Filed under: Issue 22 | Tags: Arcade Fire, ashley cox sullivan, bitch cassidy, corey koniz, Dinosaur Jr., penalties and punishment, Professional Victims, shawn sullivan, TV on the Radio
Part of our Issue 22 coverage!
PREVIEW: Click to access music by and learn more about Syracuse’s Professional Victims!
Syracuse’s very own Professional Victims have all the makings of a bona fide late-20th century punk rock band—in the 21st century. Bandmates Shawn Sullivan, Ashley Cox Sullivan and Corey Koniz have the basics down: anti-establishment attitudes; punchy, guitar-driven songs under three minutes; and the hope of raising their own army of like-minded rebels.
Like the independent spirit of punk music itself, Professional Victims refuse to be diced up and shelved as just another band. Their writing style, message, vocal arrangements and, because of the marriage between Sullivan and Cox, band dynamic are all unique.
Professional Victims was born in 2008 out of the decade-old musical companionship of Sullivan and Cox, in addition to each members Syracuse address. “Both Shawn and I had our own individual careers that we were mutually supportive of,” explained Cox, the band’s vocalist and synth player.
After Sullivan’s old band, Bitch Cassidy, was no longer going in the musical direction he wanted it to, he became more serious about pursuing new projects. “He was becoming more serious about it, and I believed so much in it that I kind of put my personal solo project on hold to focus on his music.” she said.
Koniz, who had performed internationally with other Syracuse bands, was recruited for his skills on the skins. “For all of us to be based out of Syracuse and know that we wanted to continue to pursue music, we all dedicated ourselves to this project because the songs just rock,” Cox said.
The band prides itself on its social awareness, especially in the political realm. “All three of us feel the frustrations that most Americans do about the decisions that are made behind our backs. We don’t want to sit quietly while it all goes on. We want to sing about it and cause a ruckus,” Cox explained.
Professional Victims’ message is clear with song titles like “Penalties & Punishment” and “Death to the System.” Sullivan’s lyrics, “Where’d the cash flow go/ feed the government/ they got money to burn,” on “Death to the System” exemplify their politically-minded message.
That message comes across in the band’s name holds specific meaning, “It’s just that thought that a lot of people will sit around and complain about their government or their lives, and they can sit there and be a professional victim all the time or get up and make a change,” Cox said.
Their focused message stems from Sullivan, the band’s sole songwriter. “He doesn’t want to write songs the way other bands write: he doesn’t want to write songs about saving ourselves, he doesn’t want to use the word ‘flying’ in his songs, he doesn’t want to write about California. He wants to be very original,” says Cox. Writing about relevant topics in today’s society and not about personal experiences fuels Sullivan’s writing.
Driving guitars and furious tempos help push Professional Victims’ message. Piano and synths create variety and prevent the band from being pigeon-holed into one genre. Critics have compared them to TV on the Radio, Arcade Fire and Dinosaur Jr.
Bold lyrics are accompanied by bold vocals: Sullivan and Cox share the duty. A male- and female-led punk band is rare, even in today’s music scene. “On some of the songs it just makes sense as far as my range or what we’re trying to get across with the song,” Cox said. “It just depends on the song.”
Their first LP, Penalties & Punishment is available on iTunes, but the band has no plans to rest. “The next five years we want to go full speed ahead,” says Cox. “We want to put out at least two more albums and then tour overseas.”
BY Olivia St. Denis