Interviews With Girlyman: Ty Greenstein, Nate Borofsky, and Doris Murumatsu
Q: What was it like to go into Nate's utility closet and record the last CD?
Ty: As you know, it's a tool closet, so if a take went really badly you could take a hammer and just get your frustrations out.
Q: Did you ever break out into "If I had a hammer?"
Ty: I think there were several jokes made about it, but we stopped at the verse about the love between the brothers and the sisters because, as Nate said, I believe that's illegal in Georgia. At least technically.
Q: You went in there by yourself to record, right? Was that different?
Ty: It was scary. The whole process was really raw. We did it intentionally that way. We didn't know that much going into it. We didn't know how to do it. And so there was a lot of "let's try this" and see what happens but going in there and singing. Usually going into a booth that's not yours can be intimidating because you're on the clock and you kind of think that everyone is waiting for you to get that perfect take. Whether or not that's true, there is that pressure there, which makes it hard to relax and go into the zone. So we kind of had that going for us. There could not be a more chill environment than Nate's utility closet.
There were days we could do 30 or 40 takes and see what felt good. And then we'd keep something and if it didn't, then we'd come back.
Nate put up some Christmas lights in there. And that actually helped quite a bit. In most studios there's a little window so you can see out and look at the engineer but there's nothing—it's just a door. So you're really in your own world in there and, um, it was very intimate. It was very conducive to making that particular record.
Q: What was the songwriting process like for those songs?
Ty: I have a studio for the first time. We built it. It has electricity. It's a good building. It's a solid building. It doesn't have a bathroom, but it's an awesome little building. It's a sweet spot.
So I wrote in there and I got into a routine of going in there in the morning and staying in there until lunchtime or so, and I just found for me over the years with writing, the more I do it the lower the stakes are and so it's just kind of getting used to those mornings when nothing is happening and being cool with that. I feel like I've spent all my adult life getting to the point where I understand that. That's how the process works for me. Nate is much different. He's like 'I feel like writing a song' and a song appears. That's great for him. And that's also what makes him great to co-write with because his process is really straightforward.
For me, writing the songs for this album I'm a really intuitive writer and the stuff that I write I can't think about or it completely ruins it. So that's kind of like you don't want to make it mystical in any way or mystify it. It is a special state and you don't often know when you're in that state. Usually I have a batch of songs I'm working on-- between six and 12 songs that I'm working on and what tends to happen with the albums is that a few of them percolate and just kind of come to the top to use coffee metaphors [Ty had just purchased an espresso machine and dropped it, fearing that she'd broken it, so it was on her mind.]
I usually don't know which songs those will be because I'm writing these songs in a parallel way, kind of building and then all of the sudden, something I haven't been working on at all will cut through one morning and I'll write it in an hour. That happened with Hudson.
Then there are the songs that I wrote probably 100 verses for like Could Have Guessed. Trying to get closer and closer to the emotional truth of what I was trying to say is hard to do. You think you're being honest and then you're just not. It just doesn't ring true and you don't know why. You just have to strip down another layer of padding -- that distance you can create from the art until that's it, you're there.
Q: Do you ever have that feeling when you sit down to write where you think, this is the time that I won't be able to do it?
Ty: Every time. Every time. Without fail. It's a great leap of faith. I was thinking about what you said at the show. [The night before when Ty left the stage exhilarated after a show at Eddie's Attic I had said that was the feeling I tried to remind myself of when I was in the despair of writing] You have to remember that moment when you're banging your head against the wall. Because it's really easy to forget and I have to remind myself, that I've actually written a number of songs that people like just fine. They're not bad songs. They're totally actual songs that exist in the world. So it helps me to try to remember that although I don't always remember that.
Q: Do you write by hand or computer?
Ty: It varies. Usually its' by hand when I'm getting down a first draft. When I'm editing I do it on a computer.
Q: Do you read other writers?
Ty: It helps to get input for sure, whether it's songs that somebody else wrote or I start reading a novel or something. Just something to get me out of my head. Especially musically, I hear sounds and chord changes that I wouldn't think of. You can get into your rut easily. But I don't always remember to do that.
At times I can't write any songs and then I realize that I'm in the feedback loop. Somebody will put on something I haven't heard before and then I think oh, this is what creativity sounds like. That's what it's like to go outside what you'd expect to hear.
Q: Why do your fans connect with your songs so deeply?
Ty: I don't know. There's a rawness about what we do. We're stripped down in a way that you don't hear that much any more. The three of us are really connected to each other. That really comes across. People can access that in themselves with that.
Q: Is that the albums or the shows?
Ty: The live show is something a little different because the intimacy between the three of us is incredibly obvious. There's something a little bit different there that's hard for me to put my finger on.
Q: Is the audience in your head when you write?
Ty: It's always a struggle to get them out of my head. When I really am caring about what I'm writing they're not there. I can't give what I'm trying to give if I know who I'm writing for. Because the stuff that I really want to give is the really scary stuff.
The songs that feel safe to me, they work maybe they're clever or there's a facility with words that pleases me there's some kind of trick, but ultimately I don't care. But the stuff where I'm trying to work out something I don't know and come at it from that place. I have no idea what's going to happen here. That's the good stuff.
Q: Do you need to write?
Ty: I do. I think I don't. I think I can just not write. But then I start to feel like an alien. I definitely don't feel like my full self.
Ty: Well, the way I think about it is that as people we're constantly consuming the thoughts and ideas of others. And I think there's something in us that is dying to contribute to that. To be on the other side of that to have an original thought. To access something in us that has something to say. That's kind of how it feels to me. When I read too much or read the paper a lot or spend time trying to process other people's opinions. Sometimes I get into these things where I read the NYT obsessively or just keep listening to music I start to feel like there's something that is just missing. There is this whole dimension that is missing. I can do without it for a while until I start writing again and then I realize oh that's kind of like the Wizard of Oz when the color comes on.
Q: Since the scary stuff that makes a good song comes from so far inside you does it give you more a sense that you own them?
Ty: What do you mean by own them?
Q: Do you get control over your emotions by going through the songwriting process.
Ty: It's so mysterious. There's all the way the emotions can become crystallized. And you can sit there and say 'oh that's what I've been feeling' but there's also a visceral thing that happens too, where you just feel better. By going through all that muck, it's like this is here for us. This is here for us as people. You create something out of that and you feel better. It's pretty selfish actually.
Q: Is it scary to have your songs out there in the world?
Ty: It's alright. It is scary. When we start playing songs live I might have a certain attachment to a song and people go nuts over some song I never expected that reaction from. And then the stuff that I'm more attached to there's clapping and it's fine but that's it. And then you start to use those things as gauges of how you're doing and it's just a big mind fuck.
Q: Just be glad you don't have Amazon rankings you can check every day.
Ty: Oh jeeze. I'm sorry.
Q: What are Swedish audiences?
Ty: There is a certain kind of audience that enjoys the music and they clap a lot when we play the songs but they don't laugh at any of our jokes. And we just figured they don't speak English. They're Swedish. It made us feel better. It's not that they aren't enjoying themselves. They just don't know what we're saying exactly.
Q: How much do audience demands weigh on you?
Ty: The kind of thing at a show where they'll ask to play something and then won't let go of it that's tough. People take things personally. Why didn't you play this or that song? Why didn't you put that song on the album? I loved that song. You have to let that kind of stuff slide off of you.
Q: People feel so deeply you are theirs. Like it's a concert of one audience member. How do you know on stage that you're in the moment?
Ty: It comes and goes throughout the night. You kind of know when you're in the moment. And the trick is knowing when you're not so that you can come back. All three of us are mediators so we're kind of practiced in coming back to the moment. It is a moment to moment thing. I notice sometimes that I've been thinking about blah when I'm singing this heartfelt song. I'll just start thinking about something. And if that happens you can't get down on yourself about it, you just have to come back.
Q: Since you've started is it easier for you?
Ty: Getting rid of the self-consciousness has been a big problem. I went through this phase where I felt I had to. Especially when we played for bigger audiences 400 people felt pretty big or at bigger folk festivals I got this dread in me. I thought, now I have to be this other thing.
I felt like I had to be more professional or more polished. Something hit me at some point that all I have to do is be myself. So that has made it all a lot easier. You feel like a person and less like a performer.
Sometimes I can feel a little bit uptight. I used to have this terrifying fear of screwing up like messing up the guitar or singing the wrong note and now it's like alright if that happens.
It's never been like a train wreck. There's one song I freeze up on. I kind of refuse to play it. Nate will poke me and say 'lets play that, lets play that' and once we did play it and the way that I play that song is all muscle memory. So if I miss a chord that's it because I don't really know what I'm doing and I did miss a chord and I felt the heat rise to my face and I was in front of all these people and I think I said 'okay we're going to start this over' and we did and it was fine. It wasn't a big deal. In a way it was good for me to do that to say 'alright what's the worst that's going to happen.'
Q: Tell me about the first time you played together.
A: It was a George Harrison tribute. We were all playing instruments that we hadn't played before. Nate hadn't ever played the baritone guitar. I had never played the djembe before.
Q: How much of the post 9/11 feeling have you been able to retain?
[The band scheduled their first recording session for 9/11, cancelling after the attack.]
Ty: We still try to hold on to it, especially where we are in our career where we're really pretty obscure and it's like a day-to-day, month-to-month, is this going to work kind of a thing you have to hold on to that. You can't get swept away by the money for sure or the success. It's just like we're just constantly having to ground ourselves about why we're doing this.
Sometimes before a show we'll say why are we doing this? What do we want? And it's usually that same thing. We want to have fun and experience something real and have other people experience real to them.
Q: What does getting what you want look like?
Ty: What do you mean? On what scale?
Q: What's the scale of success? What's as big as you ever want to be?
Ty: Like when will we have arrived?
Q: Yes. Is it Wembley stadium or is it the opposite?
Ty: We're really happy. We stay away from those kinds of questions: 'will we be happier if x happens.' because you know how that works: x happens and you want y. It's a trap. We try not to fall into that. We'd all like to make enough money to have freedom around how much we tour. Basically now we tour a lot in order to keep us going because that's how we make most of our money. So I think to have that kind of freedom would be great.
Q: Does that put more pressure on each show?
Ty: One night it can be 25 people and the next night it can be 500. I used to obsess about it. How is this going to work? You just have to see it over a broader thing. If it's meaningful that only 25 people showed up, then it's also meaningful that 500 people showed up. You just can't get distracted by all of that stuff.
Gen [Barber, the manager] keeps the books for us. She's totally straightforward with us. 'I don't know how we're going to make it next month or I don't know how we're going to pay you guys a salary.' In those moments it can be really scary. How is this going to work? But we've been doing this for 8 years now and something has always come through. Always. Whatever it has been: A check we weren't expecting. Or someone makes a donation or a ton more people show up at a gig and they buy a ton of merchandise.
If you're going to get thrown by that stuff then we'd all be in the wrong line of work. And personally I was thrown by that stuff for a long time. And I feel like Gen has been the one who has kept everything together and has kept us all from keeping the ship is about to sink. There's a lot of faith involved. But that's how we live. That's what's exciting about it for me.
If I were in a job where I really knew? I don't know if I could really do that. Not that I don't want a steady income or some idea of the trajectory of my career but I think I have a pretty good idea about that. It's been steadily growing.
Q: What are the Crumbs in the willow from Somewhere Different Now?
Ty: I kind of wish that line went different. It's the Hansel and Gretel story. The breadcrumbs. The thing that leads you where you're going.
Q: How is it possible to be an individual in such a tight group?
Ty: When we used to live together it was certainly a challenge. So this is great. This is my space. We need that because we're together constantly. But you see how it is. We hang out a lot. We just really like each other. I think as long as we all manage to get our space in one way or another. It's that balance.
Q: Has the way you've described yourself as a band changed?
Ty: We're really bad at it.
Something in us bristles against easy descriptions. But people like to have those descriptions. So I don't know, it seems like we should hire someone to figure all that stuff out. Give us a ten word description of us. We don't know. We're just us.
Q: You affirmatively decided to just be you and be okay with people having trouble explaining who you are. The upside is that you are who you are.
Ty: It's been hard for us. Not that many people do three part harmony any more. It's rooted in this music of the 60s but that gives people certain ideas of what it's like that aren't true. I never know what to say.
Q: What's life on the road like?
Ty: Sometimes in a hotel you walk into the coat closet because you think it's the bathroom.
Q: Does life on the road make it harder to re-enter the non-tour world?
Ty: Yes. Because when I'm home my life is totally unstructured. When I'm on the road my life is incredibly structured. It's a big adjustment we all go through-- reentry sickness. In a way you can really relax into tour. I feel really taken care of by tour. There's a tour book we know when to be where we have to be. We just have our thing. When I get home it's time to write there's nothing out there in the ether other than that.
Q: What other artistic things are you working on?
Ty: I'd like to play in a stupid cover band and play the drums. It's a total cliché but I'd like to write a novel at some point. That's a more natural way to write for me-- longer pieces of prose.
Q: Moving to Atlanta what was that like?
Ty: It was like, where am I? I wasn't really ready. In some ways there were things that I needed. Gen and I needed a place of our own. I knew that this could be a really great place for us to live. But it was just so different. Living in New York where you walk everywhere and here we had to get a car. Even something like that was completely disorienting.
We'd walk our dogs around the neighborhood and instead of everyone walking their dogs around you there would be dogs barking at you behind fences. Little stuff like that was really weird and we are really homesick for those people and for certain elements of that life.
But we knew we had to give it a chance. We all had this feeling that this could be an easy place to live but that it could be a very nurturing place to be. That has completely played out. There is such a great musical community down here. And there is just so much physical space and that kind of space helps me access a lot more mental space and artistic space. I had a really strong feeling about that. When I first got down here it was really hard. I couldn't orient myself.
Nate is at his house. He's cooking for Doris' potluck birthday party. His cat Betsy comes in and out of the house. Doris' dog Django is visiting. He's showing me the room with the computer where he mixes the music. Attached to it is the utility closet where they recorded their latest CD.
Nate: Gen asked me to write u p how much that would cost for the computer and the software and this thing we use to mix the live shows and the camcorder it was like around $7,000. The next day a check came from a distributor we hadn't hear from in a long while for within a hundred dollars of the exact amount. We were like, 'wow okay I guess we'll buy all of that stuff now then. We'll take that as a sign.'
This is the closet which is usually just the tool closet we put up comforters and had another one covering up this wall before which helps baffle the sound. We took turns in the closet because we only had the one good microphone and it's easier in a lot of ways to have them recorded separately.
Q: And this is the famous microphone.
Nate: Yes, it came in this James Bond steel box surrounded by foam. It has a number: 213. Microphones are one of those things where the vintage really still matters. I don't know exactly what makes it so good. It's hand made by someone who really knows how to make them. Germany has a whole culture of microphones for whatever reason.
This is sort of a boutique kind and the concept of it is that it sounds very similar to certain vintage microphones that cost similar amounts or even more and the other advantage of this microphone which we weren't even 100% sure of until we actually had it, is that it's basically two microphones built into one. You flip a switch on this other piece of equipment and it sort of changes the circuitry and the circuitry is routed differently so the microphone that worked best for my voice was the second was different than the setting that worked for them.
Q: Was it all done here?
Nate: A couple of tracks were recorded in Chicago where we have this guy who plays drums and he just sent us the files. In that regard there is so much in recording that's been changed by computers. We didn't even need that big a computer. My laptop could probably have done it just great. But the microphone is one of the things that you still need to have something good coming into the computer. You can't get around that.
Q: How long did it take?
Nate: We weren't officially done until June. It was about 6 months of doing that. In the past it had been sort of record for a week or two in the studio. I could wake up in the middle of the night and be like I've got it and go and record. I would just record the guitar part to "Wherever You Keep" by myself because I had to keep doing it over and over again. I didn't want anyone else to be like "um, that was good. Okay" [Here Nate is approximating the voice of someone trying to be polite about something that's not very good.]
Q: How do you guys send signals like that to each other? The, oh this sucks signal?
Nate: In time working with Ty and Doris I could learn what they thought. Any vocals that we did there was always someone out there listening to it. It was interesting sometimes. I never just sit and listen to the nuances of them singing their vocal part of a song. Listening to see if there are going to be more instruments needed. What will this song be if we have other instruments. Will this spare song umph to get through
Ultimately the there were times when it would hit me emotionally. Some times I would tear up listening to them sing. I would say I am in tears and then they'd do five more takes that were better than that.
It always seems to cycle to be a chain reaction. One person doing a take it would usually just get better and better or get worse and worse.
The really important thing was for us to recognize when it was spiraling downwards and stop because it's so demoralizing to do that. It's a really weird thing in the studio. It's this artificial thing. It's not like playing live. It's you and your one part and under such scrutiny by yourself and someone else.
Q: A couple of time you said on stage "I can't believe that we did this ourselves and it was really scary."
Nate: You go to a recording studio and there's a professional there and the reason you're paying them money is that they know how to do it. And you can just focus on making the music and you can just focus on singing and none of us had ever done that before. We had done little demo-y things throughout the year. When I was a solo performer, I did one CD. It was me and a guitar. We knew there were other artists that we knew who had worked with producers and done their own thing – I think I blogged about this—and it sounded like the Vienna boys choir mixed with the James Brown drum loops.
You can always add more things there and it's important to know when you have enough.
On Storms Were Mine we recorded all the vocal parts lot of different electrical guitars and things we tried on there and it never worked. We even brought it to the mixer and it wasn't quite there and we said, okay we're going to start over.
Q: What's songwriting like for you?
Nate: It's a real instinctual process as soon as you start thinking about it. If you try to analyze it with your head either it will become sentimental or no one will ever get it because it will be so obscure and oblique. And it requires a great deal of being forgiving with yourself in that regard. If it felt right before deep down before it felt okay, it still is okay. But it certainly is a risk.
Early on we decided that if the three of us liked something it was okay. Even Genevieve doesn't have any say in that in terms of the sound. In terms of creative things it's just about what the three of us want because everyone has an opinion and the more opinions you take in…that's just not what we do. What we do is the three of us making music that we want to be making. There are a lot of places where it makes sense to get feedback from an audience but if there was a general universal negative reaction to this CD it still would have been the CD that we wanted to put out. If suddenly no one came out to our shows out of anger about how sentimental we've become then that's okay too.
I never know what songs people are going to respond to. I'm still surprised that "Easy Bake Ovens" is one that people respond to as much as they do because it's a weird song. There's no chorus to it. On a musical level it's very complicated. It has a huge number of chords in it. Every few lines it changes key. That works with the tension with the lyrics. The lyrics are fucked up and they don't make sense all of them.
Q: What is a "bucket of phones" anyway?
Nate: Yes. Exactly. When we were first playing that songs, they remarked on it and said what does that mean?' and Ty said 'oh come on it doesn't have to mean something.' There are some intense images which are from Ty's childhood and some of which are not but it comes from some deep place in her.
Q: How do you collaborate?
Nate: Every one is a little different. Easy Bake Ovens is one where Ty had a lot of it but not all of it. She had the first melody. I was playing around with it trying to come up with other musical parts. I liked the idea of changing keys, me singing part, Ty singing part and then Doris singing part, but it never quite worked out and I couldn't find a way to do it. We were staying at someone's house with a piano--maybe Gen's parents house in Charlottesville-- where they had a piano and I thought about if we keep changing keys a minor third—it was a total math kind of thing--then it gets back to the original key and then it could go back to me and I thought that could really work. I didn't have Ty's lyrics. I re-wrote everything I could remember to fit. And then she took that and put all the parts back in that weren't there.
That was the kind of song where it was super fun to write and if people don't get this it'll just be one of those songs that people don't request and that's okay I still like them.
Listening to it I get it. It's catchy. That repetitive thing can be catchy and there is this tension and intensity in that which is kind of neat. That's how that song was put together.
Sometimes Ty has had a song where she has the lyrics and isn't crazy about the music and she has handed it to me and said see what you can do with it. It just comes perfectly to me and then sometimes it's the other way.
Q: What's the tension between what you want and what the fans want?
Nate: If the three of us decided that we wanted to do a techno album we would do a techno album and be like 'hey everyone we're doing a techno album.' Thus far, our musical tastes have not changed dramatically from what we wanted to do. We are generally making the same music we wanted to make when we started.
Q: Lyrically some of your songs from your first solo album are still working.
Nate: It is totally working. I think you can see the songs that are still resonating for us because we play them over and over again.
[The interview is interrupted as Nate checks the shrimp grits he was making. He brings a kettle of water to boil. JJ the drummer calls to get a recipe that's on Nate's laptop.]
Nate: this bread is rising dangerously high.
Q: Where did you learn to cook?
Nate: I taught myself mostly using cooks illustrated. There's nothing like it.
[Butter explodes inside microwave.]
Nate: "I give you grits."
Q: What's it like having to always be charming and funny on stage. It's not just about playing songs.
Nate: The tuning songs happen spontaneously. They started because they're tuning their guitars and I don't because I play the baritone guitar. It stays in tune. I sort of thought what do I do now.
If you drive around in the van with us, that's what we're like except maybe a little more potty mouthed. That's who we are. That's how the three of us interact with each other, generally speaking. We obviously realize that we're on stage with an audience that isn't participating in this whole thing. It comes from that -- the closeness the three of us have. The more bands I meet the more I realize that's not the norm.
Q: Has it been hard at times?
Nate: We saw a band therapist for a while. We would go to a therapist to talk about some of the issues that were coming up between us which were sometimes logistical ones. I need more space in the van. Can you put a curtain up? We thought yeah we could do that and we did and it changed so much just to do that.
The whole history of the band is mixed: Doris and Ty met in second grade they went through adolescence and middle school together which was very stormy for the two of them for a long time. I'm sure they carry some of that stuff around with them. Then they went to college together.
Then Doris and I were in a relationship together for ten years. When we started as a band we were together. Then we broke up and we were still in the band together and we were living in the same apartment.
For me it was very hard. It involved a lot of compartmentalization of emotions. It was hard but I did it because I love this music that much. That's how much I love this. I was willing to do that. There's a lot that I'm willing to do for this because this is exactly the kind of music I want to be making. I feel like I'm not compromising on this. Plenty of people make their living playing music but they're playing weddings or cover bands which are fun and you get a lot of them but a lot of time it's not the music that they really want. And this is the music that I really want to be writing and playing
Q: Are you fed differently by different parts of the process?
Nate: I am fed differently. We never have more than a month or so off so it's not like I really know what it's like to not be doing this. Eventually I start to think about song writing when I do have that time off. They are creative on different levels. Compared to writing something or painting a painting. Joni Mitchell talked about how Van Gogh never got a standing ovation after he painted Starry Night and that's just a really different thing. It does end up involving interacting with people on some level. That didn't happen with Van Gogh because he was hated.
I really like collaborating with Doris and Ty because they have ideas that I wouldn't have. They are two of my favorite song writers. And so it's really fun to do that. On this last CD there were some songs where we were kind of one morning in a hotel we had hours to kills. I said Doris you want to write a song with me I have this little chord idea I've been working on. Now what should we write about? She said there was this person who was always putting her in a crappy mood. And I just keep going into that crappy mood when ever I'm around them and then we started writing "Wherever You Keep." Then we gave it to Ty and Ty changed some things.
Ty was there for the last little things. It needs a bridge and we came up with one. It is so fun to be doing that. I know for me I get so insecure about writing. Because it was WRITING as opposed to just making shit up which is what all good writing is at heart.
Thinking of things as art can be troubling. Thinking of it as a craft is something on par with gluing macaroni to paper. That puts you in a mindset that's much more conducive to having good ideas. If it doesn't work we'll go on to something else. Instead of thinking, I must be INSPIRED!
It's a lot easier to get insecure about that kind of stuff too. The best songs were ones where I just thought this is a piece of crap and I played it for Doris and Ty and they said 'wait, let me do something with that.' Because I thought it was a piece of crap I didn't care what they did. 'Do whatever you want with that song. You can change anything' and they did something great with it.
Q: Do you ever feel like when you turn on your computer that this is going to be the day you can't do it?
Nate: We don't have deadlines. It's not like I have to turn it on every day. The music comes to me a lot more easily than the lyrics. I have a lot more insecurity about the lyrics I'm writing. Clearly I can write them, but it's a lot easier for me to become self-conscious about that. The music I can just believe I can do it and it comes. Sometimes it sounds like something else I've written but that's the secret. You're ripping off everyone else.
Q: What's your target for a song? A feeling? A place?
Nate: I want to get a certain reaction from it. I want it to resonate with me. On a musical level but lyrically to. When I hear those lyrics with that music I want it to open me up in some way internally that I can't quite describe. Something that is a reminder of something bigger in the world that what we're constantly focusing on.
Q: That's obviously what your listeners feel.
Nate: There are plenty of people out there who would hear the music and be like 'eh.' Some people it resonates with and others it doesn't.
Q: Why is that?
Nate: I have no idea why that is. I think it's really funny in the same way I have no idea why some nights so many people come out and others they don't and we're like why we had plenty of people last night but the night before 25 people came to see us which wasn't horrible but the last time we played there 75 people had come out.
Why? There is no explaining it. When I try to I just send myself into a downward spiral.
[Nate removes to the kitchen to tend to the grits. "I want to turn this off lest they become polenta."]
Q: How much does crowd size weigh on you?
Nate: More than it should. Sometimes I feel guilty to the venue. Lately I've been thinking "it's not my job to make people come." A lot of time the green rooms have posters from people who have played there before and I get so distracted and I start comparing myself to them. Oh we probably had a bigger crowd than they have or oh, it must be hard playing here when they've been playing for so long. Whatever goes on in my head it's this chatter that distracts me from the fact that I'm here to have a show and the show is the point of what I do and the joy in my life and the whole reason I drove in the van for 6 hours and ate food I ate at a gas station because of the show.
Q: How do you get each other psyched before a show, particularly a low attendance one?
Nate: Sometimes we try to connect with each other before we go on stage. We try to have a group hug or try to make each other laugh with dirty jokes or really low brow things to try to make each other laugh. If I sense that one of them is having a bad time on stage is just to let them have a bad time on stage and do whatever I can to keep enjoying myself because that's the best thing for them to be around -- if Ty is having a bad night and Doris and I were just like great then that's the best thing for her to be around people who are having a good night. And that won't necessarily change anything for her but that's the best thing for her.
Q: Tell me about the risk of producing the CD.
Nate: The CD was big and scary. It was like 'this could suck. This could be a CD that I think sucks and that other people also think sucks. That could actually happen. I could make those CDs that other people have made that I think are terrible.
Q: Other big risks you took?
Nate: When we first started off we had a college booking agent. College gigs paid a lot better than regular gigs but usually no one was there unless it was at lunch in the cafeteria. They were demoralizing shows. But we would not have been able to do this as a band if we had not had that agent. It was a great agent in that scene. They got us a lot of gigs. But after a point we were like 'we think it's time to stop working with them and that was a risk because it was less money coming in but we had faith that we could do it."
There is this internal feeling-- this voice inside that is saying 'it's okay.' I kind of have a little voice from the future that says 'it's going to be okay' even though my head is flipping out and saying this is so scary, I don't know if this is going to work.
Q: How successful do you want to be?
Nate: This is a constant thing. It's not like I am without ambition. We all want to grow. We all want the band to be bigger. We'd like to be making more money doing it. And we'd like to be playing for more people and certainly connecting with more people. Not everyone likes the music that we do but there are plenty of people out there who would.
Q: But you're not arena rock.
Nate: I think about that sometimes. What would that be like? I'm kind of curious. Maybe there would be some way we could do an arena show in some context. I'm so curious about that. I realize that when you're playing in an arena you have to put on a different performance. In Eddie's Attic I can just look out at the crowd and everyone sees my face and knows what I'm doing.
I saw some interview with singer Iron Maiden who said in a club you didn't have to do that much but once he played in the arena he had to twirl his arms because he was playing for the people in the back.
What I want is to be more relaxed with money to a point where I can feel less anxious about it.
Q: Do you still worry you won't make it?
Nate: I have a voice inside of me that's like this is it. We're going down hill now. And a lot of times that's the voice that comes up when it's low attendance at a show. It's like why do we even bother. If only this many people show up clearly we don't have this much of an impact in the world. There's no point in what we're doing…
Q: The spiral.
Nate: You have your beliefs. You are only going to see the things that reinforce that. If you believe you're in a downward spiral and someone coming up saying you changed their life for the better is just going to bounce right off of you, but if a club owner says 'you guys really didn't have as good a crowd as you did last time. Things are hard for us, we really took a risk having you here.' I'm going to obsess over that!
That one's going to be with me for months. I sort have to remind myself that there are people out there who aren't coming to multiple shows who are genuinely feeling a connection with what we do. Because there's not instant gratification. There is more gratification than for Van Gogh but it's just how ever many people are in that room.
Q: How do you keep growing creatively?
Nate: When something seems interesting or fun to me I try to explore that. I do it just for the sake of fun because usually that ends up being the right path to follow. Something like this that's a creative endeavor. If something feels playful I think what the hell I'll try this. That always leads to something. But that can never be quite why I will do it first.
Q: The sound check at the Night Cat seemed stressful.
Nate: Yes. You should have seen how it used to be though. We didn't have the in ear monitors. We never have that hard a time hearing ourselves. That used to be a big problem because we used to be dependent on whatever wedge monitors were at the venue and depending on whoever was running the sound in addition to getting the sound right for the audience, getting the sound right for us.
Q: Why did you move to Atlanta?
Nate: It felt like home. It just felt more and more like home to me. New York was feeling less and less exciting. When I decided to move to Atlanta it was 6 months after Doris and I broke up and I knew that I wanted to move out and I knew that I didn't want to just stay in that apartment.
And every time we'd come down here something about it felt right. I kept waiting on Doris and Ty and Genevieve to come on board with and they never would. Doris was seeing someone else and said she didn't want to be in a long distance relationship. Gen wanted to stay in New York for another year and then finally I was just like fuck it I'm going to move and this is what I want and it feels right to me. Friend said you move down and they've follow and I was like you know, that's right. And they did. But it was a total risk.
Nate: You know just like the band could have fallen apart from that. I doubt it would have but I went on faith that it would work out.
Q: You once called yourself "gender pop" but you've long since dropped that. Why?
Nate: It was something that we wanted to describe our sound. We're not moving away from what was behind thats—the sort of weird not quite fitting in gender wise feeling that we have. I think that's definitely still there but we wanted to get that into what we were doing and come up with a description so that people would have an answer for 'what kind of music is this' or do it before other people came up with labels for us.
Q: The name question.
Nate: Yes and for a while we used to just come up with answers: if you put us all in a blender you'd get a Girlyman but because the real story is boring. It came up in a conversation. 'That's a good name but I bet it's been taken. Well, I'll check anyways. There's no band called Girlyman. Hey, we should do that. Perfect."
Then afterwards it works. It both captures the gender thing that we have going on and it sort of captures the playfulness of what we wanted. We started off the project we wanted it to be something fun for us. It was New York after September 11. There was for months this feeling that today could be the last day. There could be anthrax or a dirty bomb. It's not like no one could do those things now it's just that it was on everyone's mind because the airplane attacks had just happened.
So making music was like 'fuck everyone we're just going to do this thing that is fun for us and if no one comes to the shows then fine we'll just do it in the apartment.'
Q: What's it like going through the constant feeling of each night being different?
Nate: For a live show every night is different and every crowd is different. Usually what ends up tripping me up is when I expect one crowd to be like another crowd. When I expect something to go over the way it went over the night before and it's different and that's both the hard part and inspiration for the shows that I love. The shows that I love are the ones where I'm just like whoever you are I'm with you. Whatever the crowd is going to be I'm with you.
Q: People usually flee from that kind of uncertainty.
Nate: I think I definitely have that reflex to conform. That's there but I think what's so empowering about this is that we don't. We are just like 'okay, we don't know. And we don't know where we're going to make the money for the next two months. No one could come to any of these shows that we have lined up.' We don't know any of that. It feels natural for me to wear makeup on stage but not to be in full drag. I'm not even going to be like a real drag queen or anything. I'm not trying to pass as anything either. This is me. That's who I am.
Once you can be honest about who you are especially the uncomfortable parts of who you are and then own that it's very powerful.
Q: That energy that comes from a performance leads a lot of people to take drugs to keep the high going.
Nate: It's very weird to be on stage and being a part of this big musical gestalt of energy and being spontaneous and funny and people are laughing and then an hour later being in the van you know and just sitting there and no one is talking and you're tired and you're just in the stupid van again. It's really weird and I could understand why someone would want to take a drug that would keep the energy up.
I think in some ways the fact that things have grown gradually for us has protected us in some ways form that sudden I'm playing in a garage to I'm playing in Giants stadium. That's a jarring transition to go through.
Q: Tell me the story about hitting the deer.
Nate: Doris was driving.
She didn't have time to react. She was driving really fast. Wyoming at one in the morning. I believe she said she didn't' even know. Everything was closed and we were in the middle of nowhere. It was half a mile from Sheridan, the closest town. Ty and I were sleeping in the back of the van. We went out and checked and the radiator was cracked and leaking antifreeze all over the highway. So we had Triple-A. We tried my phone: no service. Tried Doris's phone: no service. Ty's phone had service. It had like -a bar- so I called Triple-A and then I called Genevieve. The [Dodge] Sprinter was pretty new at the time. Not all Dodge dealerships service Sprinters.
She went on line and called the nearest dealership which was in Billings, Montana which was 200 miles to the north. So the tow truck guy showed up and we said we need to go to Billings. He said, okay but I need to go to Sheridan to fuel up because I don't have enough fuel for the truck.
Q: When was this?
Nate: Beginning of 2006. It was right after Doris and I broke up so it was fitting in a lot of ways. Right before I went to sleep I was thinking --because Genevieve was coming on the tour and the person Doris was seeing was coming on tour and I was thinking I'll be the only single person on this tour. What the fuck am I doing? I am the only single person on this tour. This sucks. And then I woke up and we hit a deer.
We had to go back to Sheridan. We were all so tired. Doris was going through the trauma of the whole thing. The guy driving the tow truck was smoking and Ty was like, are you sure you should be doing that? And he said, no it's okay, it's Diesel. It's true that diesel doesn't make fumes the way gas does but it's still a gas station! At that point I started to think if we die now it's not my fault.
Then we were at the spot where we hit the deer and the tow truck driver started to say 'uh-oh' and started pumping the gas and nothing was happening. He pulled over and said ' the gas pedal has stopped working.' So he called his boss, woke him up and he had to come drive out to where we were on the highway. They tried to figure out what was wrong with it but the lights were dead and the flashlight battery was dead so the two of them got under the car and used their lighters. And once again I was like if we die now, we die now. I'm not going to get out of the car and try to stop them. I'm just going to go to sleep and die peacefully. And then these semi trucks would come barreling down the highway and you felt they would smash right into you. So we set off to Billings and occasionally I'd wake up and hear the rumble strips because the tow guy had fallen asleep and we'd jerk back onto the highway. I'd ask: 'You doin' alright there guy?'
[At this point the dog Django and the cat Betsy curl up together.]
Q: Tell me the origination story?
Nate: It was on a trip to Atlanta. Doris and Ty were performing at a show down here. We all drove down too. The car got upgraded. It was big so someone could play the guitar in the back. Doris was playing Montpellier which was a song I was playing at shows. She was singing the lead and we were harmonizing. We thought it sounded good. Then we kept doing these co-bill shows. Nate Borofsky opens for the Garden Verge or split bill. Then we'd end it with that song because it sounded so much bigger for us. Then the small number of people in the audiences back then reacted really strongly. They would say 'good job but that last song was really great.'
I could feel it too. When I was singing by myself I would think I'm doing the same thing but it's so one dimensional, nothing's coming. That big sound isn't there. So we thought 'well let's have a rehearsal and we'll have this be a thing." We're all living together and we'll see if it happens.
There was some questioning. Should we call it the Garden Verge or should we come up with a new name? Ty and Doris said we'd spent all this time trying to build up this name 'The Garden Verge' We'd just be throwing that out if we did that. After 9/11 it was like 'who cares.' Lets come up with something more fun. Something easier to spell. That's when we started looking around for names.
Q: Did you ever do the look in the dictionary trick?
We were looking for all kinds of names. If anything seemed remotely good there would be a punk band in Indianapolis. It would be too close to do.
Girlyman came in and there was no band by that name. There seemed like there should have been something. At least a punk band in Indianapolis.
Q: What was it like producing that CD yourselves?
Doris: We'd never done anything like that ourselves. There was a feeling in the beginning that we had no idea what we were doing because we didn't. It was challenging. It's fun to challenge ourselves. Helps us grow as people and musicians and mostly because it gave us a lot of time it gave us time to work on the songs in a different way.
For me personally what was so great about it because it was just the three of us there was no inhibitions. I could go in there and sing and perform the songs in a way that I might have been self conscious if there had been an engineer. I felt like I grew a lot as a musician especially vocally and musically playing my instrument I felt I gained a lot of confidence from that experience.
I'm a shy person and sometimes when I'm on stage I'm okay with that and that I'm a performer and sometimes when I'm on stage I can't stand the fact that there are people looking at me. And so in the studio you're in a closet and there's no one looking at you and the people who are outside listening I've known for so long it doesn't matter that they're there. I can tap into emotion in myself and totally be unselfconscious about it and if I need to screw up my face in an expression that is totally gross but that gets the emotion then I don't have to worry about oh my god do I look like a complete freak.
In Nate's studio I'm so much more comfortable. The place I go is an emotional place. Now that I've that experience in the booth I can feel like I can access that on the stage a lot more that feels incredible. It was too scary for me to go there before because I didn't know that I could do that.
Q: That sounds like what you were doing on "Storms Were Mine."
Doris: I had never sung like that before in my life. I had gone through a really bad breakup days after that breakup we were on tour again and we had arranged that song and I was feeling so shitty I was like 'I don't even care what comes out. I'm going to take that risk because I don't really care.' I was kind of surprised by myself. And the audience was surprised too. 'Who is this person? Wow she's really upset.'
Q: Tell me about the pursuit of creative risks. The tension between being comfortable and pushing yourself?
Doris: It's only uncomfortable if it's something you want but you can't have. One of the things we do in this band is trying to take the next logical step. Adding a drummer has been that process. We have never wanted someone else to join Girlyman and something happened this summer when we toured with this band Po girl. We'd known JJ for years. Since 2003 we'd wanted to play together and it had never happened until this year.
We saw her playing with Po' girl there was something about that bigger sound that they had that we though that is exactly the bigger sound that we want.
Q: What about risk for yourself?
Doris: For me I have things that I want especially as a song-writer I want to write better songs sometimes I think I can never get there. But something I can do is maybe incorporate a more disciplined writing practice. If I write for 10-15 minutes a day that seems like the next logical step to me. I never want to do something that seems so scary that it's that uncomfortable making for me. No amount of action is going to bring me what I want if I'm freaked out about it.
Q: Do you worry that as a writer you just won't be able to do it?
Doris: That's very scary with me as a writer. I feel so exposed writing about really. I'm less specific in my songs. It's so scary for me to put myself out there in such an obvious emotional way but that's something I have in my mind that I want to do because that's a risk and that is something that would make me feel more authentic and make me feel more connected to my songs if I could access that more. It's the idea of it is scary. I feel like I would be just exposing so much of myself. It feels so naked.
There are some songs—"Trees Still Bend"—that came so deeply from the heart of me and I don't perform it very much because it's so personal. There are times when I started performing that song that I almost cried.
That's another thing that surprises me when people connect so deeply with our music in a way that I never intended. I never write these songs to elicit that response and yet all these things happen. People say: 'You bring me so much joy,' and I'm like that's great. I'm so glad. That's not my intention but I'm glad that's one of the effects of what we do.
I have no idea why people connect to me. I don't know if it's the music or our friendship which is very deep. I've known Ty for 26 years. And I've known Nate since college. And we all clearly love each other so much.
Our harmonies definitely are transcendent in the sense that it is much more than the three of us and the individual voices it becomes its own thing. Its own entity. Something about the harmony and the songs allows people to access a kind of higher part in themselves that is always there but through music it's easier for them to access it.
That's what they're tapping into. Sometimes they mistake it for just us and they think they know us but it's actually already there and they just use the music as a gateway.
Q: Is your vulnerability the key to your connection with the audience?
Doris: We're just doing our thing and being ourselves. People like the banter between songs people see the rapport and friendship and fall in love with that idea. Not only are they band members but they are really good friends.
Q: Is that a weight?
Doris: It definitely feels like a burden at times. It just ads to my songwriting thing. I really have to keep writing or else people won't be helped. They won't find their joy. That feeling for responsibility for others. I really hope that has an effect on them in the same way that this one did. I have to talk myself out of that because that's not why I was driven to write or to sing.
Q: How does collaborating together work?
Doris: I feel like I'm not as experienced a collaborator as Ty and Nate are. Usually we have these things called Song groups. We've been doing this for years where we'll just come with a song that is finished.
It's the process of writing something and presenting it. Sometimes it's the best songs that come out of that group. It's not there to be work-shopped unless you say "I am interested in working on this song" or someone says" I'm not sure this is quite right what do you think."
Q: Are there poets or singers you really like?
Doris: I go through phases listening to a lot of Brandi Carlile. It's mostly how she delivers the songs which really interested me. Why am I so blown away? It was the emotion that she had in her voice. I want to be a good lyricist but also a good vocalist. I want to find new ways to deliver emotion with my voice.
Q: When did you know you wanted to be a singer-songwriter?
Doris: I knew when I was 13 I was a camper at this camp in the Adirondacks. And we used to have song time in the morning and we'd just start singing Paul Simon stuff and it just as soon as I got into singing those songs I thought this is what I want to do and this is who I want to be. It was really awesome except my parents were like are you crazy? So it took a little while.
Q: Was there a time when you thought, maybe not?
No. Because with any other job I think I would just lose interest. I worked at a bookstore for seven years and I loved it but I don't think it challenged me the way that this job does. This job has so many unknowns. And there are so many ways to create your won path and that's a part of it a lot of it.
Q: Catalog the unknowns for me?
Doris: We're always playing in different places. As an independent musician you never known how your career is going to go so you're deliberately creating a lot for yourself and I love having the freedom of thinking about the next logical step. What is it that I want and seeing that manifest slowly or quickly. Having a home life in addition to a touring life is also challenging. Figuring out ways that I can stay sane and have a routine at home is very difficult. Tour life is, even though it's chaotic even though it's a different place every day it's kind of regular because there's a schedule and I know exactly what to do right up until the show and after and at home I'm like damn I could be doing anything and that sometimes overwhelms me.
Pushing myself creatively is huge because that's my job. And that's a huge thing about doing this for a living. I always have to have that at the back of my mind and if we stop doing it we won't have a new album. But luckily there are three of us. Not all the pressure is on me.]
Q: If you could go back to your younger self and say something, what would it be?
Doris: I'm definitely less hung up about what my parents think. I was for a while hindered by it because they were not supportive in a way that I could see. They don't come to shows. They've only seen me perform twice. It was not with Girlyman but when Ty and I were with Garden Verge. I have come to this place where I just let them be who they are. It doesn't affect me as much. I feel like I have the freedom. My happiness is not conditional.
Q: They wanted you to do something else?
Doris: They're immigrants and they had ideas about financial security and I am this anomaly. I'm surprised that I'm born from them and they're surprised that I'm their daughter. But we've managed to accept it.
Q: Was there a moment when the stage fright kicked in?
Doris: We've definitely had embarrassing shows where one person showed up. It's really humiliating and humbling. I think usually what happens this huge desire springs out of all of us. I want bigger audiences. I want people to come. I don't consciously know what desires come out. In those moments of contrast but it's like this sucks.
Q: What's your hope for Girlyman's future?
Doris: I want more people who are drawn to this kind of music to find us. We bank on radio campaigns or promoting the hell out of us. It's more word of mouth that helps a lot. I want bigger audiences to know who we are and to connect with this kind of music. I want us to always feel that our music is fresh and challenging us to grow as artists. I think with the addition of JJ that's definitely happening. I'm really excited about future collaborations with her and the rest of us. I want us to just always be growing so that things are not stagnant.
Q: How much is crowd size on your mind?
Doris: Mostly venues that we've played before so I have expectations of how many people are going to be there. But recently we played and there weren't that many people there. I used to be afraid of that and I'd think 'oh god what does that mean shit we're going to slide downhill.' and I just kind of realize that every audience has their own personality and this crowd as small as they were had a huge personality. We can access who we are no matter who we are in front of even if it is one person.
Q: How did it feel after your first show?
Doris: It was a tribute to George Harrison. We arranged two songs for it. We played Handle with care and My Sweet Lord. It was pretty exhilarating. Those were good arrangements. I love doing covers so that we make it our own. I think with those covers especially My Sweet Lord we found the essence of who we were. It was off to a good start. Girlyman was always off to a good start because we were always so excited.
Q: Is there a root you guys return to?
Doris: Before shows we'd say 'why are we doing this?' We try to set our intentions before a show. And usually it is to have fun. And we say it's to have fun because if it isn't fun then why are we out there doing this. So it's always going back to that place of doing what you love to do. There is no other reason. We always go back to that.
Q: You're such an interwoven group. How do you find your individuality?
Doris: I love living separately. That's helped a lot. I used to be afraid of it because I didn't know who I would be without them. And I think we are really inter-twined which is hard some times to be apart. When we are, I feel something's missing. We were apart for two weeks. We did a West coast tour. I flew and met Po' Gil and re-traced my steps down the coast. I was so homesick by the end of those two weeks. I was calling them and saying 'I miss you guys.' Nate said 'this is so weird come back.' They are my family. They are my family and I don't have the same kind of baggage that I have with my real family. I have baggage with them but it's different and I can talk about it.
Q: What is life like on the road?
Doris: In the morning I get up and either journal or meditate. I work out. The afternoon is this dead time waiting around or driving to the venue. I help Ary set up. There is always work to be done. There is a lot of waiting. And hunting for places to eat. And then there's soundcheck which is often frustrating because there's often problems. Then dinner and then getting ready changing our clothes putting on makeup. Printing set list is one of my jobs and merchandise is one of my jobs. So I'm counting out all that. Getting in a head space where we're all ready to perform. Sometimes it takes us by surprise and sometimes we are really intentional about it to be ready.
Q: What felt like the biggest act of bravery for you?
Doris: This may not sound like a big deal and this was not the biggest act. But we had this Ford Econoline van and we had it for about a year. It was used and it was really cushy and it was totally decked out. The van that had had it before had done a great job. It died the very last day of this tour. We were just devastated. We needed to get a new vehicle. What we needed is what we have now which is the Dodge sprinter which we have now. It was really expensive and I think we were all freaked out financially about that. How can we afford that. But we can grow into it. It was one of those things where we said we will take the leap of faith and go for it. I can't tell you how much I appreciate that van. It's like our home.
It's things like that where I don't know how it's going to work, but this is what we want and we're gong to focus on what we want and it'll fall into place.
Q: Were you surprised when fans stepped up to help you buy the microphone?
Doris: I was surprised. I knew we had lots of wonderful supportive people out there who support us. We have road angels, people who are huge fans who have the resources to give us they help us out. Usually it's the time when we don't know where our next paycheck is going to come in and they help us out financially or with money for repressing the CD's.
Q: What was moving to Atlanta like?
Doris: It was a really rough time. Nate and I had been in a relationship for almost ten years. We had split up but we were still in the band together and living together.
Q: Slightly tricky.
Doris: Yes. Slightly tricky, putting it mildly. They were all ready for a big change and I wasn't—at least not in a moving sense. I was actually pretty excited to stay in Brooklyn. I was excited to live by myself. When I would see them I was very happy to see them and so there was a new found appreciation for my friendship and love for them. And then when I was ready to move to Atlanta I was so ready and everything just fell into place. Friends of mine offered to just come out and help me pack up and help drive my stuff down to Atlanta. I finally got here and Gen already had places to live all lined up. All I did was go and look. I didn't ask for this all these things just fell into place. I was just ready.
My friendship with Nate just deepened. We had been estranged after the beak up for like two years. We were still putting on shows and we were hardly talking to each other outside of shows. And that was sad and hard and now it just couldn't be better.
Q: Keeping these friendships has not been easy.
Doris: It's been work but it has also been something I've gotten the most joy out of is these relationships—something I've gotten the most joy out of in my whole life.
Q: Does the music ever feel like work?
Doris: Sometimes. Sometimes we schedule rehearsals and it's just like sometimes it instantly happens. We have our voice parts. We're excited. It's easy. Some songs though take a lot of work. It's like writing too. Some songs come out and they're almost already ready. And other songs you just agonize. It's still a good song but you can feel the tension and the agony in it.
Q: What's your musical training?
Doris: I studied piano. My parents wanted me to and of course I hated it. Then I switched to guitar when I was fifteen. I adored it. I studied classical guitar. I liked that thought about going to conservatory but then I realized that I wouldn't feel creatively fulfilled doing other people's music even though I had been doing other people's songs and had never done it my self. I just knew. And then in college I studied classical voice and took piano again.
Q: You once said that if you guys just had fun the universe would take care of you. What did that mean?
Doris: We have this thing called the white book in which we have our tour information sheets and stuff like that. We had a page in it that listed our goals and one of it was to have fun. We also found a picture of someone who had Xeroxed their ass to keep it light hearted.
Q: People have trouble explaining what you are.
Doris: We're still having trouble figuring out how to describe ourselves. There is no easy way to do that. Which I think is a good thing. I don't want to be just one thing. I guess what comes to the fore is that we do three part harmony regardless of the style of music.
Q: You've decided to embrace uncertainty.
Doris: I think that's why my parent have such trouble with me because growing up in Japan they just culturally people are just a lot more alike and I think I push them a lot. Just recently my mom freaked out about me being gay even though I had been seeing someone who was trans-gendered and I had a girlfriend recently and finally she just exploded at me and was just like "why aren't you with a man? Why can't you widen your circle to meet more men?" And I was just like 'I can't answer that. It's not who I am, I'm sorry.' And she just really struggled with it. And she does struggle with it. And I was just like 'Mom there are just so many different ways to live and so many different ways to be and I'm sorry that I can't make you feel better about this but I'm not gong to change.' That was the first time I was able to talk to her and not take it on and not take it personally.
Q: You have made a decision to be who you are. The downside is people can't explain who you are in 10 seconds. Of course if you could explain who you are in ten seconds you wouldn't be who you are. If that makes sense.
Then there are other people who say 'you should just change your name' and we're like 'why?' I don't know. That's the thing. We can't cater to every single person's needs. It has to be about who we are. And maybe we'll change some minds. There have been lots of people who have said 'I was skeptical at first with the name that I would like you guys but then they end up being huge fans.'