On Friday, the popular queer-punk band PWR BTTM was supposed to be celebrating the release of “Pageant,” its highly anticipated second album. The duo, which was birthed at Bard College and signed to the respected indie punk label Polyvinyl, had its devoted fan base abuzz and were plotting a spring tour.
But in a Facebook post a few days before the release, an acquaintance made explosive allegations about the band’s behavior, accusing member Ben Hopkins of “inappropriate sexual contact with people despite several ‘nos’ and without warning or consent.”
Within days, PWR BTTM went from future stars to pariahs. In survival mode, the group, which also includes Liv Bruce, issued a statement that addressed the issue head-on. Noting that they were surprised by the allegations, the joint statement pledged to address them “with openness and accountability.”
It continued: “Unfortunately we live in a culture which trivializes and normalizes violations of consent. There are people who have violated others’ consent and do not know. Ben has not been contacted by any survivor(s) of abuse. These allegations are shocking to us and we take them very seriously. Further, the alleged behavior is not representative of who Ben is and the manner in which they try to conduct themselves.” They included an email address for anyone else who felt victimized to come forward.
“Our primary goal here is to ensure that a survivor of abuse has a voice, that their story should be heard and that people who cross the line should be held accountable,” the statement declared.
There are people who have violated others’ consent and do not know. Ben has not been contacted by any survivor(s) of abuse.
— PWR BTTM statement
The damage, however, had already been done. By Friday, acts slated to open for PWR BTTM at future performances were canceling and the band’s management, Salty Artists Management, had dropped them as a client. They were booted off the bill of the Hopscotch music festival and were forced to cancel an in-store album release performance.
On Saturday, PWR BTTM’s label, Polyvinyl Records, dropped them from its roster and issued a statement. “There is absolutely no place in the world for hate, violence, abuse, discrimination or predatory behavior of any kind,” it read, in part. “In keeping with this philosophy, we want to let everyone know that we are ceasing to sell and distribute PWR BTTM's music.”
Venues where the band was set to perform, including the July 15 show at the Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles, have also canceled shows.
Whether the outcry spells PWR BTTM’s end is not yet known, but it will certainly test the axiom that there’s no such thing as bad press.