Q&A with the ladies of LCD soundsystem
The Ladies of LCD tour provides women and non-binary artists the possibility of career advancement and visibility. On your second year of touring, do you feel a greater sense of connectivity and community?
Nancy: Even within the span of the first tour I felt a noticeable sense of us as The Ladies of LCD “catching on” from gig to gig not just as an act but as an entity promoting femme-forward ideals. The audience demographic, the conversation topics, and the enthusiasm of people at our shows has been really encouraging. I really feel like we’re helping to reach people in a way that has otherwise been overlooked.
Rayna: I’ve met and connected with a lot of great folks and had some awesome conversations in and out of the DJ booth on these tour dates. Including many great conversations with Nancy!
This year your tour is donating $1 from each concert ticket sold to Planned Parenthood. Why is this organization important to you?
(Correction, we donated $1 each to the New Orleans Abortion Fund from our New Orleans show and $1 each to Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates from our Atlanta show in response to specific recently passed anti abortion legislation in Louisiana and Georgia.)
Rayna: The minute we met up to start this touring cycle Nancy and I started talking about the recent anti abortion legislations passed in several US states including two we’d be visiting on the tour; Louisiana and Georgia. We chose organizations to donate to that were doing significant work, on the ground, in those states at a grassroots level. I looked over many articles to find out who was organizing protests in the days following the legislation and that’s how I found the New Orleans Abortion Fund. Access to safe and legal abortion is a human right. It shouldn’t even be questioned. I wanted to do something to bring awareness to this fact and demonstrate the power of speaking out on it. Through my conversations with Nancy this was what emerged. We were able to donate around $400 total per show to each of those organizations, so thanks to everyone who came out to support.
Nancy: I feel a real sense of urgency at this moment regarding reproductive rights because of these new legislative acts restricting abortion access in several states. Because we were promoting shows in 2 of these states, there was an opportunity to speak directly about the issue and advocate support for those who are working towards providing safe, legal, and affordable abortions.
Have you ever received pressure to be less politically vocal at any point in your careers? Is it easier to be vocal after accumulating major accolades?
Nancy: I don’t think of myself as ever being particularly public about my politics. I’ll speak up about issues that are relevant to me if there’s a timely opening to give it exposure. If anything, I’ve been encouraged to be more politically vocal, especially as the reach of my career endeavors grow.
Rayna: I’ve never even thought about this. I grew up in a scene where radical politics and adventurous music were deeply connected and that just never changed for me. My art and my politics are inseparable from each other. Maybe people have tried to get me to be less vocal but I probably ignored them and don’t remember.
How do you both manage to have several creative projects going at once?
Nancy: I don’t know how Rayna does it. I actually have only been able to do one thing at a time.
Rayna: I love what I do and I haven’t figured out how to make all of it fit into one box.
Do you feel that folks who share a public gender transition later in life face a different type of judgement than those who transition in their teens or twenties?
Rayna: I only know my own experience. Transitioning is hard, complex and sure, I face some judgement but the most important thing is that it’s wonderful. I get to be the person that I am. I wish that for everyone. My story happens to include asking people to use a different name and pronouns and all that comes with that, as well as taking care of myself by regulating my hormonal balance so that it matches the way my mind works, but everyone’s tasked in this life with moving from a place of having their identity dictated by outside forces to a place of authentically just being. And that is hard work. But it’s the only work there is to do. In my opinion. The judgement of others is just a manifestation of their own fear of themselves. I don’t pay it much attention.
How can young folks who feel pressure to label themselves embrace a sense of boundarylessness in their lives? Especially those who may not be able to come out or live fully expressed?
Rayna: What worked for me when I was young was digging in to creativity as a source for imaginative identity discovery. That started when I was a child and continues to this day. I created my own safety and sense of self by using the arts, especially through various kinds of story telling and exploring alternative relationships to time. This didn’t require tremendous resources, I just worked with what was around me. I also studied a lot, looking at history and trying to understand how different cultures at different times have looked at the world and being-hood, and also to understand how the highly limited, Eurocentric way of thinking and framing the world that I was raised in came to be. Authentic community and “chosen family” is helpful in this regard as well. Although I haven’t had as much of it as I would have liked, when I have it’s been very healing. Later in life it became very important for me to cultivate an active spiritual life, to develop and deepen a connection to powers greater than myself which helped me to let go of being overly concerned with what other people think of me and whether or not I “fit in”.
The gender binary dictates how women should look and act. Do you think women of colour have different challenges when working as a performer?
Nancy: Certainly the aspect of cultural identity comes into play for women of color. For some, that cultural identity is part of the performing persona, but even when it isn’t, it’s impossible not to consider.
What advice can you give marginalized artists on carving out their own creating space in the music industry? What is the hardest challenge they can expect to face?
Nancy: Expect to be ignored. That can be applied to anyone trying to make it in the music industry, really. But there are so many more resources and platforms available for people to share their output these days, the welcoming space is just that much larger. If the work is important to you, then just keep making the work.
What is the most important aspect of Pride to you?
Rayna: I don’t have much of a relationship to Pride to be honest. But I do have a relationship to the legacy of resistance that grew around the actions of Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, among others, at Stonewall. S.T.A.R. being a very important part of that. It’s not that I’m even particularly critical of Pride, I just don’t connect with it in a meaningful way. I connect to building community and to moving towards a completely different kind of social organization and having a fun, gorgeous time while doing it.
Nancy: I’m encouraged by the seemingly “mainstreaming” of Pride growing into these national and global celebrations.
Here in Toronto, Black Lives Matter and queer community members who wish to have police in uniform banned from pride have received tons of backlash. How can we better explain to privileged people how important this is for folks who can't 'Call The Police'?
Rayna: That’s awesome. So great that there was an active push to remove police from Pride in Toronto and that it had enough traction to create backlash. While painful, backlash isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It indicates that there is movement against the status quo! So I hope that folks will continue to work towards that goal in the coming years, you certainly have my solidarity. I’m an abolitionist. I speak about abolition of prisons, law enforcement, ICE, national borders whenever possible. We’ve been bludgeoned by carceral models of justice for a long time, it’s a very difficult kind of programming to unwind but it’s certainly worth the work. I made a film about abolition, “No More White Presidents” which I try to show as often as I can and, when possible, include a panel discussion with other folks who are working towards abolition. So that’s what I’m doing. I think political education is a big part of how folks who still believe that law enforcement keeps them “safe” can understand what’s really going on and how prisons and police operate within the larger picture of oppression and state sanctioned violence. People have to be willing to deal with reality though, and I think that’s where the power of creativity and spirituality, especially when shared in community, comes into play.
Queer, trans folks and women are most vulnerable to harassment. When Pride month is over, what are some ways we can feel safe and secure in our cities?
Rayna: Yes we are. In the US 10 trans women have been murdered so far this year. 5 during Pride month. One in an ICE detention center and one in prison. I think it’s also important to not overly identify us as victims. Queer, trans folks and women are some of the most creative, dynamic, compelling, complex, beautiful, imaginative, strong, talented, joyous, outspoken, interesting, thoughtful people as well. Staying in that place, the place of joy and celebration, all year long helps me to feel safe and secure. Strength in numbers. Both stories are important. I wish I had better practical suggestions for how to stay safe and secure. I’m still figuring it out for myself.
What else are you working on? Where can we see your creative media projects after the tour?
Rayna: I just released an Ep of music under my Black Meteoric Star alias which is available at the Black Meteoric Star Bandcamp page. I’ve also just finished a solo record which I’m excited to release later this year. All of my music is on my Soundcloud page. I’m in residence at Brooklyn venue National Sawdust workshopping a one woman show called “Physicality” that I’ll perform again in October. My website gavinrayna.com is a good place to find out about my work and I’m currently building a new site to give folks access to my wider transdisciplinary work, adding my film, visual art, writing and performance work to the music that’s currently featured there.