Six Queer Bands We Love
Hello and welcome to our Seattle queer band roundup! "Queer bands," as we are using the term, are like other bands, only they have queer members. Just like when a "girl band" has all women in it, or like the rare "dude band," full of dudes. For some bands, sexuality and LGBT issues play a prominent role in their music, while other bands of queer persuasion simply play music and happen to not be straight. We gaylords, fag hags, and glitter-encrusted allies over here at The Stranger make efforts to ALWAYS include queer musicians in our coverage (unless they suck), so this queer-band presentation is less like a "token list of things we never care about until there's a holiday based on it" and more like "SWEET! In honor of this being The Stranger's Queer Issue, here are six great queer bands we'd like you to check out, regardless of whether or not they are playing a show in the next seven days, which is usually the first thing we base music coverage on!"
Half-Breed are a brand-new guitar-and-drum sensation queering up the world of sweet indie-pop. The upbeat up-and-comers are Micaila Hopkins and Ashley Nieves, roommates at a Capitol Hill DIY queer/art space. Initially the two were merely looking to play music together for fun, but soon it became apparent that their simple, ultra-catchy jams were too good to keep to themselves. Beachy guitar riffs and perfectly sparse drumming bring to mind K Records staples like Beat Happening and Heavenly, while clear melodies occasionally hint at the bigger studio sounds of bands like Tegan and Sara. With songs about summer boyfriends and the perils of fucking your friends, Half-Breed are sure to provide ear candy for all. The duo spoke about the importance of queer identity and tea-bag tattoos.
How long have you been a band? Any plans for any releases?
Nieves: We have been a band for almost a year and a half now. We have been slowly recording with intentions of releasing an EP.
Hopkins: The full EP will be done soon, we promise!
How important is being queer to the band's identity?
Hopkins: Being queer is a huge part of our daily lives and has helped shape us into the people we are today. The community in Seattle has been incredible, and we wouldn't be the band we are, or have come this far, without them. At the same time, there is a lot more to our band's identity, and we try to represent all of it.
Have you played at a Pride before? Have any best/worst/weirdest Pride memories?
Nieves: We have not played Pride before. We got asked to play the Dyke March this year but sadly had to decline.
Hopkins: The worst memory for me was definitely last year when the Queers Fucking Queersflash mob dance party turned into the Seattle Police Department pepper- sprayingand arresting everyone for no reason. It's a sad day when we can'teven dance in the streets during Pride.
What are you wearing/not wearing to Pride?
Nieves: This Pride I think my sleazy alter ego Maurice might make an appearance. Watch out, ladies.
Hopkins: Nothing but moisturizer.
What's your most favorite gay movie?
Nieves: Does Mrs. Doubtfire count?
Hopkins: I'm going to gowith Skate Bitches.
Any thoughts on corporate/sponsorship aspects of Pride?
Hopkins: It sucks. I understand that Pride needs to be funded by something, but I really wish it wasn't giant liquor companies that show their support by having $10 "drink specials" and showering me with Budweiser Mardi Gras beads.
Do either of you have any amazing gay tattoos?
Nieves: I don't know if it is amazing, but I did get the official gay triangle at Alleged Tattoo during Pride last year.
Hopkins: [Laughs] I have a tea bag on my right knee.
The simply titled S is the brainchild of one Jenn Ghetto, originally famed for her whispered vocals with the sorely missed Northwest institution Carissa's Wierd (and um, not to mention lead singer of Silly Goose, Seattle's premier Blink-182 cover band). A solo bedroom project now three albums deep, S has expanded to include a brand-new (hella gay) backing band of drums and bass—the filled-out live sound makes us crazy excited for the newest batch of songs. If her album titles aren't indicative enough—Sadstyle (2001), Puking and Crying (2004), I'm Not as Good at It as You (2010)—the starkly honest lyrical outpouring of at least a few S songs have the ability to evoke the gnarly truths of all of your failed relationships. Ghetto answered a few questions about Queer Rock Camp and tighty-whitey contests.
Tell me about your new lineup for S.
My band is so gay right now. There is not much else I can say about that, but everyone is real gay.
What's your take on Pride festivities?
Well, I used to try and avoid it. It was just too much for me—so many rainbows, body shots, tighty-whitey contests, everyone ridiculously drunk and making out and puking and then making out some more. Now I guess I embrace Pride more, though. Like, I'm not gonna get in there, but I love that it's happening and I hope everyone has the best time.
Do you have any favorite bands that you've seen play at queer festivals?
One year, Leslie & the LYs played Wild-rose, and it was such a killer show. She had a headset, totally boss moves, backup dancers, all of it. I wish she would play every year.
What was volunteering for Queer Rock Camp like? What was the best rock camp band name you've heard?
Queer Rock Camp is like the most fun queer thing I have ever done. There is actually a song about it on my new record. Teaching a bunch of queer kids how to write and play music is so cool. The showcase is absolutely amazing. Best band names were the Reservoir Rips and Finger Bang. Oh man, so much fun. Teenagers!
What's your favorite gay movie?
My favorite gay movie is Point Break, hands down, everyone knows it. Also, I am just gonna say it, D.E.B.S. What I really want is for Stacy Peck from Pony Time to make a lesbian rom-com—that's sure to be the best thing to happen to gay cinema since John Waters.
Do you have any amazing gay tattoos?
You know, none of my tattoos are very gay-themed. I do want a tattoo that says, "I am George Clooney." I feel like I might be getting close with that one.
Glitterbang are a dance-inducing, infectious electro-pop duo made up of DJ/keyboardist JV and commanding lead singer Nicki Danger. The band came together about four years ago, when current Chop Suey booker Jodi Ecklund saw Danger play with her previous band and told her she was playing with the wrong people. Ecklund (who now acts as the band's manager) introduced her to JV, and the two quickly became sonic soul mates. Glitterbang's inspirations hit everything from Giorgio Moroder and Kraftwerk to LCD Soundsystem, Parliament, and Jay-Z, and Danger said her vibrant vocals and pop instincts can be traced back to listening to Whitney Houston's first record on repeat, along with early Janet Jackson and a wide variety of hiphop. We talked with Danger about tedious album making and party spandex.
Your album Occasionally, Love Is War came out earlier this year. How long did that take to come together?
Our record took a long fucking time to create. We are freakishly OCD about every little detail. We rewrote and remixed each song at least a dozen times; we had a tough time knowing when to let songs go or when to be "done." I'm also kind of a slacker, so that may have added time—JV and Jodi have definitely had to crack the whip on my lazy ass. We make all of our own loops, so pretty much everything that is played live was created by either me or JV. We do use a couple of samples—three to be exact; I will never tell what they are.
Where did you record?
Some stuff was recorded in my apartment, some in JV's studio, and some at London Bridge Studios. Most everything we do is at home. London Bridge is pretty cool, though—they have the same board that everyone was freaking out over in the Sound City documentary. You can really tell how special it is when comparing tracks that were mixed there.
Does Glitterbang's queer identity inform your lyrics?
Being queer has definitely impacted my writing. I mean, I'm not writing about fucking and/or falling in love with dudes.
What's your take on Seattle's Pride festivities?
I think that Pride is really great and important for the community. I miss it being on Capitol Hill—I don't really connect with the parade or the mainstream path it has taken. I do like that thousands of homos get together to let their hair down; I just wish it was in Volunteer Park.
Ever been to another city's Pride fest?
We played Control Top Gayass Party last weekend in Portland with Ononos and Double Duchess. It was awesome.
Got a special outfit planned for Pride?
It will probably involve fluorescent printed party spandex!
Riotous Northwest punk band Agatha were formed four years ago when members Karl (guitar/vocals), Nein (bass/vocals), Josef (drums), and Kaelen (lead vocals—like, blistering, awesome vocals) got to know each other while involved in the organization For Crying Out Loud (formed to address sexual assault/support survivors in radical communities). Their shared music tastes and queer commonality helped inform Agatha's raw punk sound that bleeds with fiercely intelligent lyrics. Their songs ache for a better everything, confronting issues like class war, lack of community spaces, and gender inequality. And as far as queercore anthems go, Agatha's "Queer as in Fuck You" ("Not gay as in happy/But queer as in fuck you") off their 2009 demo, Panic Attack, is downright incendiary. Kaelen and Karl talked about the history of Pride and recording in July.
How does Agatha's collective queer identity inform your sound or lyrics?
Karl: We didn't start the band off with any real political agenda; we just wanted to play good punk music. We weren't intentionally trying to start a queer band. But I think we started to realize that we were all queer and shared a lot of common political beliefs. We are also intentional in the way that we want our lyrics to come from a really personal place; we come from a background that is a mix of community projects/collectives, radical politics, and DIY punk ethos.
You put out a self-titled LP on Olympia's Rumbletowne Records last year. How long did that take to come together? Do you have other albums out there?
Karl: We probably took about a year and a half or so to put out that record. We recorded it with our buddy Joey at Left Field Studios, which is really just a house in Olympia. We actually recorded in the attic of the house during very hot days in July—we were pretty much playing in our underwear, and everything kept going out of tune. We also have an older 7-inch, Nothing Is Static, on Rumbletowne and a split LP with our friends Dogjaw from Olympia.
What's your take on Seattle's Pride parties?
Kaelen: Seattle Pride is something I get excited about every year. I think people's interpretations of its purpose are really different, and events can vary greatly. Companies have recognized that they can make a lot of money off Pride and have molded it into something from which they can profit.
The first Pride was a riot—trans* people and queer people were tired of having their lives criminalized. I think there's also this thing where people don't want to get too serious during Pride; they just want to have fun. I totally get that and am not interested in shaming other queer and trans* people for celebrating Pride at a beer garden or at an inaccessible space. I do think it's possible to talk about, act out against, and challenge transphobia, heteronormativity, and criminalization of our lives and still have a shit ton of fun.
Have you played Pride before?
Karl: A couple years ago, we played a punk show at the Cha Cha. It was probably the gayest we had ever seen that place.
Best, worst, weirdest Pride memories?
Kaelen: A few years ago during Pride, my girlfriend and I were catcalled while holding hands and walking outside of Linda's. A line of dudes on either side whistling and shit. I screamed "FUCK YOU" in the loudest, gnarliest voice I could manage. They didn't know what to say. That felt good. Later that night, across the street, the first Queers Fucking Queers—a dance party in the streets—came out of left field and was incredible.
Formed last summer, stirring dream-pop quartet Night Cadet comprises songwriter/keyboardist Seth Garrison, violist/composer Barret Anspach, guitarist/keyboardist Garrett Vance, and drummer Spencer Bray. With influences that include Cocteau Twins, Angelo Badalamenti, and Kate Bush, their songs are vast—heart-wrenching vocals soar over lush string arrangements and glimmering guitar—with enough passion to carry you through the joy of falling in love and the pain of breaking up. Two-song 7-inch Valley/Seaside will be released next month, and it is gorgeous: "Valley" gallops with swelling emotion while "Seaside" radiates a woozy, lovesick euphoria. Garrison answered a few questions on the terrors of Pride and the Northwest's happening queer music scene.
Where did your band name come from?
We were originally called Cadet—which I liked because it's simple and stately—but we had to change our name because of this dumb Christian band out of Eugene. We didn't want to fight with them, so we added "Night" because we like the image it creates.
Your first batch of recordings, a four-song EP, came out last February—where did you record?
We recorded with Erik Blood down in Sodo. We had the songs done before our second show, about a month into being a band. Recording and producing them took a little more than three days. That Erik is efficient! And so are we!
Does Night Cadet's collective queer identity inform your sound or lyrics?
I'm one of those people who thinks my queer identity informs most of the things that I do, so put simply, yes. That said, I don't think there's anything in the songs that would force the listener to inject that same identity—the feelings there are universal.
Have you played Pride before?
Yes! Last year, my other band the Fancy played Jodi Ecklund's Gay Ass Party at the Funhouse. It was the last one, and it was by far the most fun I've ever had at a Pride.
Best, worst, or weirdest Pride memories?
Weirdest: Seeing Sophie B. Hawkins at Cleveland Pride. Best: Coming up with/committing to the idea of throwing an awesome alternative queer music festival called 'Mo-Wave! Worst: Every other memory.
Any favorite local queer bands?
OH HELL YES! The list is so freaking long if I can count bands with at least one homo in them—can I do that? S, Sundries, Glitterbang, My Parade, Pony Time, Wishbeard—Jordan O'Jordan is my favorite thing IN THE WORLD—Hot Tears from Olympia, Magic Mouth from Portland...
"Fucking dyke bitches" was originally a homophobic slur used by a neighbor to refer to guitarist/vocalist Anthea and guitarist/vocalist Claire while the two were living in their hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina. They reclaimed the dis as an emboldened band name before moving to the Northwest, where Fucking Dyke Bitches evolved into a four-piece (CJ took on bass duties, Nora the drums), queer- issues-tackling punk band whose smart and seething lyrics ("Queer is more than he or she!") are hurled over Babes in Toyland– and Plasmatics-worthy guitar hooks. They recently toured with Olympia homo- hardcore band Dick Binge and shook Asheville, North Carolina—making the local news when community demands were made to censor their band names on the club's marquee. The band answered questions from the road.
Tell us about your band's transformation/moves across country.
Claire/Anthea: We formed in North Carolina in an attempt to promote queer visibility in an area that is largely homophobic. We were writing music to deal with the frustration that we were experiencing on a daily basis. In the decision to move, we struggled with how the band's main significance had been to promote a radical queer voice in the South, where both of us are from. After moving to the Northwest and gaining stability with our current lineup, we've been able to develop our song structures and material.
Do you have any best/worst/weirdest Pride memories?
Anthea: I saw The L Word band, Betty, at Pride in Ohio. I don't know if that was the best, worst, or weirdest, but it was really... something. Oh, and watching a sea full of dykes lose it when Melissa Ferrick sang "Drive" was really, really entertaining.
Nora: Being the only sober person at a huge dance party around 4 a.m. was pretty much the worst time I've had at Pride.
CJ: I've never really done Pride. I'm looking forward to celebrating it in Seattle this year.
Favorite current queer bands?
Dick Binge, Aye Nako, the Need, Team Dresch, Molasses Gospel, RVIVR, Half-Breed, Romantic Animal, S.B.S.M., Yva Las Vegass, Hot Tears, Saint Lorena, Agatha, Xanax, Dynasty Handbag, Big Dipper, just to name a few.
Favorite gay movie?
Nora: But I'm a Cheerleader.
CJ: All Over Me. Jenn Ghetto from S might be the modern-day Leisha Hailey from All Over Me. Also, Aimee & Jaguar, any shorts by Sadie Benning, and Golden Gums by Matt Wolf.
Claire: Fried Green Tomatoes.
Do you have any opinions on the corporate/sponsorship aspects of Pride?
CJ: It's frustrating that in order to celebrate certain parts of our identities, like being queer, we're expected to ignore other parts of ourselves, like being anticapitalist or punk.
Anthea: As gay rights have become an issue in the forefront of mainstream politics and news, LGBTQIA communities have become target groups for companies. These corporations that market toward LGBTQIA consumers are using their profits to support conservative, antigay platforms. Assimilation is dangerous. It's important to support alternative Pride events.
Nora: It's really important for queers to be aware that we are being very specifically targeted, and to be mindful that typically conservative corporations are profiting from "celebrating" our identities. Fuck that.
Let's talk gay tattoos. Any queer ink?
Anthea: Duh. We all have matching scissor tattoos that we got on our first West Coast tour in 2012.
CJ: All the tattoos on my body are gay. Some examples are triangles, pansies, a faggy bear, "sisterhood," and well... the scissors.