For many local artists and musicians, the footwork doesn’t always meet the pavement. Grueling, long nights blur into weekends that never quit; one would only live this lifestyle if there was truly no other choice. For Jen Korte, known by her stage moniker, Lady Gang, this choice came after years of hard work and an openness to evolve with the scene. Music is life, love, art, and survival.
Korte is a woman who takes intersectionality to a fierce level. She is a woman of color, a lesbian, and a self-made electronic expert. Box, what box?
This queer Latina blends not only unorthodox genres of music into a soundscape that is unlike any other, she is an ambassador and advocate for knowledge. In an industry that is notoriously dominated by cis men, Korte is challenging the norm, saying that just because this is how it’s been that doesn’t mean that’s how it’s going to stay.
“I have a three-song EP coming out soon, which I recorded, produced, and mixed myself,” said Korte. “I recorded it at The Keep Studios, and Nick Sullivan helped engineer it, but I made all of the production decisions, and I play every instrument; it’s all me, which is really important in the music industry to have females who can do sound engineering and producing, kind of like Missy Elliot, who can do all the things.”
Lady Gang is a new venture for Korte, as she has best been known as lead of Jen Korte and the Loss since 2009. With a guitar, a beat machine, and a vocal processor, she has formed a new genre of music that is unlike anything else in the local Denver music scene. A blend of shredding guitar, hip-hop beats, and a voice so resonant, she can solely take audiences through an entire sonic journey. Lady Gang is less of a departure from The Loss and more of a way to evolve and incorporate.
“Somebody left a loop pedal at my house, and I was trying to play brewery gigs outside of the city just for extra money, and I was getting bored. So, I kind of started teaching myself very simple loops, like two cord loops, where I could just solo over a little section for a minute, and that skill to started to grow, and grow, and grow,” she said.
Then she found a beat machine at a garage sale for 20 bucks, and it’s now become a constant morphing of equipment and learning. For Korte, it’s empowering, as she educates herself in the functionality if the equipment, because tech knowledge isn’t something that is as easily accessible for women.
“A lot of times, it feels like the information you need to know is just kind of understood among men,” Korte said. “I learned the programs on my own, so I don’t know all the quick shortcuts and the technical tricks, but I know how to work the program, and I know how to produce a song.”
“A lot of the times, you get somebody in the studio sound engineering, and they have their own ideas on how the your song should sound, and then it kind of ends up being their interpretation of your art.”
Korte has become somewhat a mentor to other women who are interested in exploring looping elements into their own music, and she’s eager to help them build a basic understanding and technical vocabulary to communicate in the studio.
“I’m inspired by the women I know in the city,” she said. “I hang out with a lot of female musicians, and I mean, these are women that have been around for years. We constantly are trying to lift each other up and inspire each other.”
Being a woman in the music industry, while Korte admits that it’s getting better, remains a challenge. Add in the elements of being queer and Latina, and she has definitely experienced a tug-of-war with identity and representation.
“When I started in Denver in 2005, I was working with a booking agent who I felt only wanted to book me at gay venues. Like, ‘We only want you to be a lesbian artist,’ and at the time, even 15 years ago, it was a different world. If you were known as a queer artist, you weren’t really going to have a foothold into a lot of other places.”
At 37 years old, Korte has found herself in an odd position with her queer expression, finding a balance between a previous aversion to it in order to get gigs and currently embracing it, since being a queer artist is no longer something that sets you apart in a negative way.
“My queer identity is not all I am, so I’m just trying to find a balance with what it means to be queer for me. I never wanted to only be to be known as a lesbian musician. You know, I didn’t want to rely on that being the only demographic I appeal to just because we had this lifestyle choice in common.”
Similarly to her desire to nurture the growth of techy women in the community, she is tapping into her queerness to utilize her platform and empower people to use their voice, even if that means calling out discrimination and judgement within the queer community.
“I see it within our own community, experiences in the past of women not wanting to date women who slept with men before. And women not wanting to date bisexual women because they’ve dated men, and those kinds of things,” she said. “Now I’m married; I’ve been with my partner for nine years, and sometimes I still get in conversations with younger generations that are like, ‘How could you be in a monogamous relationship?’ There’s a lot of dictating around what you should be, instead of just allowing people to be.”
While being a musician comes first and foremost for Korte, she is excited about her upcoming June show with unapologetically queer artist Bitch. She will at last see a merging of all of her identities. The two of them will take the stage at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox on June 2, just in time to kick off Pride season.
“I’m so excited to work with Bitch, because it kind of comes full-circle for me to be involved with somebody who I listened to, and I was 18 in Waco, Texas. I had no gay friends whatsoever, but I could relate to that album. So, it’s cool we can take this role as mentors, and being gay doesn’t mean you have to live your life any kind of way.”
As she continues to refuse to be held back and be placed into a box of rules and expectations, Lady Gang’s soul remains ever evolving and ever-strong.