Done up in the kind of dresses you envy and makeup looks that take years of practice to achieve, Liv Bruce and Ben Hopkins are everything punk has been craving, but they’ll be the first to tell you their success was an accident. The duo met while attending Bard College and went on to form Brooklyn phenomenon PWR BTTM, your new favorite queer punk band if they aren’t already.
They just kicked off a national tour (their third of the year) with two days in Brooklyn, supported by Lisa Prank and Vundabar. Both shows sold out faster than the beginning riff their song “Ugly Cherries,” and I only snagged a ticket to Friday’s show thanks to a change in venue (from Shea Stadium, to the larger Market Hotel, and finally to Villain).
I guarantee you, you will not leave a PWR BTTM show without at least a little glitter on your body, makeup sweating down your face, and a minimum five great one-liners to put in your back pocket courtesy of Liv and Ben (like “I might be gay but I’m not invincible, bitch,” and referring to a hole in the stage Ben fell into as “the stage vagina”). You’ll be no less than blown away by their pure rock talent as Liv, who usually plays the drums, and Ben, who usually plays guitar, switch off instruments. They both sing, too.
We spoke with the duo about their tour, Martha Stewart Glitter, and the best Halloween costumes for every situation you could be in this Halloween. Sit back and learn from the pros.
Ben: I just found a picture of myself dressed up like a vampire as a really little kid and I wore a lot of makeup and I remember wearing it at the time and thinking, this feels right, and now it’s what I do as a job.
Liv: I once won a Halloween costume contest in high school dressed as road kill and wore all black and used yellow duct tape to create a striped line down my body and then I bought a stuffed animal dog and covered it in red paint. I didn’t just win the Halloween costume contest, I won the award for the most tasteless costume and they gave me a $20 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card.
Ben: I would like to ask Dunkin’ Donuts to give us money for being tasteless. Please and thank you.
Ben: I love me some Jo-Ann Fabrics. Go in there and mess that shit up. Michaels. Michaels should be giving me a grant for the amount of money I’ve spent putting dumb shit on my face from that store. Let them know I’m a big fan.
Liv: There’s this one store I really love [on Broadway, in the Bushwick/Myrtle Ave area]. The way I know it’s really good is when you go in the middle of the day, there’s a bunch of other thrift store owners shopping there and they get stuff for like $5, and they sell it at their store for like $15. I’ve had the experience of trying on a dress at my favorite thrift store and I deciding not to buy it and then seeing it three days later, hanging from the window of another store. Which made me feel special.
Ben: Well, listen, you can’t go wrong going to Ricky’s. Rick, if you’re listening to me, bitch, out there on Bedford + Bowery, open a store in Brooklyn, you asshole! I know they opened a seasonal one in Williamsburg. I think they might do that again, it’s on North 4th and Wythe I think? There’s one in the East Village, Chinatown area, but Ricky’s is the place to go. Also though, to be honest, Amazon does you right, trying to get that Mehron color cream makeup palette, which is the key. Ben Nye is really good and cheap. The best glitter out there is Martha Stewart brand, which is the secret of my gig, so yeah, Martha Stewart brand glitter is the shit. Get a good black lipstick for everything, and the key is to use cold cream to get all the makeup off. Cold cream and a wet towel.
Ben: Okay, obviously the answer is Elle Woods Playboy Bunny from the first Legally Blonde where she shows up and gets told it’s a costume party but it’s not. Get a blonde wig and be the Playboy Bunny but also be holding the vintage ’90s MacBook computer that she goes and buys in that costume. That is the key. Next!
Liv: No, no one could dress like Beyonce for Halloween. That’s like dressing like Jesus Christ for Halloween. I think if you’re stuck at home, handing out candy to kids and you want to go party but you can’t because you have work the next day, you should be Anne Hathaway in the beginning of Princess Diaries. That’s an iconic look that nobody ever talks about but with her frizzy hair and Catholic school uniform and her glasses, and kids will probably think you’re from Harry Potter anyway, so you’re fine.
Ben: Scarecrow. Like just a bad, commonplace, ordinary scarecrow, like the most easy to put together costume because then, all of the pretentious art gallery people will be like, “Wow, that’s so ironic, oh my God.”
Liv: I think if I was going to an art gallery party, I would dress like a clown, have a lot of balloons and be making balloon animals, and tell people I was Jeff Koons.
Ben: Oh! Oh! No no no no no! Be James Franco! Be like, I’m gay-bait!
Ben: A costume that’s easy to be drunk in. I would be the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. Wait. I would be a positive pregnancy test. Or no, I would be a blank pregnancy test. Or a negative? I don’t know. I would just be a pregnancy test. I would let the reader fill in the option. Maybe also, now I’m just kind of spitballing, you couldn’t do this at a dive bar because it would take up too much space and it would just get broken, but like at the art gallery party or something, you could be Tinder and just have a white box around yourself with an X mark or a heart, but you could just be your own Tinder profile. You could be like, swipe right.
And for someone who wants to full-on Heidi Klum?
Ben: They should go into any thrift store in New York and just buy a dress without trying it on like I always do and they should put glitter and cream makeup inside of a cannon and have their dear friend shoot them in the fucking face and then drink about a bucket of whiskey, watch every Alyssa Edwards video available on the internet, get in a van, and work it out.
Liv: We’ve had some PWR BTTM fans do kind of like alternate forms of dressing up for out shows. One time someone brought a shower cap to the show and kept it in their pocket and then, a shower cap and I think a bar of soap, and then we started playing “Dairy Queen” and they put on the shower cap and started pretending to soap themselves up. That was truly one of the most brilliant things that’s ever happened. Someone could just make a cardboard cutout of the shape of the state Texas and then cut it in half and be the western half, which is totally unrecognizable but would be hilarious once they told their friends what they were. They could be an ugly cherry. They could be the boy that keeps the bed warm while their partner showers. That would be a couple costume. One person carries a sheet with them and has it wrapped around them like they’re in bed, the other person like doing the shower thing, something like that.
Ben: They could just be Shrek. That’s a great PWR BTTM costume, just straight up going out green.
Ben: Unfortunately, we’ll be seeing a lot of Ken Bone, which is a drag. Probably see a lot of Trump, which is a drag. I hope people dress up like Hillary, she’s a bad bitch. I want to see somebody dressed up like, you know really fierce 1970s, like Wellesley College Hillary. I’m hoping people dress up like her, with the goofy glasses.
Liv: The most unique thing that someone could do is not reference this election at all. I think it would be really funny if someone was a gendered bathroom because those are terrifying to me. I could go on with these all day. I guess the only thing I’d want to say is remember that cultures aren’t costumes. Remember that trans identities aren’t costumes and remember that shitty things that happen to real people aren’t costumes. It’s always nice to expect the best from people but prepare for the worst and just keep in mind that it might not be on their radar. I think it’s important in those situations to not make it seem like their problem was not knowing but to just be like, Oh, this isn’t a great thing to do, don’t do it and we won’t have a problem. Another example of a shitty thing that happened a lot last year is like a ton of Caitlyn Jenner costumes, shit like that, like no. Do better.