Every time I have occasion to write about Black and POC queer musicians I’m obsessed with, I’m always floored by how many come to mind– but how few are spotlighted in the mainstream. In genres like country, jazz, and rock, the history of musicians of color is often buried and whitewashed. Even in feminist discussions about guitar players, it can prove difficult to find intersectional criticism.
The wave of femme and non-binary players being showcased in magazines like She Shreds (a magazine by and for femme and gender nonconforming guitarists) and other mainstream outlets, though groundbreaking in terms of gender, are lacking in supporting artists of color. In a recent study by Fender, finding 50 percent of new guitar sales are coming from femme and POC players, it’s clear that these players are the future for the art form. It’s important and necessary to represent and support marginalized people who are creating that future.
Here are a few that we’re currently obsessed with.
Eva Moolchan of Sneaks
Sneaks is rad. Eva Moolchan is the Baltimore-based musician behind the minimalist moniker. Sneaks’ songs are moods on moods: clever, irreverent, cool, and effortless. A deconstruction of bands like Romeo Void and ESG, their bass riffs make you feel like cruising on a hoverboard. With deadpan, matter-of-fact vocals and lyrics that exude chill like silk, Sneaks basically just makes you feel like doing whatever the f*ck you want.
Listen to “Look Like That”, the perfect anthem for looking cool and smoking cigarettes outside Cubbyhole or any queer bar.
Anna Nasty of ØNJ
Olivia Neutron John (ØNJ) is beyond the beyond. Their “non-binary, post-bro” audio destruction is goth pristine resurrection of 80’s /90’s punk, darkwave dominatrix fervor, and raw power. Anna Nasty is a creative stronghold and the mastermind behind ØNJ, shredding bass, droning, and arpeggiating on synth, and screeching on vocals with occasional stoic skits performed during songs. They also spin mixes as DJ Anna Nasty and play guitar in the band Chain and the Gang. If you can see them live, do it. Take a date. You will impress any potential amour with the impenetrable cool of the experience. ØNJ will undoubtedly stare y’all down while their bass grinds out a groove, playing over their shoulder or behind their back, angular and austere, yet with the voice of a queer demon escaped to the gender-f*ck apocalypse.
Zöe Brecher of Hushpuppy
You’re likely already an obsessed fan of Zöe Brecher or, at least, their drumming. You can hear Zöe in bands like Sad13 and backing live shows for Sammus. But they’re also an endlessly talented guitar weirdo making freaky bedroom pop in their solo project Hushpuppy. Their songs take you on adventures home and feel like memes or snaps or some analog internet. Listen to Hushpuppy’sfull-lengthh record, ‘singles club’ if you want to lie on the floor in your room with your friends, or take a trip to the beach.
Amythyst Kiah of Amythyst Kiah & Her Chest of Glass
The Southern Gothic ain’t no terrain for the faint a’ heart (*chews a piece of hay and tips ten-gallon hat.*) Any queer cowpoke worth their thrifted banjo oughta know about Amythyst Kiah and her heartbreakingly beautiful refrains. A good place to start is “Trouble So Hard.” That song managed to both melt and completely shatter my heart. On top of that, she’s an expert blues guitarist. The textures she creates make you fall back into the saddle of your fury and ride your tears. If you like songs about death (and I know you do), get into this.
The term “shredder” was invented for players like ∂αρнηє. She’s a shredder’s shredder with a flair for giving intensely creative prolific punk energy to everything she does. Her songs are like their origins: complex and cerebral yet lyrical and poetic, laced with queer historical reference and deft instrumental experimentation. She does a little bit of everything. Her performances and conceptual records are interdisciplinary at heart, involving everything from music and dance to poetry and rock criticism. Also, her most recent book, S.O.S: Some Oscillations Suck! is out on Cow’s at The Edge of the Earth Press and Label with translations in Morse Code. Listen to her book if you wanna hear something truly weird, and check out her music if you want to simultaneously jump for joy and cry your eyes out over your ex.
A play on the Catholic term for a male saint and the Spanish word for a mistress, San Cha refuses to deliver us from evil or to renounce sin. Instead, she offers a musicality entrenched in queer, Brown and Latinx femmeness and intersectional feminism. Her “cumbia, church, and nightmare” melodies are decadent, moving, and intense choral spreads. One can’t really say enough about her live shows, sometimes crooning topless, her audience is often made of queer art punx (and she also occasionally plays in the queer and POC Latin beat/punk band Sister Mantos). In songs like “Desesperada,” she is like a symphonic organism giving to rhythms of a tragic mariachi serenade and the emotion inherent of soulful desire. It’s very alive and very otherworldly.
Melo of Mallrat
In general, this band is full of shredders. Melo is sirenic on guitar. He works smoothly, weaving melodic riffs that feel light but dangerous, “let my guard down, the first in a while.” His voice is sure and real, you’re having an honest drink together. Rachika’s precise constructions of nimble and definitive snare punches, rimshots, and angst-filled washes on cymbals make you feel like she’s an underground train coming into the station, “What are you gonna get out of this? Are you trying to make me cry?” It’s bravado; false tough. You’re reminded that the inside of a rainbow is brittle, and it’s emotion is ambivalent, understanding to the raw casualties of power. A song like “Flowtide” can say “fuck off” for you, face-to-face with whoever needs to hear it. But it’s also there after the fight, caustic and winning. It’s the friend you call when you’re pissed at the world, and you want someone to be pissed at the world with.
There are so many more shredders I could have added to this list. Rock ‘n roll, among other genres, is one of music’s unceded territories and, as such, always has and always will be a medium for marginalized expressions. It’s important that we honor the history of Black, Brown, and indigenous musicians by bringing these emerging POC artists to the foreground.