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Up the Blunx: Meet the Hosts of the Hard Times-Backed Podcast

Straightaway, I’ll have you know that Up the Blunx is your new favorite podcast. In lieu of dropping the mic there, I’ll instead grease the introduction wheel a bit.

The latest addition to the Hard Times Podcast Network is the brainchild of Akil Godsey and Kevin Tit. For the somehow still uninitiated, the former is the vocalist for Baltimore’s superlative End It and the latter is a Hawaiian transplant responsible for a dizzying amount of rad projects.

Ostensibly a show by two Black punks from wildly different backgrounds waxing comedically on myriad adjacent subjects, it’s also a platform to share and highlight the work of other Black artists in the world of punk. Having first caught a joint interview on the network’s flagship show with Bill and Matt of the inimitable Hard Times News, the wild alchemy conjured by their chemistry was thankfully but a preview. 
 
At the time of writing, the nascent show is but two episodes deep, having covered both cops and straight edge in wildly rambling fashion.

Comedy seems to be an unavoidable through line when dealing with folks this hilarious, but they manage to shoehorn in some deeply thoughtful, politically provocative, and informative moments that transcend their admittedly blurry boundaries for the format. Lest I start indulging myself in playing spoiler, I’ll simply say they’re quickly responsible for stamping my brain with some of the funniest one-liners I’ve ever heard.

This likely won’t come as news to anyone familiar with Akil via his instantly commanding and memorable stage presence or the litany of comedy shows Kevin has brought into the world.

Welcome to the lawless world of Up the Blunx. Catch the fuck up and hop on board. PUNK IS BLACK. 
 
Having done my homework which, admittedly, was the simple task of listening to your hilarious appearance on the Hard Times Podcast; I don’t want to play spoiler on the origin of Up the Blunx. How’d the two of you meet and what was the impetus for starting the project? 

Kevin Tit: I was in Baltimore to do comedy at the Ottobar on the same Sunday of this big show at the Y Not lot (Turnstile, Truth Cult, End It, DDM). I remember getting to the show and seeing Akil on stage with his band End It. I had never heard of them before that and they ripped hard as hell. What really got me though was the in between song banter. Akil said something along the lines of “I met god before. That nigga smell like fish..” and I couldn’t stop laughing. I thought he was the funniest man in the world.

Later, I went to do my comedy set and raved to the bartender, and anybody who’d listen, about what I’d heard. Fast forward a few months, my man Bill at the Hard Times told me they were looking to get another show on their podcast network that wasn’t hosted by white guys and I immediately reached out to Akil about doing something and the rest is history. The first time we actually hung out was honestly during the recording of that first episode.

I love the inherent dynamic you have on the show, some of which seems to come from having such disparate backgrounds. Kevin, y’all us a bit about coming up in Hawaii’s punk scene. It sounds wildly different than what most are accustomed to. When did you move up this way? 

Kevin Tit: The Hawaii punk scene (Oahu specifically) is small and much different than your typical mainland scene. Mostly cos it’s in the middle of the ocean so it’s not often bands come to town or that local bands go off to tour the mainland. It really instilled a DIY value in me because I’d start organizing shows (and eventually a little festival called No Suck Fest) with friends to get bands like the Dopamines, Mean Jeans, Night Birds, FYP/Toys That Kill, etc., out to the island.

I love Hawaii dearly but I hit a point where I just wanted to get out and do something different so I came out to the DMV cos I didn’t know anybody here except for my mom and it felt like a fresh start. That was in November of 2014.

Akil, as a fellow Marylander, we’ve likely shared spaces but I’m an old ass white man that hugs the wall at shows. How’d you find yourself gravitating to punk? 
 
Akil Godsey: I went to local shows to see my friends play and saw how much freedom you can personally have at a show and stuck around from there. I liked the fact I could drink and no one cared. I could literally assault someone but they called it dancing. It's perverse and I’m a big fan of perversion.

Anyone that’s been fortunate enough to listen to End It knows how great a vocalist Akil is on record, but the live experience is something else altogether. Where’d your banter game come from? It lends itself really well to the comedy world.
 
Akil Godsey: I got all this witty stage banter (lol) from being the youngest of 3 boys and the youngest of 7 cousins when I was coming up. I’ve always been a motor mouth and I honestly thought it was the “punk rock” thing to do.

I’ve seen people attempt to have some banter between songs and they would fail plus their band sucked so I made it a goal that if I ever get to front a band I don't want any strange open space while I got the mic. A lot of it though is being picked on and seeing really wild shit in school. You can avoid alot of altercations if you can make someone laugh when they’re angry. 

At the time of this chat the first two episodes have dropped. The pilot episode “Cops” was instant gold. As is expected, hilarity ensues from the jump but it’s tempered with some really nuanced and informative takes on formative experiences with the police.

Aside from the normalized trauma of systemic racism, you delve into the ongoing big business of slavery, incentivizing of the prison industrial complex, the history of police militarization, and the absorption of humanity by the “blue line.” I realize that’s a fucking mouthful, but is there a mission statement for the show? It already flaunts a really great balance.

Kevin Tit: Honestly, and Akil can speak for himself on this one, I just felt like there’s not a lot of podcasts (if any) where black punks could genuinely share their own unique perspectives on things. I really had a chip on my shoulder about the Afro Punk festival and did not want that festival to be the defining voice for black punks. I remember looking at some of those line ups and wondering “Where the fuck are all the punk bands???”.

The mission for this podcast, in my opinion, is to just showcase the unique experiences that come with being black in punk. We may have grown up in two completely different parts of the world but we—as well as most Blunx (™)—have had our fair share of white people slipping the Bad Brains into conversation at shows. These are the folks I really hope gravitate towards this podcast. 

Akil Godsey: I guess i could say my goal with the podcast is to get some of the insane thoughts that rush through my head out on wax so other crazy bastards can feel a sense of community. There's a responsibility within being a Black Punk, however, that means I have to use this platform to educate someone about something they didn't know existed. Sometimes it may be a simple anecdote or it might be a history lesson.

Ultimately I really like the sound of my own voice and want to make people laugh. This gives me a chance to more easily meet other Blunx and build community. 

Additionally, Akil brought up an interesting and little known fact about Baltimore in that it’s an independent city not under the jurisdiction of any county board. There’s an innate indifference and neglect at the state level that you could probably do a better job of explaining. Thoughts?
 
Akil Godsey: It’s no secret the current governor is not a big fan of Baltimore City. He has to fuel that narrative that Baltimore is dangerous to keep the people who keep him fed voting. Baltimore is historically black but the state of Maryland is extremely racist. The city of Baltimore is 67% Black as of 2019, combine this fact with this city being independent in certain regards I wouldn’t be surprised if the State intentionally only gives aid to the aspects of Baltimore that only serve to benefit the State and let the rest of the city falter.

In summation Fuck Larry Hogan, ole cold cut sandwich, oil bleeding, fatass, squared-headed bastard.

Photo: Farrah Skeiky

Akil, I have to ask about your job. I can’t be sure of your current status, but you've been working one of the most intense front line occupations imaginable. Tell us about mortuary transport in the time of COVID-19. 
 
Akil Godsey: Shit got real lawless for a second when this COVID situation began. The price of body bags skyrocketed. We were doing removals without bodybags. PPE was scarce. I had to start “finding” hand sanitizer while out on calls. Restricted access  to hospitals and nursing homes. Had to have your temperature taken every time you went into facilities.

This stuff may seem trivial, and alot of it is, but you get into a rhythm when doing removals all the time and a simple change of routine allows for leaving important paperwork because identification of the bodies is priority, and now what would’ve been a cool 2 to 3 hour moment to eat or rest becomes another 2-hour round trip while accumulating other calls and next thing you know you’ve been working for a solid 16 hours straight, just the road and someones dead relative.

You may notice that I don’t really speak of the Coronavirus itself because people die. All. The. Time. I can’t say the workload grew for us, but I totally would have to wait at certain locations longer because you’d show up and there are, legitimately, 15 dudes waiting to grab bodies. I have seen the bodies. I have discussed how all three morgues are full of people. I’ve cracked the jokes about “see ya later” because I knew I would be back that following day. 

Kevin, I’d love to hear a bit more about your comedy work. It’d seem the DIY ethic really informs both your aesthetic and approach, as well as the way you put together shows. I know we’re on a collective pause, as it were, but what projects would you like to amplify? 

Kevin Tit: PunkHouse Comedy is my baby. I’m extremely proud of building that show over the past few years so if there’s a world where venues are operating like normal again, I’d say to check that out. I get to book a variety of comedians and bands that I like so that’s really cool.

I’m also in a sketch comedy group called the Midnight Gardeners League, and we’ve remained active during all this so you can check out that stuff on the Instagrams, YouTubes, Twitter and all that good stuff. If you want to. No pressure. Do it though.

One of my favorite releases of recent memory, One Way Track, came out in the relative normalcy of pre-quarantine 2020. End It is a going concern for the hardcore scene so the people need to know: Anything in the pipeline you can reveal? 
 

Akil Godsey: We’re currently writing the LP, and when I say “We” I mean they go to practice and I show up bi-monthly and spit some ill shit then get back to being a Lyft driver. Outside of music, we’ve been releasing multiple shirts and donating the funds to various non profits in support of the changes occurring in our world these days. 

End It (Photo: Sean Reilly)

Kevin, you’ve got myriad projects people need to check out! Pilau, which you played on the podcast, sounds absolutely punishing and timely. You’re also in Saffron and Chill Parents, the latter of which recently dropped a split with cover art that has to be a spoof of the Rancid/NOFX cover, right? Brag a bit about your bands! What’s in the works?

Kevin Tit: Ah yes! I’m in three damn bands. Pilau is a crusty band featuring members who’ve played in Maloso, Magrudergrind, Assholeparade, and it’s the first band I’ve ever only done vocals in. We’ve got a 7” coming out on Capsule Records. Saffron is a three piece punk band band I play guitar and sing in that has a cassette tape out on State Champion Records. Chill Parents is the oldest of the three where I play bass and sing.

We just put out a split with our kids in Fail Sons and we have a new record that we just finished mixing coming out later this year. It’s probably the most sonically diverse of the three. If you run a label and are looking for a solid record to put out, holler at us! 

Aside from relentlessly induced laughter, Up the Blunx will also be a great place to hear from various black artists in the punk community, be it through interviews or a place to hear music. How can black artists best track y’all down? 

Kevin Tit: If you’re black and in a punk band, please reach out to us at UpTheBlunx@gmail.com. If you’re white and have a black bandmate, please talk to them about maybe reaching out to us. We’ve already gotten emails that read something like “I play in this band and our *insert instrument* is black! Check us out!” Don’t do that.

Reading messages from white folks speaking on behalf of their black bandmates always comes off a little weird to me.

No one escapes my lists! For both of you, what’re your all-time Top 5 punk albums? 

Kevin Tit: I hate these types of things because my memory sucks and my list constantly changes, but one album that’s been on my top 5 list consistently for over a decade is Scotto El Blotto by The Bar Feeders.

Outside of that I’ll just say anything on Recess Records, anything by Hickey, anything by Warthog, Rock for Light by Bad Brains is up there, and Cellar Dweller by Impalers. Honestly though, I listened to End It obsessively for a while after I first saw them. Just putting that out there.

Akil Godsey:

  1. Shock Troops, Cock Sparrer
  2. Quickness, Bad Brains
  3. Rites of Spring, Rites of Spring
  4. Age of Quarrel, Cro-Mags
  5. Burn, Burn

Kevin, you have unlimited resources to put together a show... 5 bands and 5 comics. Living or dead, who are you booking?

Kevin Tit: I’m always gonna feel like I wanna redo these lists.

Comedians I’d love to have on a Punkhouse Comedy show: Shapel Lacey, Janelle James, Jak Knight, Punkie Johnson, and Sam Tallent.

Bands: JFA, Gouge Away, Toys That Kill, Warthog, BIB.

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Tagged: podcast

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