Julian Pratt [top], Jackie McDermott [on drums], and Harlan Steed [hair, right] bring their hardcore post-punk aesthetic to Sled Island. Photo: Rob Coons

Sled Island guest curators Show Me The Body shows us the music

From bonding in high school 15 years ago to being guest curators for this year’s Sled Island Festival, Queens-based New York City punk and everything including the kitchen sink musicians Show Me The Body have been in constant motion.

For them, it’s not enough to play music that glowers truth to privilege and clouts clout on the snout. While calling out injustice in their music, they step up to help fight it in other ways, such as in their recurring coat drives and Corpus Family, an extension of their artists’ collective, which provides 36 free studio hours a year to young, marginalized musicians.

Now, find their song Metallic Taste online and press play. 

The bands’ three members, founder vocalist and banjoist Julian Pratt, founder bassist Harlan Steed, and Jackie McDermott, drummer for the past four years, joined me on Zoom from a tour stop in Portland, Oregon, to talk about their work as guest curators and their activities.

Q. How long have you known you would be the guest curators of Sled Island?

Steed: We were contacted last summer… We’ve been looking forward to it. It was really fun to put together or curate a list of friends of ours to join us this year.

Q. How many artists did you get to pick?

Steed: I think each member of the band made a list of five to 10 and a lot of them got picked. Some of them are from New York, some are from different parts of the country as well. A lot of them we’ve performed with, some of them we just really love their music.

Q. Who comes to mind?

McDermott: LUCY [Cooper B. Handy] is a favourite of all of ours. We’ve collaborated with him lately.

Pratt: [He has] the voice of an angel.

McDermott: Yeah, we did a European tour with him. We all feel like he’s one of the most unique artists and most prolific creators we know, so that’s a highlight.

Pratt: He’s like The Beatles in one little boy. Also, Wifigawd is a wonderful rapper from the DMV [D.C., Maryland and Virginia] we tour around the country with. Soul Glo is a great punk band that we’ve done touring with in Philadelphia, and then LustSickPuppy is a great artist that’s going to be there. They are doing a tour supporting their new record, [Carousel From Hell], right now. Some of it is our friends from New York, and some of it is people we respect that we’ve created a bond to the music and friendship.

Q. When they say you are guest curating, are there guidelines?

Pratt: No, they asked us to give them a huge-ass list, and we gave them a huge-assed list of people that we like. They hit up people and ask their availability and the people who are available [come] and the people who weren’t [don’t].

I think hopefully were not idiots so they trust our opinion and taste and we bring something to the table that not only represents what we like, but also is good work and good things to put into the world, you know what I mean? Artists who are worth listening to.

Q. That’s one of the things you’ve been steadfast about is putting good things into the world — coat drives, free studio time. How will that look in the future?

Pratt: I like to think not even about helping, but about doing things on a needs-based level where that’s what we need or the people around us need or our close community and crew needs. So, yeah, I can’t answer the question for the future but we always try to be ourselves, do what we can and do hard work.

Steed: When we started, we didn’t have a lot of resources, like most bands. It was hard to find studios we could afford to be in to make quality recordings. So, to create an atmosphere where our peers could prosper and thrive, you know, Julian was really adamant when we started the band about booking and curating our own shows. Later on, I was really into recording, so I felt it was important to build our own studio and extend that out to other people and invite them in. Especially in New York, it’s a very expensive process to make a record. Hopefully we’ll just continue to do that, find ways to do that.

Q. Have you played around Calgary before?

Pratt: Honestly, you’re ten hours from like, anything, Dude. So not around there, I can’t say that. I mean, we’ve been to Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal a bunch of times, that’s just Canada. But we’ve never been to Edmonton or anything like that.

Q. You started out playing under bridges and in alleys. What kind of memories do you have of that?

Pratt: Kids are still doing it. There’s still punk shows in the park. I went to a punk show in the park just two days before we came on this tour. Anytime it’s difficult for nightlife culture to make money off of kids, it’s not gonna fucking happen, so if you have a punk band or a hardcore band and you want to play shows and you’re a kid and you don’t want to deal with some bullshit, you’re going to have to set up in the park.

Q. What did I miss?

Pratt: All I can think of is all the people I talk to it seems like Sled Island has a really positive impact on the local community and all people who are local who speak to me about it speak very highly of it. We’re excited that we’re gonna be there and humbled that you are gracing us with the lineup stuff.

Sled Island runs at various venues June 19 to 24. Show Me The Body plays June 22 at #1 Legion (main floor). For information, visit sledisland.com.