Out of the ether of the northwest flux comes doom-soul singer Aeon Fux. She is Olivia Hatfield (AKA Elytra), a 23-year-old music and Afrofuturism student at Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. She’s currently working on a futuristic gospel and beat album called Aposematic that's going to be released before the monarch butterfly overwintering sometime in early to mid fall. Some beats produced by Olympia’s Oak Body were made from sampling the sound of beetle wings.
Gatas Y Vatas promotes solo female artists, and they welcome trans and cis women, as well as genderqueer and non-binary people.
For this interview, I met Aeon at Pacific Science Center’s Butterfly House. The air was thick and moist inside.
Which insect do you feel most connected to?
I have a connection to parasitic wasps. My song “Tarantula Hawk” is about the tarantula hawk wasp. They’re a very advanced subspecies. They’re able to insert their stinger into a cockroach, and kind of take control of it. I try to write songs I think are relatable to both insects and people. I had a pet cockroach named Peaches for a while. I put a ceramic cathedral in her enclosure, so she lived inside this little church [laughs].
Your album is called Aposematic. Define aposematic.
Aposematism is warning coloration. It’s an anti-predator adaptation that signifies, “I’m prey, but I’m highly poisonous.” Lots of my songs are about invertebrates, mostly arthropods. One is about a carnivorous plant. I like the idea that messages can be conveyed without words. I used to be a huge metal-head, wearing all black. Now I dress pretty extravagantly, and brightly, which brings some attention. I was able to walk around more invisibly before. So I think of my bright colors as warning colors warding off unwanted advances. If they mess with me they’ll get poison.
What goes into making your beats?
My process is minimal. I don’t have any looping software, so when you hear a beat repeating, that’s me playing it. I’ll make purring sounds, and weird growls. I also like to play strange instruments like the omnichord and glockenspiel. I draw influence from Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Sade, some X-Ray Spex, and Janet Jackson. I also like a couple Japanese pop duos—Wink from the 80s, and Pink Lady from the 70s.
What do you look for with your fashion? How do you put your looks together?
In the realm of plus-size fashion, it can be hard to put an outfit together. Most of plus-size stuff is floral print, or leopard print, things I’m not really into. Alien Bug Queen is the archetype of my look. I’m always striving for that [laughs]. But sometimes I’m feeling more rhinestone cowboy. I have lots of clothes with wizards and dragons on them. And unicorns. I like to play with silhouettes, and shape, and they way clothes fit on my body. I find stuff on eBay, and plus size labels like Rue 107, and Asos Curve.
What was your reaction when you found out about Sandra Bland’s death?
This type of thing is a recurring thing. At this point, it feels like genocide. There are so many black people that have been killed by the police, I think the statistic is every 28 hours it happens. And that’s unacceptable. Sandra’s traffic violation was such a minimal offense. In no way shape or form was any violence necessary, let alone her death.
What do white people need to know?
I think they need to know that right now, the police in America are not here to protect people of color. People will say, “Oh, there are good cops out there.” Really? Where are they? Why are they so silent when their colleagues are murdering people? And then there’s the fact that people of color can’t call the police when they’re in trouble, because they themselves might end up dead. If someone’s 80 year-old grandmother is afraid to call the police because of what might happen, then you know that there is something absolutely wrong, and there needs to be complete police reform.
What do you think of the police?
I fear the police. I try not to put myself in positions where they will be anywhere near me. There was the shooting not long ago in Olympia. Where a cop shot two young black men, then lied, saying they assaulted him with a skateboard. The cop shot them unjustly, he wasn’t assaulted, he shot them in the back. It happened at a store I used to shop in frequently, just down the street from where I lived. There were these counter protests, by actual neo-Nazis, and there was a period of time where it was unsafe to be downtown as a person of color because they were going on patrols looking for people to start trouble with. It was tense. You had to rely on a network of people trying to look out for each other. It’s 2015, and this type of thing is still happening. I played a benefit show to help pay for Bryson and Andre’s medical expenses. They’re the ones who were shot, and they shouldn’t have to pay for their medical expenses by themselves. We’re waiting to see what happens.
Who is a voice we need to listen to?
As far as national politics, Bernie Sanders is the only one who has spoken out about Sandra Bland.
What are your thoughts on the #blacklivesmatter protesters taking over the Bernie Sanders rally in Seattle?
I think that the response to the protesters was absolutely disgusting, and that Seattle should be ashamed. Can white residents of Seattle who claim to be allies of the movement really not handle a bit of necessary civil disobedience? There were people booing during the request for a moment of silence for Mike Brown, so close to the anniversary of his death. Ferguson was in a state of emergency. People in Seattle were calling for the arrest of the protesters. Why would they try to incite violence against the brave black women that stood up on that stage? It's very difficult for me to understand why white people don't get that these are issues that need to be addressed and given a platform. I think that asking Bernie Sanders to answer for his inaction is perfectly reasonable, and the anti-blackness that transpired at the rally showed Seattle's true colors regarding race. What platform are the #blacklivesmatter protesters supposed to take in order to be heard? Why can white people stand by us and chant "no justice, no peace" when it’s convenient for them, but when we are trying to be heard and make change, we are met with violence? What does white allyship mean in Seattle, and in America?
Has your opinion of Bernie Sanders changed?
I think his silence spoke volumes, and I am disappointed, but not entirely surprised. Bernie Sanders has to appeal to his white audience, but I think that if he had stood in solidarity with the protesters and let them speak without leaving, it would have said a lot about his campaign and him as a person. I will be watching his campaign closely.