Q&A with Jaye
Vamp: So, you’re in two projects in the festival, Homo Monsterous and firestarter; could you explain the musical differences between the two?
Jaye: Homo Monsterous started first, Leo [Keiser] and I met in art school and were doing more performance art related stuff to start with. Then, just started making more and more music because it was noise based sounds in the beginning. And that’s where I started, I took a lot of music lessons growing up, but I kind of stopped doing that when I started doing visual arts, especially for university. Eventually, I kind of realized that everything could work together and I ended up in intermedia and started doing performances. It was really cool working with Leo and I guess the project for Homo Monsterous started really noisy and then for a while we had a drummer so we were more punk maybe? I don’t know, it was more of like what you would expect for a band. Then coming out of that after we parted ways with our drummer, we started doing back beats for everything so we could continue making music. We could have found another drummer but I feel like they are few and far between. So we started to do back beats and that brought noise back in a more controlled way. So it’s been really cool to do that and Leo’s actually started producing beats as well which is neat because the album, that was kind of my thing with their input but now, they’ve started making stuff and sending it to me so that’s been really nice.
firestarter started because as I write songs, certain things happen where it just doesn’t make sense for Homo Monsterous anymore and it’s usually either something that I want to express that I feel like I need to do on my own and not have Leo’s input. For firestarter I talk a lot about more personal topics. Leo and I both write about our experience as trans people and that comes out in Homo Monsterous, but there are certain things I experience as a trans woman that are different from what they experience. It also gives me the opportunity to make something in a completely different way so instead of starting by writing things on guitar, I just started making weird beats to see what would happen. Then I sent some to a bunch of other pals, just put out a call on Facebook and asked if anybody wanted to collaborate on a thing just to get different ideas and I got three different cool things back from different people and they were all super different so it was really nice to work with that.
There’s a Regina noise musician who does cool stuff pulsewidth, he helped with one of the tracks so there’s a modular synthesizer under everything. Then, Natural Sympathies, is my pal Amber Goodwyn, and she did another track where she recorded the backing vocals prior to me writing recorded vocals so there’s no words that I wrote into the song so it kind of changed how that worked. Then, I had another pal Joseph Dunn, who took something that I had originally made for Homo Monsterous and didn’t know what to do with because it was one of those situations where I made the beat and then I gave it to Leo, and there was really no room for them in it, they couldn’t add anything, so it was like, what do I do? So I just kept it, and I sent it to them, and they actually like slowed it down, and it sounded like a completely different song that I could actually write something that made sense versus I just had no idea so it was really good for getting unstuck and kind of keeping busy, and I do all of my writing in November/December when it starts getting cold and gross, because you can’t really tour or go anywhere, it’s a lot harder, that’s kind of when we do all that. It’s been cool to just do completely different things in firestarter. Homo Monsterous and firestarter are both kind of pop-y, in a weird way… It’s weird to see how people relate to me when I’m by myself versus when I’m with Leo. I wanted to do it because I wanted to know I could do a thing by myself.
Vamp: How is the music scene in Regina?
Jaye: Regina’s really weird because the first show Homo Monsterous played that was an actual music show was at this house downtown that was a punk house, and it was just a shitty house show. There is a very dude-centric hardcore scene there, which whenever I tell people that they’re like, “Really? that still exists?” Apparently in Regina! So this first show I played, I knew some of the people there. It was supposed to be a Homo Monsterous show but Leo couldn’t make it because of some family stuff. They were gone, and it was just me in this house, and I had no idea how anybody would react because I’m not the kind of thing that they’re used to in any aspect of who I am.
My experience with the music scene there was like, I was never involved in going to shows or anything when I was in high school because a lot of the people in the scene were not very good about not being super homophobic and all of those other great things. So I was very leery to get involved with that, and even to play the show I was like, texting Leo saying, “If you don’t hear from me in 20 minutes after my set something stupid happened, so act accordingly!” It was fine and a bunch of people really liked it even though, objectively, looking back now, it was pretty bad. There was also another group of people who were not very receptive and decided to trash me on this weird message board they had, this weird punk message board for Regina. It’s really weird. It was like this weird situation where being involved, playing that show, got me a lot of cred I guess because I was just like, I’m gonna get super drunk and I’m gonna be mostly naked and I’m gonna make you very uncomfortable and I’m just going to do the thing. Being involved in that, I do have a soft spot for abrasive punk music but I never really felt at home in that scene doing anything.
I started actually meeting other women in the music scene in Regina and talking to them, and there was a very real point where I was like, “Going to shows is so much more enjoyable now, I don’t know why. Oh wait, it’s because I’m not talking to any dudes!” I felt like I had to fit into a certain thing or do a particular type of music, but eventually I moved away from that.
Vamp: Why is it important for you to play Femme Wave? Why did you choose to come here and play the festival?
Jaye: A lot of the space that I end up occupying in Regina as a musician is having to constantly point out that there are no women involved in a lot of performances. This uncomfortable thing ends up happening where I am the only woman on stage and that’s extra uncomfortable being that I am also a trans woman on stage with a bunch of dudes. I’m the only woman, so it creates a situation where my womanhood is in question in relation to everyone else. So it’s this weird situation in relation to that where I sometimes worry that the attitude is like, “oh she’s included in this or doing this thing because she used to be a boy.” And well, no, actually. I didn’t end up making music until I transitioned because I didn’t feel like I could do it. Before, I felt like I needed to be a different person to do this. I can’t be pretending to be something or hiding at all or else nothing really feels honest.
So playing Femme Wave and being involved in a festival centered around women and trying to center around other underrepresented groups as well is really important and I find these kind of festivals are more fun, and honestly that we are more likely to be asked to play if we apply. I know other festivals that I’ve applied for before and have been rejected from have had a selection committee of primarily men. So knowing that that is not the case with Femme Wave it is just a real opportunity. And for meeting people as well, it’s a lot better because these are the kind of people that I want to meet.
Also, I’m not even that old, I’m 27, and there are people coming up to me and I have a decade on them. And they have this weird situation where they’re looking to me as some sort of weird mentor and being involved in that I feel really important. I also feel important because oftentimes trans women aren’t represented in feminism or in women’s spaces and I feel a tremendous responsibility to just show up. If I have to yell at people [I will] because it does send a message: you can do this. I feel very grateful to be here and it’s what I want to do.
Vamp: What does the term feminism mean to you?
Jaye: I think just caring for other people in tangible ways because that’s been something that even in my personal life I’ve been trying to foster with people. Actually showing up for people is really important to the point that even if shit goes down, asking somebody, “what can I do for you?” and being available to be there for them.
Basically, if any trans-woman or queer woman wants to talk about anything, my social media is basically open! Hit me up. I feel like often times we are very focused on external things and we should be because life is very hard, there is a lot of stuff that needs changing. At the same time, people are going to burn out, so I bid a lot more focus on just the act of caring for people and the means of how to do it in a kind of way that doesn’t sacrifice myself, because being a martyr is not good. But, I believe in doing things in a more sustainable way because I feel like that’s something that is lacking from activism and feminist organizing which ends up being really convenient for the dominant culture because everything burns out and nothing changes.
Homomonstous and Firestarter are both working on albums and both bands are hoping to create a full length album this winter.
*Interview has been edited for length and clarity.