Ever since she was little, Adrienne Rae Ash wanted to be in a successful punk band, on the road, playing shows. And now she is. She’s also living her life as an out, proud trans woman and dares any homophobes in the punk scene to have a problem with the “loudest, gayest band in the world.”
But, as we all know, there’s a cloud on the horizon for Ash’s band, Plasma Canvas, and all their dreams. This summer, they were meant to set off on tour with Less Than Jake and Lagwagon following their signing to Side One Dummy Records. For anyone knowledgeable about pop punk and melodic hardcore, that’s more than a dream come true. Then COVID-19 hit.
“I’m not gonna lie to you; it’s such a weird mix of feelings right now because we announced that we were signed this label that I’ve wanted to be on for my whole life in the middle of a pandemic,” Ash said. “It’s this thing that we’ve been working on for so long, and now that we finally get to talk about it, we don’t get to have a release show. It’s kind of a bummer, but we’re trying to stay positive and focused on the future, and when we finally are able to, we’re still gonna go on tour with Lagwagon and Less Than Jake.”
Looking to start the band of her dreams, Ash put out an ad on Craigslist in Fort Collins, CO where the band is based. The ad explained she had songs she wanted to record and just needed a drummer. Her initial experiences with transphobic drummers who didn’t want to deal with her political lyrics were disappointing, but finally, four years ago, she found Dave, who was a great bandmate but eventually had to leave for personal reasons, and then she found her current bandmate, Jude McCarron.
The band continued garnering underground success, playing shows and booking tours, and were eventually picked up by one of Ash’s favorite labels, SideOneDummy. Not only did the label not mind that Ash’s band has a queer, political agenda, they embraced it. Their forthcoming record, Killermajestic, won’t hold back on the message or the music, although they don’t need to be heavy-handed to make their message heard.
“Our first record had a few on-the-nose, political songs on it, and our second record had stuff that was very outward-directed. But, this EP is all about interpersonal relationships and just existing as a trans person and as a queer person in general. A lot of times, that alone seems like an act of rebellion because we’re told by the religious right, the alt-right, the current political administration, that we’re not right. So, naturally, when I write about being a trans woman, it’s just like, ‘I exist, and these are my words.’ It feels like even saying that is a political statement. Even if I’m just talking about things like relationships, having a crush on a straight girl, or hating my job and not wanting to go in, the subtext is: I’m a trans person. It’s hard for me not to be political.”
We’re going to do meaningful things, because music was always supposed to be more than a mosh pit. It was supposed to be a way for marginalized people to feel that this is their place to exist.
In addition to this inherent political stance, Plasma Canvas also refer to themselves as the loudest, gayest band in the world. While they know that certain bands outside the pop-punk realm may actually be louder, the idea is to poke fun at those scared of a loud, gay band.
“It feels like we piss off the right people by saying that, so I’m going to continue to do so,” Ash laughed.
The band also wants to use their music to make those who are marginalized feel more powerful.
“It’s always been the plan, but right now, it’s at the forefront,” she explained. “We want to use our music for empowerment among people who currently feel powerless. That’s always what we’ve been about, but now that we can’t do things like get a bunch of people together in the same room and sweat and sing and scream at the top of our lungs, what we can do is encourage people to advocate for themselves and organize and form communities and stand up to the people that are trying to oppress them.
“Whether that means organizing a rent strike or trying to divert energies we could be using on tour into community organizing and taking care of the people that are the most vulnerable, we are going to do something. We’re going to do meaningful things because our music was always supposed to be more than a mosh pit. It was supposed to be a way for marginalized people to feel that this is their place to exist.”
Even if I’m just talking about things like relationships, having a crush on a straight girl, or hating my job and not wanting to go in, the subtext is: I’m a trans person. It’s hard for me not to be political.
Photos by Ryan Frazee