Lesbian Bands, Hear Them Roar

Hear them roar. Many of today’s queer female bands are grappling with their riot grrrl legacy.

BY Ari Karpel

May 23 2012 3:00 AM ET

SUSAN SURFTONE X300 | ADVOCATE.COMOf course, there’s another reason she became Susan SurfTone (pictured at left). “My last name is Yasinski,” she explains. “So although it’s very easy to spell, it has what my uncle calls Polish Name Syndrome.” In other words, the name doesn’t exactly conjure the idea of cool music.

A female lead guitarist who makes surf music is rare, but it was rarer still in 1993, when she formed Susan and the SurfTones. She began playing guitar as a child, but as her music evolved from a hobby to a livelihood there were many detours. “I was the first person in my family to go to law school,” she notes, and from there she landed a job as an investigator at the FBI. “I never went deep undercover,” she says.
Still, she was under a cover of sorts all those years. “I was one of those ones that I think was born gay,” she explains. “It was a lifelong struggle.”

Not that she had such a hard time accepting herself, but her mother, with whom she was always close, did. “My mother and I struggled with the fact that I was gay,” SurfTone recalls. “As long as she was alive I couldn’t go fully public with it. Like, if I got any press, you know I would have to fight with her about it. She was not someone that wanted it to be public, because she viewed it as a reflection on her.”

SurfTone lived her life openly, but she shied away from public pronouncements. In fact, she had very little public attention until after her mother passed away, in 2009, leaving her daughter with enough money to finance the recording of her album Shore. It also freed her to be publicly, unabashedly lesbian.

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