Before last week, the Brooklyn-based punk band PWR BTTM was widely regarded as a promising, emerging rock act. Its two members, Ben Hopkins and Liv Bruce, both of whom identify as gender-neutral, had made a name with catchy songs that, in part, celebrate those identities, bolstered by actions such as requesting gender-neutral bathrooms be provided by venues where the band was booked to play. Last Wednesday, May 10, accusations of sexual assault against Hopkins began to circulate on social media. On Thursday, the band posted a response that read, in part, "These allegations are shocking to us and we take them very seriously." (You can read the complete statement from the band below.) By Friday, the same day the band released its second album, Pageant, the focus had shifted and the band has since been enveloped in the resulting controversy.
(PWR BTTM's publicist did not respond to repeated requests for comment and clarification around the situation. Hopkins directed NPR to the band's publicist.)
On May 12, PWR BTTM's album release show at Rough Trade Records in Brooklyn had been canceled. Salty Artist Management announced it had cut ties with the band (reached for comment, managing partner Jessi Frick referred to the company's statement). The bands T-Rextasy, Tancred, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, and iji, all of which had been scheduled to open for PWR BTTM's summer tour, each announced they would not play the scheduled dates. The band's label, Polyvinyl, confirmed to NPR that it had stopped selling copies of Pageant and was issuing refunds for the record purchased from them to customers who request one. At least four upcoming shows, including an appearance at the Hopscotch Music Fest, have been canceled (reports of the band's entire tour being canceled remain unconfirmed, and some dates remain listed on the band's website as of this writing). Reaction to the controversy spread so quickly that it took some media by surprise: The New York Times published a lengthy profile of the band in its weekend paper that went to press before the story had spread — the web version of that article added five paragraphs about the allegations and the developing response into the middle of the piece.
NPR Music has covered or partnered with PWR BTTM on several occasions. It premiered Pageant on May 4 as part of its First Listen series; invited the band to play a Tiny Desk Concert in 2016; Hopkins was a judge in the 2017 Tiny Desk Contest; and PWR BTTM performed at NPR Music's 2017 SXSW showcase.
The allegations against Hopkins surfaced after being posted to a private Facebook group called DIY Chicago, posted by a user named Kitty Cordero-Kolin. (Reached over email, Cordero-Kolin confirmed to NPR that they were the author.) In that post, a screenshot of which is below, Cordero-Kolin accuses Hopkins of being a "known sexual predator" and the "perpetrator of multiple assaults." In a subsequent post, Cordero-Kolin writes they were never personally victimized by Hopkins, but "felt comfortable doing something that survivors of [Hopkins'] abuse were rightfully terrified to do."