Less than two weeks ago, the New York punk duo PWR BTTM had a legion of devoted fans and were on a clear trajectory for a wildly successful career, being dubbed “fabulously defiant” by major review outlets. But last week, their reputation shattered around them.
Fans of the queerpunk band have been rocked to the core by allegations that singer Ben Hopkins is a “known sexual predator”, as accused in the news. The news came after a woman, using the pseudonym “Jen”, reported that Hopkins assaulted her on multiple occasions.
The band have since said they had no knowledge of the claims. Although these are only allegations so far, the fallout has been swift and far stronger than we would usually see when a band becomes defamed. PWR BTTM’s idolisation as “America’s next great rock band” has vanished faster than their records from almost all streaming services after record label Polyvinyl immediately dropped them, with a statement saying: “There is absolutely no place in the world for hate, violence, abuse, discriminatory or predatory behaviour of any kind”, and it’s hard to argue with that sort of message.”
— PWR BTTM (@PWRBTTMBAND) May 11, 2017
To read our new statement, please visit our Facebook page: https://t.co/JVtzezKnLz
— PWR BTTM (@PWRBTTMBAND) May 18, 2017
The sharp and unprecedented fall from grace is one that has greatly impacted both the band’s fans and members of the punk and LGBT communities as a whole. Queerpunk is a fairly niche subgenre that’s rarely in the spotlight, so these allegations will be the first interaction many have with it and will be what they associate with it for years to come. The genre has safety for LGBT people at its core – PWR BTTM themselves almost exclusively play at venues with gender-neutral bathrooms – and it’s sad that it may no longer be viewed as the safe haven it once was. The genre will carry on, of course, but these allegations have left fans in shock. Of course, female fans of the gender non-conforming duo will also feel a strong sense of betrayal that the artist they have idolised may be capable of such cruel and predatory behaviour.
On the other hand, we are definitely glad the allegations have been taken seriously. Women who come forward about assault are ignored far too often, and the swift removal of PWR BTTM’s music and removal of their sky-high status will make it clear that this behaviour isn’t to be tolerated in our community. In fact, we wish that other high-profile people charged with sexual assault were shown these kind of repercussions. Artists like Chris Brown are still making hits and have legions of apologetic fans. Even within rock music, Falling In Reverse singer Ronnie Radke’s arrests for battery, domestic violence and aggravated assault haven’t shadowed the huge fanbase and accolades of his music. Maybe times are changing, but it does make us question how much fame and power comes into the consequences of abuse accusations.
Even though the situation is still at the allegation phase, we’re relieved that the claims are being taken seriously and that the media isn’t allowing yet another scandal to be swept under the rug.