For bands on the fringes of the OC music scene, surviving in sunny suburbia can feel less like a paradise and more like a prison. And though this area is notorious for churning out plenty of pissed of punks, the majority of our local bands—straight, white, all-male—haven’t felt what it’s like to be marginalized beyond the scope of their music. In that regard, queer musicians definitely have a reason to turn on an amp and scream at the top of their lungs. Enter YAAWN: a local trio of post hardcore, post genre, post melody thrashers. But as they can attest, even being loud enough to get everyone’s attention isn’t enough for a scrappy band from the LGBT scene to get noticed by those in the mainstream.
“A lot of people won’t book queer artists,” says drummer Candace Hansen, who also writes about local bands in the queer punk scene for the Weekly in her spare time. “It’s not a homophobic thing but it’s very difficult for us to get booked for shows unless we had an in with anything else outside of queer bands and women. If you’re trying to get outside your circle it can be challenging.”
That’s not to say they don’t get around. Barreling their way into the local bars and DIY music venues became one of their many fortes over their three years together. Refusing to be ignored, they’ve become one of the more visible bands from the LGBT scene that’s helped kick down the doors for a host of other bands looking for equality in OC’s music scene.
However, YAAWN wasn’t just fueled by a crusade for equality. As their name suggests, it was also boredom that inspired Hansen and vocalist/bassist Jessica Gonzales to get together as start jamming in the garage.
“We just decided that we were tired of the music that was out there and how queer people and especially women were given pigeonholed roles as far as the type of visibility they get in places like Orange County and we wanted to do something different,” Hansen says.
In the beginning, their sound relied heavily on Hansen’s intense, technical drumming and Gonzales’ far out bass lines and shrieking vocals. Things evolved quickly when guitarist Josh Santellen joined the band and infused their sound with some grinding metal guitar and gratuitous amounts of head banging (which the rest of the band agrees makes for a mighty effective metronome on stage).
“Josh filled in a lot of our sound, he was the thread that kinda tied us together,” Gonzales says. “When he came in he gave us the metal influence that we wanted but didn’t know we wanted.”
Recently the band self released their debut album Big House via Bandcamp, the culmination of several singles and a couple EPs they’ve recorded since the beginning of the band. This album marks a major leap forward for YAAWN who are finding their niche when it comes to relaying the chaos of their live show into their recordings.
“Sometimes people who record you don’t always know what you want when you sound different,” Gonzales says. “So I think that’s what our progression was, coming into our own and being able to explain it more and how to achieve it.”
True to the tone of the band since they started, the album’s title track uses every ounce of its two minutes and nine seconds to inject your ears with audible insanity. Gonzales says the song was inspired by the trope of women being killed in horror movies. Though the LGBT community and its musicians have made huge strides in recent years, the members of YAAWN are constantly reminded that it will always be a struggle for band outside the norm to be heard and respected. It’s a battle they continue to embody every time they get on stage.
“Every show more and more people liked us and understood what we were doing which we never thought would happen because we were such a caustic band and wanted to remain so,” Gonzales says. “So it has changed in terms of people respecting what we do but that tension is completely still there.”
YAAWN performs with Secret Drum Orchestra at the LGBT Center on 4th this Sunday. For info, click here.