CO LO R A D O'S LG B TQ M AGA ZINE | F R E E
C I S MSUSUE I
O U T F R O N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M // 1
CONTENTS MAY 20, 2020 VOL44 NO4
HOW NOT TO APPROPRIATE BLACK AND BROWN QUEER MUSIC
THE UNSTOPPABLE KALEENA ZANDERS
QUARANTINED QTPOC MUSICAL COLLABORATION
JAY MAQ GETS PERSONAL WITH SOLO PROJECT
WHAT WILL FESTS LOOK LIKE THIS SUMMER?
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PLASMA CANVAS: RECORD DEAL IS A DREAM COME TRUE
26 GAYTHEIST: EXPLORING POST-APOCALYPTIC ISOLATION NORMALCY
SERVING THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS SINCE 1976 PHONE 303-477-4000 FAX 303-325-2642 WEB OutFrontMagazine.com FACEBOOK /OutFrontColorado TWITTER @OutFrontCO INSTAGRAM /OutFrontColorado FOUNDER PHIL PRICE 1954-1993 ADMINISTRATION firstname.lastname@example.org JERRY CUNNINGHAM Publisher J.C. MCDONALD Vice President MAGGIE PHILLIPS Operations Manager JEFF JACKSON SWAIM Chief Strategist EDITORIAL email@example.com ADDISON HERRON-WHEELER Editor VERONICA L. HOLYFIELD Creative Director KEEGAN WILIAMS Copy Editor BRENT HEINZE Senior Columnist DENNY PATTERSON Celebrity Interviewer INTERNS: Apollo Blue, Arianna BalderramaRay Manzari, Rick Kitzman, Sadie Cheney, Sophia Gabrielson WRITERS: Emily Baker, Lauren Archuletta, Padideh Aghanourny ART firstname.lastname@example.org DESIGN2PRO Graphic Designer COVER DESIGN Veronica L. Holyfield COVER PHOTO Courtesy of jaymaqmusic.com MARKETING + SALES email@example.com BENJAMIN YOUNG Director of Sales & Marketing QUINCEY ROISUM Marketing Executive KELSEY ELGIE DOMIER Marketing Executive KAYTE DEMONT Marketing Executive
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FROM THE EDITOR
This is an incredibly tough time for musicians and creatives across the board. Usually, when summer rolls around, we look forward to road trips, music festivals, and shows. It doesn’t matter if your genre is metal, country, or hip-hop—there are always some pretty good shows, and a lot of them cross genres.
musicians are spending the extra time writing,
This summer, that isn’t the case. Musicians are hunkering down for more time at home, putting all travel plans on hold, and coming to terms with the fact that their summer tours won’t happen.
waives all fees and gives all profits to the musicians,
Things are especially hard for marginalized musicians, such as queer musicians and musicians of color. These folks often have to work twice as much to be recognized and have fewer funds at their disposal.
is plenty of time to support the musicians we love.
However, it’s not all darkness and despair. During quarantine, creativity is being tapped, and music is being made. Without touring and playing shows,
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recording, and playing. In some cases, this is the first time ever folks have had the downtime to create. We can ensure that this creation keeps up by supporting the musicians we love. Every few months, Bandcamp and other programs are following suit. From paid livestreams and buying merch and records to setting aside funds for whenever bands resume touring, there So, while this may be a summer without shows, don’t make it a summer without music. Show the musicians you listen to every day some love, and you’ll help make sure they keep on doing what they do best. -Addison Herron-Wheeler
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Allyship Allyship in in the the Music Music Industry Industry
How How Not Not to to Appropriate Appropriate Black Black and and Brown Brown Queer Music Queer Music by Emily Baker
merican, queer music has a rich history in predominantly black and brown communities today. Whether it’s inspired by blues artist Gladys Bentley, early, Latinx pop musician Ricky Martin, or trap music pioneer DJ Ken Collier, queer music historically developed in marginalized communities of color. Unfortunately, queer music usually raises acclaim and revenue when white or straight artists commercialize it in the mainstream.
is the education and recruitment specialist for Boston GLASS, an LGBTQ resource center. He is also a member of the Boston ballroom House of Mona Lisa, having previously vogued here in Denver. While Taylor Swift has released multiple songs with pro-LGBTQ lyrics, Nilsson was skeptical of her intentions as a white, straight artist. Were those songs an effort to pander to a new market, or has she only recently noticed the experiences of those around her?
I write this with full acknowledgement of my privilege as a white lady. I’m not an expert in the experiences of black and brown members of the music industry. But, I ask the following question: Is it possible for artists and allies to appreciate queer music made by black and brown artists without appropriating?
Compare Swift’s experience with that of Lady Gaga, who made music in the same time period. According to Nilsson, Gaga’s proLGBTQ bops were “straight-washed” by the mainstream music industry because she was a bisexual woman dating men. This isn’t factoring in race. Nilsson commended artists like Bad Bunny for his fluid gender expression and advocacy in the public eye, especially as a straight-identifying, Puerto Rican man.
Why do I keep saying “black and brown,” you may ask? The people I interviewed are black and Latinx folks who have lived in Denver and experienced the music industry here. Their experiences are theirs alone, as unique as the music they interact with. Not everyone had the same understanding of musical appropriation and appreciation. For example, Julian Nilsson
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Ru Johnson, owner and promoter at Roux Black Consulting, sees Bad Bunny’s gender-fluid performances as a form of allyship, but not as a “statement about his sexuality.” She believes we need to push gender fluidity farther than cisgender men dressing feminine. Johnson cited Drake’s music video for “Nice for What”
featuring inspirational black women in pop culture. However, she pointed out how Big Freedia wasn’t represented in the music video she provided vocals for. According to Johnson, “It would have only enhanced Drake’s perspective as a progressive ally if she was included in the video.” Johnson mentioned artists like Junglepussy and Snow Tha Product for their fierce advocacy for members of the LGBTQ community. When at Snow’s shows, she feels safe because, “[Snow]’s a woman in rap who doesn’t let the typical misogyny slide at her shows and provides an atmosphere we can all enjoy.” Johnson said she had to fight harder to be heard in the Denver music industry, especially in hip-hop. When dealing with white, industry folks, they discounted her because of her blackness. When dealing with black colleagues, men’s voices were often heard first. Intersectionality is useless if people only feign inclusivity but don’t change their behavior. Similarly, Vonna Wolf is a proudly Chicana, Denver musician who has dabbled in punk, hip-hop, and everything in between. She recently got her MS in recording arts from the University of Colorado Denver. While Wolf doesn’t consider herself expressly queer, she describes herself as an “alien” rather than traditionally feminine. Her experiences as a Chicana musician mirror LGBTQ experiences: watching white artists make money from music trends her community invented. Wolf was disappointed with peoples’ response to Shakira and Jennifer Lopez’s Super Bowl performance. While white women could wear essentially the same outfits and dance the same choreography, when women of color did it, it was seen as obscene. But Wolf was proud to see two Latinx women performing in one of America’s most-watched musical events. Wolf brought up Snow Tha Product’s advocacy as well, appreciating her heritage and bisexuality, which are often expressed on stage. Fans in Denver hand her Mexican and Pride flags. Considering her vibe is “out of this world,” Wolf is very down to earth about how artists can be good allies. Nilsson, Johnson, and Wolf agreed the internet provides opportunities for musicians of color. With permission, musicians can borrow sound samples to repeat in electronic and trap music released for free on platforms like SoundCloud. Wolf
appreciated the communication and connections artists could forge through the internet. Nilsson was excited artists like Lil Nas X can reach the Billboard Top 100 while openly queer and black. But Johnson saw less accountability as a result of online music sharing. Does every SoundCloud rapper research the audio clip they borrowed and properly cite who first made it? We are in an interesting age in the music industry. More people today can access instruments and production technology, lowering a barrier to aspiring musicians. People are listening to genres they wouldn’t have encountered if it wasn’t for their YouTube algorithms. But have our attitudes really changed? We are still hearing white- and straight-washed versions of previously raw and honest, queer musical trends. Karen at the grocery store still says “yaaaas queen” while calling trap music too aggressive. I would say some attitudes have changed. If this article were written 40 years ago, the interviews would have been with straight, white record executives. But even today, you’re reading about appropriation in the music industry from a straight-passing, white lady. What are you able to control in this situation? The music you listen to. To not be a part of the problem, all us white folks need to listen to more queer artists of color in a way that will get them paid. There are a couple mentioned above. Buy their albums, and tell your friends about them. You aren’t personally responsible for the past, but you’re responsible for what you choose to do now. Don’t let white, straight artists take all the credit for the music you like.
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Fests Look Like this Summer?
A Chat with Rocky Mountain Virtual Music Festival by Padideh Aghourney
oncert venues, theaters, and bars show no sign of opening up soon— and for good reason, considering the curve has yet to flatten in the U.S. Yet, musicians are itching to play, hungry for gigs, and music fans and concert-goers are similarly, anxiously devouring any and all new musical content as quarantine threatens our collective sanity. Luckily for Coloradans, two industry insiders have put together a virtual music festival that streams live every week—the Rocky Mountain Virtual Music Festival. “A huge chunk of our lives are dedicated to going to shows, planning tours, booking gigs—it’s our lifeblood, our passion, and it all of a sudden just went away,” said Sarah Schuel, one of the founders of RMVMF. Schuel manages the band Float Like a Buffalo, who were two days into a 23stop, national tour before concert venues around the country began shutting down due to fears of spreading coronavirus.
to help musicians and music fans alike, Schuel and festival co-founder Alyssa Montano quickly began organizing over Saint Patrick’s Day weekend, and three days later, March 20, the first rendition of the virtual festival went live.
school teacher, shared some helpful words
RMVMF has streamed every single Friday since then, going from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The festival features live sets from 10 performing acts, as well as live painters and visual artists. Between streams, the RMVMF Facebook page spotlights new and upcoming releases from local artists— and every artist that appears on RMVMF has their Venmo and Paypal accounts listed, along with a virtual tip jar during live streams. “One hundred percent of the proceeds go directly to the artists,” Montano said.
a pandemic, and you are trying to work.’
“[It] was very, very heartbreaking,” said Schuel, mainly because it happened to be the band’s first-ever, national tour, as well. “For a few days after that, I was just kind of moping around—no direction. I wasn’t sure what to do and was scared of everything that was happening.”
After the first stream, the production team behind ARISE Music Festival reached out to RMVMF and have since lent their support. ARISE host watch parties on their social media accounts and help boost posts from the RMVMF page, share lineups, and even occasionally pop in during the live streams. ARISE stream their own events as well, and RMVMF reciprocates the support, creating a mutually beneficial, musical experience for concert-goers at home.
As Denver locked down for the stay-athome order, Schuel spoke with a musician friend who earned her entire living off of playing gigs about how the main source of income for many, many artists in Colorado and the rest of the states had evaporated overnight. Feeling restless and wanting
While both women have created the RMVMF platform to bring financial support to help musicians share live and new music, they also stress that the drive for productivity during these unprecedented times is a double-edged sword. Montano, who works as a middle
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of wisdom from the principal of the school where she works. “‘Please keep in mind that you are not working from home; you are home during And the same goes for musicians,” so go easy on yourselves. “If you're not ready to go live, that’s OK! We want to showcase your music; we want to post about your Spotify, anything that can help [musicians] out right now,” Montano stated. Schuel excitedly shared some of the feedback they’ve gotten for these streams, including what one artist told her: He’d woken up that day with the familiar feeling of nerves and excitement that precedes a gig, a feeling he hadn’t felt in a long while. “That’s what we hope we can do. Just bring back a sense of normalcy,” Schuel said. Schuel and Montano both emphasized that anyone—no matter how big or small, professional or beginner—should send in an audition tape. They also offered some tips for landing a virtual gig. “Make sure the audio quality is good enough to stream,” Schuel said, and small details like tidying up your living room before a stream can go a long way. “Treat it like a real, live audition,” and who knows? Maybe you’ll be the next star billed on the lineup.
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What makes you queer-friendly and LGBTQ-accepting? We’re queer-friendly because I myself am a gay man, making us queer-own and operated. We’re also a member of the LGBTQ Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, and we also donate every year to the Red Ball, which is a
Nothing exciting coming up on the horizon, but we did just celebrate seven years of ownership at our location in Northglenn on May 1. Is there anything else you want to add? Lastly, I’d like to add that we specialize in gift baskets for any occasion. We also hand-deliver locally and ship nationally. Our slogan for the baskets is, “the gift that never gets re-gifted.”
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by Veronica L. Holyfield
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Photos by Harp Digital Media
How are you doing right now during this weird time in history? I'm doing pretty well; the first couple weeks, I was really depressed and feeling odd, but then, I think I've found my stride. I've still been able to work from home and also record vocals. I did have a couple, like, tour dates that were canceled, but I'm actually enjoying a lot of this time, too. I've had a lot of time to reflect and get creative.
You have a robust catalog of collaborations in the EDM community; how did those come to be? Twenty-fifteen is when I started collaborating with people more because I had a big dance track come out, and then a bunch of people were hitting me up, and I started to learn about how important collaboration was. It definitely paved the way for me, especially in the dance space where, for gay women, it’s an interesting path, so I've been fortunate enough to be in it in a very big way. tronger Than I’ve Ever Been”: Not only is that the track that put Kaleena Zanders at the top of our queer-centric music radar, it’s also a rallying anthem and a way we can push through this odd time. Released in 2018, the song was snatched up by the Winter Olympics and the Super Bowl due to the courage and intensity the LGBTQ-inspired music video shows. If you didn’t shed at least one tear to this track, are you even human?
Can you talk about queer women representation in EDM?
Zanders exudes a fearless and unstoppable energy, from the way she eloquently speaks of her queer identity to how she lets it all go on stage, all the way to the recent innovation of creativity she is exploring during this new normal. She has made a career of being a queer, musical activist, and she’s decided to channel her vision into helping others through her music. She sees herself as a superhero and wants her brand to reflect that.
Did that push come from the artists or from within the industry to reach a broader audience?
Turning her life experience into untamable melodies, this songstress is not only conquering the stage, she has her aspirations aimed for the top of entertainment. OUT FRONT recently spoke with Zanders about her wild, on-stage energy, how she is keeping away the social distancing blues, and how she is changing the status quo in queer musician representation.
EDM music is becoming more open to women and queer women, but previously, it wasn't at all a highlight or focus, and no one knew who they were if they were doing it. There's been a big push in the industry for change in the last year; there's women on bills as of last year just because, I think, the whole world became more sensitive about highlighting queer culture and women.
I think it's a little bit of both; when the #MeToo movement happened, I think we started to look at cultures. For instance, there's been a lot of DJs who had to stop their careers because of harassment, so I just think people became more sensitive. It's really, really nice. I feel comfortable in the spaces that I go into, in the studios; it's just a nice time to be out.
Speaking of being out, was your song “Stronger Than I’ve Ever Been” the first time you were out with your audience about your sexuality? Yeah, absolutely. Yes, yes, yes, yes. People knew, but that was the first time in a public way, in Billboard magazine, that I actually said that. It was definitely the moment for me. I’ve always been a little bit shy because of my mom; she definitely didn't want me to be gay. So, when I did that video, I just really wanted to be like, ‘This is who I am.’ It was important to me.
How did it feel writing that song and releasing it into the world? It was a struggle thinking about my childhood, basically the relationship that I had with my mom, and how I had been afraid to really come out in a major way. After releasing it, I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know it was going to have that impact for a lot of people.’ Not just for gay people, but for
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everyone, and partly because it was licensed to the Winter Olympics and the Super Bowl, so a lot of people were able to connect with it. It started off something for myself, but then it reached millions and millions of people with a lot of different backgrounds and stories.
Is there an artist or song that stands out to you as being incredibly impactful? I'll be honest; my whole influence would be Queen Latifah because I love her career entirely, and I love how she's a queer woman in that space. She started off as a rapper, and then she's an actress, and she's got this really big platform. To me, she's an example of someone I would like to be like; that's how I would love my evolution to be.
How was music a way for you to process through some of those emotions when you were younger? We had this piano in our garage that I used to play, and my mom would always be like, ‘Why are you always playing that sad music?’ There were girls that I liked in high school, and that was awkward. I fell in love with my best friend, and we used to write letters to each other every day; she couldn’t understand what she was feeling, and I didn’t either ... I was just angsty, and rock music, I always found it to be a place where I can really let go.
Can you talk about what it’s like navigating through the music industry?
Yeah, I would love to be in movies; I want to be a superhero. Recently, I've been getting together with a couple of creators to try to create that in my brand.
I have a lot of frustrations with the music industry, not for being gay, but just trying to get songs played, and dealing with people can be very frustrating. I always tell my girlfriend, it feels like everyone in music is a pathological liar, and it’s very cliquey. I can’t wait to release this next EP because it’s going to be rock and funk mixed together, and I get to express that explosive energy that I have.
That seems like a really cool fit, and really ties into your larger-than-life stage persona.
Have you noticed any consistent roadblocks along the way?
Definitely, and when I'm on stage, I call myself, like, the female Blanka because I feel like I'm electrified with this crazy energy.
I try not to look at everything as, like, ‘Oh, I'm a black female, and I'm gay; that's why I'm not getting opportunities,’ because I have gotten so many opportunities, but sometimes, I do feel that way. I ask questions, try to get the truth and honesty out of people, which is hard, and rejection is hard. A lot of times in this business, it’s just, ‘Are you right for the part?’
Are there other forms of entertainment you are interested in pursuing?
Where did you find this electrified version of yourself to let out on stage? I always think of myself as being super chill, but I've just always had this wild energy running through me. Growing up, it also turned into a lot of anger too because of emotional issues, things you go through as a child, and my mom made me really mad, so it turned to explosive anger. I remember having to work on it and reel it back in, so I think when I'm, like, on stage, I'm able to let go.
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What other, new music do you have coming out soon besides your EP? I have a new single coming out at the end of the month with my friend Vanessa Michaels called “Creme Brulee.” We’re both queer ladies, and we both do electronic music, and we decided to do a 90s, throwback, R&B track.
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From Boy Band to One-Man Music Machine
PERSONAL WITH SOLO PROJECT by Addison Herron-Wheeler Photos provided by jaymaqmusic.com 1 6 \\ M A Y 2 0 , 2 0 2 0
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"I CAN TALK ABOUT MY OWN EXPERIENCE, BUT I CAN’T REALLY EXPLAIN ANYONE ELSE’S, SO, IT’S IMPORTANT FOR US TO ALL TELL OUR STORIES."
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irst making his splash in the R&B world with EchoV, whose claim to fame was being the first all-gay boyband, Jay MaQ is back, and the plan is to make music that is more personal and compelling than ever. In a society where black, gay men are still ostricized and some of the most marginalized folks in the U.S., Jay MaQ proudly wears lipstick and heels, blending sex appeal and the masculine and feminine aesthetics. Musically, he also plays with all ranges and styles to create pop that is unique and nuanced. His catchy single “No Love” made a splash this spring, melding moody melodies with lyrics about heartbreak we can all relate to. OUT FRONT caught up with Jay MaQ to talk about forthcoming music and future plans.
How did you first get into music, and how did you become a member of the first, all-gay boy band? I first got turned on to music probably at about 4 or 5. My parents are very big church people; my father's a minister, and my mother is head deaconess. So, we went to church a lot, which means I started off in the toddler choir and just sort of progressed from there. I went from that onto other choirs in the area, then started to do musical theater, and then onto R&B and hip-hop in college. I joined the group a few years after moving to California. I wasn’t really doing anything with music at the time, and I got extremely stressed out and anxious about not being fulfilled, even though everything else was going right in my life. So, I started searching for things; I ended up on Craigslist looking for a band who wanted a singer, and then just decided, let’s audition for the boy band; why not? And then, once I made it through auditions, we all sort of meshed together, and ironically, we all ended up being gay. Then it was like, ‘Oh wow, we’re setting out to make a very diverse, gay, boy band.’
What was that experience like, being in such a diverse band? As diverse as we were, we had some real fun, cultural overlap, like everyone kind of had a little bit of musical theatre in their background. Everyone kind of had knowledge of hip-hop and R&B; everyone had some sort of dance training. So, it was really fun and interesting how different we all were but how we had these overlaps. We were working together all week, all weekend; we just kind of become each other’s everything.
What inspired you to go off on your own after that? March and April of last year, I was having some struggles with my career path, like what I was doing, and I really needed to take a step back, because being in the band was kind of like having two, full-time jobs. You get up; you go to work, and then you’d be spending hours in rehearsal. So, I took a step back because I was struggling with my career and wanted to do something that made me a little more fulfilled and happy. I stepped back from the band, but I just kept writing and producing, and by the time I was ready to step back in, they all had kind of disbanded, so I struck out on my own.
What do you consider your main inspiration right now? I’ve found myself really inspired by reggae music and a lot of Latin sounds. I have this really big urge to pull from, like, traditional, R&B types of styles. The project I’m releasing this year kind of swings back and forth between a lot of influences, but it’s very hip-hop and R&B with a pop edge to every aspect of it.
What are you focusing on right now that COVID-19 has interrupted touring plans? I’m focusing more on doing things like finding ways to stream live performances on a regular basis without breaking the bank. I just ordered speakers and a mixer, brand-new microphones. For me, it’s all about what content I can create on my own and being prepared with ideas as soon as I can jump back into things.
During such tough times, how are you focusing your message to reach other queer folks and people of color? I think it’s really important to be authentic. I happen to take up space as a gay, black man from the South with my own experiences, and I feel like it’s very important for every kind of voice to be heard. I think that’s where we’ll get to a sort of understanding about representation. I can talk about my own experience, but I can’t really explain anyone else’s, so, it’s important for us to all tell our stories.
What are you focusing on the most this year? This year, the focus is on individual singles being released throughout the year that are more like standalone, individual projects. The first step is also to create more visuals for those. Right now, I’m in the process of finishing the writing for my EP, and then I’ll be getting into the studio to record everything.
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Loud, Gay, and Blessed by Addison Herron-Wheeler Photos by Ryan Frazee
ver since she was little, Adrienne Rae Ash wanted to be in a successful punk band, on the road, playing shows. And now she is. She’s also living her life as an out, proud trans woman and dares any homophobes in the punk scene to have a problem with the “loudest, gayest band in the world.” But, as we all know, there’s a cloud on the horizon for Ash’s band, Plasma Canvas, and all their dreams. This summer, they were meant to set off on tour with Less Than Jake and Lagwagon following their signing to Side One Dummy Records. For anyone knowledgeable about pop punk and melodic hardcore, that’s more than a dream come true. Then COVID-19 hit. “I’m not gonna lie to you; it’s such a weird mix of feelings right now because we announced that we were signed this label that I’ve wanted to be on for my whole life in the middle of a pandemic,” Ash said. “It’s this thing that we’ve been working on for so long, and now that we finally get to talk about it, we don’t get to have a release show. It’s kind of a bummer, but we’re trying to stay positive and focused on the future, and when we finally are able to, we’re still gonna go on tour with Lagwagon and Less Than Jake." Looking to start the band of her dreams, Ash put out an ad on Craigslist in Fort Collins, CO where the band is based. The ad explained she had songs she wanted to record and just needed a drummer. Her initial experiences with transphobic drummers who didn’t want to deal with her political lyrics were disappointing, but finally, four years ago, she found Dave, who was a great bandmate but eventually had to leave for personal reasons, and then she found her current bandmate, Jude McCarron. The band continued garnering underground success, playing shows and booking tours, and were eventually picked up by one of Ash’s favorite labels, SideOneDummy. Not only did the label not mind that Ash’s band has a queer, political agenda, they embraced it. Their forthcoming record, KILLERMAJESTIC, won’t hold back on the message or the music, although they don’t need to be heavy-handed to make their message heard. “Our first record had a few on-the-nose, political songs on it, and our second record had stuff that was very outward-directed. But, this EP is all about interpersonal relationships and just existing as a trans person and as a queer person in general. A lot of times, that alone seems like an act of rebellion because we’re told by the religious right, the alt-right, the current political administration, that we’re not right. So, naturally, when I write about being a trans woman, it’s just like, ‘I exist, and these are my words.’ It feels like even saying that is a political statement. Even if I’m just talking about things like relationships, having a crush on a straight girl, or hating my job and not wanting to go in, the subtext is: I’m a trans person. It’s hard for me not to be political.” 2 0 \\ M A Y 2 0 , 2 0 2 0
PLASMA CANVAS’ RECORD DEAL IS A DREAM
In addition to this inherent political stance, Plasma Canvas also refer to themselves as the loudest, gayest band in the world. While they know that certain bands outside the pop-punk realm may actually be louder, the idea is to poke fun at those scared of a loud, gay band.
“It feels like we piss off the right people by saying that, so I’m going to continue to do so,” Ash laughed. The band also wants to use their music to make those who are marginalized feel more powerful.
“It’s always been the plan, but right now, it’s at the forefront,” she explained. “We want to use our music for empowerment among people who currently feel powerless. That’s always what we’ve been about, but now that we can’t do things like get a bunch of people together
WE’RE GOING TO DO MEANINGFUL THINGS, BECAUSE MUSIC WAS ALWAYS SUPPOSED TO BE MORE THAN A MOSH PIT. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A WAY FOR MARGINALIZED PEOPLE TO FEEL THAT THIS IS THEIR PLACE TO EXIST.
O U T F R O N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M // 2 1
in the same room and sweat and sing and scream at the top of our lungs, what we can do is encourage people to advocate for themselves and organize and form communities and stand up to the people that are trying to oppress them. “Whether that means organizing a rent strike or trying to divert energies we could be using on tour into community organizing and taking care of the people that are the most vulnerable, we are going to do something. We’re going to do meaningful things because our music was always supposed to be more than a mosh pit. It was supposed to be a way for marginalized people to feel that this is their place to exist.”
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Quarantined, QTPOC Musical Collaboration
How one Denver Band are Handling Remote Music Production
undays have a l w ay s been important for TúLips. Since forming back in 2018, the self-described “feminista, genre-non-conforming, BIQTPOC” band collective have come together at the beginning of each week to practice, write music and lyrics, and generally share space and community with one another. With social distancing guidelines in place due to the outbreak 2 4 \\ M A Y 2 0 , 2 0 2 0
of COVID-19, TúLips, like many bands, have shifted their approach to creating music, reaching audiences, and even reaching one another.
“At the very beginning, my biggest grief was really around our space as a band, like how we would come together for practice” said vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Celesté Martinez. “I was looking forward to the cool things [shows] we had coming up and beginning
to imagine what those would look like. Now, it’s about reimagining those things and continuing to imagine how we can still make music and connection.” According to vocalist and songwriter Vic Gómez Betancouet, the group originally had plans to record an EP to be released at a PrideFest show. However, with some tweaks to their recording process, the artists continue to work on it today. Like many musicians practicing social distancing, TúLips turned to Soundtrap to collaborate with one another. The cloud-based app is complete with more than 4,000 preset beats, loops, and instruments, allowing musicians to collaborate with one another anywhere in the world. For the members of TúLips, the hardest part of remote collaboration is recording individually. “It’s really a puzzle to jump into a track and piece it together across distances,” said multi-instrumentalist Stevie Gunter, who brings previous Soundtrap experience to the group. “The recording setup is different, so you have to be really strategic.” Martinez says this pandemic made her realize how much she relies on being with the group, both in the recording process but also in how she approaches their music. “Us recording individually is so different than when I’m together with them as a group,” she explained. “There’s one song that Vic sings lead on, and I have never learned the lyrics to that song. I didn’t realize how much I lean on vocal queues.”
engineer on Soundtrap for the up-and-coming TúLips EP. Zamora finds joy in rollerskating, and Martinez is delving into her guitar skills and leaning into her role as the group’s social media coordinator. From streaming live sets at home to lifting the voices of other QTPOC bands, TúLips are getting loud online. “We are really active on social media, so people can go see us on a regular basis to hear our music,” Martinez said. “We have always been very vocal about social justice issues, and we are constantly finding ways to engage in relevant things through our postings. Sometimes, we’re supporting a cause or taking a stand about companies that are profiting from our pain and our death at this point, and other times, we’re keeping it light. Either way, we’re using social media as a tool to reach QTPOC across the country as a way to connect through our voices and our music.” This is not the ideal way to produce or consume music, but TúLips are leading by example in the social distancing games. During this uncertain time, musicians can look to them as leaders in the local music industry for ways to engage with audiences and among each other. For now, the group will continue to meet on Sunday afternoons, sharing community, making music with one another, and trying their best to adjust to the times. Hear TúLips on Facebook at Facebook.com/TúLipsDenver or Instagram @tulips_denver.
Martinez goes on to say that once she fully learned how to sing the song, the next obstacle was harnessing the energy to perform on the track. “I didn’t feel like I could bring that spirit by myself at first,” she said. “I had to sing it until I could imagine I was singing at a performance, even though it’s just me in my living room with all my instruments. It’s going to be a process.” Finding the energy to create and perform is something each member of TúLips struggles with right now. Although the band does their best to collaborate while social distancing—even going as far as ensuring contactless delivery of freshly sanitized mics and mic stands and equipment—the musicians are still struggling with the full switch to an “online-only” mentality. “I struggled a lot going into this because I feed so much from our music and this band,” said drummer Lu Zamora. “In general, my digital life is something that doesn’t feel tangible to me, so it’s hard for me to feel the same kinds of urgency or presence all through digital means. The digital work doesn’t call to me the way that my chosen family and ‘famigos’ hype me up. It’s just not there.” In an effort to find the energy and enthusiasm to make music as a group, the TúLips members have used this time in quarantine to hone in on their own creative processes. For Gómez Betancourt, that involves lots of painting, though she admits to feeling the anxiety weighing on her in terms of creativity and music at large. Gunter has taken a step back from juggling school, working multiple jobs, and TúLips and is now acting as the sound O U T F R O N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M // 2 5
by Veronica L. Holyfield
POST-APOCALYPTIC ISOLATION NORMALCY 2 6 \\ M A Y 2 0 , 2 0 2 0
by Veronica L. Holyfield Photo provided by Gaytheist O U T F R O N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M // 2 7
et's be real: COVID-19 has not only wreaked havoc on our community, it has completely squashed the music scene. With venues being forced to close due to the Colorado social distancing ordinance, we have kissed goodbye hundreds of amazing live concerts and spring music events. There is light amid this weird darkness, though, as we have been able to discover and rediscover some amazing music with this abundance of time. That, among the plethora of meme-scrolling, has been life-saving in this otherwise-tragic time. We had the chance to catch up with Jason Rivera of Gaytheist just before their Denver show was canceled, and the world went on lockdown. While the news of concert spaces closing and tours being postponed made headlines in the music world, Rivera remained in good spirits and is optimistic about getting back out on the road again and sharing their upcoming, brand-new album with the inevitably stir-crazy crowds. Pacific Northwest-based Gaytheist, a trio of rockers in the genre mixture of noise, hardcore, and heavy punk, are made up of Rivera on guitar and vocals, bassist Tim Hoff, and drummer Nick Parks. Playing together since 2011, the band got their name from a combination of Rivera's identities: gay and atheist. Delivering a coarse dose of beat- and guitar-driven authenticity to your ears, we can't wait for the day when the city opens again, and Gaytheist makes their way to Hi-Dive once more.
We are bummed that the Denver show was postponed! Do you carry any concern or fear around the coronavirus situation we are faced with? Yeah, I do. I have an older mom, so my plan is to get her a bunch of things that she'll need for the next month. Then, we have a show tomorrow night, and that might be our last show for a bit because currently, the entire West Coast is on, 'no gatherings over 200 people.' We're playing a little neighborhood club that can fit, like, 150 people, so it's fine, but even then, I don't imagine a lot of people are going to be out right now. The West Coast has too many cases that are spreading right now, and I think people are going more and more toward the Italy route, which is to stay indoors. Tool was in town last night; I think that was the last mixed gathering that was allowed in Portland right before the rule went into effect.
What can people expect from a Gaytheist show? We're a three-piece, noise-rock band; it's just guitar, bass, drums, very loud. The singing is a little more 'singy' though, instead of 'screamy.' Our drummer's kind of our secret weapon, Nick. He's kind of like the lead musician, so instead of having guitar solos when there's empty parts in the song, he's doing drum fills. We try to keep it pretty light, crack jokes, but otherwise, it's pretty loud and fast. Sometimes the crowds are into it; they jump around and flip out, and other times, they just kind of nod and watch. Either way, it usually goes pretty good.
Can you talk about queer visibility in the punk and hardcore music scene? In the late 80s, I was really into speed metal, and that's a lot of German bands and a lot of East Coast bands. They tend to be pretty tough dudes and, like, half of these guys have at least some lyric saying ridiculous, horrible stuff about gay people. So, I really fell out of it for a long time, and it's been nice to get back into heavy music these last 20 years. Way more people are openminded now, and out, and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just not even an issue. I mean, I know we kind of forced it in everyone's face; just from our name right there regardless, we're kind of in the conversation. So, it's been nice that I haven't really found too much resistance from other bands or other people at shows we played in.
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Having a name like Gaythiest is a conversation starter, no doubt! Was that an intentional choice of being visibly queer from the beginning? I'd love to say it was, but we were just throwing names around, and it was going to be called Hemper; every time we tried to tell that name to somebody, they go, 'Isn't there already a band called Emperor?' Then, we stumbled across Gaytheist as we were just spitting out a bunch of names, and we not only really liked it, but I'm gay, and we are all atheists, and we just went with it. I wasn't that naive about it; I know it's an over-the-top name, but I also don't think it should be that big of a deal. It's really just like gay atheist, just even the fact that saying those two words can can make some people uncomfortable is so ridiculous to me that I have no qualms with the name.
What are some of the themes on the new Gaytheist album? There's one kind of background theme, always: postapocalyptic things like, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Where are we going to be at after everything falls apart?â&#x20AC;&#x2122; This time, I was alone a lot when I was working on this album; I wrote a lot of it when our drummer moved to Florida for a year and a half. It's a bit on the isolation spectrum of lyrics, but I enjoy taking dark themes, writing heavy, heavy music to play along with it that isn't too downbeat; usually, it's pretty up-tempo and fast, and then sometimes, I'll scream. Like the last album, I was a bit more in a bad place, and so that's a lot of screaming; this one's a lot more singing.
You've been playing music with Tim and Nick for quite some time now. Yeah, Nick and I started playing in his basement at the end of 2010. And then Tim joined us, and we became a trio, and then we played our very first show in January of 2011. I think we'll be at 10 years here before too long.
What is it between the three of you that works so well? We give each other a lot of leeway; we all have major life events going on the whole time. Nick had a kid and moved away; Tim had cancer; I have all of my own BS, but we always manage. Normally, it's assumed that's when you break up, and then we just go, 'Well, let's just try and persevere,' and so far we have. To follow the latest releases and upcoming tour dates for Gaytheist, check out their official website, gaytheist. bandcamp.com.
O U T F R O N T M A G A Z I N E . C O M // 2 9
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