Since Donald J. Trump was elected president last month, the shared sentiment among most artists has been, “What can we do about this?”
At least, that’s what Doug Kallmeyer felt when he woke up to the news while he was on tour in Europe. Along with friends who help him run the local experimental record label Verses Records, Kallmeyer felt that many musicians were probably thinking the same thing.
“I woke up in Amsterdam to the bad news,” he recalls. “But I was not super surprised about it. I was bummed out. I was talking back and forth with one of my label mates, Dave [Harris]. We were commiserating, but we were thinking what can we do?”
With Vice President-elect Mike Pence‘s terrible track record on supporting women’s health rights and LGBTQ rights (among many of his other troubling policy platforms), and the chatter that Trump would fill his cabinet with people like Steve Bannon, Ben Carson, and others, Kallmeyer and the Verses Records team knew that organizations like Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union were among those that would most need support over the next four years. So they decided to put out a compilation of music from artists across the world and to donate all the proceeds to the ACLU.
Kallmeyer says they put out a call on social media for artists to submit tracks for the compilation. Within days, they had about 40 artists and bands committed.
“It felt like something we had to do really quick in response [to the election],” Kallmeyer says. “That seemed very important.”
So on Dec. 1, less than a month after the election, Verses Records dropped Code Red: An International Compilation to Benefit the ACLU, which features 40 tracks from artists in D.C. and the rest of the world, including Time Is Fire, müesk, Moor Mother, Tristan Welch, and Super!Silver!Haze!
Kallmeyer admits it’s reactionary, but he says they plan to release more benefit compilations for other organizations in the future—to raise money for the organizations that will certainly need it, but also as a lasting artistic statement.
“Arts and music are a reflection of society as a whole,” he says. “I think it’s important that the arts continue to reflect what’s going on in society. The lasting thing is going to be the statements that the music and the arts make.”