The DIY music scene has made me feel welcome in so many ways. Since I first got into punk over three years ago, the music of certain bands has challenged the way I think, sat with me through rough times, and helped me grow. But there’s still definite room for improvement.
Bands are still predominantly fronted by white, cisgender, able-bodied, straight men, and despite consistent effort at the grassroots level to change this, queer bands, bands with members of colour, bands with disabled members, and bands with female members are constantly underrepresented, tagged on as openers, and not given the chances that are afforded to their more privileged counterparts.
This Friday, itoldyouiwouldeatyou are putting on an alternative Great Escape gig at Brighton Electric. The Queer Escape will be a free gig with all donations going towards Mermaids, a charity that helps trans and gender nonconforming kids and their parents in the UK. Joey and I had a chat about their motivations for putting on the gig, who’s performing, and why Mermaids is so important.
Ronan: What drove you to put on The Queer Escape gig?
Joey: We were talking to Failure by Design and Alcopop, and we were saying that we wanted to do more shows where we could pick. The reason we often play London shows, where it’s a tiny venue and friendly supports and stuff, is because in London we’re more likely to be able to choose our own supports, which is super fun for us. Not just because of the obvious concerns with diversity that we can’t trust some promoters with, but also because we just like to put on bands. A lot of the stuff Ollie and I did when we were first friends was putting on shows together, so it’s fun for us to do that, and also, we just like picking the bands and making sure they all fit and doing all that stuff. And really any excuse for us to organise a party really.
There is the obvious problem with diversity in lineups and stuff, and I think it’s probably more constructive in the short term at least to do what we try and do, which is ask for queer people on bills, not just queer people but people of colour, and making it an intersectional gig. Often promoters aren’t very good at that. We primarily work with promoters who are very good at that, but yeah, we just wanted to have some fun with it. All these bands are playing for free, just like us, just to make sure that Mermaids get some money. It’s nice to be able to put on a show that has a few bands with queer members who are, in the case of some of them, queer as hell and also like, buzzy. That’s a really nice thing to celebrate, that it’s a really nice, buzzy, all-dayer.
R: Could you talk me through the bands that you have put together?
J: So we have our friend Alison Rumfitt. She’s a poet and she’s really fucking good. I met her through my friend Ellie who I’ve known since I was 11. Ellie was a really big part in my education about my own queerness and queer culture and stuff. Pretty much as big as Indigo from Granola Suicide. She was one of the first people who taught me shit. When Ellie came out to me, I think she was quite nervous, it meant that I knew enough not to be asking a billion questions, but also, she was just very fundamental in my development as a person because she was the first person who knew a bunch of shit I didn’t know about stuff that was important to me. Anyway, it was through Ellie that I met Ali. She’s a spoken word artist, so she’ll be reading her poems. She sometimes comes on stage with us for our song Less Now because it’s instrumental, to read some of her poetry. To be fair we haven’t done that for about a year. Her poetry is furious and queer, like myself, it’s exactly what you want. It’s kind of I guess like a down beginning because it’s spoken word, but it’s also an up because her words are very arresting.
Flirting are playing as well. Flirting are one of my favourite bands in London at the moment. Flirting are an indie, pop, emo, shoegazey band. Poppy from Flirting is fond of saying that the only artist that everyone in the band likes is The Sugar Cubes, but they don’t really sound like The Sugar Cubes. They’re just really good, and Poppy really goes hard on sets, it’s quite subdued, but live there is that sort of subdued, sad feeling as well, but also Poppy goes really hard and gets in the crown and stuff. So Flirting will be good.
We also have Porridge Radio playing. Our friend Jake knows people in Porridge Radio, and this was Sean’s suggestion. I just really like Porridge Radio, they’re just really fun. It’s fun, and cheeky.
R: I think they were playing at Ladyfuzz? But because it was a seven-hour day I ended up going home half way through for a couple of hours because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to stand up the next day. So I’m really excited to see their set as well.
J: Absolutely. It was Shaun who suggested them, and it was such a good suggestion. Much like all my favourite music, to a certain extent, a little cheeky.
We have Nervus as well. Em from Nervus did a couple of my tattoos, and apart from that she is an excellent musician.
R: My old band played with Nervus once, back when they first released Permanent Rainbow. It was like a Brighton gig at The Marlborough. The opener was a Diana Ross cover band who dressed all in red and had instruments that included red ceramic pans. Em seems like a real sweetheart as well.
J: Nervus are great, really good. I would maybe not catch a bullet for Em, but I’d do some pretty cool shit for her.
We also have Spook School playing. I’m a huge fan of Spook School.
R: Spook School were really sweet to me when I started my blog. I remember I interviewed you and then I interviewed them the day after. It was my second interview, I had about ten likes, and they were just really sweet. I’m excited to see them because I haven’t seen them since.
J: I have seen them live but not for a really, really long time. They were a band who, I remember when we were putting out I Am Not Your Fault, we were talking a lot about how Spook School were one of those bands that we wanted to follow in the footsteps of, and how great they were. So the fact that we’re playing a show with them is great. We’re both on Alcopop records now, but I’m still a little starstruck because they were an early band for me in terms of queer bands just doing it.
R: Same. For me I was completely blown away. Their first album, Dress Up, was an album I remember listening to over and over and over again along with Transgender Dysphoria Blues by Against Me and Imaginary Life by Worriers. Those were the first three albums that really got me into punk music and therefore the big trajectory that’s led me to where I am now in terms of music, and I just listened to it that summer when I was coming out, and it was just so helpful.
J: Exactly. And then after Spook School we have us, itoldyouiwouldeatyou. And we picked them, because they’re us.
R: Let’s talk about Mermaids. It’s a free show, but all donations go to Mermaids. Why did you choose them?
J: Well, we were asking around about good charities, because we’ve all been lucky enough, or maybe unlucky in some ways, to have not needed a charity like Mermaids, but also unlucky enough not to know we needed it. None of us have personally used a charity like them as far as I understand. For me, I wanted to educate myself on what was actually helping people and I talked to pals and they kept coming up with Mermaids. I’d heard of Mermaids, and had a vague idea of what they were doing, and one of the things that we really loved was that when we googled them the top results were all from tabloids about how Mermaids had “forced a child to transition”, and I was like, that didn’t happen. The first one was the Daily Mail, then it was the Telegraph, and then the third one was the clarification letter saying that the story was entirely false. And Ollie was like, well these sound like our guys. This sounds like a good charity. I was actually talking to someone about it earlier today, so I was talking about Mermaids, and I kept thinking about a friend of mine when I was younger, who I’m no longer in contact with, because it was a family friend but through extended family. This person is trans, I believe they are fluid, and I saw them every so often as they were really good friends with my sister-in-law. They were AFAB (assigned female at birth) and used ‘he’ pronouns at the time, and they must have been about 16 or 17 and they were super up for surgeries and stuff like that, and I remember them being really excited about it. And I remember six months later, they were like ‘oh fuck, I don’t think I want anything, I think I’m fluid, and I would prefer to be like this now and think about it later.’ And I remember at the time, thinking ‘why isn’t there someone my friend can talk to about this?’ Because every other queer or trans person I know has been through a journey of questioning until you get to who you are. Ostensibly, what with government waiting times, people will say it’s to stop people like my friend going through with stuff while they were still working stuff out. But if the government were doing it’s job we wouldn’t need that at all. And if people were given the help they needed, we wouldn’t need that. As far as I can see it, Mermaids, as so many other awesome charities are doing, steps in to plug the gap where the state isn’t doing its job.
What Mermaids seems to be doing is that when your kid comes to you and says ‘hey, I’m not sure I feel right’, that kid and you are able to talk about and work out what they need and what they want. Rather than this weird, amorphous thing, with gatekeeping on the one side, and on the other side a nasty and horrible culture around it. It’s like, people in Ireland and the US talking about the pro-choice debate. It is so much harder for people to think clearly when there are people screaming from the sidelines, and I think a charity like Mermaids serves to do that thing, where you should be able to just talk and learn, and feel supported, and then you can work out what the fuck you want, because being queer is a huge journey is this culture.
R: That’s really cool. About three years ago, I went to a similar charity called Allsorts, when I was 18 or 19. They had a trans youth group, and I’d make sure I got an early shift at work by saying I had a medical appointment every other week or something, and I’d go to Brighton to go to this youth group and I met someone there who’s still one of my closest friends. Having that support really helped me out. Particularly because, from what I’ve read about Mermaids, they try not to just work in the big cities. Like Allsorts as well have just started working in Chichester, which is where I’m from.
J: Another thing that was on my mind, especially as we’re putting out this new seven inch, is that I’m privileged to use my first given name, without that getting in the way of my day-to-day feelings or activities, but I understand that the way Bandcamp works at the moment, is that if you pay with PayPal, it uses your old name. It’s the equivalent to having your wallet stolen, like changing your PayPal. It’s a breach of trust.
One thing we’re trying to do, is that we luckily have loads of lovely trans people supporting us through Bandcamp. What that means is that, a number of orders, are going to end up addressed to people’s old names. Aside from that being an inherently shitty thing, the idea of some kid going to the trouble of buying our music and then I’m writing their old name on the envelope just pisses me off.
So if people are happy sharing it with us, our email is firstname.lastname@example.org, me and Ollie check that email daily, if anyone feels comfortable emailing us with the name they’d like it to be addressed to, and to confirm the address that’s on there, then we will make sure everyone who’s packing the record is using the correct name for people. Obviously for people to do that, they need to open up and use their old name etcetera, otherwise we can just address it to your surname.
R: Great, is there anything else you wanted to say?
J: Eat fresh and listen to Nu-Metal.
The Queer Escape is from 19:00 – 01:00 at Brighton Electric. RSVP via Facebook, or just turn up on the day!
If you are a young trans person, or are questioning your gender, or are the parent of a child who is, Mermaids provide a hotline open five days a week as well as several local support groups. More information is available on their website.
Poster designed by @chevyblazzzer