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 4:00 AM ET

CREEP X400 | ADVOCATE.COMThe women who make up Creep, Lauren Dillard and Lauren Flax (pictured, left), have had no such struggle. But they have felt limited simply by virtue of being women. “In the beginning,” says Flax, “we were grouped into these categories, all-girl lineups. And I was so annoyed with it that I just never wanted to be a part of it. Because it’s bullshit. Because any of us girls can generally play as well as any of our male counterparts.”

As DJs, songwriters, and producers, Creep are in a different category than the other musicians here. They’re part of the trip-hop, house, and dance tradition, and are musical descendants of Moby and Morcheeba. Though ’70s-era lesbian collective Olivia Records broke the barriers for women working behind the scenes in recording, even a scant five years ago sound engineering and other jobs in recording studios didn’t offer a female-friendly environment. But as technology has advanced, some of the barriers to entry for women and indie artists have fallen away. What was once cost-prohibitive is now completely accessible with a laptop and Garage Band.

“For the past 10 years, all of us women have literally been producing in our bedroom,” says Flax. “We can do this on our own. Record label? What record label?”

The two Laurens met, appropriately enough, on the now-defunct social networking site Friendster. Together they’ve DJ’ed for the Fischerspooner tour. They aspire to create multimedia theatrical experiences that combine photography, prerecorded sound, and an orchestra and don’t fit any definition that has traditionally been thought of as “lesbian band.” Nonetheless, they feel a kinship with other queer musicians, such as Trust and Telepathe. And they love the idea of being role models to women of all stripes.

While being queer defines many of these musicians, being women seems to define them even more so.

The Shondes are on Exotic Fever Records, which Fruchter lovingly describes as a “cool, feminist DIY label” that in turn instills an ethic of teamwork in her band mates. “Everyone there works on promotion and business stuff, and we all have great relationships with our fans.”

Alva and the Diaz sisters, of Girl in a Coma, are in it for the long haul. “I think we’re a good female group,” says Alva. “We’re all kind of growing right now. I mean, I don’t drink anymore, and I take it a lot more seriously.”

For her part, Starr has found real contentment in taking direct control of her brand. Her music has deepened, become more emotional. “I was an essential and an integral part of developing the record from the ground up, and I think that was really empowering for me. It felt really, really good,” she says.

SurfTone, meanwhile, is reveling in her hard-won public identity as a lesbian musician. “I hope I’m becoming a part of it,” she says of the queer music community. “I’ve wanted to be a part of it for a long time.”

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