MANHATTAN — Outernational, a high-energy protest band that began with a conversation among young activists at Revolution Books in Chelsea, aims to highlight injustice surrounding U.S. immigration policy.
"We wanted to make a revolutionary, international band that could provide art to help people think about humanity differently and reach people around the world," said West Village native Miles Solay, 30, the frontman of Outernational.
The New York-based band is building buzz for its concept album on immigration and its new video "Todos Somos Ilegales: We Are All Illegals," which was released June 27.
The video for the guitar-driven song, which is sung primarily in English and has Spanish subtitles, shows Outernational performing along the U.S.-Mexico border. Residente, a singer from the Puerto Rican band Calle 13, has a cameo in the song and video, singing a verse in Spanish. The video also featured Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The stars of the video, though, are the workers, children and other fans who emailed the band clips of themselves singing and dancing to the song after Outernational requested them on Facebook and Twitter. He said clips were sent from as far away as Arizona, and included one person who performed in sign language.
"We wanted to demonstrate that this wasn't just us," Solay said. "A lot of people want to not just sit back and register their dissent in some kind of official way like voting. They want to fight back."
"Through this you see the great divide between people who work with their backs and live on less than $2 a day and those who can work with their minds. … There were a million stories to tell here."
Solay said he drew inspiration for "Todos Somos Ilegales: We Are All Illegals," from famed Village protest singer Woody Guthrie, whose song "Deportees" has been covered by the band.
Solay and other young activists dreamt up the band at Revolution Books when it was located on West 19th Street, he said. The members of the group played instruments casually and decided to hone their craft to spread their message.
They released their debut EP "Eyes on Fire" in December 2009, and their full-length album came out in December as a pay-what-you-can download.
Reactions to Outernational's and message has been strongly positive, Solay said.
The band toured the Southwest and California for two months this year, with several shows in border towns, where spectators had visceral reactions to the music, Solay said.
"People had a seething anger and I think they were very appreciative that this band came to their area," he said.