THE REFUSERS RAGE AGAINST INJUSTICE
WITH A BLISTERING BUNDLE OF DEFIANCE IN ‘BORN TO ROCK’
Long before the frustrated electorate elevated Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in an intense, freewheeling battle for the soul of America’s future, Michael Belkin of Seattle rock powerhouse The Refusers started writing provocative, blistering songs whose music and lyrics provide for the newly aware masses a clarion call to, to borrow a classic band name, rage against the machine.
Capturing the zeitgeist perfectly and blasting through the establishment’s twisted goals with incisive lyrics and a set of spirited diverse modern rock music (with a few colorful jazzy and bluesy stylistic twists), The Refusers’ latest burst of enlightenment is a bundle of musical defiance that’s truly Born To Rock. Belkin (vocals, lead, rhythm, pedal steel and slide guitar), bassist Steve Newton, renowned keyboardist Joe Doria and contributing drummer Brendan Hill (Blues Traveler) are releasing up front a 8-track EP of hard-hitting highlights, followed by the release of the 20 song full length set.
A former Wall Street wizard turned whistleblower, the singer/songwriter and one time L.A. studio guitarist combines the greater good defiance of Edward Snowden, the fiery guitar power of Buckethead and the optimistic musical soul of Bob Marley. He experienced the B.S., escaped with his soul intact and lives the ethos he learned at UC Berkeley’s Haas School, where he learned to question the status quo. His searing lyrics expose the dirty dealings at the pinnacles of power. Rocking the boat, calling out corruption and greed and reminding us of eras when music spoke truth to power and elevated generations, The Refusers are on a mission to wake more Americans up to a potential new future free of the direct influence of big media, Wall Street, big pharma and others. But those Goliaths are not going down without a fight – so the message, and its resulting action, is everything.
“Snowden’s ordeal was a driving force for this project,” says Belkin, “because he was an insider who saw something wrong and risked everything to warn people. I read a famous Rolling Stone article about Goldman Sachs called ‘The Great American Bubble Machine,’ how they perpetually have engineered every market manipulation since the Great Depression. Huge financial forces and crony capitalism dominate our system. The chief litigator from Monsanto is in charge of the FDA. The people are getting ripped off by huge forces who are getting away with murder. Born To Rock is our way of illuminating many of the issues. Music can help make people aware, marrying the message to music that’s fresh and a 180 degree turn from the cookie cutter pop of today that Dave Grohl has famously called out as superficial.”
Born To Rock’s hard hitting musical revolt launches with the explosive track that doubles as a foundational mission statement, essentially declaring that rock at its essence is supposed to be protest songs against the establishment and “speaking truth to power.” The bluesy tempo shifting rocker “Wake Up America” taps into illusion vs. truth, where “Money buys the government/Media twists the news/Lawyers destroy justice/Doctors destroy health/Lobbyists steal democracy.” It’s a sonic alarm to realize these things and find ways to take the country back.
The Randy Newmanesque “You Won’t Read It In the NYTimes” is about the corporate controlled media’s power to dumb down our minds and keep reality from us, typified by the line “Murdoch censors everything in the Wall Street Journal.” “Go Back To Sleep” is a resigned slice of power ballad cynicism, a counterpoint to “Wake Up America,” while the propulsive “Backlash” promises that “we’re gonna have the last laugh.”
The centerpiece of the EP and a key moment on the full album arrives with the sly, edgy and funky “Hang The Bankers,” which asks “Do you know it’s you they are screwing” and compares Goldman Sachs to “a vampire squid deceiving the world with their bullshit.”
While not committing himself to any single ideology or agenda, Belkin and The Refusers speak today’s spirit of rage and simmering revolution against the establishment. “I have the advantage of being an information junkie knowing what’s going on in the world, and an ex-financial industry insider who knows where the bodies are buried and has a good sense of what’s going on in the real world,” he says. “And musically, we’re inventive too, with touches including Hammond Organ, pedal steel guitars and 8-string bass. If we’re going to bring this home, it’s got to work musically as well as lyrically. We want to get people thinking and empower them while also impacting them with some great modern rock sounds.”