"Everything. Everything is about mental-health issues and systemic injustice," said Aya Mara, lead singer and primary lyricist of Seattle band Razor Clam, describing the inspiration behind their songs. "A lot of it is coping with depression, having friends who are suicidal. Dealing with racism. Whatever's on my mind."
The five self-identified femmes of Razor Clam—who recently chatted with me in their shared Crybaby Studios practice space—also draw on their personal experiences with trauma and social-justice work, channeling their energies into making music reminiscent of New Order and Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Since forming in early 2017, the group has released Vicious Sea Cows, an otherworldly, six-song EP mixed by Jason Shao. The bops haunt with trenchant trysts and caustic pomp.
"We've all been to therapy; we all have ADHD that manifests itself differently," said keyboardist and vocalist Natasha Lumba, calling their collective "goth-creepy.""It's basically like if you get your support group together to play instruments," guitarist and vocalist Jeff Tapia explained. "I think that's a big cornerstone of it—understanding everyone's damage really, really helps."
This unflinching transparency has been embraced by Razor Clam's audiences. As they actively treat one another with care, listeners often respond in kind."It seems like with the people who come to our shows, there's mutual inspiration," Mara said. "Having that space for people who are LGBTQ is really important."
"Presenting as femme, reclaiming that and just being ourselves is really cool," said bassist Ana Vonhuben. "Doing it in a way where you're taking control can inspire other people to do that for themselves, too."
Their commitment to serving marginalized people helps draw in diverse crowds, while empowering costumes amp up unforgettable sets. Vonhuben often categorizes her outfits—"Lounge Witch," "Gay Magician"—while Lumba's look is a mix between Bratz dolls and Louise Belcher. From Tapia's trademark glitter-beard to Mara's array of handmade merkins, the musicians unapologetically celebrate queerness."I don't want people to make assumptions about my gender at all," said Tapia, describing their self- presentation and chosen name. "[People] will ask me, like, 'What are you?' And I'm like, 'You'll never know!'" they laughed. "Because it's my business. Stay out of it!"
"This is the only place where I feel at all welcome," said Lumba, who has lived in a handful of different cities. "The people I know here are a lot more accepting and weird."
"There's actual community here, where people will come through," Vonhuben added. "I think we've all been in that place, both giving and receiving community kindness."
To bolster this counterculture, the band invests in local art and LGBTQIA organizations. They frequently volunteer at Planned Parenthood and Rain City Rock Camp for Girls, and proceeds from their shows have gone to Gay City and Northwest Immigrant Rights.
This fall, Razor Clam will be recording with Ben Jenkins at Killroom Studios, creating more "angular, garbage-people" music, per Tapia. They also have upcoming appearances at Sunset Tavern and Freakout Festival. Even with their self-described anxieties, the quintet has no qualms about the work ahead.
"We know our idiosyncrasies; we know how we're all kinda fucked up," said drummer Jess Bierhaus. "I feel like we all really respect and, like, genuinely love each other for who we really are."
According to Tapia, "We save the ego for the stage."