AMHERST DRIVE, the brainchild of Southern California experimental multi-instrumentalist Derek Kortepeter, recently dropped their debut EP named “For Freedom and Democracy”, a socially and politically minded record that tackles a range of issues, including American politics, environment degradation, mental issues, and more. Today we are pleased to team up with Derek for an exclusive throughout look at the meaning behind every song on the EP, including a cover of JOY DIVISION’s “Disorder”.
“The debut EP is called For Freedom and Democracy. It is a very socially and politically minded record, I couldn’t write songs about things I am not passionate about. Many punk bands have waded into politics and exorcising personal demons in their music, so I am hardly the first (Black Flag probably did it the best). I have, however, something to say about the state of my country and myself. I hope that that message is clear in the album.
As a socialist, I believe the working class and poor are always under attack and that the government has always been against the proletariat here and abroad. Our Imperialism knows no bounds and goes back much further than the current malicious Trump administration (just look at Obama’s civilian massacres via drones and his NSA’s mass surveillance, as well as Bush’s conquest wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for recent examples). There is a sickness at the core of the System, and that’s what I sing about a lot. I sing about the state of the world, drawing from the past and connecting it to the present by showing how messed up it’s always been. I also sing about myself and how I fit into it.
As for being a solo act, I find an incredible amount of freedom in it. My goal, however, is to make Amherst Drive a true band, I just haven’t been able to find that right mix of people yet. This music, namely because it’s punk, needs to be played live for it to truly take flight. At the same time, as I said, I truly do enjoy doing the entire instrumental parts myself as well as all the songwriting and vocals. To have an idea and be able to execute it exactly as I envision is a gift that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
Rise! is a track that really establishes the tone of the record. There is a ton of social and political commentary throughout For Freedom and Democracy, especially from my perspective as an American. I try to open with the realities of what our government does. This refers to things like Imperialism, oppression of the working class and poor, mass surveillance, and ultimately having a blatant disregard for human life.
Regardless of what party takes the Presidency or Congress, we fight wars for control and wage war against citizens at home via police brutality and other civil liberties violations (all while calling ourselves the Land of the Free). The song is a call to action to fight back and not listen to lies being fed to us by the politicians or the media. It envisions the violent response that the government would take to make sure we stay in line and asks how we would fight against it. Ultimately Rise! is a rallying cry for people to take control by any means necessary.
I explore other issues in this album, such as my personal mental health battles. I wanted to write this track to give people struggling with such issues a way to get pissed off and let out all the pent-up aggression we have from being attached to stigmas and the daily suffering we have to endure.
I keep with the social commentary, however, as I try to write from the unique perspective of being an American with mental disorders. Living in a society that has billions for bombs but not for proper treatment of medical conditions is endlessly frustrating and that’s why I ultimately state in the song that “I’m a product of society and everything it wants me to be.”
This is a Joy Division cover. My influences come from all different parts of the musical landscape, and Joy Division is right up there among my all-time favorite bands. Ian Curtis has always felt like a kindred spirit to me, like he would get me when a lot of people don’t. I wanted to pay tribute to his memory with this track and putting my own spin on it.
My hope is that the arrangement resonates with people and that it honors a band that I’ve loved for so long.
With the way we treat this planet, especially knowing what my country has committed in terms of its environmental crimes, it is easy to envision going someplace after we destroy Earth. With all of the advances in space exploration, we may very well colonize Mars in the future, although the core of humankind is dark and likely we will ruin that place as well. Run Away deals with the impending extinction humanity seems to be marching towards via our nuclear arsenals and our decimation of the global environment. I wonder in the song if running away as the tides rise and the walls crumble is the best option. Ultimately it can be viewed as a call to turn things around before we permanently destroy everything beyond repair.