone ever picks up on (or if they just think I revisit the same images repeatedly out of laziness), but has felt important for me to throw in on both of our 12”s to make each their own complete listening experience or musical world.
10. Column of Light – We made some use of the classic peace punk conceit of the “interlude” on our last record, which is what the music for this track was conceived as. I think it was my idea that closing the record with it would make it much more of a “statement”, and I totally think it stands on its own as a complete song or “thought”. It’s about seeing another trans person on the bus, and about the small daily compromises that marginalized people make in order to navigate the world around us. In a broader sense it’s about distinguishing between self-preservation and capitulation, this idea that there’s nothing at odds about hating a system and figuring out how to live within it.
Listen to the record here at bandcamp.