Long before “punk” was a genre, people were hollering, swearing, beating, clawing, scraping, screaming, blowing and losing themselves in mad fits of fury. It was just called folk music. Folks railed against the world around them - their hardships, their work, their oppressors - and they vented the chaos boiling within them. WPO was drawn to the noise, energy and teetering ‘punk’ intensity often heard on Balkan folk records, and from them they learned to channel that punk energy into their resilient, joyous sound which combines ecstatic free jazz and hypnotic beats. Spiritually, they adopted the punk ethos of DIY: drawing together an inclusive community of misfits with disparate talents, building a local scene, partnering with hyper-local community organizations, and struggling to redefine themselves as a ‘village band’ in a media landscape dominated by pop stars, algorithms and corporate interests.
In “Raging Bells,” singer and songwriter g. mervine confronts the anxieties of our era, among them climate destruction and the rise of fascism, as he rages against our helplessness. Mervine’s fellow WPO drummer Elliot Beck transforms the generally harmless glockenspiel into an ironic, menacing sound, while WPO’s own DC punk Larry Goldfinger churls out melodies on the clarinet.
Mervine dedicates “Raging Bells” to Erik Petersen of Mischief Brew, West Philly’s legendary punk folk crew. WPO and Mischief Brew shared several bills in the late 2000s, and Erik’s combination folk and punk sensibilities continues to open our ears and lead us to live more authentically, rooted and fully.