Heartbroken, Trans, Gay, and On Tour: It's All Just Dyke Drama
Dyke Drama performing at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.
Sadie Switchblade of Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit (G.L.O.S.S.) had a pretty simple answer when she was asked why she chose to call her new solo garage rock side project “Dyke Drama.”
“It’s pretty straightforward. I’m gay, and the first batch of songs were just like, really personal lesbian love songs,” says Switchblade about Dyke Drama’s debut EP Tender Resignation.
That small part of the 30-year-old trans woman’s musical soul, however, has become perhaps Switchblade’s most noticed piece of music, having been featured among other places in Spin magazine’s November 16 issue, which was also the endearingly awkward multi-instrumentalist’s birthday.
“It was originally just a thing where I wasn’t going to do anything with it. I was just gonna make some tapes and give them to friends. And then it kinda blew up a little bit, so I’m going for it,” she says.
The record found its way from Switchblade to Detroit-based Salinas Records by way of a mutual relation, and suddenly Switchblade’s personal love cassettes were being distributed on vinyl halfway across the country from her home in Olympia, Washington.
The EP, and really the entire project, is a far cry from Switchblade’s initial Olympia-based project. While G.L.O.S.S. is an in-your-face queer hardcore band that erred so hard toward their queer roots that they literally denied cisgender straight men access to their shows and merchandise, Dyke Drama is soft, sweet, at times lighthearted, and in most ways totally relatable to just about anyone who has fallen in and out of love.
But don’t let Sadie Switchblade’s softer side fool you, though. She is still one fierce lady, a lesson that San Francisco-based rock band Whirr learned the hard way. When Whirr caught wind of G.L.O.S.S.’s habit of denying cisgender men access to its music, the group took to Twitter to let their opinions fly, including some intellectual gems such as “misogyny is hating women. g.l.o.s.s. is just a bunch of boys running around in panties making shitty music.”
In response, Switchblade created a Twitter account of her own, the aptly named @trannyterrorist, so she could fire back at the misogynistic Bay Area shoegazers. And she did so with sharp, silver-fingered tweets.
“r u just sad u missed the boat on punk and play music for people with Macklemore hair who blog about bacon-infused bloodymarys?”’ she tweeted.
But Sadie Switchblade’s tweets were nothing in comparison to the backlash Whirr felt from the labels that prior to the derogatory tweets were distributing their music.
Just hours after those tweets, Run For Cover Records literally ran for cover from the impending social media explosion and severed ties with Whirr. Then Grave Face Records did the same a mere 11 hours later, thus proving an important point: Don’t fuck with Sadie Switchblade or she “#willactuallyeaturliverwithfavabeans” as she threatened in one of her retaliatory tweets.
Right now, Dyke Drama is on a nationwide tour opening for Beach SlangBand. Before they hit The Rebel Lounge in Phoenix on Thursday, May 5, Sadie Switchblade took some time to talk to New Times.
New Times: Why did you decide to play all of the instruments except organ on Tender Resignation?
Sadie Switchblade: I can be kind of obsessive in the studio, and having been in bands for a long time, I just wanted something that was all on my own and I could really pour myself over, get every detail the way I want it, and be kind of selfish. I just wanted complete creative control, which is kind of a blessing and a curse, and it’s been really fun and a learning experience.
Are the songs just general love songs or are they about someone specific?
They are about someone.
How much of the record’s content do you feel deals with being trans, as opposed to just straight-up love songs?
The first couple songs, like “Thing I do Best” and “Hardest Years,” I guess touch on themes of being a transwoman and my experience with that. The “Thing I do Best” is just about a daily routine of feeling dysphoric and trying to take care of yourself, and “Hardest Years” is about realizing the people you’re hanging out with aren’t helping you and aren’t respecting you and moving on from an alcoholic death drive to becoming the person you want to be. I guess I called it Dyke Drama, too, ’cause I didn’t want to be ashamed to write love songs or songs about emotions that are often derided for being too effeminate or too feminine.
Have you noticed a positive change since people like Kaitlyn Jenner and Laura Jane Grace have come out as trans?
I don’t know [if] things have definitely changed so much, even [with] the past two years. I think there has been more visibility, but trans visibility is a double-edged sword because I feel like in the past, people might think you were weird, but they would just assume you’re a woman. Now people know what you are, and people want you to think they’re cool with you and ask annoying questions all the time. I miss being kind of stealth. Musically though, it can be stale. It gets stale [for] any artist when they are hiding a part of themselves and not singing from a place of honesty with who they are. So when [Laura Jane Grace] came out, it probably resonated with a lot of people. I think she started writing better songs and making better music, and it was easier for people to connect with.
Have you had any bad experiences out on the road due to bigotry against you being trans?
It’s mostly fine, it’s mostly good. The shows are always great, and there are never any problems. Occasionally, there will be a bad man who has to go, and we’ve been threatened on the internet before, but nothing anyone ever followed through with. Shows for the most part are fine, but going to the shows and stopping at gas stations is where scary stuff tends to happen, but everyone in the scene is really supportive.
Your Bandcamp page used the “comedy” tag on it, is your act supposed to be funny?
It’s not supposed to be; it’s just kinda dark. I can be kind of self-deprecating, and I think the songs are really vulnerable and hard to play sometimes emotionally, and I kind of offset that with some humor.
What is the payoff in playing songs that are emotionally difficult for you to play?
I think it’s kind of, like, satisfying. It’s kind of an exorcism and it’s cathartic; you’re getting something out of your system. I can be manic-depressive, and I can go through periods where I am writing tons and tons of songs, so I will get obsessed with recording them and then playing them live. It’s a completion of this process that helps me put my mental state back into neutral, and then it adds up all over again. It’s just an neurotic thing more than anything; I just feel like I have to play and record and perform.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.