Doll Skin on Questioning Your Gender and Being Straightedge - Tunes Tuesday Interview Transcript
Updated: Apr 6, 2022
Maud: Hi folks, my name's Maud Mostly, my pronouns are they/them, and welcome back to Tunes Tuesday, a weekly series where I sit down with queer 2SLGBTQ+ musicians and bands to talk to them about their music, their experiences, and so much more. Today I am joined by Arizona based hard rock band, Doll Skin! Would you like to introduce yourself?
Sydney: Yeah, my name is Sydney, I do the singing and sometimes the screaming. My pronouns are they/them, I'm 21 years old. Am I missing anything? I hope not, but that's me, hi!
M: Incredible, well it's so great to have you here, and I really want to start by talking about you so the queer scene as well as the hard rock and emo scene are typically associated with substance use, but I noticed that you're actually straight edge which is an identity that I've seen kind of come in waves and it definitely has an increase in popularity again lately. What does being straight edge mean to you?
S: I, yeah, being straight edge has been one of the best things I've ever done for myself. I've gone through- I'm an alcoholic in an addict, and I am two years in recovery now, but I tried AA, I tried CA, I tried NA, and communities like that were always very much so like- I don't want to say “too old” but they were too old for me. Like it's a bunch of people that push agendas that I don't really agree with and I didn't feel like I fit in, but then i found straight edge through like the punk community, and I read up on like the history of it and saw that it's a bunch of people that are like me, whether or not they've used before. It's all very like supportive the only thing that was like weird is that like I don't see a lot of like, non-men or queer people in general in the community, unless you like look really hard. You have to like, kind of like look for it to find those people. But I'm finding them which has been really cool and the more I talk about it the more like different kinds of people are kind of like learning about it, getting into it too, which is like so cool, it feels so cool to be able to like influence people with that, but being straight edge means so much more than just like saying no to substance, it means that like I know that if I started drinking again I would probably end up dying very quickly. It means that I can control myself, it means that I can, you know, do better for myself. That's you know the whole point of straight edge is to acknowledge the fact that you know that you're better without drinking and drugging and smoking and doing whatever. Yeah.
M: Absolutely, thank you for sharing such a you know, honest and vulnerable answer there, and I think it's so cool that you kind of brought up the history of straightedge, because I think one of the things that's really interesting about it is I think it was about in the late 90s there's this interesting part of straight edge history where there was like a scare around it, and it made people outside of the scene really uncomfortable, and one of the things that was making people uncomfortable was you know that idea of like being punk and being anti-establishment was really associated with like drinking and doing drugs so then people saw this increase of people who weren't drinking or doing drugs and were still anti-establishment and they were like what does this mean for us?
S: “They can do all of that and be sober, what!?”... It's really- it's really interesting too, because there's like it- the movement started in the 80s. It's been a thing for a long time but it got its name and got its reputation around the 80s when the band Anti-Flag released their song Straight Edge, and that's kind of where the name came from and stuff like that, not Anti-Flag what, wait... definitely remember one of those bands. Anyone watching this that knows more than me please correct me! Anyway but and so there's a lot of different versions of being straight edge and the the like, I think what scares the most people and why straight edge has such a bad reputation, is because of the what we call the militant straight edge people who are- they like force straight edge down people's throats like in a violent way. Like there was it's not very it's not really a thing anymore, but there's a reason why straight edge is a gang in Chicago, like it's literally like if you identify straight edge in Chicago you are technically a part of the gang. It's scary but a lot of straight edge people are just like, I just live like this this is just how I am and I will talk about it (sometimes straight edge people are a little annoying about it) but that's whatever that's beside the point. A lot of strategies people just live their life and hope to encourage people through existing without substance and I think that's what like confuses people the most, is they're like “you just you just do that and you're not like you don't like this is just how you are what the fuck?” so it's it's really it's really an interesting way of life that I never was able to wrap my head around until I got sober, and I was sober for about a year before, no it was somewhere for like a few months before I found straight edge and I was like “this is weird it's punk people that are not using and drinking? This is a thing? Like what?”
M: Yeah and you definitely bring up important points about the fact that you know, there can be annoying people in every community, and that's just because people can sometimes be annoying, and that definitely you know, should not reflect the community as a whole. And then kind of on that note or sometimes what that stuff is associated with is one of your most recent releases is Control Freak, and the lyrics speak to a struggle with mental health, and its music video features really intense imagery of drowning and being restrained. I also noticed on social media you noted that you've had the idea for this music video for a while, so what inspired you and pushed you to carry it out?
S: I actually had some really like a lot bigger ideas for the music video that we couldn't really get all the way done that's why I just had my face in the water, but I wanted to be entirely in water literally chained to the bottom of like a water tank, like almost literally drowning myself for the video, just to kind of get the point across of like how intense this song like really means something to us. Megan was the main writer of the lyrics because it's still sometimes hard for me to put my feelings into words but Megan's really good at it, and so she had the original idea for like writing a song about how anxiety controls you, and how you want to control it back, and we kind of like ranted on it she wrote my lyrics and you know put it to the song. But the song like I felt I've always felt like I wanted to get deeper, and wanted to get more in-depth and intense with our our like the art that goes along with the songs, and we found this team the people who did the Control Freak music video at Smilebomb Productions and they were able to work with us on creating this this masterpiece, like I really am such a big fan of it and I'm so excited that it turned out the way that it did, but I really like wanted to make sure people could feel like how frustrating it is, like how what like what we wrote it about is so frustrating and like painful to have to like deal with almost every single day, and so I really think that we were able to put that all into the whatever three-minute song you know?
M: Yeah I think you did a fantastic job with it I mean, you're right it is incredible to watch, at the same time it can be a little bit uncomfortable but I think the performance you give in it really drives home the point and that feeling and that discomfort that comes from it is kind of doing a great job of putting you in someone's shoes who's you know trying to communicate that they feel that way. And speaking of your performance style it's also fairly recently that you publicly came out as trans and you were quick to do things like celebrate Trans Day of Visibility which is so fun and exciting. Do you think being able to live you know, publicly and authentically as who you are will have an impact on your music and performance?
S: It literally already has, like I've been trying to find the words to write a song about it and about my you know, journey with this. It's it's- what's crazy is that like I've always felt like something was different, and I could never really understand it, I could never really sit down and think about it because I've always been the front woman of the all-girl band and so I was like “okay this is just who I am” like, this is just it and I never let myself have a problem with it, until I had to sit down and I was stuck in a room just with me and my little thoughts and I was like oh shit, okay I'm seeing all these people talk about it online and like I'm just not who I thought I was you know? I'm not who I've been trying to make myself think I was. And so it's like as much as I just recently came out publicly I kind of came out as I was discovering it I like to make sure everyone is like I've always been a very public person there's not a lot of things I hold to myself ever I'm not good with secrets, I just like to talk about things, and so I as I start learning about myself I talk about it publicly because I know that there's a lot of people that are just now learning about themselves too, especially in quarantine, especially after all of this, and so I just like to use my weird thought process and my weird self-discovery to help people understand that they can discover themselves at 21, it's fine like that's fine, but it takes what it takes you know? It took me having to sit down for a few months and then be like “ohhhh, oh okay this is- this is different that I yeah, all right.” So it I definitely like even just looking back to to you know last year's Trans Day of Visibility like hearing myself talked about it, I'm like you know like I'm cis I guess and you know, happy Trans Day of Visibility to people who aren't me like I always like looking back at how I talked about being cis-het like it- I can see now how much I felt like I had to like defend myself but not to anybody but like more to myself and so it's like looking back on that I really wish I could have found it earlier because I feel like there was a lot of like you know self-hatred that came from feeling like I had to force myself to be something that I wasn't that I could have avoided, but here I am now, so woo!
M: Yeah I think what you bring up with so many people you know figuring out more about themselves, and questioning their identity more, and more during this quarantine process is definitely so true and it is so evident you know, when you've kind of pulled people away from society a little bit and given them that time and space to be like “what makes me feel comfortable, and what makes me feel safe?” And giving them that area to explore you know, you're yeah you're definitely not alone in that process, and I also like that you bring up your age and you know are telling people that it's not too late to explore themselves because I think that's a huge part of being trans is with the way you know, transphobia has shaped our society, there's no appropriate age to be trans you know? If you're a kid you know everyone's like “oh you're too young to know,” if you're a teenager it's a phase, the second you stop being a teenager then it's too late to know, and then there's no trans adults. It's like how it's kind of set up so I really appreciate you speaking to that point because I do think that really does shape a lot of people's perspectives on the trans community.
S: Absolutely, it's- it's like it really stopped me from exploring it very early on like as I was like thinking about it at first I was like “no you know, like I've already lived my life decently comfortable you know for 20 years” like I think you know I think “I'm just like in a weird place right now or whatever,” and then I was like “no no no no no look back on the way you thought about people, and the way you thought about yourself,” and the way you wanted to pretend like you were a man and you felt really comfortable when someone thought you were a man, like think about it! Think about it for a second like just giving myself the space to be like “okay you are allowed to explore this no matter where you're at,” even if, even if it was just a phase, even if it was just something that it would have been temporary like, would have made me feel better temporarily, like I'm allowed you know I'm allowed to be like you know “fuck it” like, that's why I went from having all pronouns to just they/them, like is it it does change it does change there's not one set way you don't have to like make the decision and have it be final you know ever really ever.
M: That is so true, and I really thank you for speaking to me about that today and speaking to me about your music if you want to check out Doll Skin, which I highly recommend you do please support them and all their music at the links below. You can also go check out the Control Freak music video that we were just talking about. I really appreciate you taking the time for this today, stay tuned for next week's Tunes Tuesday where we will have more incredible queer artists, and for now Doll Skin will be playing us out!
*Control Freak by Doll Skin begins playing*