A few weeks ago, I got the chance to sit down with two members of the trans fronted band, The Blank Minds. Since the interview, they have announced a new EP called “Becoming Him” to be released on August 3rd, and they’ve released a new song called “Transient”, which you can listen to on Spotify and Apple Music, along with the rest of their music.
GLUE: How did you guys all meet and come up with the band?
FLYNN: We actually started as a church rock band, I started at my church and I was the youth worship leader, which was really funny because I was the only gay kid in my whole church. But then my youth pastor came up to me and told me that it wasn’t working out, that I’m obviously only doing this because I like music. He was pretty much saying that I care too much about the music and not about God, and I was like, “Yeah, pretty much.” So he told me that I need to make another band so I can get the music stuff out of the way and just focus on the worship part. So I started a band with some church people, and that just didn’t really work out. Then Ryan, who had moved away, moved back in high school. We were best friends in elementary school, and when he moved back, I thought he was the coolest kid in our whole high school. We were in film together, and then we were assigned to make a video, and we partnered up and decided to make a song. I tricked him into being my friend by playing guitar together and showing each other music. Then I told him about the band, and then he joined. It was me, him, and our old bassist Nathan. Drew went to high school with him.
DREW: I was in the music academy at Hamilton High School, and I was in a recording session with a bass player. He was telling me about his band and told me that I should go and drum with them. Two days later, I went, and I was really surprised. I thought they were dope. So I joined two days later.
GLUE: How is it to start a band at such a young age and actually keep it going, instead of it just fading out?
DREW: I think it just depends on the people in the band, whether it’s something you want to do as a career or if it’s just a hobby for you, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You can just have a band to have fun on the weekend, or you can have a band and just say, “Hey, I love doing this, I want to help people out and make a difference.” That’s what I feel like we’re doing.
FLYNN: Yeah, it’s really hard. We meet up like four times a week. Three of us are full time students, we all work full time, and we all have families and we all have girlfriends. We’re booked almost every weekend and we meet up like twice during the week. If this isn’t what you want, it’s not going to work out. You have to put aside so much for this, and you have to manage your time. There’s nothing you can say to someone besides “If this is what you want, then you’ll be there, and if it’s not, then this isn’t going to work out.” This is such a huge time commitment, and you need to have the mind capacity for it. You really have to want it.
GLUE: So how do you manage your time?
FLYNN: Don’t do that good in everything else.
DREW: Well, it comes down to trying to schedule everything on time, but not everything happens exactly on time, and that’s where the issues come in. You have to be ready for that, and try to work around it.
FLYNN: I just try to time my day to the minute. I’m huge on time management. When we have dates set up, we have a Google Calendar we all share, we have a Google Keep, we have a group chat. It’s just constantly sending out reminders. We have group phone calls twice a week. It’s just about always staying in touch and always communicating. It’s something that we used to really struggle with, and it’s still difficult. Even with our families, there’s a lot of deep talks, because sometimes it feels like it’s too much. We’re all giving up everything, and it’s hard. But we just communicate, and that makes it easier.
GLUE: How do you guys write your songs?
FLYNN: The songs that we have out now are mostly songs that I wrote and just wrote the lyrics for, and then I bring it to them and it becomes the full song. I used to have a really set definition of what I wanted our sound to be like, but they’ve really pushed me to kind of change the sound that I’ve had and come up with new things. The songs are always evolving though. We have new versions of the songs we have out, like we have a swing version of “Truck”, we have a surf rock version of “Swimming Trunks”. We just try to keep it loose.
DREW: It’s like clay, and then we form it into the statue.
FLYNN: But our new project is more collaborative, and then the next one we write is going to be just all of us bringing the stuff we have to the table.
GLUE: Yeah, I noticed in one of your vlogs you said it’s going to be more “diverse sounding”. Can you elaborate on that?
DREW: Yeah. Some songs are heavy, some are soft, some are emotional, some songs are a mix of everything. It just has a fusion of a lot of different styles.
FLYNN: We just have a lot of trouble sticking to one thing. We like so many different types of music, so it’s really interesting to see that come together. I think it’s definitely more of an indie-rock vibe, the last EP was more ukulele pop, and this one is more indie rock.
GLUE: So, now I was going to go more into the activism side of the band. I know that you’re trans, and that definitely affects the whole mission of you guys and what you want to do. Can you talk more about that?
FLYNN: Right. Well, for me personally, being involved in human rights was something that I was always really passionate about. It was something I wanted to go to school for, and I would do films and I would do a lot of documentaries. When I started falling in love with music and doing research and stuff, I just realized that music is one of the biggest platforms to spread your message. I thought it was the best way to make my voice heard. So I thought that if I can make this a career, then I can have a place where I talk about things that I think need to change. It was always really important for me to have a band where we’re socially active, and I think we do a really good job of that. We try really hard to promote that. Last night at our show, I wore a trans cape, and it was a super gay show.
GLUE: Yeah! I saw you were playing shirtless for the first time too. How did that feel?
FLYNN: Yeah, I’ve never gotten to because I’ve always felt uncomfortable in my binder. It was a really awesome moment.
GLUE: And how is it living in LA, where it’s pretty accepted and normalized to talk about social issues? Does it affect how you guys talk about social issues?
DREW: Yeah, especially with our audience, like, we’re going to influence people one way or another. A lot of our message is freedom, and accepting yourself for who you are. That’s what we want for everyone.
FLYNN: I know when I was trying to figure out who I was, it was like social media influencers and other trans people who I looked up to. As the music started growing, and as people started listening and people started messaging us, I felt like I was that person for them, you know, that person they could look up to. So getting to be that, has been really inspiring and it’s been pushing me to want to be that more. There isn’t a lot of music that’s written from the point of view of a queer kid, or a trans kid. I think it’s really important to have that and to be that. But something that we’ve also talked about is that we don’t want to just be limited to queer people. But having a queer narrative shouldn’t limit straight people from listening to our music. We listened to music by straight people, so it’s just balancing the narrative of understanding that even though my experience isn’t yours, it doesn’t mean that you can’t relate. People don’t even have to agree with me or agree with who I am, it’s still music that people can enjoy. We are really in people’s face about me being trans and me being queer, but it’s not in a way that’s only for queer people. I mean, it’s made for queer people, but at the end of the day, we’re just a band that happens to have a trans member. We’re musicians, and I happen to be trans, and that shouldn’t change anything.
DREW: Yeah, before him I never really knew the perspective of a trans person, and I was there for his transition. I saw the transformation and I saw what it meant, at least to an extent. That gave me more perspective, and that’s something that listeners can also get.
GLUE: Do you guys have any activists that you look up to?
FLYNN: Yeah, Chella Man. He’s a deaf, queer artist in New York, he’s really cool. He’s also really hot. Him and his girlfriend are like ultimate queer couple.
GLUE: I also noticed on your Instagram story the other day you were talking about XXXtentacion. With everything going on lately, how do you not be angry all the time?
DREW: It’s hard. But the best thing to do is focus on the good things.
FLYNN: I used to be really angry. I mean, we’re still mad. Everything’s terrible, the U.S. is terrible, there’s girls that are killed in Tijuana and the police don’t care because they’re poor. I mean, I came from a family that’s involved with human rights. My uncle was on Amnesty International, my grandma started an orphanage and a school in the Congo. My other grandpa was the first feminist Catholic bishop in India, so my whole family thinks that we should fight for shit we believe in, even if nothing ever changes. But I used to be really angry. But if you let it overwhelm you, you’re just going to be mad. You have to learn how to process it and have it motivate you instead of having it hold you back. You have to keep fighting, because if you stop then there’s nothing to live for. But some people just can’t handle it either, and they choose to not deal with it, and that’s cool too. There’s small ways you can help, it doesn’t have to be you going out and changing the world. It’s just being conscious and aware. It’s voting. So many people didn’t even vote in this election. It matters.
GLUE: I also know you guys are doing a binder giveaway right now. Could you talk a little bit about that?
FLYNN: So far we’ve raised $2,500, and our goal is $8,000. But what it started as was when I got top surgery, I wanted to give away my binders. We were going to do it on the band account because it’s a bigger platform than my account, and we ended up getting over 200 comments in one day. I was surprised because so many people need binders. My three binders aren’t going to do much. So I asked the guys if they wanted to donate some money to buy a few more to give to people. We started a GoFundMe. Then we hit up my friend Jasper who is really good at graphic design, then Ryan surprised me with a little graphic people can post on their Instagram stories. Then we started emailing random people to see if they could help us out. Aydian Dowling, who was actually the first trans man on Men’s Health Magazine, has an organization called Point of Pride which helps with binders raising money for trans women and electrolysis. He was super into it, so we partnered with them, and they’re promoting the cause. We’re going to send the money to them and then they’re going to send the binders. We have a list of all the people from our post. The binder company we’re partnering with is also giving us a deal, they’re giving us 150 binders for $8,000. Binders are usually around $30-$40. But the giveaway has definitely connected us more with the trans community, and that’s been really awesome.
You can check out The Blank Minds on Instagram and Twitter @theblankminds.
A huge thank you to Bre Ancheta (@breancheta) for helping with the photography!