Borders: A Texas Quartet Seeks to Erase the Line Which Divides

07/08/2013 01:16 pm ET | Updated Sep 07, 2013

Liquid Casing is a quartet from the Lone Star State. But, they are not all native Texans. John Pitale is from New Jersey, Jim Stettner is from Upstate New York, and Okikiolu Olufokunbi is from Nigeria. The Texan is Alvaro Rodriquez who is from Houston. Liquid casing, however, is a material used in the oil industry as a confining agent to keep the drill walls from collapsing. Yet, Liquid Casing, the progressive rock band, wants nothing to do with confinement. The band's focus is to expose the politics of racial and ethnic divides. They want to end xenophobia and remove borders that separate people. In a nation built by diverse nationalities, Liquid Casing asserts territories spawn from diverse histories.

As it happens, this notion of borderless states is a lot easier to sing about than to act upon. All one needs to do is turn on a news station or read a newspaper and the convoluted discussion of what to do with U.S. borders and immigration smacks you in the face. The climate in America accuses the current wave of immigrants of not wanting to assimilate. And anti-immigration voices latch on to the argument that the economic problems in the U.S. are exacerbated by those pouring into America illegally. Liquid Casing's lyrics protest the power of the border agent who decides what constitutes otherness. If every American family looked back, he or she would be able to find that one stranger who crossed a border and made the U.S. home.

Perhaps that one stranger came as an indentured servant, or came over as a Catholic, or came over on a brand new steamboat, or came to find asylum. The question is: at what point did the U.S. decide their needed to be legislation to curtail immigration and for what reason? The simple answer is, after WWI, the U.S. tossed quotas into the immigration equation that made sense to them at the time. Quotas would allow for the entry of Northern and Western Europeans, people who were thought to assimilate naturally into the American culture. Later, as a product of the civil rights movement, quotas seemed racially biased and needed to be replaced with a more humanitarian immigration system. But, here again, lies a problem. The U.S. naively believed that the American culture would not change.

"... the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset.... Contrary to the charges in some quarters, [the bill] will not inundate America with immigrants from any one country or area.... [T]he ethnic pattern of immigration under the proposed measure is not expected to change as sharply as the critics seem to think."- Ted Kennedy, 1965.

But, changes did occur with the Hart-Cellar Act. The people migrating to the United States were not solely from Europe but from parts of the globe that ushered in a new ethnic make-up. And once again the fear and the hatred of the stranger inundated America. Songs by Liquid Casing like "A Path of Footprints Forged in the Midnight Sun", "Fingerprint Armada", and "Checkpoints and Borders" addresses the plight of the strangers willing to cross a border into a country that view them as problematic. Immigrants not welcomed by the border agent but condemned to a future of checkpoints.

Liquid Casing's songs speak about the suffering and dehumanization of human beings. And some instrumental songs like "Non-Linear Solution" and "Alambrista" invoke the image of the plight of people crossing over a divide. The quartet uses a variety of sounds throughout the album with a continuous flow. In this way, they too remove the divides between the tracks. To puzzle out what side of the fence--literally or politically--one is on; bands like Liquid Casing encourage people to enter the conversation.

You can download Liquid Casing's album A Separate/Divide on BandCamp.