Antagonizers ATL: Street punk KINGS!

Antagonizers ATL. Photo by Todd Huber

One album later and Antagonizers ATL have ascended from Working Class Street Punk(s) into KINGS!

From the moment the bounding chorus of opening number “Worries” takes hold, a major-chord rock ‘n’ roll stride—carried in the organ and barreling rhythms—distills decades of boot-stomping, fist-pumping sing-alongs, and brotherly hugs into a sophomore album that’s a street punk classic-on-arrival. With KINGS (Pirates Press Records), the group keeps one foot planted firmly in the traditions of Fred Perry Polo shirts and Oxblood Docs. But singer and frontman Bohdan Zacharyj, singer and lead guitarist Richard Henderson, keyboard player Billy Fields, singer and rhythm guitarist Eric Antell, singer and bass player Wynn Pettitt, and drummer Don Tonic push themselves to rise above garden variety oi to become a great rock ‘n’ roll band, punk or no punk.

Part of the group’s strength lies in its snarling three-guitar blitz. But at the core, each song is bursting with positive energy, culminating in an earnest and deeply personal celebration of do-it-yourself pride and allegiance to a moral code that transcends everything else.

“Black Clouds,” the album’s first single, is where Antagonizers ATL’s indomitable spirit and its message shine brightest: Build strength through self-reliance, watch your friends’ backs, and always maintain a PMA (positive mental attitude) no matter what obstacles life throws in your path.

Matt Henson of Tacoma, Washington’s NOi!SE joins in the chant with the lyrics: “Keep on swingin’ and I’m missin,’ too. At least I’m swingin,’ and not cryin’ the blues. I’d rather fail than not try. Give my all ’till the day I die.”

These words project a stylish clubhouse rule to leave your complaints at the door. This record is all about finding strength and integrity through endurance, in a time when knee-jerk hostility is the order of the day. In 2021, this whole dynamic is, once again, the frontier of punk and hardcore, and it’s a thread that ties together songs such as “Trouble,” “Problems” (featuring Chris Doherty of Gang Green), “Us Against the World,” and the album’s title track. … And For all intents and purposes, Antagonizers ATL might just have a hit on their hands with “Hold On Hold Strong.” Here, Monty Neysmith of British ska/reggae legends Symarip adds a touch of his signature Skinhead Moonstomping inflections for what is without a doubt a modern hardcore anthem. With each song, the group remains fast, furious, and proud, while leavening these qualities with genuinely powerful songwriting. Every step of the way Zacharyj, Henderson, and Pettitt reach deep, trading lyrics that transcend politics and expectations with a message of true positivity, delivered in 10 songs of working class punk and rock ‘n’ roll par excellence.

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Antagonizers ATL are back with ‘Black Clouds’

Antagonizers ATL. Photo by Todd Huber.

Antagonizers ATL are back with a new single, titled “Black Clouds.” It’s the first song to appear from the Atlanta street punk outfit’s sophomore album, Kings, due out in early 2021 via Pirates Press Records. The song picks up where the group left off with its 2016 debut, Working Class Street Punk. The message is powerful and direct: Build strength through self-reliance, and always maintain that time-honored PMA (positive mental attitude) no matter what obstacles life throws in your path.

The band’s indomitable spirit reemerges bolder than ever in “Black Clouds,” which comes to a head with the lyrics: “I see those black clouds overhead / Try to follow me until I’m dead / I close my eyes and laugh inside / Only the weak run and hide / I’m gonna swing to the left, swing to the right / Duck and dive ’till I’m out of sight / No damn clouds gonna hold me back / I’m on the move and I’m on the attack.”

“It can mean many different things to many different people,” says the group’s singer and frontman Bohdan Zacharyj. “We are all in different boats, just trying to stay afloat. No matter how hard you fight and how far you get ahead, there is always someone or something trying to keep you down. Use that as fuel to propel you farther, faster, and make you stronger.”

Zacharyj goes on to say the lyrics, “’Close my eyes and laugh inside’ serves as a moment for self-reflection, and a reminder to always stay the course,” he says. “When a horse wears blinders over its eyes it cannot see those who want it to fail.”

The 10-song album was produced and engineered by Matt Washburn of Ledbelly Sound. The group’s lineup has also shifted and expanded since releasing Working Class Street Punk. Bass player Wynn Pettitt and drummer Don Tonic join vocalist Zacharyj along with keyboard player Billy Fields, guitar player Richard Hendersön, and rhythm guitar player Eric Antell.

For “Black Clouds,” Matt Henson from Tacoma, Washington street punk outfit NOi!SE, joins in as a guest vocalist, underscoring the camaraderie and respect shared between the two bands. Henson, who is originally from Marietta, met Zacharyj when their bands played a show together in Seattle. They bonded over their mutual experiences in the Army’s Airborne Division, and even shared the A-side on a four-way split 7-inch for Pirates Press Records in 2019.

“I have found Matt to be a good friend over the years, and I thought this part on the record would be a perfect match for his vocal style,” Zacharyj says. “His band NOi!SE does a great job shining light on the armed forces, injustices, and fostering overall compassion for each other, and for humanity over all.”

Another song from the album that remains to be released, “Hold On, Hold Strong,” features a guest appearance by Monty NeySmith of the group Symarip. Keep an eye out for more information on their collaboration coming soon.

In the meantime, press play on “Black Clouds.” The song is also available as a picture flexi 7-inch free with any purchase from Pirates Press Records.

Winter Weekender 2020 feat. Monty Neysmith of Symarip and the Southern Ska Syndicate, Antagonizers ATL, and more Feb. 28-March 1

The annual Winter Weekender returns to the Earl for three days of oi, ska, and street punk revelry.

Friday, February 28 (Soul Night)
Monty Neysmith of Symarip and Southern Ska Syndicate perform the 1969 Skinhead Moonstomp LP and more + DJs Yaya Bird, Rico, Darren Reggae, and Logan Jones.

Saturday, February 29 (5 p.m. – Midnight)
Straight Laced, the Lucky Ones, Dog Company, Adolph and the Piss Artists (A.P.A.’s first show in 10 years), Antagonizers ATL, Suede Razors, Forced Reality, and the Crack.

Sunday, March 1 (Matinee show, Noon-6 p.m.)
The Hanging Judge, the Uncouth, Drink & Destroy Crew (DDC), Hardsell, Vibram 94 (25-year reunion feat. Carl and Phil Templar), Yellow Stitches, Patriot, and Red Alert.
Single-day and weekend tickets are available now via Dirty South Booking

Moonstompin: Monty Neysmith tells a tale of ska, skinheads, and Symarip

ZUBABA: Monty Neysmith performing in Sidney Poitiers 1973 film A Warm December. Photo courtesy Monty Neysmith.

In the secret history of ska, rocksteady, bluebeat, and reggae music, few names carry such bedrock mystique as Monty Neysmith. In the fall of 1965, he moved from his home near Kingston, Jamaica to the U.K. to study law at Lincoln’s College London. But rather than sticking with the curriculum, he fell in with his cousin Roy Ellis and a band called the Bees, playing American soul and R&B hits by the likes of James Brown, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding. He bought a Vox organ, and what was supposed to be just a weekend gig playing with the Bees turned into an every-night affair. After a few lineup changes, and a one-off gig in a Jamaican club, everything changed.

“We used to play songs like “My Girl” and Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.” But for the gig at the Jamaican club we added in a couple of Skatalites songs,” Neysmtih says. “Roy blew them on the trombone, and I remember doing a few vocal songs as well. When we finished the first one the place went wild. Finished the second one: Wilder. The guy who ran the club was named Charlie, and he said, “Why don’t you guys play more ska, man?”

Over time, ska became an increasingly bigger part of the Bees’ repertoire, which landed them on the road backing up the legendary Prince Buster, and an honest-to-goodness hit backing Eddy Grant of the Equals (and later of “Electric Avenue” fame) for the 1967 single, “Train Tour To Rainbow City.”

It was Grant who prompted the group to change its name to the Pyramids. Later, to work around contractual obligations, they spelled the name backwards, and gave it a twist to roll off the tongue with a little more ease — Symarip. Skinhead Moonstomp was another alias as well, which culminated in the 1969 underground classic LP that captures a day in the life of working class London.

While the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Who were ascending to pop greatness in the U.K., Symarip literally brought boots to the dancefloor, as the city’s skinhead subculture rallied to the tune of Neysmith’s clarion call: “I want all you skinheads to get up on your feet. Put your braces together and your boots on your feet, and give me some of that old moonstompin.’”

It was a cultural mashup of the times — the same year that astronaut Neil Armstrong left that first dusty boot print on the moon, Neysmith and Co. were commanding audiences to scuff up dancehall floors with songs such as the oompah-laced “Skinhead Jamboree,” the breezy “Skinhead Girl,” and a swinging version of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking.”

Despite the good natured and celebratory vibe of the music, semantics in the post-Geraldo Rivera world of tabloid journalism have aligned the term “skinhead” with right-wing hooligans. But this corrupt definition of the music, scene, and culture could not be further from the ethics of the community that rallied around Symarip’s shows.

“I have to explain it to people everywhere — in America, in Jamaica — whenever they hear ‘Skinhead Girl’ or ‘Skinhead Moonstomp,’ they start asking,” Neysmith says. “I say listen, you have to understand that the skinheads you hear about are false skinheads. They are bone heads who just stole the style. Real skinheads love Jamaican culture and they love Jamaican music. It was the real skinheads — the working class — who kept Jamaican music alive for all these years. It’s just a culture and a way of life,” he goes on to say. “It’s much bigger now than it was when we made the Skinhead Moonstomp record. For example, last year and the year before I played at a concert called “The Great Skinhead Reunion” in Brighton. Skinheads from Germany, Spain, Italy, France, the UK, and all over the world came for the whole weekend. These are authentic, diehard fans. Most of them dress the part: a lot of boots, tattoos, low haircuts, the girls come out with their curls. Nobody is there to start fights. They’re there for the music — Jamaican music, Northern soul music, from Northern England and all that. I love the skins, man. They’ve kept me alive!”

Over the years, Neysmith has continued performing under various names such as Zubaba, which landed a part in Sidney Poitier’s 1973 film, titled A Warm December. More recently Neysmith has continued performing with an on-going version of the original group that’s now dubbed Symarip Pyramids featuring Neysmith along with original members Michael Thomas and Frank Pitter. Since the late ‘80s and early ‘90s Neysmith has called Atlanta home, where he continues writing and performing under the name Monty Montgomery.

On February 28, Neysmith headlines the 2020 Winter Weekender festival at the Earl. He’ll be joined on stage by a coterie of Atlanta musicians including guitar player Rob Kincheloe, drummer Michael Griffeth, and members of the Southern Ska Syndicate including bass player Jay Wallace, guitar player Lester Dragstedt, tenor saxophonist Brett Rakestraw, trombone player Andy Hawley, trumpet player, Chad Paulin, and keyboard player Billy Fields.

The group is performing the album Skinhead Moonstomp start to finish, along with a few solo numbers and a new Symarip Pyramids song, titled “War On Mars.” And when he delivers the line, “Martians are trying to steal our ska,” he pushes the music and the culture one boot print further, to the moon and beyond.

Friday, February 28. $20. 8 p.m. (doors). Monty Neysmith with members of the Southern Ska Syndicate. DJs Darren Reggae, Rico Rejoie, and Yaya Birg also perform. The Earl, 488 Flat Shoals Ave. S.E.