-- Nick Turse, Village Voice
Miles Solay is the front man for a New York City band called Outernational, who open for Puerto Rican band sensation Calle 13 tonight at House of Blues. Outernational's album, Todos Somos Ilegales (We Are All Illegals) is extremely dope and refreshing; listen for yourself.
But let's get something clear.
Solay isn't some typical liberal Democrat. Wednesday, he called President Obama's support for gay-marriage "manipulative," and don't get him started on Mitt Romney. Furthermore, Outernational is not a political organization. They aren't waving a policy flag, Solay stresses. And he is not Mexican.
You might have a hard time believing this. After all, with the always-inflammable immigration dialogue that catches fire, loses steam, then regains its flame again like a playful forest fire, he has to have some sort of ancestry south of the border, right?
"I'm a New Yorker," he tells Rocks Off. "Fifth generation. I'm white."
It almost begs the question, "why?"
"The deeper question 'is why not?'" he continues. "I don't step out on any particular issue. I'm a revolutionary and I'm an internationalist. I'm a human being."
He's a human being who cares about humans, and his music revolves around that notion.
To understand Miles, you kind of have to get to his depth. His album, which features Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and Grammy nominee Ceci Bastida, as well as Calle 13, is something deeper than what you see on the surface.
"The album is a microscope for what society is now and a telescope to what the world could be," he says.
Like any artist, he says he's making art.
"The power of art lies in the metaphor and taps into a distinctly human and seemingly endless need for amazement and awe," says Solay. "I can go places in a song where I can't go in the real world."
He elaborates on this statement by taking Rocks Off to the movies.
"Let's say we go see a Sean Penn flick," he explains. "We buy the ticket and hand them the money. We know we are going to go see Sean Penn, the actor. We know we are going to go see a movie. At the movies, if he's good and he delivers, we are able to suspend disbelief."
In other words, for a period, we believe Sean Penn is his character.
And the characters and stories in Outernational's album, from the deportee to the fruit-picker, are about "elevating people's vision for the world" and imagining a world "organized in a different way." To Solay, the thought of people being illegal is as absurd as the thought of one person owning another, like slavery.
"The way we see it, the whole world comes first and that should remain true for any revolutionary-minded person," Solay says. "What I mean by the world comes first is America's over-infatuation with 'my country.' The idea of Outernational is getting people to think above and beyond our borders today. Stop thinking like Americans and start thinking about humanity."
Tell that to the border-patrol agents who were amongst the crowd at their show in Laredo recently. They didn't voice their dissatisfaction with Outernational directly, but the band was aware that they got defensive and began talking about the humanistic parts of their job, like giving food and water to those caught in desert terrain.
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"That's like saying the prison guard who put the meal under your fucking door is helping you," he closes.