Punk music has never shied away from political subject matter. Bands like Rise Against or Anti-Flag have baked it right into their names. In the classic punk tradition of music with a message, the four members of Heterophobia released their new album Chlorine Dreams in March and are gearing up to take their heartfelt brand of queer punk on tour this summer—and they want everyone to come along.
“I’m a gay guy, so I try to write from that standpoint, because I feel like growing up I didn’t see much of that out there,” said singer and guitarist Jace Godby. “I didn’t feel I was included in what was going on.”
Godby was involved with the local punk scene early on. While he said his sexuality was—and still is—generally a non-issue in the punk community, he still noticed a lack of role models.
“I didn’t see many people that I would look up to, especially in our community, that were queer and making heavy, fast music,” he said.
Godby met Cactus, the band’s drummer, through Craigslist in 2011, and the two performed with former project Bat Country for the next three years. Heterophobia, started in late 2015, now includes Erik Downer on guitar and bassist Bread.
While the name Heterophobia, a tongue-in-cheek term used by the queer community on Tumblr, might imply to some that the band’s music is gay-specific, Godby believes the band’s message is more focused on radical inclusion than catering to the queer community specifically.
“You can’t put a fucking listing on Craigslist and say, ’Queer people only! Apply here,’” said Godby. “It’s trying to be accepting of everyone, but it is kind of fighting for the ability to feel like I’m allowed in these spaces.”
Indeed, while Godby and Bread both identify as queer, Downer and Cactus are straight and believe the music on Chlorine Dreams speaks to shared human experiences, regardless of sexuality.
“There is some like sociopolitical issues—there’s also definitely songs about just regular things that everybody kind of goes through, or people facing these specific battles go through,” said Cactus.
Chlorine Dreams subverts the musical expectations of a punk band, emphasizing musicality and ambient mastering in tracks like “The Void,” which offers a steady, cerebral commentary on existential anxiety and despair, accompanied by chirping crickets and indie-folk acoustic guitar. Heterophobia still delivers a kind of groovy intensity, however, as displayed on the album’s climactic protest power-rocker “Tumblr-Core.”
“I think we try to infuse a lot more artsy shit into the fast and fun stuff that is three-chord punk music,” said Godby, citing groups like Modest Mouse, Andrew Jackson Jihad and Primus as unifying influences among the band members.
Heterophobia’s immediate plans include a two-week tour with female rock duo Machine from Los Angeles, which will take them to venues in Colorado, New Mexico and Idaho. After that, the band intends to stay in Reno and continue to record while making connections in neighboring music markets around the West Coast.
“Write, record, support—that seems like the best way to do it,” said Erik Downer. “We’re so close to everything. California—there’s an abundance of venues there we could drive to in one day.”
In the grand scheme of things, however, the Heterophobic agenda is fairly simple:
“We just want to make music that people enjoy,” said Cactus.
“All people,” added Downer.