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BLKVAPOR on Experimental Music and Liberation - Tunes Tuesday Interview Transcript

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

Maud: Hi, I'm Maud, my pronouns are they/them, and welcome back to Tunes Tuesday – a weekly series where I sit down with queer 2SLGBTQ+ bands and musicians to talk to them about their music, their experiences, and so much more. This week, joining me is Baltimore-based punk band BLKVAPOR. Thank you so much for being here. Would you two like to introduce yourselves?

Kirby: I'll start. Thank you. Yeah, I'll start. My name is Kirby. I use they/he pronouns and I play the guitar and also sing a little bit.

Proxy: My name is Proxy. I use she and they pronouns. I identify as a Black trans woman and I play the bass and sing in our band.

M: Awesome. Well, it's so great to have you two here and I’m really excited to start talking to you, about your music, and the art behind it. And the first thing I’d really love to talk about is actually your first release. So your first release was “Abusive Power Play” and you described it as a sound installment around the release rather than a song or single. And I was just wondering, what does the language you use to describe your music and style mean to you?

P: Sure. Well, that's a Safra song. Safra is a vocalist and also the guitarist in our band who is not here currently but always in our hearts. Safra definitely shares an experimental spirit that I think was a part of the project when it was just me and K playing together –

K: Totally.

P: – So I think that part of the spirit of our band has always been about what it feels like when we're together as a group rather than the finished product or the outcome that we make. And I think it's that feeling that we try to convey with our music, and that feeling that, you know, powers us staying together as a group as well.

K: Right. And, you know, I agree with all of that, and also just like the power of BLKVAPOR is breaking traditions and like, a traditional music scene where you're expected to have, like, this many years of lessons or like, playability – like, let's stop with all the structure. We can rename how we write songs, we can redo all of that, just as being three friends who love making noisy music and like, we follow that all the way through to make songs and just improv really cool things when we're on stage.

M: Yeah, absolutely, that's really cool to hear about. So do you find that you have, you know, a lot more music or a lot more things that you're just experimenting with and playing around with than you do, say, released music?

K: It’s so sick.

P: BLKVAPOR is like a big iceberg where it's like, the vast majority of what the sounds that we make, we just make for each other, and we make in each other's homes or, you know, in the studio or wherever we're practicing at. And then that little top piece is like what we get to show people.

K: Yeah, like, just on my phone right now I have probably like 24 hours of just like, playing randomness, and it sounds really good, you know, like I'll go and try to edit it to make something for us to release, and I'm like, it doesn't make sense to people who aren't like literally right in a BLKVAPOR crowd. Like, you can't take just a slice. You need the whole pie.

M: Fair. And do you feel like that comes out more in live shows, then, when you are able to kind of bring that experience to others?

P: Yes and no. I feel like the heart of what we make together is always going to be like, what we make for each other, and what we make in the comfort of that togetherness. But yeah, I think that our spirit really shines when we're on stage together, like, people can tell how much love we have for each other and just like where we're coming from as musicians. I think that all of that is really clear when we're up on stage.

K: Agreed.

M: For sure. And speaking of how you play music together – so you often share that you see your music as a way to protest against injustices in the world, and I was just wondering, overall, what role do you think music plays in fighting for a better future and liberation, be that your own music or others?

P: Well… I feel that music can definitely be, like, fuel and stimulation for liberatory movements. And definitely hoping that we're inspiring that for other people, but for me, it's almost as much about, like, who we are as people and what we do outside of the context of us as performers. Like that the activism follows us beyond being on stage and the songs that we're writing. Like, I'm an activist in my life, and often that keeps me from you know being the most technically skilled bassist, but I think that in BLKVAPOR, it's an asset and not a weakness.

K: Totally. I almost feel like we kind of carry that message of protecting and protesting, just like, from the act of we step onto a scene where people are mad at us – like, they're mad that we're three Black people on stage, that we're not, like, within the binary, we're on stage taking up space, and it's stressful to deal with that sometimes. But then we'll have a show where people come up to us and they're like, wow you've inspired me to go and practice my instrument. We're just like, great, now they have some free will or like, I don't know, thought that's not being manipulated by a mainstream. So just opening up people's minds is really good, I think.

M: Yeah, absolutely, and I love the fact that, you know, you speak to how activism exists outside of music and it's really all those real-world experiences that are coming into music and not necessarily music that's informing those real-world experiences. But, you know, potentially influencing others and speaking to that identity component that you just brought up – from your lyrics to performances and the art that surrounds your work, you bring Black queer joy and rage to the forefront. How does it feel to unapologetically prioritize your feelings and experiences and what impact do you think this has on your communities and or those who engage with your music?

P: It's liberatory, for sure. It's just, that's really it, like, it's just about getting free and feeling that freeness in the present moment and together and for each other, with each other, and that's how we can achieve liberation in our lifetime.

K: It's revolutionary. Like, there's nothing I can compare to that.

M: Absolutely, and I love the idea that that really touches on the fact that everyone sees the revolution or liberation as this, you know, big overwhelming thing or this one thing that's going to happen, and not, you know, the little ways that we can interact with each other and engage with each other and make art together. And I love that it sounds like your experiences really speak to that component of it.

P: If we're talking about different ways the revolution could look, this is going to have to be a longer interview. But we can leave it at that for right now, but between us, we know that liberation is going to take many forms and this is what we got right now.

M: I definitely understand that, and I could also get very easily sidetracked for not even hours, days, on that conversation. I'm glad to do so, but yeah definitely not necessarily we have the time right now. But hopefully in the future. Well, thank you so much for joining me on this week's Tunes Tuesday, it was absolutely wonderful to have you here. If you'd like to check out BLKVAPOR’s music, anything we've talked about today or anything that they may potentially release in the future, you can check out all the links below the video, and BLKVAPOR will be playing us out.

*Fuck You (Transphobia) by BLKVAPOR begins playing*

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