Formed in the wake of the Trump election in 2016, the Durham, NC trio of QADR (vocals/guitar), Abu Shea (bass), and Ba7ba7 (drums) quickly released a series of albums — The Muslims (2018), Mayo Supreme (2019), Gentrified Chicken (2020) — and their Inshallah: Tomorrow We Inherit the Earth (2020) EP before earning the opportunity to be heard through one of the most established houses in punk rock.
With Fuck These Fuckin Fascists, the band’s debut on venerated punk rock label Epitaph Records, The Muslims are here to tell you why they’re the “right now” of punk rock. In a chance digital encounter, the long-running label slid into the band’s DMs to ask if they would be open to putting a record out with them. At first, the band was skeptical.
“We had to have a conversation of like, ‘Is this actually the route we’re trying to go?’” QADR tells SPIN over Zoom. “Especially knowing these labels and a lot of the more mainstream punk scene is like, super white, super cis dudes, you know? And our stuff is very much ‘Fuck white supremacy. Fuck all that shit.’”
After the tough conversation, the band decided that going with Epitaph was not only the way to go, but something they’d earned.
“We put a lot of work into our records,” Shea says. “We put a lot of work into our individual playing and rehearsing, and we spend so much time honing down this music. The public forgets about that shit sometimes in favor of shining a spotlight exclusively on our identities.”
A lot of focus is placed on the fact that the band even exists at all. They’re the latest in a lengthy history of racially diverse punk rock bands that stretches back decades — always there to challenge the scene’s stereotype of 3-4 cishet white guys standing on every stage.
“There’s this absolute erasure and not acknowledgment of the punk past as well,” QADR says. “It’s just like, we’re actually moving in a lineage of a bunch of other Black and brown, or like queer and trans punk bands that have been out here in the scene — and just not getting the fucking recognition.”
The evidence of that lives in full on Fuck These Fuckin Fascists, a record overflowing with the immediacy of the moment. From frenetic album opener “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” to the closing moments of “John McCain’s Ghost Sneaks Into The White House And Tea Bags The President” (a strong contender for song title of the year), The Muslims marry biting commentary and political action with an otherworldly punk rock experience.
The titular lead single is a song for fists raised and thrown, a call to action for the continued resistance to a fascist state. Follow-up single “Unity” sees the band mock the neo-liberal response to a Biden/Harris America and the smug avoidance of issues that still ring true for so many in favor of feeling self-satisfied with putting a different flavor of old white man in the presidential seat. As one might guess, the comments on their YouTube videos are a bit divided to say the least — and a sign of another punk rock tradition The Muslims are happy to uphold.
“The political punk that I grew up on that was explicitly political was pretty basic” says Ba7ba7 “I mean, it’s ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off.’ It’s ‘stop [gentrifying] my town,’ you know? That was like the only dimension of political message in a song.”
More than anything, The Muslims are of the moment, a band willing to say their piece with their entire chest, throw their fists in the air, and make you move your feet all at once. Lest you think it’s all anger and rage, the three members are able to dance freely between their righteous fury, their sly sense of humor, and their unmistakable mastery of rhythm.
“We’re all goofy, sweet people moving through a lot of different spaces, and have really beautiful, diverse communities” QADR says. “But also, we’re read as being just like, you know, angry and abrasive and coarse and ‘All they want to do is burn it down’ — which is kind of true. But also, there’s actually a lot of nuance there that’s not as given I think when you hold certain identities.”