Photography Sacha Lecca.

watch chloë sevigny play a riot cop in pussy riot's dystopian new video

Pussy Riot marks the one-year anniversary of the U.S. election with a powerful punk resistance anthem. We talk to Nadya Tolokonnikova about staying mad and scaring the crap out of elected officials.

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Nov 9 2017, 10:02am

Photography Sacha Lecca.

This article was originally published by i-D US.

Pussy Riot's Nadya Tolokonnikova prefers actions to words. When we meet at a cozy restaurant on an unseasonably nice Monday in New York's West Village, it's clear what she feels like doing, and it's not eating steak frites. "I was expecting to see more protests here after the women's march," she says carefully. "[Protesting is] much more fun than sitting in a restaurant. It's like the best drug in the world, this feeling of unity."

Since America got woke to the threat of authoritarianism last year, Nadya has become something of a cheerleader-slash-quarterback for the resistance, spurring us to action with a mix of punk anthems and political actions. Two weeks before the 2016 election, Pussy Riot issued a wake-up call to the country in the form of "Make America Great Again," a disturbingly prophetic video that Putinized American politics by imagining a Trump victory. On the anniversary of the election — and of the Russian Revolution — the feminist punk collective is back with "Police State," co-written with Ricky Reed.

The new music video condemns the autocratic trends that Nadya says are "spreading around the world like a sexually transmitted disease." It stars Chloë Sevigny as a very convincing riot control cop, swinging her baton at balaclava-wearing women. Kids in matching masks are forced to watch footage of Putin and his American puppet. The lyrics — "Oh my God, I'm so happy I could die / My God, I'm so happy I could cry" — reek of feigned cheeriness and self-censorship. "Everybody is doing the same thing," Nadya sings, "and it's make me happy." The band was introduced to Chloë through the video's director, Matt Creed. "I was so stoked because she's a role model and she's so nice," Nadya raves about the indie cinema icon. "She's resurrecting American belief in actors."

Photography Sacha Lecca.

Nadya has plenty of first-hand experience of police states. After being freed from prison in 2013, she visited Rikers Island in support of Occupy Wall Street hero Cecily McMillan. To get a taste of just how terrible the conditions were at NYC's infamous prison complex, she asked to try the prisoners' food. The request was denied. "Your meal can be replaced with a brick of shit [in American prisons.] It's mind-blowing," she tells me. In Russia, Pussy Riot works with lawyers who fight to get justice for prisoners, and while Nadya is still learning about the intricacies of our own system, she knows one thing for certain: "There are more douchebags in the White House than in prison."

As America moves towards the one-year anniversary of Trump's inauguration, Nadya warns of the dangers of seeking immediate gratification in actions of resistance: "Nobody actually promised that life has to come to a beautiful end. It's not a Hollywood movie." Our worst enemy, she stresses, is not Trump but a lack of enthusiasm. When it comes to elected officials, the solution is actually pretty simple. "We have to make them shit their pants on a daily basis."

"Police State" is a single from the Nice Life Winter 18 playlist, out 12/8 on Nice Life. Pussy Riot will perform its debut live music performance in Berlin on 11/9 and Los Angeles on 12/13 before heading to Houston's Day for Night Festival on 12/15. Nadya is also presenting the immersive political theatre "Inside Pussy Riot" at London's Saatchi Gallery from 11/14 until 12/24.