Pwr Bttm (pronounced Power Bottom), stylized PWR BTTM, was an American queer punk duo formed in 2013 at Bard College by Ben Hopkins and Liv Bruce. The duo's debut album, Ugly Cherries, was released in 2015. Their second studio album, Pageant, was released in 2017 to critical acclaim. Pageant's release was preceded by sexual abuse allegations against Ben Hopkins, which led to the duo being dropped by both Polyvinyl and Big Scary Monsters. PWR BTTM denied the allegations and the band broke up that same year after a falling out between its two members.
|Origin||Annandale-on-Hudson, New York|
Formation and Ugly Cherries (2013–2015)
Bruce and Hopkins met in 2011 while they were both attending Bard College in southeastern New York State. The band was originally a trio which played many shows at Bard College. Bruce and Hopkins spent several months working together and developing their skills as a pair before playing their first show and releasing their first demo, Cinderella Beauty Shop (2014).
Inspired by Limp Wrist and other queercore bands, Liv Bruce came up with hypothetical band names like Hissy Fit and My Ass Hurts before deciding on Pwr Bttm. The duo's name is a vowel-less take on the term "power bottom", which is described by Fusion writer John Walker in a September 2015 article as "a receptive partner who eschews submission to play a dominant role during sex", meaning that while someone is "bottoming", they maintain the dominant power in a sexual interaction. Bruce and Hopkins both felt the name suited the group as a label of empowerment.
Pwr Bttm's debut album, Ugly Cherries, was released on September 18, 2015.
Pageant, allegations of sexual abuse and band split
On May 10, 2017, two days before the release of Pageant, Kitty Cordero-Kolin posted in a Facebook group informing members that Ben Hopkins is a "known sexual predator" and Cordero-Kolin had allegedly witnessed Ben initiate unwanted sexual contact with people. Although the Facebook group was private, a screenshot of the post was captured and shared widely via Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit.
In light of these allegations, several bands that were initially scheduled to join Pwr Bttm on their summer 2017 tour in support of Pageant pulled out of their shows. Nnamdi Ogbonnaya expressed in a Facebook post that he could not comfortably continue touring with Pwr Bttm. T-Rextasy, who were set to perform with Pwr Bttm in July, expressed on Twitter their regret that these allegations were not a shock to them, having been previously warned by a fan who claimed to had been nonconsensually approached by Hopkins but asked not to have their experience shared; although apprehensive of damaging their professional relationships by pulling out of the show with no official reason, they later publicly regretted their initial decision to play and announced their cancellation. Ratboys, Iji, and Tancred also removed themselves from the tour. Two touring members of Pwr Bttm, Cameron West and Nicholas Cummins, also announced via social media that they were ending their affiliations with the band. Amidst these allegations, the band was also dropped by their management company, Salty Artist Management.
One day before the release of their second studio album, Pageant, the band officially addressed the allegations in a Facebook post on May 11. The band stated they were "shocked" and offered an email address where survivors and/or their contacts can discuss the allegations made against Hopkins, claiming they were unaware of violating anyone's consent. On May 12, Jezebel published an interview with a survivor, who disclosed her supposed encounter with Hopkins and asserted their official statement was "100% false", stating she claimed to have informed Hopkins' bandmate Liv Bruce of the incident months prior. Touring member Cameron West also cited Bruce's supposed prior knowledge of the allegations as one of his reasons for leaving.
On May 13, Polyvinyl Records responded to the allegations by stating they would no longer be selling or distributing Pwr Bttm's music or merchandise. They willingly offered refunds to purchasers and announced they would donate to RAINN and the Anti-Violence Project in light of the allegations. UK label BSM Recordings and US label Father/Daughter Records also announced the following day that they would no longer be working with the band. On the same day, Off Broadway Music Venue, a music venue in St.Louis, posted on Facebook: "PWR BTTM is canceling all upcoming shows until further notice." Although the band had yet to comment, the page assured readers that "[they] will be making a formal statement early next week."
On May 14, at least 15 North American venues had either removed event pages or specifically announced their cancellations in statements following the allegations. Planned performances at Raleigh, NC's Hopscotch Music Festival and Howell, MI's Bled Fest had also been removed.
On May 15, the band's discography was removed from online retailers Amazon Music and the iTunes Store, as well as the music streaming services Apple Music, Tidal, and Google Play Music. On May 17, their music was removed from Spotify as well, although it has since returned to that service.
On May 18, the band released statements denying the sexual assault claims against Hopkins. Despite being the last official statement released by the band or its individual members, the band's official Twitter account tweeted a photo of a vintage motorcycle with no context on November 27, 2017. After receiving backlash for posting, the band deleted the tweet entirely.
In July 2020, just over three years after the allegations, Hopkins announced an upcoming solo album, while also revealing that the band had indeed split up in 2017, after a falling out between its two members.
In August 2020, Hopkins, now playing and recording music as Benjamin Walter Hopkins, released "Laugh Track", as well as several other singles. Hopkins hinted that the new tracks could be the foundation for a new full-length project.
Ben Hopkins wanted to become a musician after watching Christina Aguilera, Pink, Mýa and Lil' Kim perform "Lady Marmalade" at the 2001 MTV Movie Awards. Hopkins has been influenced by rock bands Nirvana and Led Zeppelin and well as "artists with female-identifying singers" such as Rilo Kiley, Joanna Newsom, Imogen Heap and the latter's band Frou Frou. They also took inspiration from queer artists Mykki Blanco, Reza Abdoh, Taylor Mac, Justin Vivian Bond and Eddie Izzard, whose film Dress to Kill (1998) they would watch daily.
- Liv Bruce – drums, vocals, guitar (2013–2017)
- Ben Hopkins – guitar, vocals, drums (2013–2017)
Former touring members
- Michael "Mike P" Politowicz – bass guitar (2016–2017)
- Nicholas Cummins – bass guitar, backing vocals (2015–2017)
- Maile Hamilton – bass guitar (2013)
- Taliana Katz – bass guitar (2016–2017)
- Cameron West – French horn, keyboard, percussion (2016–2017)
|Ugly Cherries||September 18, 2015|
|Pageant||May 12, 2017|
|Cinderella Beauty Shop||May 25, 2014|
|Republican National Convention (split with Jawbreaker Reunion)||February 14, 2015|
|"Ugly Cherries"||July 13, 2015|
|"Dairy Queen"||August 18, 2015|
|"Projection"||July 21, 2016|
|"New Hampshire"||August 17, 2016|
|"Big Beautiful Day"||February 14, 2017|
|"Answer My Text"||March 7, 2017|
- "PWR BTTM". Bandcamp. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
- Knopper, Steve (July 3, 2020). "PWR BTTM'S Ben Hopkins Prepares to Release Solo Album & Put Sexual Misconduct Allegations Behind Them". Billnoard.com. Billboard. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
- Safar, David; Garaas, Leah (November 7, 2016). "PWR BTTM are totally over the 2016 presidential election". 89.3 The Current. Archived from the original on November 9, 2016. Retrieved December 25, 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- O'Donnell, Carey (September 25, 2015). "Meet Unapologetically Queer Rockers PWR BTTM". PAPERMAG. Paper Publishing Company. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
- Kohn, Daniel (August 19, 2015). "PWR BTTM Feel 'Less Alone' Making Glitter-Coated Queer Punk". Village Voice. Village Voice. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
- Walker, John (September 18, 2015). "Meet PWR BTTM: The queer punk band here to destabilize your neutrality". Fusion. Fusion Media Network. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
- "PWR BTTM Address Allegations of Abuse By Lead Singer Ben Hopkins".
- Phillips, Amy (May 12, 2017). "PWR BTTM Lose Touring Members, Management, Opening Bands Amid Sexual Abuse Controversy". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 13, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Member of Queer Punk Band PWR BTTM Accused of Sexual Assault". Jezebel.
- "Salty Artist Management". www.facebook.com. Retrieved May 16, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "PWR BTTM (@PWRBTTMBAND) | Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved May 16, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Polyvinyl Announces It Will No Longer Sell PWR BTTM Records". Facebook.
- "Report: PWR BTTM To Cancel Upcoming Tour". Spin.
- "PWR BTTM Cancel Tour: Report | Pitchfork". pitchfork.com. Retrieved May 16, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "PWR BTTM's Music Removed From iTunes, Apple Music | Pitchfork". pitchfork.com. Retrieved May 16, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Phillips, Amy (May 18, 2017). "PWR BTTM Deny Sexual Assault Claims". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
- Cooke, Shawn (November 27, 2017). "It's a Terrible Time For PWR BTTM to Remind Us They Still Exist". TrackRecord. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
- Knopper, Steve (July 3, 2020). "PWR BTTM'S Ben Hopkins Prepares to Release Solo Album & Put Sexual Misconduct Allegations Behind Them". Billboard. Retrieved March 27, 2021.
- Younes, Nadia (March 29, 2017). "PWR BTTM on new album Pageant". The Skinny. Retrieved September 10, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Wainwright, Rufus (March 9, 2017). "PWR BTTM & Rufus Wainwright Talk Sexuality, Trump & 'The Future of Diversity In Music'". Billboard. Retrieved September 10, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Lindner, Emilee (May 3, 2017). "PWR BTTM Is America's Next Great Rock Band". Vice. Retrieved September 10, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)