Throughout June, I'll be chatting with queer and trans artists of color about their work and their inspirations. Some are well known, others aren't. But they've all got something to say about how the path toward liberation starts in the creative mind.
When Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White don't hear the kind of music that they like, they make it. Together, they form THEESatisfaction, a rap and funk duo that makes music inspired by black psychedelic sci-fi feminism.
But what, exactly, does that sound like? Sort of like one of their musical sheroes, Erykah Badu, whose body of work influenced the 2013 EP "THEESatisfaction Loves Erykah Badu." Turns out she loves them right back; they occasionally perform together.
It's been a wild ride for the Washington State natives who met at the University of Washington and have been making music together since about 2006. Their debut full-length on Sub Pop Records, "awE naturalE" (posted below) dropped in 2012 and since then the duo's been busy building fans and community across their country with the help of their Black Weirdo party, a gathering place for blissfully different social and cultural misfits.
I caught up with them over the phone to talk about the inspiration behind their music.
When did you each start making music?
Catherine: As a group, as TheeSatisfaction, it was 2008. But even before that, we'd been making music since 2006 together. For me, personally, I've been writing songs since I was 9 or 10.
Stasia: I think that we were in search of hearing something that we didn't hear. There were a lot of artists that we're inspired by, but we weren't hearing any queer black female voices doing hip-hop and R&B music from our perspective.
What's the hardest thing about your craft?
Catherine: The hardest thing for me is to stay on one song or one project. We're constantly making music. I don't know if that's a problem, but it could be because we're already onto the next project before the one we're working on is even released.
Stasia: We have an abundance of stuff that we're always working on, so it's [a challenge] to pace ourselves and not try to put out everything all at once. It's just really hard to hold onto all the music. [Laughs]
What makes you proud?
Catherine: I'm proud of my lineage, I'm proud of my people -- whatever aspect they come in. I'm proud of the ability to travel like we do. I think that's really important. Having the opportunity to be openly queer women and being able to travel the world is really powerful to me. I'm proud that we can go to places like Australia. There are still a lot of places that are unsafe for us, but I'm proud of the folks that are open-minded enough to be like, "Yeah, these are black queer women that are rapping and singing and doing stuff I've never heard of." They're proud to have us and we're proud to be there, proud to be an option.
Stasia: I love being able to go and connect with other queer black women. Everywhere we've been there's been fam and people that support us. I'm very proud that we get the support that we do.
If you could meet a queer icon from the past, who would it be and why?
Catherine: I've been a really big fan of Bessie Smith for a long time. I would want to meet her because she was wild and seemed very adventurous. You can hear it in her singing and her song styling. I just think we would have a good time on the town and make some really interesting songs.
Stasia: I think it would be cool to kick it with both Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. Their minds were incredible. I'd like to hear their words and their activism and their time in Europe and New York. It would be incredible.