By Ida V. Eskamani Originally published in the Orlando Weekly
Regardless of borders, nationality or language, music speaks a universal tongue — defying odds and transforming lives. These are the foundational truths that ground Foreign Dissent, Florida's all-international punk music festival, held every October in Orlando. A labor of love organized by local promoter Craig Mazer, this year marks the festival's eighth year, with bands from Costa Rica, Australia, Germany, Italy and England all taking the stage at Will's Monday night.
These punks are all converging on the Sunshine State for Fest, Gainesville's annual punk pilgrimage celebrating its 21st circle around the sun this year. Featuring more than 350 punk bands playing over just three days, artists from around the world dream of playing the festival and drinking PBR out of pineapples. Orlando Weekly pen-pal'd with a few of these international acts on the bill about their music and upcoming journey to Florida.
"Hi, my name is Chris and I sing, scream and play guitar for a band called Fjørt, together with David, who also does vocals and plays bass, and Frank, who plays the drums."
Hailing from the German "kaiserstadt'"Aachen, Fjørt is writing to us while deciding what songs to play on their upcoming stint in the U.S.
"We started this thing over a decade ago in a tiny room in an old bunker in Aachen, just letting everything out, taking the things that make us angry, that bother us, into some of my German lyrics and some really loud, crusty chords and melodies. It felt so good from the first rehearsal, cathartic and fun, and we still have this exact mindset today."
The band has toured all over Europe and the United Kingdom, but like many bands playing on Monday, this show marks their first time playing in the United States. "Since we've never been to the U.S. and we have German lyrics, we kinda have no idea how people will react to us. But we oftentimes hear that people really dig our music even if they don't understand the lyrics, that it makes them feel something." Chris added, "We love that, and we are really eager to play a show that's memorable — or at the very least loud as hell."
"I'm currently working at home in my studio, listening to some demos I've been working on." Costa Rica's La Versión Extendida de las Cosas is preparing for their Ed Sullivan Show moment too, with Foreign Dissent marking their first-ever gig in the United States. Lead vocalist and guitarist Calvo has been playing music since age 11; the band released their debut record in 2014 and haven't stopped since, with new music on the way next year. Melodic and catchy, the band compares their sound to Jawbreaker, Jimmy Eat World and Sparta, with one key distinction: "The main difference is that the songs are in Spanish, since it is our native language." Calvo also spoke to the ability of music to transcend language. "What inspires me the most is figuring out how to get a particular emotion and feel in a song. That is the magic of music. It doesn't matter what artists, bands or music genres you listen to. You can always perceive which emotion the song communicates, and from there you can absolutely learn new things and apply them to your own music."
Meanwhile, Northern England's Sunliner are caffeinated and pulling no punches. "Hello! I'm Jake, singer and guitarist of Leeds punk rock band Sunliner, drinker of coffee, kicker of asses."
Sunliner have been making music together for four years now, with their debut album released almost a year ago to date. Self-described as "gruff catchy indie punk rock," they've been touring their side of the world nonstop, and even have a handful of dates booked here in the Sunshine State. In anticipation for the tour, the band just released a new single, "First Against the Wall," a political tune that's catchy, weary yet defiant.
Sunliner also spoke to the state of our state — the direct attacks queer people face from the DeSantis administration and the solidarity and safety that can be found in punk. "The political situation in Florida is pretty grim right now and that makes me worry for friends and folks that are LGBTQ+ that want to attend these events not feeling welcome in the state. However, luckily Fest and every show associated with our little scene is so incredibly welcoming and open that these shows are hopefully an escape from that. We want you there!"
Pre-Fest shows like Foreign Dissent offer an opportunity for bands en route to Gainesville to book gigs and make the trip to our weird peninsula worth the thousands of miles and dollars spent. This is especially true for international bands (not to mention visa headaches), with massive costs to make it here, without the relationships to local venues and promoters necessary to book gigs. Foreign Dissent is an opportunity to build an international community centered on solidarity, safety and good music.
Sunliner has braved our shores before, their memory serving them well: "A previous iteration of the band has played Florida before years ago. If I remember correctly, it was a whirlwind of PBR and good times!"
Sounds like a pretty solid Monday night, if you ask us.
Ida is an Iranian-American from Florida who grew up with the Beatles, and came of age in the pit. She will talk to you about music for as long as you will pretend to listen. She is founder of Bandifesto, a little blog with a big heart