Kiwi music’s queer revolution is here! To celebrate the release of their next singles, Julia and Maude Morris of dream-pop duo LEXXA spoke with their sometimes co-collaborator, biggest fan and best friend Possum Plows, lead vocalist for Kiwi powerpop band Openside.
“I feel like we’re only just starting to get into the sweet spot,” said Possum about their latest track ‘Nothing’s Gonna Be Alright,’ which is already a fan favourite staple of their live set.
Front person for the four- piece Auckland based band, Possum says Openside has been through a few iterations over the four years they’ve been together, but since the release of 2017’s ‘I Feel Nothing’, the pop-punk influenced group are now hitting their stride. “We’re all on the same page, we all have the vision for what we’re doing, it’s really good at the moment.”
The same goes for twins Maude and Julia, who have been playing music together their whole lives, but made it official under their LEXXA moniker just last year. The duo, who write, produce and play all of their music themselves, found it pretty scary to release their first single, but the upcoming release of their new single ‘Get Out’ feels slightly less daunting.
“There was so much pressure before,” said Julia. “We’d play shows and people would always ask ‘Where can I listen to your stuff?’ and we’d be like ‘Nowhere!’ It feels like there’s less pressure now there’s a song out there.”
Their largely shared fanbase between the two acts have made for similar feelings about playing live, with LEXXA crediting their opening act slot at the Hamilton date of Openside’s ‘No Going Back’ tour as their favourite show thus far.
Playing to largely teenage fans is always a special experience for Possum. “Local all-ages shows have a completely different energy, they just love things so whole-heartedly. Getting to go out on tour is a reminder that our project is so much more about this feeling of community over just being a band — it’s about wanting to connect with people.”
Julia agrees, “There’s just an energy that teenagers give off that’s just so raw. They’re so excited about it and that rubs off on you. Especially when it’s someone’s first show, getting to be part of someone’s first time like that is pretty cool.”
“And especially with all the pride flags in the audience,” chimes in Maude.
Potentially the biggest reason that young fans have latched on so passionately to both acts is their willingness to share their experience as queer kids growing up in Aotearoa.
Visible role models for their queer community, both LEXXA and Possum are using their platform to not only talk about their own queer identities, but help bring young LGBTQ people together.
“I think the queer thing plays into that feeling of community, especially with such a youth culture, the shows become a really safe space,” said Possum. “That’s when it feels like it’s more than audience and performer — it feels like we’re in this together. They have their flags and signs and we have the music and you feed off each other.”
Possum, who openly identifies as non-binary, noted that their gender identity used to be something they worried about professionally.
“I was very wary as it was something that a lot of people didn’t understand and didn’t know about, and lots of people still don’t. It was one thing to be gay, but it’s another thing to try and start educating people on gender fluidity and the spectrums of gender and sexuality. Especially at first people can be quite resistant when they don’t understand something, so that was scary. But things have changed really quickly and have gotten so much better, there’s really a celebration of queerness now. I can’t even imagine what it would’ve been like growing up as teenagers now having that experience. That’s why it feels so good to be working with and for teenagers now, and the positive effect that has.”
Maude reflected on how pop music in 2018 has a strong queer presence, which made it the decision to be open about her sexuality a little easier. “A lot of the music I listen to is made by queer ladies, which has been super influential on the music I write. Them being out and talking about it, just doing their thing — like Shura and MUNA and Ladyhawke — and I relate to those experiences. It’s cool to be a part of making it even easier for the next generation. With all the queer kids that come up to us at shows and say ‘We love you guys, thanks so much for being yourselves’, that feels so important. All I want is for people to listen to my music the way that I feel when I’m listening to all these queer artists.”
It’s really refreshing being able to see different women, different non-binary folks, people from different walks of life pushing through and pushing back,” said Possum about what they feel like their role is in the industry, and being open about their queerness. “It has such an effect — the people who pushed the boundaries who were doing this before it was easy in the way that it is for us, they deserve a lot of credit. I feel really lucky to be making music now, in a time when diversity is celebrated more than ever, and you don’t have to hide away for it as much. We’re lucky to have each other, we get to fight and break through for the next generation and be role models.”
They all feel like the acceptance of LGBTQ artists is something that has changed really quickly, with Julia saying, “I don’t even think I knew what the gay pride flag was when I was 14, and this was only 10 years ago! Now we have kids wearing flags around their shoulders at shows and they’re very very proud. They get to grow up being proud.”
“It’s a completely different world,” says Possum. “It makes you realise that our music has a deeper significance beyond being an art-form that people connect with, it can really change the quality of somebody’s life. If you combine that with encouraging more diversity and inclusiveness, that’s when you really start getting into what matters. The industry has been too homogenous for too long.”