“Your master status when you become punk rock is punk, ‘cause your background becomes this completely new status, whether you’re black or white,” says Alex Raffray, drummer and apparent lead Boot-propaganda deliverer of four-man “not a joke” band Sherman’s Boot.
Before getting into the interview, we talk about the death of Eric Garner, the privilege of “looking punk,” the “one drop rule” and the illegalities surrounding the burning of the Confederate Flag in Georgia. “Well, those things are gonna melt, not burn, but…” says Jonah Primiano, pointing at a bag of polyester Confederate flags in the corner.
The Boot seems to have a lot of layers from sole to lace, but lead singer Primiano clarifies that it’s mostly about the members’ turning away from what they perceive as an outdated “Southern identity.” Minus their guitarist, Travis Berry, who couldn’t make it for the interview, each make a point to express their ethnic backgrounds, including French, Italian, and Greek — although they admit they could care less about white people getting in touch with their own ethnicity.
“We’re definitely not chill with a lot of values here,” states Primiano, who was taken aback by the lack of straightforwardness in message from bands in the Southern punk and hardcore scene compared to his experiences in Boston.
“Even if you are from the South, being Southern has nothing to do with it. It’s not just people in the South,” says Raffray. “It’s about this fake cultural identity that these subhumans have adopted to make themselves seem important while they grasp onto the last vestiges of their heritage.”
Citing his own experience as a pedicab driver, Primiano believes there’s a lot of people in Savannah—tourists, SCAD students, and otherwise, who benefit from privilege, aren’t aware of it, and say or do idiotic things in the process. Quoting his favorite line from Desmond Tutu, Primiano speaks for the whole band when he says that they wanted to take a stand in Savannah, otherwise they were just as bad as the people perpetrating privileged mindsets.
“We are Sherman’s boot. I mean, I don’t want to kill anybody, but, we wanna boot people out. Boot out people we like first, then burn down the city, then boot them back into the city—the Boot-topia we’ve built,” says Raffray. Raffray corrects Primiano when he says the band is just about having fun. Occasionally it feels like they’re bouncing back and forth between the characterized nature of their anti-message and their own learning processes as straight white guys.
I call it the kyriarchy, they call it “the system.” “Either way,” Primiano retorts, “we as people don’t like these things. If people want to decide that we’re white people telling white people what to do that’s cool too, but we’re not for whites by whites. It’s not just about race — we want to talk about all different kinds of oppression.”
Bassist Evan Stolatis speaks for the first time during the interview to add that “It has a lot less to do with this issue of race and more about what you’re doing and how you’re participating with the people around you. We’re calling people to be better people.”
When reminded that most of the people throughout time who have perpetrated oppression have been straight white guys, I got some divertive responses. I told the band that I hope people in Savannah are willing to take Sherman’s Boot as seriously as they’re willing to be taken, even though their existence will be short-lived considering half the members will be leaving Savannah at the end of the month.
While part of Sherman’s Boot is about calling people out via their music, Raffray’s eccentricity presents itself clearly when he states that ultimately, “There’s not really any leftist people who are like ‘We wanna line up every person who makes over 2 million dollars a year and execute them.’ There’s no one willing to say the really crazy stuff.” Later Raffray contacted me to apologize for being a “madman.” I told him he wasn’t allowed to apologize because it made the Boot message seem inauthentic.
Either way, it’s Boot-tastically admirable that Sherman’s Boot is vocalizing and attempting to expose more clearly some of the problematic elements they see in the South and in the punk scene. “Come Saturday to join us, Forced Entry, Toxic Shock, and IAMANINTESTINE to defend the future from the INEVITABLE violent mob of pro-slavery Confederates!” says Raffray on their show at The Jinx. “If you believe in something, act on it.”
Sherman’s Boot will perform on Saturday, May 16 at 10pm at the Jinx. Click here for more information.