Visibility, while not absolute, is needed. If I can be a visibly proud queer model to folx, then I feel fulfilled, because that’s something I needed when I was younger.
We had the privilege of sitting down with TAYLOR ALXNDR, a multi-talented musician from Atlanta, Georgia. When she's not killing it on stage, you can find her doing activism for queer and trans rights. Keep reading to hear her story and listen to her unique sound.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is TAYLOR ALXNDR, in that format exactly. It’s more of a statement, really. I’m a queer and trans DIY musician, multi-media performance artist, community organizer, and proud Aquarius. I am the executive director of Southern Fried Queer Pride, a queer and trans, arts and advocacy organization and festival. I also created and host SWEET TEA, a queer variety show, as well as a new drag show coming in July called AMEN at Sister Louisa’s Church--it’s a bar!--in Atlanta.
How long have you lived and performed in Atlanta?
I was born and raised in Georgia, in a small town called Griffin an hour south of Atlanta. I’ve lived in Atlanta since 2011 when I moved here for school. I’ve been a performer in an existential sense--aren't we all?--all my life, but I started performing in drag around 2013. My first real performance was in a bodysuit made of ACE bandages to the A-Trak remix of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll”. Since then I’ve worked to marry my drag with my activism and my music.
What got you started in music?
I’ve never known a time where I didn’t want to make music. I’ve been writing songs since I was 7, and making actual songs since high school. I see music, and drag for that matter, to be highly fluid mediums for multiple things to happen. There’s so much you can say in music. There’s so many ways you can make people feel. It’s powerful.
What are your favorite (and least favorite) aspects of making music?
I love being in control (laughs). I’m an Aquarius after all. Being a DIY artist--I write and produce all my music--I have full control of what I say and what I sound like. There’s nothing there to dilute anything. If there’s anything I dislike about making music, it would be the second-guessing and moments where I get stuck on a lyric or a melody. I’ll spend days completely redoing a finished song because, after listening to it repeatedly, I find flaws. But that comes with any art form as an artist.
Who are your musical influences?
I’m all over the map. Santigold, St. Vincent, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Drums, Solange, Shamir, Vampire Weekend, Sky Ferreira, Empress Of, ABRA...I guess you can say my taste is usually not Top 40, but there’s really not a singular genre or characteristic that influences me. 90's house music and 80's new wave and darkwave music are all major influences, though.
What genre would you classify your music?
I call my music genrequeer. There’s definitely a solid sonic thread with my EP, NOISE. I’m really into heavy synthpop, dance-y music with flecks of house and ballroom music--but that’s what this project needs to sound like. I already have notes for my next project and it’s in a different direction. If I could sum up this EP in three words, it would be queer synth pop.
Tell us about NOISE.
NOISE is a soundtrack to the various “noises” in my life. These “noises” are every day struggles that my friends and I go through. I can’t write love songs or talk about materialistic things because I’m not in love and I don’t have or want those things. So, I turn to my community and my experiences. I’m inspired by resilience and the survivors that are in my life. “Nightwork," the lead single of the EP is about the “noise” of being a performer and the give-and-take relationship between performer and audience. There’s a song called “Matter” which is about being a part of the Black Lives Matter and Trans Lives Matter movements. One of my favorite songs on the EP is called “Gritted Teeth” which is about coming out to my mother. With this EP, I wanted to make people dance, think, feel, and dance some more.
Where did the inspiration for NOISE come from?
The main inspiration for NOISE is my community. I’m a personality, performer and organizer so almost every aspect of my life involves the community, the crowd. I felt the need to make a sonic love letter to them--to say “I hear you, I see you, and I know what you’re going through.” They’ve given me so much over the past few years that I feel indebted to them.
I really wanted to flex my skills as a DIY musician on this EP. The only direction is up for me and I intend to grow and develop with every project. It’s my first solid project and I think people will see it as a strong one.
Where can our readers get NOISE?
NOISE is out July 7th on Futurehood! You can get it on Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify, and wherever fine music is sold and streamed.
Now, let's get political. What's it like being a trans individual in the music industry and within society at large?
I identify as agender, meaning I don’t have one. Gender has always been this arbitrary thing to me, because it’s always shifting and changing even though people try to maintain it as this rigid construct. Luckily, I come from a community that is pretty open to queer and trans identities. Though sometimes, I play shows with cisgender heterosexual people while I perform in drag. Sometimes it’s weird, but luckily, I haven’t had any terrible incidents.
Do you think queer artists, especially trans artists, should make their gender a main part of their music?
I think that’s a personal decision for every artist. Society has an ongoing trend of locking queer artists as “queer” before everything else they do. To some that might be irritating depending on how they see themselves. For me, I don’t mind it to an extent. My queer identity is something that permeates everything in my life--from my outfits to my music to my love life to my politics. It’s not everything I am, but it’s a very major part of me. I think part of my reason for feeling this way is knowing that there are queer folks, young and old, who still need public figures, and people out who are unapologetically and vocally queer. Visibility, while not absolute, is needed. If I can be a visibly proud queer model to folx, then I feel fulfilled, because that’s something I needed when I was younger.
What are your opinions on trans folx current presence in the music industry in Atlanta, the US, and the world at large?
Trans musicians are THE TEA, and people are slowly waking up to it! Some of the best music to come out in the past few years, in my opinion, have come from on-the-rise trans artists like AH MER AH SU, Macy Rodman, and Quay Dash. I think the world is always asking trans artists “where do you fit? how can we pigeon-hole you?” But we continue to break molds and expectations. I don’t think we’re too far off from having a mainstream, out, trans pop star.
What does activism in music mean to you?
Activism means a lot to me, especially deconstructing it as something only people with “experience and degrees” are able to do. To me, activism is something everyone can do. It’s not always lobbying, rallying, and marching. Sometimes it’s hearing someone say something transphobic and calling them out. Sometimes it’s making events specifically for marginalized communities. Drag can be activism. Two of my idols are Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. They were trans women of color who started the Stonewall Riots, organized folx in their community, and were drag queens and performers. My music is inherently political, just like my existence.
Click here to pre-order NOISE and listen to TAYLOR ALXNDR's hit song, "Nightwork," below. You can also check out her music on Soundcloud and Bandcamp. Follow her on Facebook to hear her spill the tea and follow her other projects. Also, check out her website to find out when she's performing next!
Marina Ali is a student, writer, poet, and blue lipstick enthusiast. She is a staff writer for Brown Girl Magazine, the features editor for Drunk Magazine, and the social media manager for TMO Media. When she’s not writing or studying for classes, you can find her picnicking in pastoral East Texas, crafting for her sorority sisters, or making food.