By Noah Hubbell
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Alex Distefano
By Darryl Smyers
By Jon Solomon
By Britt Chester
The Flobots view www.americawillbe.org as another arm in the same fight as www.fightwithtools.org, one that capitalizes on the flag imagery that fans suddenly find so attractive. On the America Will Be site, various revolutionary scenes and figures in American history are presented as links, all with American flag bandannas Photoshopped on their faces, from Chinese workers striking while constructing the Transcontinental Railroad, to the Boston Tea Party, Harriet Tubman and Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. Each of the links directs visitors to information about each of the events.
"One of the biggest problems we can point to is how not involved the people are in their democracy," Stephen explains. "How disempowered they feel, how patriotism is now used as a word for very oppressive thinking, where we're trying to interpret as if you're a dreamer: Where does your dream fit in the American dream? Because the American dream is supposed to have the hopes and aspirations of all of us in mind. 'America Will Be,' the poem itself, is talking about how it hasn't been like that; that never really approached reality for the people who live here. So we're calling on folks to think about that again, to visualize that again, to dream again. Because if we dream again, we're going to start thinking about what is different from that dream and what we have now and how we can change that."
Never ones to shy away from another project, self-proclaimed comic-book geeks Jamie and Stephen incorporated D.J. Coffman into the mix. Coffman came up with the notion of the Flobots as robots from the future, sent back in time to fight the good fight, using the tools within them to find their own specialized purpose. It made for cool web comic-book fare, and the Flobots dug the concept.But they also figured, why not use this entity as well to push the notion of the flag bandanna that was popping up everywhere?
"Then we just got to thinking, what if we told people that this flag is from the future?" Jamie recalls. "And by telling people what it isn't, we can acknowledge what it has been. This is not the flag of genocide; this is not the flag of racism, slavery and illegal wars. It's a way of saying it has been that flag, but in the future, this is the flag of sustainability, of peace and non-violence, of engagement and dialogue. That's when it all started coming together."
When it came time to shoot their second video, for the song "Rise," the band decided to incorporate the flag imagery, inviting participants from various Denver organizations and nonprofits to the Gothic Theatre to appear in the video as new American insurgents, bandanna-clad, recognizing the dark truths of the past yet socially engaged and willing to work to realize a new dream, what America will be.
The band pushed the flag imagery even further at a July 3 Rockies game, during a protest organized by Students for a Democratic Society titled "Funk the War." Weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin had donated thousands of American flags to be handed out at the baseball game, and SDS staged a peaceful protest outside the stadium replete with breakdancing and free American flags. Jamie performed from the flatbed of a truck, and many in attendance wrapped the flags around their faces, Flobots style. Recently, Coffman's web comic, "Rise of the Flobots: Architects of Change," went up on www.flobots.org as well, illustrating fans' ability to make change.
It's all very ambitious, and the Flobots are the first to admit that it's a learning process and that there are bound to be some hiccups. But hiccups are a good thing, Stephen says; they help you learn and grow. Which is why the band has no qualms about aiming high during the Democratic National Convention, where the Flobots will be ubiquitous. "We have always believed that music is a platform for social change," Jamie wrote in a press release. "So what better platform could we have than the camera lenses of the entire globe pointed at our home city at the same time when our music is getting national attention?...We will perform for protesters and politicians, reporters and residents, music insiders and music fans, convention delegates and unconventional activists, people from down the block and from all over the world."
True to their word, the Flobots will play the protester-organized Tent State Music Festival to End the War with Rage Against the Machine and the Coup, as well as Mayor John Hickenlooper's more mainstream private party.
"I guess the goal is to have these flag bandannas popping up everywhere," Jamie tells me. "At protests, in the convention, having some of the delegates wearing them, having some concerts where kids are wearing them and committing random acts of kindness, pushing for change in constructive, productive ways. We want a sea of people out there, embodying what we hope the new America will be."
We don't get back to the hotel after the Dallas show till around 1:30 a.m. The concert ended at about eleven thirty, but the bandmembers stuck around signing autographs until the crowd had completely dispersed (though many fans hung around out back for hours to try and snag a Flobot en route to the bus). After that, there were drinks in a bizarre upper level of the House of Blues known as The Foundation, which looks a little like the Maharishi's club house — Persian carpets and strange Buddhist statues in an unending, connected series of rooms — and a lot like something out of a Kubrick film.