Lara Americo’s ‘She/They’ upcoming release gives our Editor-in-Chief unprecedented chills
“I’m, a human that creates their gender every morning just like everyone else.” -Americo
(photos courtesy of Graham Morrison)
The best thing about SoundCloud is that you get to see an artist’s transformation from beginning to end. Some aspects of life aren’t so easy to see. We all grow up, change, and find our voice. With musicians, it is much more apparent. Lara Americo’s earliest SoundCloud uploads are solely instrumental. Now, she has an upcoming EP showcasing her voice entirely. Americo is not only candid about being queer, but about being a trans-woman, too. And now we have the opportunity to listen to a facet of the often-silenced queer and trans community.
She recently reached out to Shutter for a review of her upcoming release: She/They (November 17). Before that, she had been featured on Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and local QNotes as well as Creative Loafing as a trans-woman of color in the south. I’m glad that she is providing us with an exclusive listen to this first release.
When I say ‘accessible’, I mean that I could easily see this opening the eyes of some rigid-minded folks, but it’s not merely a triumph of Americo’s life, it is a solid EP for anyone who enjoys dreamy riot grrrl-y music. My favorite lyric, and vocal delivery, is the following:
“I exist as a ghost, come and find my unmarked tomb.
I exist as a ghost, come and see my empty womb.
I exist. [end of song]”
These lyrics, as metaphor so often does, provides a broad concept of existence, feeling as though that existence isn’t often acknowledged, and the horror for many of being unable to produce children. Another remarkable trait of her work is seen if you compare her earliest SoundCloud uploads: lacking vocals, and yet providing such ethereal instrumental work that you expect, at any moment, a voice to emerge.
With this new release, that voice is an emergence amidst a cacophony of harmonics. At times, I can imagine that a slight re-tuning on the mixing table might be in order. Other times, I feel that every moment of tonal dissonance or jarring pitch-shift is entirely intentional. I think that all of my readers would agree, that humans relate to other humans, flaws and all. Even the most exotic, hard-to-wrap-your-head-around-unless-you-experience-it concept of gender identity—those around you who do experience anything other than cis-gender (identifying with the gender you are assigned with at birth) are embraceable. They are human. They make music, they feel emotions, and they use the bathroom.
This year’s never-ending game of HB 2, otherwise known as ‘the bathroom bill’, bouncing from one lower court to another has not only given Lara Americo a platform upon which to speak (and sing), but has also opened millions of people’s eyes to the concept of gender identity and the trans community. While some of the eyes have a glare of bigotry, there is also the very real opportunity of talking, and learning about other people who might have very different lives, but who you can relate to.
I enjoyed an email correspondence with Americo:
S16: So as I am more and more compelled to ask people I meet, what pronoun do you identify with?
Americo: I use She/her/hers around CIS people and people who are not very familiar with queer people. Otherwise I use They/Them/Theirs. Either is fine. He/Him/His makes me feel all queasy.
S16: Your music speaks to me on levels of femininity that I didn’t know I had, honestly. How did you achieve such an intimate album?
Americo: Femininity is something that has been bottled up inside me for so long. Now it’s coming out like one of those cans of peanuts that are actually filled with spring loaded snakes. This album is my attempt to catch as many of those snakes as I can before they hit the floor. A big part of capturing all those snakes is pretending that no one will ever [hear me] spilling my guts in music form. The truth is that these metaphorical snakes are still popping out and I’m having trouble expressing it all.
S16: How can I turn MY closet into a mini-studio?
Americo: Hah! So I was recording with this guy one time named Larrin Ganderson in a studio called Soul Jukebox. I was trying to record “Life as a Gas” in one day (I failed miserably). He had a vocal booth inside his studio. I ended up putting a bass amp, a guitar amp and an entire drum set inside of the vocal booth. This booth was the size of a New York City public bathroom and I still don’t know how I fit everything inside.
After hearing the recording and realizing that there was no way that I could record every instrument part on a song and sing the vocals in a day I decided that I needed to find another way to record. The walk in closet in my house is actually bigger than the vocal booth. My girlfriend has so many clothes that it insulates sound just like the vocal booth. I suppose anyone could use their closet to record as long as they have a decent microphone and a girlfriend with A LOT of clothes.
S16:“Why don’t you see me, inside, outside?” is one of your best lyrics from this EP. How do you feel that music has allowed you to access what was once inside, and share it with me and the world?
Americo: Thank you! I always assume that no one will hear the lyrics. It’s the only way I can write honest lyrics.
Everything inside is abstract and they only way you can really see someone is to look at them without your eyes. Music gives you an
opportunity to see someone or a group of people in an abstract way. You’re born in this world and you only have the senses that your body provides. You have to work with those senses as much as you can to try to describe something that is so infinite. The inside.
S16: How do you feel that being a trans woman of color differs from being a white trans woman or being a cis-gender woman of color?
Americo: Trans women of color are the most marginalized in our society. White trans women still have their own challenges. By no means are their lives easy. Still white privilege transfers into the transgender community. In our society there is a hierarchy where a white Christian male is dominant. The closer you are to being a white male Christian the more privilege you have. This puts transgender woman of color on the bottom of this social hierarchy. Living a life being a transgender woman of color who refuses to conform is my protest to this hierarchy that needs to be broken.
S16: I’ve known trans women who find the concept of personal interviews to be potentially damning due to the delicate nature of gender identity. Specifically, trans women are cultivating who they are so keenly, and don’t want to be misconstrued, mislabeled, or watered down to merely someone who has had surgery. Do you feel that your coverage so far has been appropriate for you in particular? How can you explain to readers that you’re more than just a story about surgery, or a story about gender?
Americo: The media tends to filter their sources down to situations where transgender people have faced violence or transgender people who are very binary and heteronormative. The situations where the media reached out to me were mostly positive. It became obvious when they were fishing for situations where I faced violence I was fortunate to deal with people who allowed me to deflect those questions. I also had the opportunity to talk about the fact that I don’t need surgery to be feminine. My body is already feminine whether I get surgery or not. If I had a beard and muscles they would be feminine too. I’m a human that creates their gender every morning just like everyone else.
S16: Concerning HB 2: before the issue even took to the front pages, how did being a trans-woman affect your life in concerns with using public facilities (like bathrooms)?
Americo: HB2 has been a huge pain in the butt. All I want to do is live my life making art and music. When you have to fight for your civil rights it makes it very hard to do that. Before HB2 most people in NC didn’t really care about transgender issues. This wasn’t ideal but at least there weren’t people judging who was “male” or “female” based on their appearance. HB2 was an invite for every North Carolinian to target transgender people with hate and discrimination. Fortunately, there has been a huge outcry against HB2 by people across the globe. Now all we need is for the people who are currently in office in NC to listen.
If you’re onboard with great music and an artist whose voice blossoms before your ears, check out Lara Americo at the EP Release party on November 17. As a genderqueer individual myself, it has been a joy to provide an exclusive look at this artist’s work.