PREMIERE: ZERO TRUST BENEFITS ‘COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS’ ON THE HARDCORE ANTHEM “GET IT”
By Nathan Leigh
April 29, 2021
Born of an impossible union of icons from NYHC and NJHC bands, Zero Trust’s debut outing melds working class consciousness with a powerful force beneath frontman BJ Allen’s massive vocals. Allen has a gift for rendering the political personal, and on their latest single “Get It,” he transforms a song about family life into a hardcore anthem of class solidarity. The video is a stark reminder that the pandemic, which has forced so many of us to remain at home, has impacted those without a home in unfathomably ways.
The band is releasing the track to benefit Coalition for the Homeless a frontline service provider and homeless advocacy organization. Proceeds from the band’s (seriously epic) 7″ will go to help fund CftH’s mission of providing food, shelter, and other services for the approximately 55,000 homeless people currently living in NYC. We got a chance to speak with BJ Allen about the band’s mission and how the pandemic has shifted his perspective.
What was the genesis of “Get It?”
Initially when I wrote the song it was about my relationship with my wife, and children how living day to day through this pandemic it has only grown stronger. The pandemic caused me to really have to focus on what was important. Health, family, and love. The pandemic also helped me realize my own privilege. I have my health, a good union career, a roof over my head and some savings, a lot of Americans don’t have that.
What organization are you partnering with for the release?
We’ve decided to partner with the Colation for the Homeless, a NYC based organization.
What is it about their mission that you connected to?
We feel that not only do they provide life saving/changing services but they are a fierce advocate for the homeless. They provide thousands of people with food, clothing, shelter, and counseling. They have been quite effective over the years on the legislative side, by filing many lawsuits on behalf of the homeless.
The hook of this song is so resonant right now. “My whole world had changed / Not gonna feel the same.” We’re in this moment of chrysalis, where it feels like we could come out as anything, better or worse. What are your hopes for when we emerge?
My hopes are that as horrible as the last year has been we can use that as some sort of human reckoning, we’re all in the same boat we should try not to tip it over and just continue our journey in peace.
What do you think other people are missing in their predictions?
Systemic classism. Systematic racism. Systematic sexism. We’re finally shedding a light on systemic racism and that something that is way overdue but I wonder if any of The people who vote against their own self interest Realize once all the black and brown people are locked up or dead who do you think they’ll be coming after next? The white working poor have been marginalized and pitted against people of color for so long that it’s hard to see who the real enemy is.
What are the ways you’ve seen your community rally during the pandemic that have inspired you?
There has been a real effort in my community to support local businesses and people. The local food pantries have been working for over a year supporting the people in my community who were in need while so many were out of work, school. Right now locally streets are being closed so that restaurants can increase their capacity it’s good to see independently owned business supported by the people.
This year has been such a process for so many people of realizing how broken our economic systems are. And what I love about both these tracks is how they break down the failures but they’re still dope af songs and don’t feel like an academic lecture, you know? When you’re writing, do you start from a message or do you start from the music?
I usually start with how I want the vocals to sound and feel. I like to map out the melodies and what harmonies we might use, then the content just sort of comes, when the vibe of the sonic part has been sorted out. Unfortunately there’s been no shortage of shit to talk about, also the unusual process of doing this during the pandemic gave all of us more time to reflect on what we were doing as we sent tracks back-and-forth via email. After a few months when we all got back together we were able to track things pretty rapidly. And we’re still going.
Were there times writing where you felt like you had to check yourself to keep the balance between message and music in the sweet spot?
Short answer is yes, nobody really wants to be lectured for 3-4 minutes, or any amount of time for that matter. With that being said, I’m also not really comfortable with not saying anything, so I choose to speak about things that might otherwise not get to this type of audience. We have about 12 to 14 other songs, not all of them are political in their message (or they might be political to some) so if we do a full length there will be a wide range of topics to discuss.
One of the struggles I know I’ve felt in bands is that our anti-capitalist ethos only go as far as the gas station. Ultimately you still need to get to the next stop on the tour, so everyone in the punk scene ends up finding their own places where they can make compromises. How do you personally balance your ethos with the reality of living in a capitalist system?
Well I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily anti-capitalism, I’m more against the greed and the awful sense of entitlement that comes with it. I have no issues with people working to obtain security and perhaps generational wealth if the playing field we’re actually even and fair. Right now we are actually getting a good look at the metaphorical “thumb on the scale”, and I think it’s really starting to scare a few people. It seems like practically every corporation is doing harm in someway or another. So I try to stay away from companies who are actively trying to alter politics, or deny climate change… but even that’s hard because if your in a bind and and your sump pump isn’t working the big 24h super stores are always right there waiting to take your cash, so they continue to line the pockets of corrupt politicians on both sides of the aisle.
What’s something you’ve tolerated in the past that you’re never going to tolerate again now that the world has changed?
I have a pretty low threshold for bullshit and with this pandemic that threshold is only getting lower. It’s pretty hard for me to put a lock on things, I will no longer tolerate, when I’m swimming in a sea of intolerable things.
Are there compromises you’ve made in the past that you wish you’d taken a stronger stance on?
Any compromise I’ve made in the past has given me a lesson on how to approach the future.
What’s next for you all?
We are constantly writing music. We have about 14 songs and we are polishing up as we speak Hopefully next time we speak there will be a full length out for us to discuss.
Snag your copy of the band’s self-titled 7″ here to benefit Coalition for the Homeless.