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'Can't Be in Vain' - An Interview with Peter FA of Sore Thumb

We had an opportunity to chat with Peter FA of the Oakland-based band Sore Thumb about their recent collaborative release that benefits Black LGBTQ Freedom! Check out what he had to say!

1. Can you speak a bit about the cause that this compilation album is supporting? How is the cause of Black LGBTQ Freedom more relevant now than ever?

"I was walking in Downtown Oakland the morning after the first protests in response to George Floyd's murder. Even though the vast majority of protests have been peaceful, this one left a good amount of destruction in its wake. Many people would see the broken glass and feel anger toward the protesters; but instead, I connected to this weight of generational sadness and pain. Standing in the middle of the aftermath, I felt empathy, and the anger of the people who have been affected by police brutality and systemic racism with seemingly nowhere to turn for help."

"As someone who is a child of an immigrant, my family has been terrorized by white supremacy. When I was in high school, racists threw a brick through my bedroom window with a note attached that told us to leave the country. I have family members who have been unfairly brutalized by police. I think not only the cause of Black LGBTQ Freedom, but fighting all forms of white supremacy, is relevant as ever. These things are still happening, and it's important to try and connect the empathy that I spoke of earlier, instead of thinking about it as a political issue. Think of any 15 year old you know: your son, daughter, niece, or nephew, and picture having to talk with them after an adult throws a brick through the window where they sleep at night."

2. How did the collection of talented artists that appear on this album come to be? 

"In the days after my stroll in Downtown Oakland, not only did the city rebuild, but all the smashed windows were replaced by boards featuring incredible murals and paintings. If you drive down Broadway today, you'll see this an inspiring display of art celebrating black culture, sadness, hope, and calls to action." 

"The Bay Area artist community is one of the greatest in the world, and they responded to tragedy with celebration. It was awe-inspiring, and that was the catalyst for this album. The name of the album comes from one of the murals of George Floyd, and above his crying face are the words "Can't Be in Vain"."

"Our band typically donates all profits from shows to charitable causes, and we throw a couple big benefit shows a year. Unfortunately due to the COVID crisis, we were forced to cancel a couple of them we had already planned, but we did have a decent network of local bands that we knew felt passionate about giving. So we reached out to our friends, and a few new bands that were recommended to us, and pitched the idea for this charity cover compilation. Almost all the songs were recorded in quarantine, using home studios, and done in less than a month. The response was awesome; and I really love the bands that appear on this record with us."

3. Was there a theme in mind when you set out to put these great tracks together from all these different artists? Or was there an intentional effort to have diversity in the lineup?

"Absolutely. We picked to give all profits to the LGBTQ Freedom Fund for a number of reasons. Firstly, we all know that black and brown people are disproportionately affected by unfair imprisonment, and LGBTQ+ individuals even more so. Also the things that happen to LGBTQ+ people in prison can be truly horrifying. So we wanted to support a cause that helped address issues facing these marginalized communities, and also thought a bail fund would be helpful since many peaceful protestors were being inappropriately jailed."

"Naturally, it seemed appropriate that the songs we covered were from artists that represented those communities. We wanted to celebrate and lift up voices from the Black and LGBTQ+ community, while raising money and awareness. So all the songs are from either Black and/or LGBTQ+ artists. It was also important that we got all the proper licenses for these songs, so the original artists get paid and recognized for their work as well."

"Also, I think there's always an intentional effort to have diversity in the lineup, but the great thing about the artist community in the Bay Area is that it is a naturally diverse scene. The bands and artists we love come from a million different cultures and have had a million different experiences, and that is one of the things that makes our local scene so great. We have a diverse lineup on the record, but it's less about making sure we fill some quota, and more about being open and welcoming to everybody." 

4. How can the public support Black LGBTQ Freedom?

"Firstly I'll plug the LGBTQ Freedom Fund, if you can spare the money, please donate directly to them. All profits from this album go to the cause, but money from streaming and downloads aren't substantial - so donating directly is much more effective." 

"Secondly, use your voice. Demand justice for Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Oscar Grant, and so many others. VOTE, VOTE, VOTE. Nothing changes if we do nothing." 

"Lastly, and maybe most importantly, try and tap into your empathy. Watch the video of George Floyd and picture the face of somebody you love dearly under that knee. This isn't a Black issue or an LGBTQ+ issue, it is an American issue. I think that the more empathy and understanding we have toward those that are hurting, the more we can come together and do something."

5. What’s next for Sore Thumb?

"Just trying to keep it going in quarantine. We are playing the #iVoted festival on November 3rd, which is the largest livestream concert of all time. We're playing with some awesome bands that I love like Taking Back Sunday and Saves the Day. You get access to all 600+ performances by RSVPing and sending in a selfie of you voting or your iVoted sticker. Or if you're under 18 you can send a video telling them why you're excited to vote." 

"Also, every year in December we do a "Winter Formal" where the bands dress fancy and throw a huge show to benefit the Alameda County Community Food Bank. This year we are doing it all online on December 11th & 12th at this really cool livestream space and recording studio. Many of the bands from the compilation will be playing that."

"Other than that, we're writing a new record and releasing demos of new songs. I am super stoked on what we're putting together. All the details for the shows or new songs can be found on our Instagram - @sorethumbband or"

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