Show Me the Body: ‘If safety isn’t being risked, we’re not playing’

Show Me the Body’s Julian Cashwan-Pratt is pinching a joint with one hand and miming a call with the other. “My mom called me the other day and said: ‘People are getting vaccines! Maybe you’ll be able to play shows this summer!’” he says, aping his mother’s thick New York accent on top of his already thick New York accent. “And I’m like: ‘Ma, don’t even talk to me about this, because I don’t want to think about it.’”

The pandemic has hit Pratt and his bandmates, Harlan Steed and Noah Cohen-Corbett, hard. Not that it’s been kind to any artists, but for Show Me the Body, a gnarling hardcore trio whose existence relies on sweat-soaked participation from the community they’ve built, it has made a future with live music seem like fantasy.

Since the band’s inception in 2013, the New York natives have been notorious for putting on wild, guerrilla-style shows underneath bridges, in warehouses, or anywhere they can cram in a generator and a couple of hundred rabid kids. In the band’s quest to unite performers and fans (dubbed the Corpus Family), recordings of shows have been sampled and used on their albums. “We write songs along with our community,” Pratt explains. “It’s a back and forth. It’s not like we serve up a product for people.”

Rather than wallow in the ennui of a world without live music, though, Show Me the Body have recalibrated their efforts to continue serving the Corpus Family. They have been organising self-defence training sessions over Zoom, running clothing drives and offering studio residencies to nascent bands at their newly opened Corpus headquarters. “Before we were serving our community by being live artists and having a place for kids to freak out and express themselves,” says Pratt. “Now, it’s more about asking how we can aid our community.” It was at this Queens-based space that they also recorded their new, three-song EP, Survive.

Survive serves up an unholy mix of industrial sludge, fuzzed-out beats and grimy punk assaults. Pratt delivers punishing, ear-splitting tones through his scuzzy banjo, and backs them up with lyrics that are as subtle as a hammer through a windshield. On the titular track he drawls a brutally blunt anti-police slogan: “I never cry watching pigs die.”

Pratt is still unsure when he’ll have the chance to inflict this new material on the Corpus faithful. The band have been invited to perform on various live streams, as has been the pandemic trend, but Show Me the Body’s approach to live music is full-blown communal catharsis or nothing. “We don’t play shows so we can stand up there and play rock star,” Pratt says. “For us, if safety isn’t being risked, we’re not playing. If it’s not a volatile ceremony that we’re a part of, there’s no reason for us to play.”