Since its inception, hardcore punk music has been used by musicians to confront political and social injustices.
NASHO, a hardcore punk band from Western Sydney, use their political aggression and progressive values to birth a sound that is both fierce and inspiring.
This multicultural group can often be found diversifying the Aussie punk scene and using their unique sound to explore major social issues, such as stolen land and gentrification.
I caught up with NASHO’s vocalist (Serwah), guitarist (Bryony), bassist (Heli) and drummer (Shortty) to find out more about their lyrical inspirations and discover how they use hardcore music as political activism.
What is the meaning behind the name NASHO?
HELI: NASHO is the slack-jawed shortened word for ‘nationality’. I'm sure all ethnic folk in the Western suburbs of Sydney, and arguably around Australia, have been asked what their ‘NASHO’ is at least once in their lifetime.
SERWAH: To me NASHO is that slap on the face when some stranger interrupts ya whole shit just to ask you where you’re from. You can either reclaim that word as pride, or don’t give it to them because you don’t need to explain to people who you are.
What is the best part about playing for NASHO?
BRYONY (Guitar): I moved to Sydney in January 2017, having been pretty active in bands and stuff where I’m from in the UK. I didn't dare to dream that I would meet such a like-minded group of people to play with, people who inspire and teach me things constantly.
HELI: I can finally fulfil my teenage fantasies of playing in a punk band! True story, I was rejected from a high school hardcore band in year eight, cuz I was “too brown and round”.
SERWAH: Kinda same as Heli! I was not ‘allowed’ to be in music class because “my names are ethnic so I must not speak English well enough to be included in that”. So it’s mad fun to see like my peers and teachers freak the fuck out when they see I didn’t take any of that racist shit on board. I love everything about my NASHO fam.
SHORTTY: I also feel blessed to be creating with three people I deeply admire and respect. It has certainly reaffirmed my passion and fire to be involved with music.
Has the Western Sydney lifestyle impacted your sound?
HELI: Of course, but I'd go further and say that there's an unspoken bond between Western Sydney artists across all disciplines. It's difficult and fucking frustrating to try and get exposure in gentrified and cliquey circles.
You guys address a lot of Australian political and social issues in your music. What are some of the major themes you explore through hardcore music and why are they important to you?
SERWAH: It's not just so-called Australian issues but they of course take precedence because we are here on illegally occupied black land. It goes worldwide, like across the globe the area will always get gentrified, the area will almost always be on stolen land. The lyrics I’ve written deal with dysphoria. A few of the songs have double meanings too and are open to interpretation.
BRYONY: Having recently moved here temporarily as a British person who has obviously structurally benefitted from colonisation, I mostly just try to pretty intensely seek out, read and listen with my mouth shut and my ears open to the voices of those who are impacted.
SHORTTY: In the Australian context, people who look like me (white settlers) have always dominated the discourse in issues that aren’t about them while the voices of First Nations people, and especially black women, have been continually silenced. Even the current the trend of ‘performative woke-ness’ is used as an opportunity for settlers to continue to centre themselves in the discussion, often just to allow them to feel good about themselves. In NASHO, I am more than happy to take a step back and relinquish the space I take up.
Why do you think it’s important to address these political issues and social injustices in your music?
BRYONY: At home, there is a level of ignorance about the wages of empire, which informs a lot of why British people seem to move through the world with such entitlement. This extends from the curriculums in schools (nothing about genocide ordered by the British state, everything is about kings and queens) to the toxic ideas of certain language, cultures and countries as somehow subordinate. Like when I said I was moving to Aus, people in the UK made jokes about why I'd move to such a racist place which is pretty hilarious given the historical reality (and how racist the UK is while just being better at pretending otherwise), but whatever helps you externalise I guess… Anyway, in the context of a music community that's ostensibly trying to push against oppressive reality, it feels like taking every opportunity to confront this stuff is important.
How have these issues affected you in your personal lives?
HELI: Being of Pakistani diaspora, I tend to grapple with two issues on the regular. I’m visibly incongruous in many social settings. I can thrive on this immensely, but I can also experience low-key and extreme anxiety when I’m made aware of it by friends, acquaintances and strangers. But in the grander scheme of things, I’m a privileged settler in this country. I benefit from things that First Nations people don’t have access to. So I try to be pragmatic when addressing these problems, which is fuelled by the want to learn and listen.
What are some themes you’d like to explore in the future that you haven’t yet written about?
SERWAH: Sexuality, body trauma, stuff like that. Its like I know what i want to say but can’t get the words out just yet...
What would you like NASHO’s legacy to be?
SERWAH: I would love for NASHO to inspire people to start bands with a similar ethos.
HELI: Yeah, I have to echo what Serwah said. I’d love for Western Sydney to get its kudos as a cultural hotspot for creativity!
How does NASHO plan to initiate positive change through music?
BRYONY: Honestly, I think the best and most realistic hope for art or music in terms of political change is just to help raise money for causes and activists on the ground through events and releases. I don't think punk is in and of itself ‘revolutionary’ at all. In fact, its social dynamics are often just a warped mirror of the worst parts of the normie universe, but any time a person speaks a truth that that same universe tries to silence, I do think that's a special thing.
Why should people listen to NASHO?
SERWAH: Like aren’t you sick of listening to meaningless punk? Choose NASHO!
HELI: You’ll never see an Australian band as diverse as us. We’re a band that a) is not ad nauseam white, and b) is not cooking up a major sausage fest on stage.
Follow NASHO on Instagram: @Nashogram.