She’s got the beat: for Jennifer Yakes of the band Leah Stargazing, it’s her drumming and not her sexuality that’s a big deal – music – Interview
When Jennifer Yakes joined pop-punk outfit Leah Stargazing, she was less concerned about coming out to her male band mates than she was about being a more experienced musician than the rest of the group. “I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m not messing around anymore,” she says. “I wanted to be part of a band that was serious about their careers while also making music that was fun.”
She found that in Leah Stargazing, whose infectious debut, Leave It All Behind (Telescope Records), is characterized by a lean, guitar-driven sound that embodies the rowdy energy of punk with sharp musicianship–as evidenced by such bite-size, pop-sweetened rave-ups as “Three Days Too Long” and “Stick Around.” Yakes was drawn to the band’s music even if their relative inexperience gave her brief pause.
“I met these guys who were sweet but young. I wasn’t sure that they were in it for the long haul, and that was a big issue,” she says. “Once I was convinced that they were serious, being gay was no big deal. Actually, I never consider that an issue when weighing my options. My experience is that if I don’t treat it like a major issue, no one else does.”
And she was right. The lads who comprise the Rhode Island-rooted Leah Stargazing–Jordan Fielding (vocals, guitar), Thomas Keohane (keyboards), Brandon Fielding (bass), and Timothy Aubin (guitar)–took the revelation of Yakes’ sexuality in stride.
“It was such a matter-of-fact moment,” she recalls. “I mentioned my girlfriend’s name at a rehearsal shortly after joining the band. One of the guys gave me a smile and said, `Oh, yeah?’ and the rest just kind of shrugged. That was it.”
Fans of the band seem to be having a similarly low-key reaction to Yakes. As they play club dates, the drummer says people are “pretty relaxed” with her. “I think the girls who come to our shows would be way more upset if one of the cute guys in the band was gay rather than learning that I am,” she says with a laugh. “If anything, the fact that I’m a lesbian removes me as a threat to the girls who find the guys hot and want to meet them.”
Beyond those man-hungry young women, Yakes says she is “gratified” to see an increased number of young queer rock fans popping up at the band’s shows. “Their support is especially cool, since we’re not making music that’s specifically geared toward them–and I don’t expect that to change. The guys write the songs, and I’m happily just the drummer. But young gay kids show up to cheer me on for being out, which is beyond cool. Hopefully, once they’re in the room, they stick around because this band is totally hot–and because I pound out some kick-ass beats regardless of my sexuality.”
Flick is senior talent editor of Billboard magazine.
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