Indie-Pop Band Outlines the Deeply-Rooted Troubles of Finding Self-Worth.
The indie-pop band sketches a dream-like state in pursuit of value.
Greek philosopher Democritus conceived of the atomic theory, his most well-known contribution to modern science and human thought, well before Socrates wandered the Earth. It was believed all matter was made up of atoms, from the Greek word atomos, meaning "indivisible." Later 19th century experiments further confirmed this idea, and while, on the most basic of levels, that is true of our entire existence, it is far more complex than that. So, when peering into the world created through Austin-based, indie-pop band Carry Illinois' "Scattered" music video, it is clear that the emotional weight of experiencing atoms clash against each other is rarely defined in scientific research.
Born out of feelings of not belonging and dragging around what seems like simply a shell, Lizzy Lehman exposes those layers with the band's new EP, Work in Progress, and towering over the lot is its opening track "Scattered," which is treated with great delicacy in a visual that is both stunning and visceral. "As a teenager, I wasted years anxiously trying to fit in with the popular girls. I saw my body and depression as signs of brokenness and shame. After a shy and quiet first year of college, I came out of my shell and then came out of the closet," Lehman tells Popdust, premiering the clip today.
"I have since worked to become more comfortable with myself. I have found friends who accept me for who I am, queer, fat, and all. I know now that I am not broken. I was bullied into hiding 14 years ago and am just now healing those scars through music."
Turning to bandmate Benjamin Violet (keys) to helm the video, Lehman is a visionary onscreen, a warrior finally finding her footing and embracing each gnarly nerve of her being. "'Scattered' deals with fragmentation and brokenness in such a beautiful way, and I wanted to play on that," says Violet, whose artistic choices are simply moving and draw upon the aforementioned atomos concept. "With that in mind, even broken, we are whole and self-possessed, and couldn't let go of ourselves, even if we tried."
Work in Progress EP is out now on iTunes.
Carry Illinois is rounded out by Andrew Pressman (on bass), Rudy Villarreal (drums), and Darwin Smith (guitar). "Scattered" washes down smooth, and as presented in the video above, it tears at the skin and sends electric bursts across the night sky. Joining Violet at the production table are art director Akki Brathwaite and production assistants Ashley Smith and Kat Moody.
Back in January, Lehman talked candidly, once again, about how she came to understand her ever-fluctuating psychological and emotional states. "I grew up in the '90s when everybody was wearing the same thing and listening to the same music. Being different didn't seem like it was OK. Now, I've learned to slowly embrace my differences," she said. "People like to see a unique personality and what I have to offer that's not just the norm. Several of the songs on the new EP we're working on right now are about my journey to self-love and accepting myself for who and what I am. I'm continuing to mold myself that way."
The new EP is anchored by lead single "Runaway," a guitar-laden mix blurring the stylistic lines of their sound. "[This song is] basically about me realizing that I shouldn't run away from my problems even though I want to. You have to deal with your stuff in order to move forward. You just can't push it aside. I've always had this really conflicted feeling about my body. I've always not liked it and felt that way since I was little," she said, framing the context of the project in clearer, definable, tangible lines.
She added, "The 1990s was a toxic time for women with magazines and the expectations and all the diets. After John passed away, I decided to be completely honest and write about what I know. That's all I can do."
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Breaking down the bias of comfort films.
With the constant onslaught of complicated news that 2020 has brought, sometimes you just want to be able to shut off your brain, relax, and feel happy.
Enter comfort films. These are the feel-good movies that feel like a warm hug when you finish them, the ones that allow you to escape for a short while. We often turn to these types of films in times of trouble or extreme stress, and when we're not sure what films of this nature we should watch, we turn to the Internet for options.
Rivera's "Glee" character was not just important, she was groundbreaking.
As a young queer girl growing up in the south, I was lucky that my parents weren't homophobes.
My parents believed that people were sometimes born gay, and while they wouldn't "wish that harder life" on their children, they certainly made me and my sister believe that gay people were just as worthy of love as anyone else. I was lucky.
Still, in my relatively sheltered world of Northern Virginia (a rich suburb near Washington D.C.), homophobia wasn't as blatant as hate crimes or shouted slurs, but it was generally accepted that being straight was, simply, better.
In high school, it wasn't uncommon to use "gay" as an insult or for girls to tease each other about being "lez." While many of us, if asked, would have said we were in support of gay marriage and loved The Ellen Show, being gay remained an undesirable affliction.
Even more insidious, I was instilled with the belief—by my church and my peers—that if gay and lesbian people could be straight, they would. But since they were simply incapable of attraction to the opposite sex or fitting into traditional gender roles, we should accept them as they are as an act of mercy. At the time, this kind of pity seemed progressive and noble. Those in my close circle of family and friends weren't openly dismissive or condemning of gay people, but we saw homosexuality as a clear predisposition with no gray areas.
Specifically: Gay men talked with a lilt, giggled femininely, and were interested in things that weren't traditionally "masculine." Meanwhile, gay women dressed like men, had no interest in makeup or other traditionally female interests, and probably had masculine bodies and features. In my mind, before someone came out as gay, they did everything in their power to "try to be straight" but were eventually forced to confront the difficult reality that they felt no attraction at all to the opposite sex. I viewed homosexuality not as a spectrum, but as a black and white biological predisposition that meant you were thoroughly, completely, and pitiably gay.
As a child, when I began to experience stirrings of attraction for other girls, I would reassure myself that not only had I definitely felt attraction for men in the past, but I also liked being pretty. I was a tomboy as a child, sure, but as I got older I recognized that my value was increased in the eyes of society if I tried to be a pretty girl. As it turned out, I even liked putting on clothes that made me feel good, I liked applying makeup, and I liked some traditionally "feminine" things. In my mind, this meant that I couldn't be gay, because gay women didn't like "girl" stuff.
As a teenager, I began to learn more about the difference between gender and sexuality, and the fluidity of both. I began to let myself feel some of the long-suppressed feelings of queer desire I still harbored.
Still, in the back of my mind, the instilled certainty of sexuality as an extremely rigid thing sometimes kept me up at night. What if I was gay? Would I have to change the way I looked? Would I have to give up some of the things I liked? In my mind, being gay meant your sexuality was your whole identity, and everything else about you disappeared beneath the weight of it.
But then, Santana came out as gay on Glee.
GLEE - The Santana 'Coming Out Scene' www.youtube.com
If you didn't watch Glee, than you might not know the importance of Naya Rivera's character to so many queer young women like myself. Santana was beautiful, she was popular, she had dated boys, she was feminine, she was sexy, and she was gay. There's even evidence that Santana had previously enjoyed relationships with men.
But the character came out anyways, not because she had to or because it was obvious to everyone around her that she was gay, but because her attraction to women was an aspect of her identity she was proud of. It wasn't an unfortunate reality she simply had to make the best of; it was an exciting, beautiful, aspect of her identity worth celebrating.
Before Santana, it had never really come home for me that being gay wasn't an entire identity—that it wasn't an affliction or disorder, but just another part of a person. She also didn't suddenly start wearing flannels or cutting her hair after coming out. She was the same feminine person she had always been. I had never realized that being a gay woman didn't have to look a certain way. Santana and Brittany's gay storyline showed two femme-presenting women in love, and for me, that was a revolution.
If it wasn't for Naya Rivera, we may never have had that important story line.
"It's up to writers, but I would love to represent [the LGBTQ community] because we know that there are tons of people who experience something like that and it's not comical for them in their lives," Rivera told E! News in 2011. "So I hope that maybe we can shed some light on that."
While Rivera herself wasn't gay (the importance of casting gay actors in gay roles is a separate conversation), she understood how important her character was to the queer community. "There are very few ethnic LGBT characters on television, so I am honored to represent them," Rivera told Latina magazine in 2013. "I love supporting this cause, but it's a big responsibility, and sometimes it's a lot of pressure on me."
Rivera wasn't just a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community on screen. In 2017, she wrote a "Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community" for Billboard's Pride Month. In it, she wrote, "We are all put on this earth to be a service to others and I am grateful that for some, my Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays may have given a little light to someone somewhere, who may have needed it. To everyone whose heartfelt stories I have heard, or read I thank you for truly enriching my life."
Now, as we mourn the loss of Naya Rivera, at least we can take comfort in knowing that her legacy will live on—that the light her Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays gave us won't go out any time soon.
Excuse me, I have to go weep-sing-along to Rivera's cover of landslide now.
Glee - Landslide (Full Performance + Scene) 2x15 youtu.be
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