Party with Polythene Pam - queer folk punk girl band throws album release bash
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On June 7, Queer folk punk girl band Polythene Pam will be throwing a party at The Lost Church in celebration of the release of their first album. And with song titles like "Middle Age Transexual Theme Song" and "Invertible Penis," you know that you're in for something a little bit different.
The band consists of three women, two of whom are trans and one who is cisgender. They get their band name from a same named song by The Beatles, a song they find to be transphobic.
The band's members are Anna Dickinson on vocals, guitar and acoustic bass, Jenn Cuddigan on vocals, acoustic bass, electric bass, uke, banjolele and kazoo, and Coda Gardner on vocals, percussion, kazoo and assorted sound effects and moans. They're a friendly, fun bunch, easy to talk to, and it's clear when chatting with them that they really like each other.
"Yes, we do like each other," said Dickinson. "We're like a goofy little three-way!"
"You have to know each other pretty well when you're in a band," Cuddigan pointed out. "You have to work as a team to read each other's cues and write good music together. If you hate someone, that's not going to be an easy thing! We get along so well, it makes a lot of what we do feel so easy."
"We don't always see eye-to-eye on everything, but we tend to like and respect each other so much that there's nothing we can't work out," added Gardner. "That's what makes our chemistry so great."
The band formed in Fall 2017, through a queer and trans karaoke group they were all involved in. They've performed at El Rio, Ivy Room in the East Bay, Hotel Utah, and Oakland's White Horse, among other venues. There has always been a queer and trans vibe to their music, albeit with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
"We try to take a humorous and satirical approach to a lot of things," said Dickinson. "There are a lot of angry queer bands out there, which we get. We're angry about a lot of things too, but we'd rather approach things with satire and try to keep things upbeat because people need to laugh about stuff. My take on visibility is that I want to be out there, showing people that you can be a trans performer having fun and laughing and singing along with your friends and giving people some hope."
Dickinson also pointed out that there was also a bit of social commentary in their material, usually couched in humor.
"We're the type of people who, even when there's awkward tough things going on, our sense of humor is to make jokes about everything," said Cuddigan. "We don't take ourselves incredibly seriously when it comes to a lot of things and that's the way we get through it."
"The reaction in generally pretty positive," said Dickinson. "People have a good time at our shows. They dance, they sing along, they laugh at our dumb jokes. I think it's a much-needed outlet. Trans culture is largely involved in fighting just for survival, but as a culture develops you've got to have your satirists and people who are broadening it in that way. I like to think that we're part of pushing forward some of the discourse to make people less ashamed of who they are."
Musical influences among the bandmates include a diverse mix of artists: They Might Be Giants, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, The Violent Femmes, and electronic music. Their album is a mixture of songs they've been performing in their stage shows. The album release party at The Lost Church will see the band performing an all-acoustic set, something they say they don't usually do, so The Lost Church set will sound a little bit different from the rock/punk sound of the album.
They'll be performing with another band, The Secret Emchy Society. They describe Emchy band leader Cindy Emch as a big country music fan who performs Outlaw Queer Country akin to Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. There will be mingling with the audience before the show, as well as after.
"We're not doing a large print run of CDs," said Gardner. "We're just doing CDs made to order as a novelty. People can order those, and it'll have linear notes, a photo or two, and whoever buys it will get a copy made to order."
There will be CDs available at the release party. The album will also be available online.
"Our message is to acknowledge the struggle we have as trans folks and to try to be able to laugh about it," said Dickinson. "For a lot of trans folks, the idea of getting up on stage and singing, especially for trans female folks, is terrifying, because a lot of us are very uncomfortable with our voices. So I try to get up there and be a role model and say that we can do this, we can get up there and just be ourselves and use the voices we have. We can be proud of our voices, we can try to laugh between ourselves about issues in our community, and just have some fun and get through this thing together."
Polythene Pam with The Secret Emchy Society, Friday, June 7, 7:30pm at The Lost Church, 65 Capp Street. $10-15. www.polythenepamband.com www.thelostchurch.com