In this politically correct world, especially around the Seattle area, naming your band after something that could be deemed offensive or disrespectful by the general public will almost always come with some flak. Take Lesbian, for example. The Seattle-based progressive metal quartet just received their first form of hate mail via MySpace.
Lesbian With Hemmingway, the Keeper, and Gravel Road. Jules Maes Saloon, 5919 Airport Way S., 957-7766, www.julesmaes saloon.com. $5. 9 p.m. Sat., Jan. 27.
"This person set up an anonymous MySpace account just to say, 'If all you have going for yourselves is your name, than you're really lame,'" says drummer Benjamin Kennedy, obviously humored by the extremely mild insult.
"But a large part about metal has never really been P.C.," adds bassist-vocalist Dorando Hodous. "Our roommate encountered a bit of heat at the post office one day. He was standing in line wearing one of our shirts, and this lady asked what it said because it was in that hard-to-read text that metal bands use. He's like, 'Oh, it's my friends' band, Lesbian,' and the lady called her friend over, and they kept saying lesbian out loud, over and over, totally offended. I think for the most part, we've gotten more flak from nonlesbians. All the lesbians we've encountered think its great and love it. It's meant out of respect."
Lesbian wasn't originally intended to be anything more than a one-off performance, almost three years ago when Hodous, Kennedy, and guitarists Arran McInnis and Daniel LaRochelle formed. Their original plan was simply to fill in at a show that was happening only one week later. But even the band couldn't conceive of the notion that they'd be where they are now—a mere two months before their debut full-length, Power Hor, is released on the San Francisco indie label Holy Mountain.
"I knew we just wanted to rock. It was for one show, but it was in your face and something to remember. We didn't mean to get married to it," says Hodous, "But [Lesbian] certainly seems to get people's attention, good or bad."
The name of the band itself certainly raises eyebrows, but it's only a small fraction of what really gives Lesbian the attention they deserve. The band's brooding, headbanging, technically fierce and agile chugging tempos are accented by a heady dose of shredding licks and Hodous' bloodcurdling growls. In many ways, the band's entirely modern metal soundscape, which is a culmination of psych metal, doom metal, and progressive rock, undeniably pays homage to yesterday's lords of metal, including Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Cathedral, and Sleep.
But that's not all they're influenced by. Weed and women also play a heavy roll in the band's creative process, and it shines through on some of the saga-length epic tracks, like the 25-minute-long track "Loadbath."
"There is a lot of marijuana involved," says Hodous. "It's enhancement—for writing and playing. We can go a long way, tripping nicely and creating journeys for ourselves." And the women? Hodous says much of what he's singing about is women, though you'd be hard-pressed to hear it in his heavy, indecipherable growl. "I think of my vocals as just another instrument," he says.
One might consider it a blessing that Lesbian are coming into the forefront of the current Seattle music scene. Looking back 15 years ago, heavy rock and metal in Seattle were huge. You didn't have to look hard to find the hard stuff—almost everything Sub Pop put out between the late '80s and early '90s was hard or heavy—Green River, Soundgarden, Tad, Earth. Even Mudhoney and Nirvana were harder than the bands the label is currently putting out.
"Metal in Seattle has been in the shadow but seems to be increasing in popularity," says Hodous. "The scene is being held together by a lot of really passionate people right now. I know I'm certainly glad to be from Seattle."
There's no doubt that the release of Power Hor will guarantee Lesbian some well-deserved national attention. The band even score some cover art from Seattle native, Stephen o'Malley, guitarist for Sunn O))), but metal scribes who come knocking on their door better be careful about how they address the band, as I discovered after my first communication with the group.
"We're not lesbos," says Hodous, "we're lesbros!"