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The Blankz. Credit: Gaby Kaos

Searching For Identity Through Punk

The Blankz, a Pogo Synth Punk band from Phoenix, Arizona

Published on October 29, 2019

No matter who you are or where you grew up, there’s no person on Earth who’s never wondered, “who am I, really?” For children of adoption, those questions often come early in life with much intensity.

Tommy Blank at the Punk Rock Bowling 2019 Backstage Bar & Billiards. Credit: Dayton Paiva

Phoenix five-piece punk and new wave band the Blankz was born out of the search for identity. The group was founded when Tommy Blank (a.k.a. Slope Records founder Thomas Lopez) approached musician Jaime Blank (Jaime Paul Lamb) about collaborating on some new material. Their first song became “White Baby,” Tommy’s autobiographical account of growing up in Arizona in the 1970s and 1980s as a white child adopted by a Mexican-American family—a match that was a rarity at the time.

Back then Phoenix was a much smaller city than the sprawling metropolis it is today, and as the only white kid in his neighborhood growing up in a Chicano household with a Chicano last name, Tommy was often subjected to the curiosity of both his peers and strangers. Eventually, that became bullying, too. Taken with the ups and downs any teenager is facing, it all enhanced his feeling that he didn’t really fit in.

Like many outsiders, Tommy naturally gravitated towards punk rock, which was alive and thriving in Phoenix. “Being adopted and being kind of a misfit, so to speak, even though I was loved at home I knew I was different—and so you kind of carve your own path to define that.”

The disparate elements of Tommy’s story come together in the music video for “White Baby.” Filmed in the area around Slope Records HQ in the Sunnyslope area of Phoenix with additional locations in South Phoenix, the video mixes snapshots of the city’s punk subculture and Chicano spirit—close-ups of lowriders and local shops are presented in vivid color—with snippets from the Lopez family’s 8mm home movies of relatives dancing, playing music, and generally celebrating life.

“The video was fun to make and finding out my family still had the 8mm films was a score—it really pulled the vibe together,” Tommy says. If you look closely, you might even notice some similarities between “now” and “then.” “The guy driving the lowrider is my cousin and he is also the little boy playing maracas next to me playing guitar in the [home] video.”

Though it’s rooted in Tommy’s personal experiences, “White Baby” creates a vibe that anyone can relate to—at least anyone who has ever ridden around a hometown that’s changed, but thanks to familiar scenery can’t help but think about the people and places of their past.