I already had Italy’s Soviet Soviet‘s video for their towering post-punk track “Endless Beauty” in my queue, but I’m publishing it now following what happened to them on March 8th. Like thousands of other artists/bands like them, Soviet Soviet landed in Seattle to begin a short run up of performances leading to SXSW, all of which were purely promotional and unpaid. They were coming into the U.S. under the ESTA (also known as the Visa Waiver Program), which allows citizens of nearly 40 countries to travel to the United States without having to obtain a visa.
Well, as I’ll publish verbatim under the embed, the band was essentially treated as criminals from the moment they arrived and endured an agonizing amount of processing before ultimately being deported. Any person for the free-flowing exchange of ideas and artistic pursuits and basic decency between nations will find this all absolutely abhorrent.
The “Endless Beauty” video was released two days before the band landed in Seattle, and it’s overwhelming rush of searing guitar work and Interpol-esque drive now serves as testament to who loses in keeping such talent out; all of us.
Please watch Soviet Soviet in “Endless Beauty” below, read the statement and support the band by purchasing their great new album, Endless, or anything else on their Bandcamp here.
We arrived in Seattle on the afternoon of March 8.
We made our way to passport control with our ESTA, a letter from our American label (in cui the label owner declared we would be performing a series of concerts for promotional purposes only and That We would in no way be receiving any form of payment for Those shows) and a written invitation on the part of SXSW in hand. The first of us to get through passport control was Ale (our drummer), who disclosed the promotional purposes of our trip to the police officer.
Ale (our guitarist) and Andrea who Explained Both the exact same thing were held up and escorted to another office. Subsequently, we were all called back and interrogated individually, in three different rooms. We were incendio have the agents speak directly to the owner of our American label without any success, however. After almost four hours of questions they Told us Their verdict. They had DECIDED to deport us back to Italy and deny us entry into the United States. They declared us illegal immigrants even if our intention was by no means to look for work in the United States nor never go back to Italy.
We accepted this decision as it Seemed final at that point. They took our digital fingerprints and mugshots of us took For Their files. They confiscated our cell phones and we were denied The Possibility of contacting our families and loved ones. Around 10:30 pm, two prison officers frisked us, handcuffed us and brought` us to jail in a police car. We spent the night in jail and escorted Had Been there as though we were three criminals. Following the day, after having completed all jail-related procedures (mugshots, declaration of good health and signatures), two other agents came to get us. We were searched, handcuffed and again escorted in a police car.
They took us to the customs office we were in the previous day and we waited for our return flight Which Was scheduled for around 1:00 PM local time. Only a short while prior to taking off we were incendio get back our cell phones and bags and we were escorted right up to the airplane. We were relieved to fly back home and distance ourselves from That violent, stressful and humiliating situation. We left Italy headed towards the US with All necessary documents, passports and various declarations in cui we Clearly Explained the purpose of our tour, confirming it is was strictly promotional and That we were in no way going to earn money from it or receive any form of payment. We Knew That if we were to receive any compensation we would have had to apply for work visas. This was not the case and the people we spoke to for information Told us we would be fine. We had not agreed on any payment whatsoever and the scheduled showcase performance at KEXP was most Certainly not a paid performance. The point Is that the control agents who did a quick check on the concerts we informed them of noticed That two of the venues were asking for entry fees and this was enough to convince them That we needed work visas instead of an ESTA.
We accepted this situation even if we tried to no end to explain the situation and That we were not receiving any form of payment, but there was simply no way of convincing the officials we spoke to. From That Moment onwards, We Became three illegal immigrants and were treated like criminals.
This is what happened this past Wednesday and Thursday. We would like to thank the people who supported and helped us Throughout this ordeal, including Alessio Antoci, Owen Murphy and John Richards.
We would like to apologize to our fans, the owners of the venues, KEXP radio and the SXSW festival.
We would also like to apologize for having had to cancel our American tour and hope to go back soon.
We landed in Seattle on the afternoon of March 8.
We presented ourselves to possaporti equipped ESTA checks, the letter of our American label (with which the owner of the label stated that we would have a series of concerts only for promotional purposes and not perceiving fee) and the written invitation of SXSW Austin. The first to be checked and to have passed the controls, was Ale (drummer) who explained to the policeman motivation of the promotional trip.
Ale (Guitarist) and Andrew, with the same version of events, were captured and taken to the office controls. As a result we have all been recalled and subjected to three interrogations divided into three small rooms office. We made sure that the agents also speak directly with the American label owner without getting any success. After nearly four hours of questions they read the verdict. They decided to send us back to Italy and to deny us entry into the United States. They said illegal immigrants even though our intention was not to find jobs on American soil, nor even what not to return to Italy.
We accepted the decision already taken, they took fingerprints and took pictures for the dossier. They have seized the phone and we were not given the opportunity to notify relatives and family. At about 22:30 we are presented with two prison officers who have searched, handcuffed and taken to jail by truck. We spent the night in the same way escorted cell as three criminals. The next day, after hurried up the steps of the prison (photo, declaration of good health and signatures), there two other officers came to pick up. Search, handcuffs and truck. They took us to the office day of the controls precendente where we awaited our return flight which was to the 13:00 local time. Only near the start we were given back phones and bags and we were escorted to the entrance plane. We were relieved to be broken down and be removed from the violent situation, stressful and humiliating. We started with all the necessary documents, passports and various statements in which we clarified that our tour was only for promotion and not for gain. We knew that if we had received a fee we would have to do the work visa. This was not the case and the sources we consulted had reassured us about it. We had no arrangement fee and the concert at the KEXP radio was certainly not a fee. The point is that the controllers agents, making a quick check of the concerts, they had realized that the entrance to two of them was paid and this fact was enough to force us to introduce ourselves with visas to workers rather than with Esta.
We accepted this decision even though we have tried in every way to explain that the agreed economic situation was different but there was no way to convince them. Since that time we have become three illegal immigrants and we were treated like criminals.
This is what happened last Wednesday and Thursday. We thank all the people who supported us and helped us in these moments, by Alessio Antoci, Owen Murphy to John Richards.
We apologize to all the fans, the venue owners, the KEXP radio and the SXSW festival.
Sorry for the tour that we had to cancel and we hope to return soon.