Interview: Sarchasm Discusses Community Building and Activism

Posted: by The Editor

From having multiple songwriters to varying vocalists, Sarchasm is far from monotonous. Their music is chaotic and punchy, deriving influence from punk and indie. With depression and anxiety being focal topics, the group might elicit comparison to Mom Jeans. Sonically, they could be grouped with Remo Drive.

Similarities aside, Sarchasm is distinct in its ability to dig beyond surface level mental health woes, covering struggles like irrational paranoia and finding social justice activism to be exhausting. I spoke with drummer/songwriter Stevie Campos-Seligman and bassist/vocalist/songwriter Alex Botkin about sonic and political influences as well as the ways in which hailing from California’s bay area has helped mold the band.

Who are your influences?

Stevie: We’re influenced by the east bay punk scene. Green Day and Rancid have been very big for us. Our main place we play at is 924 Gilman, which is where Green Day got their start. 

Alex: There’s also influences from what our parents listened to; classic rock and new wave like Talking Heads and Elvis Costello.

Why is 924 Gilman special to you?

Alex: It’s a non profit that’s run cooperatively by the people that also inhabit it. A lot of people have a higher view of it because of Green Day; to us, it’s not quite that special. For us, it’s special because of the role that it has played in the music scene and everything it has provided. We’ve performed there over 50 times. 

You said that scenes in smaller cities, versus large metropolises like San Francisco, can offer their own unique idiosyncrasies. What makes you say that?

Alex: I think it really allows for a uniqueness. In the Bay area, when you have so many bands and so many shows you can choose from, there’s high pressure to fit into bubbles. People think they have to sound like whoever from the scene is the most well known. We’ve been to Arcata quite a few times. Every time we’re there, we notice that the bands we play with are so much more in their own element. There’s not as much peer pressuring them into a defined category.

Mind over Matter is, in my opinion, your best song. What inspired it?

Stevie: The song is about a feeling we all relate to: how do you maintain the energy to be constantly politically engaged when you are depressed? There’s pressure to constantly go to protests and be involved. But it’s draining and difficult when you’re anxious and depressed and can barely get out of bed.

Alex: A lot of people view it as an all-or-nothing thing. If you aren’t there every time, it means you don’t care. They feel that you have to willing to get tear gassed and put in harsh stressful environments at every protest, otherwise you’re not really involved.

And protesting isn’t the only form of involvement.

Alex: Exactly. You can donate money. You can flyer. You can do things that don’t involve in being in a big crowd.

Stevie: Community building is something that I feel people don’t often think of as activism or as an important thing. Keeping the communities you care about thriving is how we stay alive. I think keeping our friends safe and making sure we’re all okay is just as important as direct action like calling your local representatives.

Your bandcamp lists the band’s hometown as Berkeley, CA, which is well known as a political epicenter. What do you like about Berkeley?

Stevie: There’s definitely an energy here in support of caring about the world and the environment, which has been really nice to grow up around. We take the progressiveness of Berkeley for granted. I’m lucky to live here and feel safe as a queer person of color, considering there’s other parts of the world where that’s not the norm. 

I’ve noticed anxiety is a main topic in your lyrics. Is it something you struggle with?

Alex: All of us, yes. I think we might not come across as anxious while performing, since we don’t take ourselves seriously and do things like wear propellor hats. People tell me I’m more quiet off stage. Being in a band helps counteract anxiety. 

Stevie: There’s something about being on stage that gives you control. Conversations are stressful for me. I feel more comfortable on stage because there’s not a back and forth between me and someone else.

What’s your favorite dessert?

Stevie: Chocolate cheesecake.

Alex: I like those supermarket cookies with the really gross, inch thick layer of frosting. They’re so bad, but I love them so much.

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Bineet Kaur | @hellobineet

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