- Category: Reviews
- Published on Thursday, 27 November 2014
- Written by Stuart King
The day before I saw 'Hope', a new play about a council making deep cuts in services, I read a profile piece in the Guardian on the Labour leader of Newcastle Council, Nick Forbes. He talked in the interview about the "impossible" service cuts the council faced because of the government's funding cuts.
He said in just one area, social care, Whitehall grants had been cut by 32% while demand had increased by 40%. Having cut £37 million from the budget last year, Newcastle faces a £38 million cut this year, with a further £90 million cuts in the pipeline over the following three years! Little wonder that Forbes predicts social unrest with many public services becoming “completely untenable” in the years ahead. And Newcastle is not alone, the National Audit Office has recently predicted that more than half the councils in England are at risk of financial failure in the next five years.
Jack Thorne’s play, set in a northern English town, opens with the local Labour council leaders sitting down facing just such a scenario. But as with Nick Forbes it never enters the heads of Hillary, the council leader, or her deputy Mark, that there is any alternative to implementing the cuts. They settle down to picking the areas; libraries, street lighting, the swimming pool, museum, centres for the disabled, which they will cut or close completely.
But their plans quickly come unstuck. The proposal to shut the social centre for the disabled, run by Mark’s ex-wife Gina, is leaked and all hell breaks loose. An imaginative campaign to prevent the closure hits the national headlines, thousands sign a petition against it and Miliband is on the phone telling the council they are “polluting Labour’s message” for the election.
So they do what every council does when faced with serious resistance in one area, they retreat on the disabled centre and instead cut two SureStart centres in a predominantly Pakistani and Bangladeshi area of the borough. The resulting row and protests sees clashes between the EDL and the local protesting Asian community. A Pakistani shopkeeper is stabbed to death late at night. “Were the perpetrators white – EDL?” asks Mark. “We don’t know,” replies Sarwan, an Asian councillor, “It was where we had turned the lights off.”
The play follows the characters through both their political and personal crises. Mark, played by The Thick of It actor Paul Higgins, wants to be “a good man” and struggles with his alcoholism, his precociously intelligent son and his sometime partner who is also a councillor and daughter of the ex-leader. The play sometimes feels like a sitcom and makes you wonder why TV hasn’t taken up the challenge of a council-based sitcom; there is plenty of black comedy there for the taking.
The plot takes a dramatic turn when the councillors, pressed by Sarwan, revolt and decide to refuse to set a budget, provoking the government to send in an administrator. Sarwan is convincing when pointing out the class nature of the Tory-Lib Dem cuts “Hart council in Hampshire, the least deprived local authority – net loss of these cuts £28 per person – while in Liverpool district B, the most deprived local authority – net loss £807 per person. How does that make you not want to tear some ones throat out?” Indeed, because this is not just a script but real figures.
While this play is not a political drama of the standard of a David Hare, it certainly is a play of the moment, something the Royal Court Theatre is particularly good at, encouraging young writers and multi-ethnic casts, and pulling in young audiences absent in most West End theatres.
But don’t get your hopes up for a happy ending. These councillors turn out to be as useless in opposition as they were in power. Incapable of mobilising the town and obsessed with returning to “business as normal”. But why should we expect anything different – isn’t this the reality of the Labour Party today?
'Hope' runs at the Royal Court from 26 November to 10 JanuaryAdd a comment
- Category: Reviews
- Published on Saturday, 18 October 2014
- Written by Conor Kostick
Conor Kostick reviews The Event of Literature (Yale University Press) by Terry Eagleton
If The Matrix were a film about Literary Criticism, then Terry Eagleton would have been cast in the role of Morpheus. It’s easy to picture him, secure in a space of his own choosing, smiling and beckoning with a flick of his hand that his opponents should come and do their worst. And in the film version of The Event of Literature, every person seeking enlightenment by a different path than Eagleton’s would be sent sprawling by a good-natured clout to the head.
The Event of Literature might be a little less action-filled than The Matrix, but it has almost non-stop polemical confrontations to enjoy, even by readers, like myself, unfamiliar with the literary theorists addressed in the book. This is because Eagleton’s main concern here is to tackle the subject at a philosophical level and thus his comments typically have a relevance to all aesthetics, not just literary ones.
My friends over at the Association of Musical Marxists, for example, might take note of Eagleton’s passing observations on Adorno. Those who see the new as valuable in itself and the normative as inherently ossified easily fall into two errors, a blindness towards avant-garde forms that are sterile and a too-insensitive dismissal of all practices arising from well established norms.
While on the subject of the AMM, I once (a very long time ago) read an essay by one of its founders, Andy Wilson, on the compatibility of Wittgenstein’s epistemology with that of Marx. Evidence of such compatibility can be found in the writings of Terry Eagleton, which show that he has evolved a wonderful synthesis of the ideas of Marx and Wittgenstein.
An aspect of Wittgenstein’s work that is deeply appreciated by Eagleton is the sense that when reading the philosopher’s work, one is engaging with a mind in playful, ironic dialogue with itself, lucid in expression, but enigmatic in content (to quote from The Gatekeeper). It would not be right to say that Eagleton is enigmatic, most of the time his meaning could not be clearer if it were a slogan being chanted by thousands of demonstrators, but often Eagleton too writes in a playful and self-ironic mode. This is especially true when he approaches complex and multi-sided subjects; at these points a brusque, no-nonsense formulation would do as much harm as good.
As a case study of his methodology, Eagleton’s discussion of Realism versus Nominalism, with which he opens the book, serves well. Are general or universal categories in some sense real, à la Plato? Or – the Nominalist position - are abstract categories only ever the constructions of human minds? For the Nominalists, the real has to be particular. Comprehending the ideas of other writers and recasting them with brevity is one of Eagleton’s particular strengths and in this section he proceeds by examining the thoughts of Western philosophers through the ages, placing them on the Realist – Nominalist spectrum. Those philosophers who veer towards the extremes of either position, Eagleton takes to task.
So deft are Eagleton’s blows to the Realist tradition that at least one reviewer of The Event of Literature thought that he was here advocating a Nominalist point of view. But Eagleton metes out equally strong rebuttals to the one-sided Nominalists he discusses. Which leaves the reader where he wants us, thinking that universality and individuality cannot be antithetical. That this is Eagleton’s goal is evident from his approval of Marx’s writings on human beings in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts. There Marx asserts that individual humans are distinct from one another, precisely because such individuation is a consequence of our ‘species-being’. One of the universal powers of homo sapiens is that of forming individuals.
This methodology, a series of zig-zagging critiques of first one side then the other, is crucial for Eagleton’s subsequent arguments concerning literature. The main body of the book is taken up with entertaining explorations of the limits of the – extraordinarily many – various schools of literary theory. His approach allows Eagleton to show that in many cases a theory founded on a mistaken definition of literature (definitions echoing the Realist – Nominalist debate), will collapse the living, multi-dimensional phenomenon that is literature into a (often dull) linear channel.
Now a lot of traditional Marxist aesthetics – say the meetings on art held at the UK SWP’s annual Marxism event (I was just now listening to the recording of John Molyneux’s talk on the subject) – understand art as in some way being a reflection of an historical moment. This, for Eagleton, is too simple-minded a dichotomy. A literary work is not a reflection of a history external to it but a ‘strategic’ labour, one that ‘paradoxically … projects out of its own innards the very historical and ideological subtext to which it is a strategic reply.’ (page 170) Trying to explain a person’s dream in terms of the state of global capitalism might yield an insight or two, but to ask what questions does the dream pose and address for the particular individual, and what does it reveal about his or her unconscious concerns, is immensely more fruitful.
Strategy is the key concept of The Event of Literature. Not in the sense of Napoleon’s generalship, but in defining a literary text as being a work whose efforts articulate a response to a particular historical or ideological subtext, a subtext that the work itself has fashioned and that does not exist ‘externally’. The strategic labour of a literary work is the way it sets to work on a reality that is contained within it. This sounds rather circular and perhaps those attuned to the dangers of post-modernism will now be hearing alarms, despite the fact that Eagleton is amongst the most militant opponents of post-modernism.
The circularity, however, is of the fecund, rather than sterile sort. The literary text is able to be something more than a resident in a closed world, due to the fact that it has simultaneously internalised something real and creatively reacted to this reality, to some extent forging a new one. It is possible, and seemingly easier (if it did not obscure matters at another level), to grasp at either side of this paradox by insisting that there is nothing beyond the text, or that the text is a direct reflection of an external world. In regard to the latter view, Eagleton quotes Jameson approvingly, ‘in order to act on the real, the text cannot simply allow reality to persevere in its being outside of itself, inertly, at a distance; it must draw the real into its own texture.’ Or, in his own words, ‘bodies and texts are self-determining, which is not to say they exist in a void. On the contrary, this self-determining activity is inseparable from the way they go to work on their surroundings.’ (page 209).
In the concept of literature as strategy, Eagleton believes he has a conceptual approach that allows us to see that some of the best insights of various literary schools, e.g. structuralism, semiotics, Freudianism, Formalism, etc are in fact related. Whilst they might not use the term strategy, each, when they are at their most insightful, approaches a similarly active understanding of literature. By elucidating this isomorphism and naming it – strategy – Eagleton has achieved something extraordinary, the equivalent of unifying quantum theory with gravitational theory, namely discovering a unifying literary theory.
Since he does not suffer from false modesty, this achievement is blown, like a triumphant fanfare of horns, by Eagleton himself at a number of points towards the end of the book. One might even call such a seminal book, if one were being playful, The Event of Literature. And why not? After all, despite his own repeated emphasis on what he himself sees as being the most important conclusion of his book, hardly any other review of The Event of Literature seems to have noticed what a major development of literary theory this is.
Eagleton’s potential allies on the Marxist left seem to have been in too much of a hurry to force the book into tired and decades-old formula. In Socialist Review, for example, we read that: ‘[Eagleton] berates those writers for whom theory is only about understanding the world, not changing it. Eagleton argues instead that literature is closely bound to its historical context …’ One can almost hear the repeated banging of a forehead against a table somewhere in Dublin.
This is not an easy work, but then books concerned with the philosophy of aesthetics are always going to be slow reads. And at least here the reader is in the hands of someone who writes with verve and wit. This book makes a huge contribution to literary theory and does so from a standpoint that we can gladly call our own.Add a comment
- Category: Reviews
- Published on Tuesday, 1 July 2014
- Written by Brian Collier
‘Orgreave: an English Civil War’, a production of Northern Lines, written and directed by Javaad Alipoor, reviewed by Brian Collier.
Well, the title tells you what it is about and the perspective taken, so I don’t need to go into much background detail. It was done in a small venue, Bradford’s ‘The Theatre in the Mill’, which seated about a hundred people around the acting area. Yet we were all still in the acting area, because on three sides of the room were projected iconic pictures of Orgreave: the miner with the joke policeman’s helmet, the woman apparently about to be hit by a mounted copper’s baton (she was on Woman’s Hour last week and she said that she was pulled out of the way just in time) and many others. The walls were covered by chalkboards with slogans and information graffitied onto them; the floor was radially marked by fragments from one of Javaad’s poems about Orgreave.
The scenery was sparse and merely made use of a series of boxes and shapes that were rearranged to form a living room, the House of Commons, the cabinet room, a Miners’ Welfare and the field of Orgreave itself. These boxes themselves had extracts from papers of the time printed upon them; there was no escape from the truth all this seemed to be saying.
The cast were a joy, amateurs all and disdainful of divisions of ethnicity or gender; Asians played white characters and women played men, any deficiencies of technique (few) were made up for by natural flair and energy, commitment and enthusiasm. The young Asian woman who played Thatcher, for instance, had her to a ‘T’, she needed no wig and didn’t need to try and ape that awful voice to convey the appalling arrogance and sinister disdain for democracy of the woman; just seeing and hearing her brought everything back and made me shiver.
The central character of the play in many ways was ‘Mr. Crossley’, the policeman who liaises between Special Branch and Special Forces, who had developed his techniques in Belfast, Derry, Oman, Toxteth and Brixton and was sent specifically to sort out the miners in South Yorkshire. He was played by David J. Peel, a prominent local community actor who was described in the programme as ‘actor/facilitator’, and it was a performance of much power.
Before going on to say something about the play itself, I must congratulate Javaad and his collaborators on their choice of soundtrack, comprising many songs that were used during the miners’ strike itself and others that commented upon it. One that became very important in the play was ‘Only You’ by the Flying Pickets, which David Peel himself sang during the portrayal of the ‘battle of Orgreave’ to great ironic and dramatic effect.
The play itself had at its centre a family in a mining village near Rotherham: Steve, his wife Pat (who was pregnant at the beginning of the play) and Steve’s brother Barry, who has become a policeman. The action shifts between 1984 and 2014; in the latter date Steve has died from a mining-related lung disease and Pat has become an FE lecturer. Their daughter Lisa and her friend Roman (who is the daughter of a policeman who made a lot of money out of the strike) are trying to find out what went on, but no one seems to want to talk about it. Back in 1984 Steve, initially very enthusiastic about the strike and its prospects, gradually, after many beatings and defeats on the picket line, is becoming disillusioned and is thinking of scabbing; Pat says that she’ll leave him if he does that.
Pat has become politicised and is very active in Women Against Pit Closures; she gives a very inspiring speech at the Miners’ Welfare, the miners having marched in singing ‘I’d rather be a picket than a scab’. Pat tells them of meeting women from Northern Ireland who had been protesting for human rights. ‘This is a human rights issue’, she says. The miners cheer. Steve goes to the meeting and Pat embraces him, he’s staying out!
Then there is the ‘battle’ of Orgreave and its aftermath. The first half of the play ends with Orgreave, and the way it’s portrayed with Crossley winding up the coppers and telling them what to do and how to forge statements, and then the policemen beating their shields with batons and stamping their feet was genuinely intimidating, even though you knew it was all just a part of the drama. I was on picket lines in 1984 and 1985 at Bold pit near St Helens in Lancashire (nowhere near like Orgreave) and it brought back the fear.
Steve disowns Barry because he’s a policeman, even though Barry resigns from the force. Thirty years later Barry turns up and expects to be welcomed with open arms. Pat and Lisa reject him, thus the play eschews some easy sentimentality. Scars remain unhealed. Crossley ends up in Bahrain, advising the authoritarian government there on counter insurgency.
This was a very powerful play. The actors were so committed and so powerful, playing against stereotype and making the public feel with them. I was moved almost to tears more than once and felt bitter anger quite a lot of the time. It was a brilliant example of how to present politics without overt politics being rammed down your throat. There was a fantastic ovation at the end.
After the play a former miner (accidentally portrayed in the play’s poster!) gave us a talk about what the strike felt like and how the campaign for justice was going, inspired by the Liverpool FC’s fans campaign over Hillsborough. The IPCC are inevitably dragging their feet, but he is hopeful that justice may be done in the end. I don’t know if this play will ever be produced again, but it should be and if it is go and see it. Javaad is an ISN comrade and a rare talent. He has another play, Hurr, produced at the same venue in mid July. I’m going to see that! Come if you can!
See the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign website for more information and events.
- Category: Reviews
- Published on Monday, 21 April 2014
- Written by Mark Boothroyd
Return to Homs – the capital of Syria's revolution destroyed
Directed by Talal Derki
Return to Homs was screened by Human Rights Watch on 28 March, followed by a Q&A with the producer Orwa Nyrabia.
The story told by Return to Homs is the story of the Syrian Revolution – from its start as peaceful protests against the Assad regime calling for reform, through the vicious repression of those protests and the ensuing militarisation of the revolution, to the present-day state of siege and total destruction of the country at the hands of the dictatorship.
The documentary, entirely filmed and directed by Syrians, is not the first to be produced by revolutionaries, but it is the first to receive widespread circulation across the world. It was filmed over two years from August 2011 to August 2013 as the revolution developed from peaceful protests into armed resistance.
The film tells the story of the revolution through the friendship of two young men from Homs, Abdul Basset Saroot and Ossama Al Homsi. Before the revolution began, Basset was the second best goalkeeper in Syria, touted for the national team. When the protests began they both joined the revolt, Basset leading the crowd with chants and songs against the regime, while Ossama became a media activist filming the protests and demonstrations.
The first scenes are a testimony to the genuinely popular character of Syria's revolution. We see crowds of thousands in the streets, singing and dancing for freedom and against oppression. Basset’s popularity and charisma are evident as thousands join him in song, and he is cheered and hoisted onto the shoulders of protesters wherever he goes.
The film is remarkable for its view inside the revolution. The footage of peaceful protests is interspersed with footage from the activists’ safe house where they upload videos, discuss the situation, give interviews to foreign journalists and sing songs against Assad. Basset rails against the regime, its violence and oppression and unwillingness to concede. We see the transformation of peaceful protesters into armed resistance fighters. As the violence against protesters mounts, the activists no longer wield just laptops and cameras, but AK-47s and pistols as well. Crowds no longer throng the streets, driven away by snipers and bombs. Instead they hold funeral marches for those martyred by the regime.
The resilience of the Syrian people is shown throughout. At one point the regime builds a barrier over the only road joining two pro-revolution districts in Homs, trying to prevent activists and supplies spreading between them. One of the media activists filming the scene remarks, “They don't know who they're messing with,” as a truck proceeds to drive over the barrier, and local youth on bicycles dig up the barrier with their bare hands, only stopping when they come under sniper fire.
The footage captures the desperation and isolation of the revolution as the repression mounts. Neighbourhoods are reduced to rubble, and Basset and his militia are forced to crawl house to house, waging a guerrilla war against the Syrian army’s superior firepower and aerial bombardment. Their isolation in their liberated districts, under siege and alone, reflects that of the revolution internationally.
During this Basset continues to sing and inspire those around him. His determination is phenomenal. Looking out over part of Homs completely reduced to rubble, he is asked: do you think victory is possible? Gazing out at his destroyed city, at miles and miles of destruction, he pauses for a moment, then comes the firm reply: “Yes, we will make them hate their lives, then they will leave.”
Death is frequent in the fighting. Many are injured, including Basset and Ossama. Ossama appears more visibly traumatised by his ordeal, but all the young men are affected. Despair and desperation creep in, how can it not. They have gone from being labourers, blacksmiths, factory workers, teachers and footballers, to fighting one of the most brutal and totalitarian regimes of the modern age, with a massive imbalance in firepower and support. And yet they keep fighting. And singing.
Basset is still in Homs. Still fighting under siege. Still trying to liberate his country. Orwa Nyrabia, the film’s producer, commented after the film screening, “There is a Basset in every town in Syria. I speak to many of them regularly, but the media does not talk to them or about them.” Orwa stated the mainstream narrative, that it is the regime versus Islamic fighters, is false, that the vast majority of those fighting are moderates, but they receive little or no coverage. This must change. But it will require action, action which has not been taken by many.
Orwa remarked during the Q&A, “When the West threatened to attack the Assad regime, which did not actually happen, tens of thousands marched around the world. When the regime used gas on Ghouta, and killed 1,500 people, not a single march was held anywhere.” Alongside the brutality of the regime, this memory will linger for a long time, the lack of aid given by much of humanity and its progressive forces to the Syrian people.
All progressive and anti-war activists must feel a deep shame at the lack of support for the Syrian Revolution which has left it isolated and battling the world superpowers alone. This feeling should be used to motivate, not as an excuse to ignore what is happening. There is much we can do, if we are willing to spend the energy.
The Syria Solidarity Movement is a new organisation formed to provide political and practical solidarity to the Syrian Revolution. Join it and get involved in its activities. The next action will be a global protest at the BBC on 10 May over its biased coverage of the Syrian Revolution.
Hand in Hand for Syria (HIHS) is a registered UK charity which provides humanitarian aid to refugees and those in the liberated areas of Syria. HIHS runs bakeries and hospitals and provides necessities to those in refugee camps. You can just make a donation, but Syria needs long-term commitment. Get involved in one of their regular Big Aid Drops by hosting a collection point in your area, or organising a collection in your workplace to take to one of the collection points.
If you’re an Arabic speaker and have practical skills, consider joining one of the aid convoys organised by One Nation UK. They deliver aid, medical supplies and ambulances to Syria on a regular basis.
For another view of the revolution in Homs, watch this Panorama documentary ‘Homs, Journey into Hell’.
- Category: Reviews
- Published on Friday, 18 April 2014
- Written by Simon Hardy
Strike for America: Chicago Teachers Against Austerity by Micah Uetricht
Published by Jacobin/Verso 2014
Review by Simon Hardy
Read this book, I can't recommend it enough. In fact, every trade unionist and socialist worth their salt should read this book. It tells the story of how a rank and file caucus in the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) won the leadership of the union, then led it in an all out strike in 2012 against budget cuts and attacks on terms and conditions that lasted 10 days before achieving significant victories. What makes this feat pretty amazing is that they went from a meeting of 5 people to leading an all out strike in less than 5 years, and the union itself hadn't had a strike since 1987.
When the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) was set up it was largely due to the defeats of previous attempts by the left to win the leadership and transform the union. Notably, after a disastrous "left" leadership in 2001-04 when Debbie Lynch signed a terrible deal with the Chicago Board of Education and then tried to sell it to union members as a "left" victory. The return of the old conservative leadership who were unwilling to do anything about school privatisations, closures and endemic racism across the city against young black students led to the formation of CORE, a rank and file initiative that hoped to learn the lessons of previous defeats. They started off as a small reading group discussing The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, within a few months they had pulled together a network of activists across the city who wanted to do something about the destruction of public education in the city.
When they won the leadership elections in 2010, CORE members set about transforming the union from top to bottom, turning it from a typical top down 'negotiation and services union' into a fighting union that coordinated actions from the bottom up. How did they do this?
- When they won the leadership they put every elected official of the union and organiser on the average teachers salary in the city.
- They reallocated resources from office based departments to activism, getting full timers out alongside members in schools to build joint meetings with parents and teachers about the attacks coming from the Democratic Party mayor (Obama's right hand man Rahm Emanuel).
- They held readers group for their organisers, discussing key texts from the history of militant trade unionism like Farrell Dobbs' Teamsters Rebellion.
- They politicised the strike (as much as they could within the limits of the anti-union ordinance of the city) and made sure that the members were engaged and driving the action forward.
- As soon as they were elected they prepared for their strike which happened two years later - they knew if they stuck to their convictions it would lead them into a headlong confrontation with the Mayors office and the board of education and they made plans for it from the start.
- When they were offered a renegotiated contract after a week of strike action they didn't agree it, they made sure every CTU member had a copy and read it and discussed it at their daily delegate meeting which ran the strike before anything was agreed.
The important lesson here is that they didn't just win the leadership, they used that position to transform union democracy from top to bottom. They didn't want to end up like Lynch, well meaning but trapped in the bureaucracy with no way out who ends up betraying her principles. How many times has this happened in our trade unions? Whilst the outcome was not a total victory, some concessions were won by the bosses, the ultimate feeling of the strikers was that the strike achieved its goals, because the members were mobilised, empowered and they forged bonds with local parents and community groups which turned around years of anti-teacher rhetoric from the media and the Democratic Party. it is very hard to win an outright victory in an age of austerity, but what the CTU showed is that you can hold back the tide and even win some victories, for instance they defeated an attempt to remove the cap on class sizes and they won higher classroom budgets.
The book is well written by Uetricht, it has a clear and accessible style and he carefully balances the political side of it with sometimes funny anecdotes (my favourite being about the first pamphlet that CORE issued with a disastrous typo on the front page) and really shows the tremendous solidarity that the people of Chicago had in support of the teachers strike. It is actually quite an emotional read, considering how working and poor people rallied to the teachers dispute years of teacher bashing and right wing propaganda in the press. It shows you what can be done with a rank and file movement that has a clear strategy and fights to win, knowing how to combine leading a union with grassroots activism by the members.
Clearly not every strike strategy can be replicated in every other place - but the CTU strike is rich with lessons which at the very least can inspire trade unionists that these kind of actions are possible. That the CORE led union managed to get a 90% turn out with a 92% yes vote for strike action demonstrates that they must have done something right to engage members and win the argument for action. The CTU strike of 2012 is an inspiration that we should all look to.
Strike for America: Chicago Teachers Against Austerity is available from VersoBooks.com
Add a comment
- Category: Reviews
- Published on Wednesday, 10 July 2013
- Written by Tom Mycock
Thee Faction are at the vanguard of musical counter-hegemony and the most explicitly socialist band since the Redskins. Every comrade should get their new album Good Politics, which is out now, available via their website. Play it loud and win the argument.
An accurate analysis is conveyed by the comrades at that bastion of revolution, Mojo magazine: “a dose of wildly galvanising, blisteringly angry, insanely entertaining blue collar rock’n’roll…mixing the grungey pub rock power of Dr Feelgood with the bolshy brass of Dexys, virtually every track is scalp-pricklingly good.”
Tom Mycock of the IS Network spoke to singer Billy Brentford, bass player Thee Citizen and guitarist Babyface.