Episode 1: Skylar Symone

Note: This interview was originally conducted and recorded in November 2021.

Episode Transcript

Brianna Silva
Welcome to flip the script, the podcast that showcases different artists, activists and community members of the Boston area who are creating change one day at a time. I’m your host, Brianna Silva, and today we’re talking with our guest Skylar Weiss of the multi-genre band Skylar Symone, about their backstory, finding their sound and their recent music.

Skylar Weiss
I’ve always been like part of the DIY scene, I just turned 21 like a couple weeks ago, but I’ve been performing in bands like rock in metal bands since I was maybe 15. And so I’ve been like very in this DIY scene, like, you know, screaming in random basements and like stuff like that. Like since I was little.

Brianna Silva
This screaming an important part of scholars musical journey began back in California, where Skylar was a part of a folk duo with their best friend during high school together, the two played at various coffee shops and farmers markets around the Bay Area, and often ended up playing on the street.

Skylar Weiss
And just like having people come up to me and say what they would say and really the interactions that I would have with people and like the impact that my music was making on people. That was really what got me interested in it.

Brianna Silva
The passion for songwriting however, with something Skylar was born with. Skylar, who recently came out as non binary trans mask, said songwriting and music played a big role in understanding their identity.

Skylar Weiss
I decided that I would start writing songs about it before I even really understood it myself. And then I had some people that come to my shows and be like, ‘Oh, I relate to that. And this and that way’ and like, now my entire band is made up of like non binary people like I used to be in like, only bands with like all cis men.

Brianna Silva
Cis men, also known as cisgender men, is a term that describes a person whose gender identity is the same as their sex assigned at birth. While the music industry is much more inclusive for LGBTQIA+ musicians, Skylar’s experiences with cis men show just how crucial diversity is in the profession.

Skylar Weiss
But I just think working with male musicians and male producers in general, they like really just don’t understand a lot of the things you go through, like, just on a daily basis, they don’t understand, like, why you might be at your breaking point after hearing your own voice again, for the millionth time, why that like dysphoria might make that literally impossible.

Brianna Silva
How does it feel when you guys are like performing all together? Because it’s rare that you find an all queer band.

Skylar Weiss
Yeah, you’re you’re absolutely right. And it actually feels so motivating. So my, one of my guitarists May, she actually writes a lot of cool punk and like, metal music, and so she does one of her songs called “Superfluidity.” So she comes up to the mic and sings for a song. And she never wants to do shows of her own because, you know, like, it’s hard sometimes when you’re like, you know, a trans artist and you’re like going through your transition, and you have to talk about it, you have to talk about, like, what you want to do, but us kind of as a collective, it’s a little bit easier for us to be like, Alright, and then we’re just gonna throw out the next song. And then like, now the bass is just gonna come soon, you know? Um, so yeah, it is Skylar Symone. It’s under my like, band umbrella, but we are kind of a song circle.

Brianna Silva
So what brought Skylar all the way from California to Massachusetts, and what brought their band together? The short answer is Berklee College of Music.

After two years of attending the prestigious music school with notable alumni such as Quincy Jones, and Juan Luis Guerra, to name a few, Skylar dropped out.

Skylar Weiss
It’s really stifling to my creativity I’ve found, and it’s not giving me the tools that I needed. I’m playing more shows now releasing more music now than I ever was in school. And it’s just like, such a blessing that I’ve been able to realize that through the pandemic, the entire reason I even went to music school was to perform and then when the pandemic happened, I kind of asked myself, what’s the point and then I figured out that the point was for me to pursue my music career right now on my own. And so um, everyone else in my band actually are still students.

Brianna Silva
And did you guys meet in Berklee or did you meet outside how did that work?

Skylar Weiss
So I met them all in different ways. So like, um, my guitarist May was like a roommate of one of my friends and we used to go to like house shows together and stuff. And I met her literally over the summer, um, and then my drummer Liv like was a recommendation from someone else. My guitarist Syd I met like skating, like, and then my basis Maddie was like a friend of my exes. And then she like came up to me was like, ‘Hey, if you ever want like a basist,’ and I was like, ‘Yup, I will take you off on that.’

Brianna Silva
How did you guys find your sound was that you know, one person who brought an idea was that a collaborative effort?

Skylar Weiss
Honestly, I think we’re still trying to find what our sound is because I write in a lot of different styles. I have a song coming out next friday. It’s called “Don’t Piss On My Leg,” and it’s like a collaboration with my friend Spoon who lives in New York. And he’s like a producer. And we very much went for like this, like post punk, weird, hyper pop beat – and it’s not something that I usually do at all. But I figured, like, why not? It’s fun. And I was able to make it my own, like with my screams and stuff.

And now my band plays it live. I’ve never played out with my producer, friend, but like, he plays guitar and whatever, you know, he plays everything. So I’ll probably play with him eventually. That’s my goal. But yeah, for now, I’m just like collaborating with people that I think are really talented, like whether I can get to them in that moment, or not, whether I can play with them right then or not, you know? And I just like, Yeah, I think that’s, that’s it is I just want to get as many like, as much information and resources as I can and just try all these different styles. So we can really find like, what’s us, you know.

Brianna Silva
I think that’s way more fun anyway.

Skylar Weiss
I think so too. I don’t know, I didn’t want to, I had a lot of trouble. Like, when I submit my music, I have a lot of trouble, like putting in in genres. And I really, I feel like I can’t really have EPs either. Because I really just feel like my music is so different. Like when I release stuff, like out, and “Under Your Dolls,” which my song that came out like a month ago, it is five and a half minutes long. And I had like, so many people be like, you should just cut that or like, make it two songs. And I was just like, I that doesn’t really make sense to me, you know. And so I don’t know, like, we’ve kind of just we kind of just go with what we like, and like, that’s worked for us so far,

Brianna Silva
I listened to “Under Your Dolls,” and at first I was like, okay, and then I realized it was five minutes, but I was vibing the whole time. I mean, the way you transition from each mode, like, I thought it was beautiful. And like, it reminded me a lot of Pink Floyd and like it was just, it was a worthwhile five minutes.

Skylar Weiss
Thank you. Thank you. So yeah, “Great Gig in the Sky” was like one of the inspirations for that break down section. So thank you for noticing that. Definitely appreciate it.

Brianna Silva
I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan. So I was like, Am I crazy? Or is this you know, remind me of it?

Skylar Weiss
No, no, it’s definitely intentional. Yeah, I have like, I also have like an under your dolls, inspiration playlists, like on my Spotify that I pinned on my artist page. And like that’s one of the songs on so and then it has like the same strumming pattern as like, “Holland, 1945,” by Neutral Milk Hotel. Like I draw a lot of like really random inspirations and I’m like, maybe no one will notice, you know, but then when people do I love that I love the Easter eggs.

Brianna Silva
Both songs “Under Your Dolls” and “Don’t Piss On My Leg,” which are now available on Spotify feature a wide range of sounds and vocals, much of which evoke a genre that stems from punk rock: queercore.

Skylar Weiss
We’ve gone into this weird category of queercore because of who we are. You know, we didn’t even recognize that as a category like until people were starting to be like, You guys are kind of like the most queercore band I know right now. And we’re just like, what is that? You know, but just like our identity puts us in a category by default. And I think that’s cool, you know, and its own right.

Brianna Silva
It emerged in the mid 1980s as a genre and cultural movement within the LGBTQI+ community. But rather than trying to be accepted by mainstream society, queercore was about embracing queerness in a much different light.

Clip from the trailer of “Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution”
“The gay community must be destroyed. My philosophy of homosexuality has always been to embrace the things that make you different to embrace the criminality of homosexuality.”

Brianna Silva
That was from the trailer of the 2017 documentary “Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution.” For some people queercore was a radical movement to experiment with gender roles and stand against the culture of respectability. politics but for many it was about embracing their identity as an outsider in a society that revolves around cisheteronormativity.

So I found out that you know, you do drag you go by “Ben Dover.” Tell me a little bit more about that.

Skylar Weiss
So it’s really recent I obviously just turned 21 like a week and a half ago so I am new to like the club scene and performing and stuff like that. I’m hoping to do some amateur nights soon Ben Dover he’s just a dog of a man you know, like he’s just he’s and he’s everything that like I hate about men. And I think that’s why I love Ben Dover because it’s like he’s just such a disgusting hyperbole of like what a man is. And I kind of see myself as a man but I don’t see myself like Ben Dover if that makes sense. Like the fact that that’s even his name is so disgusting. I also incorporate drag into every single one of my music releases like my promo for under your dolls I had like two different hyper fan looks that I did were like one of them was like this weird dolly look of me laying in a field with all these rocking horses and then another one was like me like like killing a doll or something and I was like, like I had this weird draggy eyebrows and stuff. And then like “Don’t Piss On My Leg” is gonna have a cool like, orange graphic look that I did. Um, but yeah, I’m, I’m hoping to continue to incorporate it, maybe do a lip sync to one of my songs eventually, which would be funny. I know. There’s not a lot of like singing drag artists out there much less singing kings. And so like that’s something I’m very interested in.

Brianna Silva
You kind of describe yourself you know, as a trash king and a lover of trash and turning into treasure. Was that intentional to kind of call back to John Waters and Divine?

Clip from the 1972 film “Pink Flamingos” featuring Divine
“Eat shit! Filth are my politics! Filth is my life!”

Skylar Weiss
I do love some Divine I do love each everyone you know like that the classics are amazing. I like I consider that sometimes when I think about mice. I like to call myself like a goblin like a creature a troll. I very much I love this drag program called Dragula. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it. It’s called the The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula. And I draw a lot of inspiration by some of the artists on there one of them being Disasterina, she’s crazy, super weird. Landon Cider, a really famous drag king, who I draw a lot of inspiration from and he actually won. He was like the first ever drag king to like, win a big competition. And so like, yeah, so I definitely know my drag history. And I’m very, I’m very invested in my current games right now. And I think that’s why I’m so eager to break into the Boston scene, because I’m already so hyper aware of everyone around me and like, I just want to be them.

Brianna Silva
So now people would use you know, like, the words like “trash” or “goblin,” like, I totally get what you’re saying, but how would you describe it for people who have no clue what you’re saying there?

Skylar Weiss
Yeah. So I think that there’s this really strong concept that queer people identify with, like filth, and grossness and disgustingness, because that’s kind of where we’re put in society. So I think that like we draw power from that idea is that I see filth and disgustingness, and all of that. And this is something that they talk about, like in the programs and in the people that I like, a lot. And I see that as, like part of my power. When people are afraid of me when I’m all up and drag, that gives me power. You know what I mean? It’s like, you’re afraid of me. And you don’t really know why. Maybe you’re attracted to me, and you don’t really know why. And that scares you. You know what I mean? And that, that whole combination, that’s what I live for.

Brianna Silva
What do you want people to feel from your music?

Skylar Weiss
I think just like power and like knowing who you are, and “Under Your Dolls” is about a period in my life where I went through sexual assault in high school, I lost basically every single friend in my life. And the only friends that I really had were the ones that I had to go to. Every single day therapy with, it was daily therapy, and I had to be there for four hours every day. And I literally developed PTSD, like I just I couldn’t function as a human. And because of that I just lost friend after friend after friend them just thinking I’m being selfish, me not being able to explain what’s going on. And in the end, just feeling like I’m a terrible person and letting everyone else believe that too, because I believed it, you know? And I think that all I really want is for people to realize that like, just because you’re alone, or you have to isolate yourself or people don’t get you work out what’s going on with you. Like doesn’t mean that like you’re not a good person. You know, and I think I think that really fell in with my queerness to like being someone that was like bullied in high school, you know, it’s like very minor things, you know, girls would change in their locker room in front of me and stuff like that, where they’re just like, ‘Oh, that’s weird. That’s different.’ Like, taking that and finding power from it is really like, why I do what I do.

Brianna Silva
What advice would you give to young queer musicians?

Skylar Weiss
I mean, I feel like I am a younger musician, honestly, I like I like would love to say that I’m like soaring, and I know what’s happening at every level. But to be honest, like, people, I’m still misgendered constantly like, there’s, there’s no telling, like, what people are gonna say to me, like at the next venue, or how much people are going to pay me compared to. And that’s actually been an issue, like, I’ve had to argue for my pay rate as like, you know, my all queer bands, like, even if we’re opening, you know, we should get paid the same amount as any other band that’s playing, you know, I think it’s ridiculous when people will bring these, like queer artists on or, you know, I mean, artists of color as well on, you know, just for the aspect of like, interestingness or diversity to draw more crowd, which they do they get the draw, but then pay them less, you know, or make them be open or not, not hype them as much, you know, and I think that’s definitely an issue. But I think standing up for yourself, knowing your worth is really important.

Brianna Silva
Describe your music, your band in three words.

Skylar Weiss
Maybe “flip the script.” I feel like all of us at one point in our lives have kind of been like, looked down on like, ‘Oh, I feel bad for you.’ Because like, like, you know, ‘you’re odd. You’re different. I feel bad for you.’ And I think taking that and making it into something beautiful and something that people are like, I want to come to your shows I want to pay to see you I want to know your music. That like that is something where it’s like I can, like no one could pay me enough money to like get that feeling. You know that like people want to be around me because of like who I really am not because of what I present to be.

I’m so happy to be in a supportive environment like this. That’s all I can really ask for is for my friends to show up and skate and have a good time.

Brianna Silva
You’re listening to under your dolls by Skylar Simone available on Spotify. You can also follow Skylar in their band on Instagram @skylarthelocalenigma to see their merch, artwork and upcoming local performances. This has been flipped the script with your host, Brianna Silva. Thanks for tuning in.