It’s hard to find words for the shit show that is 2020. Between a global pandemic our country wasn’t ready for and the ongoing protests against police brutality (a systemic problem we’ve ignored for far too long), it’s barely June and we’re already longingly looking at 2021 with cautious optimism. As a woman who plays rock ‘n’ roll, Red Gemini’s Addie Wuensch currently lives by the following motto: “A lot of people will dismiss what you have to say, but you just have to say ‘fuck that.’”
Wuensch is Red Gemini’s frontwoman, as well as the owner of Bottega Art & Wine on North Fourth Street. Like hundreds of thousands of people around the world, she’s taken to the streets to protest George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police by attending a handful of downtown protests so far. For Wuensch and so many others, change and justice are the only paths forward. Until they’re implemented (and enforced), it’s important to stay vigilant in standing up for what’s right in both music and life.
“It doesn’t matter what negative shit is thrown at you,” Wuensch says. “As an artist just speak your mind, speak your heart into your music and your art, and you will find those who celebrate what you do. And you will find peace with the truth you create.”
Red Gemini is currently working with local indie-filmmaker Brannigan Carter, who is producing two music videos—including one for the band’s 2017 song “Secret”—that reflect these tumultuous times. The other is for Wilmington punk band The Explainers’ “Intolerant of Intolerance.”
Describing his band as a “musical political cartoon,” Eric Lawson says The Explainers started off writing a song spoofing the Trump administration’s Space Force. But the song ends up being a middle-finger and series of face-punches to hare speech, racism and white supremacy associated with Trump’s MAGA:
“There’s no room for white supremacy / in the land of the free. / So fuck their tiki torches, / and fuck their tangerine! / And if you’re a fucking Nazi, / there’s something I’ve got to say / It starts with my boot, / and ends with your face!”
Lawson says making music has been cathartic for him and his crew since November 2016. “Intellectually it’s still very upsetting,” he notes of Trump’s election, “but working it out emotionally in song gives some relief.”
Aside from “Intolerant of Intolerance,” The Explainers’ are working on a new album encompassing their throwback sounds of ‘80s and ‘90s punk (think: Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, Cock Sparrer), of which they’ll announce soon on Facebook.
For each of the two music videos, Carter plans to include shots of performances from the bands alongside amateur/non-professional footage and news coverage of the pandemic and protests from across the country.
“There are two very different ideas for the videos,” Carter says, “though, I’m not too picky about the video [footage] we need. [There are] two categories: pandemic and protests. Literally, any video of these two things works. I want it all. I want the good, the bad and the ugly. We want every race and walk of life involved in this.”
Carter had been in talks to create video projects with both bands for a while. In fact, the original concept for “Secret” revolved around a shoot with longtime Dead Kennedys guitarist East Bay Ray, who helped write the song. But there were scheduling conflicts—and COVID-19—followed by a historic worldwide civil rights protest.
“When all the pandemic business happened, [Addie] wanted to do a video of that,” Carter remembers, “but I’m a truck driver, so I got super busy during all this. That’s when The Explainers got a hold of me (I know all them from Cape Fear Wine and Beer). They wanted to do a video for a song of theirs that’s very relevant to the protests happening now. So I contacted Addie to see if she also wanted to weave in the protests for Red Gemini. All in all, it will be two different projects, each a very different style and musical tone, where both have a commentary on the very broken state of things in America right now.”
While Carter’s responsibilities as a father and experiencing PTSD from his days as a soldier have kept him away from protests, the videos represent an opportunity to engage with issues he finds important. “I [also] just yell at racists on Facebook,” he quips.
With a degree in film production from CFCC, Carter was forced to get creative about his income after state legislation ended North Carolina’s film incentives in 2014. He’s been able to make the occasional music video or short film, but most of his income comes from driving trucks. Being on the road has afforded him a unique perspective on the pandemic and nationwide protests.
“It’s definitely been pretty wild to see the entire country shut down over COVID and then erupt over racial tensions,” he notes. “It’s a cliché, but this is a year for the history books. 2020 is make or break for America. I honestly think we will come through stronger.”
With phase two in effect in North Carolina, Wuensch still isn’t sure when Red Gemini will perform live again. (To complicate matters, all of her bandmates are in California right now.) Wuensch has opened Bottega’s gallery by appointment only, and she’s looking forward to eventually reopening with social-distancing measures in place for live performances in Bottega’s backyard, including tapings of the gallery’s radio series, Bottega Live, which airs every fourth Friday on WHQR, 91.3 at 8 p.m.Wuensch and WHQR reporter Vince Winkel recorded an episode featuring Dead Kennedy’s East Bay Ray and Ramones’ producer Ed Stasium a few weeks ago, set to air June 26.
Stasium also has been working with Wuensch (vocals) and her Red Gemini bandmates—East Bay Ray (guitar), Phil X of Bon Jovi (guitar) and Anthony “Tiny” Biuso of T.S.O.L. (drums)—in Royal Worth Weaver’s local studio. Wuensch and her brother Dan, who plays in local band Open Wire, have been penning new music for Red Gemini, with help from Stasium, as well.
“I’m excited to get a new spin and tweaking of the sound thanks to Ed,” Wuensch says. “He and I are kindred spirits and we love creativity, expression, and rock and roll.”