Leah Bank

Leah Bank

teamnewyork-meo

Queer DIY Musicians

Words & Images¬†© Leah Bank.

I’ve spent the past couple of months photographing and interviewing queer DIY musicians around NYC with the help of Liz vK (badass babe and interviewer extraordinaire). We talked about sexual orientation, gender identity, cats and feeling alienated from society. Mostly though, we talked about how music has the ability to make people feel more comfortable in their own skin and less alone is this big confusing binary world.

We met Keala, front man of the punk band The Nervous Breakdowns, at his small apartment in Astoria. He played DIY shows on the streets of San Francisco in the late-90s. Traditional venues wouldn’t book him because his band was “too queer.” We met through a Facebook group called Queer Exchange.

We met Uncle Meg, a genderqueer rapper, in their basement apartment in Bushwick. While they carefully crafter their personal aesthetic we discussed how to most accurately portray them in a photograph. We fell in love with their music videos on YouTube.

We met Christina, of the electrofunk band Trumpet Grrrl, outside of Silvana in Harlem before her CD release party. She quickly deposited her gear backstage before meeting us outside to shoot and interview before her set. We discovered her music on Homoground.com.

These are but a few of the people we have met and shot while exploring the queer DIY music scene. Although queerness as an identity tends to attract those who feel most alienated, it also creates a unique community of outcasts. These portraits are a small representation of a much broader community that continually rebels against the binary and refuses to define itself. Through music, these artists have found ways to express their authentic selves and connect with the world around them.

“Queer is a miscellaneous category because you just don’t fit in anywhere. That’s why the night before pride we would go to pink Saturday because it was for us weirdos, who were just gay and weird and didn’t fit in anywhere and that was the significance of my band. People would stand there way past the set, so we would recycle the set. We only knew about 12 to 14 songs, so we’d be like, alright, we’re starting all over, we’ll just take a smoke break. And it would just be the same person, staring. But when you look at them you can just tell, they kind of don’t fit in, and you could see that we made them feel like they fit in, and that’s what being queer is. There shouldn’t be any judgment. Even a lot of these people were alone and they didn’t have friends. That’s even better. When I would go to a queer show I didn’t feel like I needed to bring people with me. When I go to a queer show I knew it was going to be safe socially, physically and you’re going to enjoy yourself.”
“I’ve felt uncomfortable and alienated pretty much my whole life, but for some reason when I perform, that all goes away and I literally don’t give a shit. As long as I’m being my authentic self, which is who Uncle Meg is, I’m never uncomfortable. Because when I’m my authentic self, I think I’m a Boss Ass Bitch.”
"I rarely write queer songs. Queerness automatically makes me an outcast in society, so it influences why I write and how I write, but I don't write about it deliberately. I don't find myself booking places that are explicitly queer, but as a gay woman we don't really have any spaces anywhere, they're dying out. We gotta start more!"
“I rarely write queer songs. Queerness automatically makes me an outcast in society, so it influences why I write and how I write, but I don’t write about it deliberately. I don’t find myself booking places that are explicitly queer, but as a gay woman we don’t really have any spaces anywhere, they’re dying out. We gotta start more!”

To see more of Leah’s work, please visit her website.

YPA 2016 MENTORING PROGRAM: AMERICAN LANDSCAPES

TEAM NEW YORK
MENTOR: Frank Meo
MENTEE: Leah Bank