March 11, 2017

Italian post-punk band abused and deported by US Customs

NPR - Friday afternoon, the Italian trio Soviet Soviet posted a lengthy statement on Facebook explaining why it would not be keeping its U.S. tour dates this week and next: It had been deported.

The band, which is based in the city of Pesaro, landed in Seattle on Wednesday afternoon. It was traveling under 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.

Such visas are frequently used by bands coming to the United States when they only are slated to play unpaid showcases, as paid work while traveling on an ESTA is prohibited.

According to the group, its three members were carrying a letter from its American record label explaining that the musicians were scheduled to perform a number of "promotional," nonpaid performances in the U.S., including a live performance at member station KEXP, as well as a showcase at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

The band says that its three musicians were questioned for several hours, and "agents" (presumably U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers) denied them entry into the country. From the airport, the band says, the three were taken to a jail and held overnight before being escorted to a plane and sent back to Italy. The three say that they were treated "like criminals."

In its statement, Soviet Soviet says that the agents' refusal to permit the band's entry seems to have stemmed from the fact that the agents believed that the group needed work visas to enter the U.S., because two of the venues at which Soviet Soviet was slated to perform were going to charge audiences entry fees — even though the band says that its musicians were not going to earn any money while in the U.S.

This afternoon, KEXP published a short statement about the situation, saying:

"Yesterday, Thursday, March 9th, Italian trio Soviet Soviet were scheduled to perform live on The Morning Show on KEXP. Their sophomore album Endless was released on felte Records back in December, and with its dark, anthemic, post-punk sound, quickly became a favorite on the KEXP airwaves. Unfortunately, the in-studio — as well as their scheduled performances at Kremwerk, SXSW, and venues along the west coast — had to be canceled. ... KEXP sincerely hopes we'll be able to reschedule a session with the band in the near future."

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