Oakland’s Club Bedroom On Art, Healing and Punching Nazis
“For every man that tells me to smile more on stage, you owe me $5. For every man that ever told me he was surprised I didn’t sound more folky, you owe me $5.”
This year is the year that we resist: in the streets, in our art, in our conversations, in the way we love … in everything. Erica Benton of Oakland one-woman band Club Bedroom is doing just that with her new release, Everywhere.
Released last month, “Punch That Nazi In The Face” is the first single from Club Bedroom’s latest album. While many folks have responded with calls of non-violence in the face of fascism, it’s hard to ignore the effectiveness of seeing a Nazi leader get punched in the face.
Wear Your Voice: Tell us a little about yourself.
Erica Benton: My name is Erica and I’ve been in the East Bay my whole life.
WYV: What inspired Club Bedroom?
EB: Lots of suffering, grieving and loneliness (laughs). I can laugh at it now, but 2016 almost got the best of me multiple times. It was a hard year for lots of people I know, full of loss. People dying, relationships ending. Universal trauma.
After the Orlando shootings I wrote and recorded Everywhere on my phone in a matter of 10 minutes in my bedroom, so I was able to capture everything while it was still very raw. There were no grand plans in mind when writing any of these songs, except trying to process loss, anger and healing. I love when I can add an element of humor to a shitty situation, like with “Boy Bye,” I found the process of writing and recording it very fun and funny. I recorded it at my day job pretending to vacuum but actually I was just writing a song about how relieving it is to stop caring about what men think.
WYV: What other musical projects have you been involved with?
EB: Little Sister, Blankie, Church Looks. It’s a dream of mine to be in Shilpa Ray’s band … call me, girl!
WYV: How has the current political climate influenced your music?
EB: This administration is capable of anything, so I treat each day like it could be my last while simultaneously planning for the long haul. More than anything I am inspired to love and support the shit out of my community and friends, all the tender queer trans freaky black and brown babes out here trying to navigate capitalism together. We are going to protect each other by any means necessary. I hope whatever art I make is inspiring to my community. I hope whatever art I make helps heal myself and can be healing for others. I hope whatever art I make brings more joy to people’s lives including my own.
Related: Music Monday: Pegasus Warning
WYV: A lot of folks responded with calls of non-violent protests in the face of fascism. Is “Punch That Nazi In The Face” a call to action?
EB: I made that song at my day job while hiding from my manager and trying to look busy! I made it out of a place of rage, but also humor. Nonviolence didn’t stop Hitler. People need to protect themselves by any means necessary. I respect nonviolent resistance and also believe that if nonviolent protesting were enough, we wouldn’t have just elected a fascist. People have been surviving and resisting violent oppressive systems for centuries and more and more folks are waking up and taking a stand since this election.
If you want to talk about violence, let’s start with white supremacy, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia, no health care, the Flint water crisis, colonialism, globalization, police violence, rape culture, the prison industrial complex, the military industrial complex, the attack on innocent people at Standing Rock, the whole dirty rotten capitalist system and its prioritizing of profit over people and the earth — these are the real sources of violence and they need to get knocked the fuck out.
WYV: How is your art a form of resistance?
EB: Art keeps me alive and helps me heal. Art is how I make magic out of pain. Music is like praying and casting spells to me. It’s sacred. It’s also about having fun and dancing and holding on to our joy. I’m trying to feed the spirit of joy and resilience. I am a continuation of my ancestors’ courage, magic and resilience.
WYV: A lot of people are really hopeless right now. What gives you hope and inspires you?
EB: My friends doing amazing things and supporting our communities and being very DIY inspires me so much. I have some friends organizing a black and brown punk festival in the bay called The Universe is Lit. I have friends that raise money for a QTPOC self-defense fund. I have some personal Bay Area heroes like Alicia Garza, Lateefah Simon and Nancy Pili, who are some of fiercest most important leaders of our time. Skateboarding inspires me a lot right now too. There are so many cool women and queers doing things in skateboarding right now. Not Shit zine is super inspiring and reminds me to do things because they are fun and you don’t have to be an amazing Tony Hawk-style skater, but that if you are that’s cool, too.
WYV: What would you tell a young person who is full of art but doesn’t know how or where to start creating it?
EB: Love yourself and do it anyway. Surround yourself with people that are enthusiastic and affirming towards you. Affirm yourself and your friends. Pray for strength and courage. Read Octavia Butler.
WYV: How does your feminine identity play into your art?
EB: I don’t really identify as femme nor butch for that matter — I’m just sexy, to be honest — but I have a story about how to make money as a woman in the music industry (or anywhere): for every man that tells me to smile more on stage, you owe me $5. For every man that ever told me he was surprised I didn’t sound more folky, you owe me $5. For every man that asked me if I know how to play the guitar I’m carrying around, you owe me $5. For every man that ever gave me unsolicited advice about music or anything, you owe me $5! I’m gonna be rich!
WYV: If you could see your dream show, what would it be?
EB: Shilpa Ray because she is my hero, Grace Jones because she is God, Ugly because they are the best band and a surprise guest spot by Prince because he’s totally my eternal husband. Me and all my friends would all be in the front row throwing all the panties on stage. There would be a big party afterwards at a beach house that Prince rented for us because he’s so thoughtful, loving and generous.
WYV: How do you wear your voice?
EB: Like a 3,000-year-old grandpa valley girl.
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