this album comes from a project called tape club that i did with eric holsten and andrew cowie and a bunch of other people, which took form first as a recording project and then for a short glorious time as a band with brendon caroselli on drums. originally it was this thing where we would get together and record a whole album in one go, over the course of one or two days and nights, in somebodys house or something, on erics 4-track cassette machine, and a bunch of people were involved, not just the 4 of us ... it started the night of hurricaine sandy, in the dorms at suny purchase, where i wasnt, because i lived off campus in the house tattooed on my leg. and everyone picked a pseudonym, a "lo-fi name," basically a pen name or fictional alternate persona to credit the performance or songwriting to.

so then it starts developing into something more like, eric and andrew and i are writing songs, and bringing them to each other, and recording them together, still on the cassette machine. and we're working on these three short eps at once, each with a majority of the songs written by one of us, over time instead of as the marathon thing. (the first two, fire escape etiquette and lame brain, are already out at tapeclub.bandcamp.com ! and this tape right here is the third one.) and andrew and brendon and i are living together at this point in the house tattooed on my leg, and so we start playing out as a band sometimes, just switching instruments all over the place so we could each be the rock star for a minute.

and as its developing this way, we're also developing our fictional characters, who by this point have become more than pseudonyms and are starting to accrue backstories, and then a mutual backstory and current relationship that we collaborated on mapping the details of ... and we're performing in character at the shows to a greater and greater degree.

my character was jenny queen. i was the last one to think up my name. eric and andrew were already working with these personas that explored a certain side of each of them. i remember thinking about it for a little while, then saying to lee burnett one day, "i think she should be a girl." that was my first thought about this character. and so i had been writing these songs for this project at this point, that i was envisioning in this shoegaze and noise rock and diy influenced style. id never written for any kind of rock band before. (id written songs, but they were more like folk songs.) this was around the time that transgender dysphoria blues came out, too. so this character started coming together around this kind of hard femme high femme glam punk mashup, and around my musical and songwriting influences, like definitely influenced by laura jane grace and kim g and bilinda butcher and satomi matsuzaki, but also by like, glam rock, and musician-gender-fuckers like david bowie and prince, and by drag and the drag and performance art scene at purchase, and of course by things i saw in my friends and musical community, and inspiring musician women in my life.

so we're going out and playing shows in character, right, and at this point in my life i had been slyly starting to go by they pronouns and paint my nails and dyed my hair pastel pink and i read gender outlaw and was talking to people about stuff among my friends and at purchase and online, and i was finding out about these concepts like gender fluidity and non-binary genders, and how dysphoria isnt the same for everybody and it doesnt always have to feel like being born in the wrong body or something, and feelin that sweet gender euphoria in discovering ways of constructing myself and my relationships (particularly in some key discussions with jasmina victoria about our nascent lesbian romance) that until then i hadnt thought were possible. but it was an early work in progress. and so playing out as this character jenny was the first time i really went outside and walked around in a skirt and leggings, or makeup, or just with this full blast femme presentation and not just in my clothes but slowly, by turns, in my voice and body language ... and especially in my singing voice and how i envisioned myself moving and being on stage. i dont know how much of it came off. but in my head it was this sea change. i had performed before but performing as a girl just worked so much better. it felt totally different and i liked it a lot more.

and as the external stage persona of jenny developed i started also to develop a picture of her state of mind in my mind. i remember describing part of it once by saying shes at once a very emotional person and a very grounded and confident person in her everyday life, because she channels her emotion into her music. but i think another part of it was that she was like me, if i was being way more honest and open and revealing about myself, and more confident and feirce in defining myself as opposed to letting other people define me. which is to say, if i was being more honest with myself about myself, i would be doing more of this femme presentation in my everyday life, and playing more music, which made me imagine jenny as a more confident version of me who is able to do that. she was self actualized through her music. and i was actualizing that part of myself through performing her music as her. jenny was kinder to herself than i was, she treated herself better than i did, she took care of herself because she knew she needed taking care of, she recognizes her emotional nature and psychic empathy, her tendency to overload, her power and witchcraft, and she is realistic with herself about her limits, and crystal clear with others about her boundaries. she didnt think she was broken or messed up even though sometimes she couldnt get out of bed or felt like an alien tricking people into thinking she was a person, or a girl tricking people into believing she was a boy. she sat at this intersection for me of acceptance of this gender stuff and acceptance of some mental health and neurodivergence stuff, and the way that they related to each other, the way that going out into the world as somebody that i was excited about being felt as opposed to just going and being the person i thought i was supposed to be, or who i needed to be to succeed or survive.

through this creative project i got the opportunity to ask myself the question who did i want to be if i could pretend to be somebody else. and like, im not jenny. im ash. jennys name exists partially because it rhymes with "genny cream," like gennesee cream ale, the beer. but shes a part of me. and i feel like there are things i wouldnt do or wear or be or act or feel right now, feelings i wouldnt be allowing myself access to - out of a fear of ostracization, or violence, or a fear of actually being monstrous, or defective, or any of the implicit messaging i had picked up about trans women until i actually started hanging out with some trans people - if it wasnt for walking around and performing pretending to be somebody that i imagined .

around new years, a few months after the main sessions in the basement of the house tattooed on my leg, i changed my name to ash, and marked kind of a turning point in my presentation. and i feel so much better now than before i started allowing myself to be feminine, both in my presentation and my construction of my own self image . so im sharing this story because of all the stories that other people shared that helped me connect my pieces, because that was instrumental to my survival . but im also sharing it because i believe that everybody deserves to be themselves without fear of being monstrous or defective, or of ostracization or violence, and because of how my whiteness, the lack of poverty in my life, my able body and access to education, and other circumstances stacked in my favor set the stage for me to get there before it was too late. our struggles are intersectional. more than this, there would be no trans rights movement or trans culture without black and latinx trans people, from Marsha P. Johnson's revolutionary activism to the cultural foundation of the Harlem ball scene . this is the work that makes it possible for me to find this expression of myself. i owe these communities a tremendous personal debt. furthermore black women still face a grossly disproportionate share of anti-trans violence. as i write this in the early days of march 2017 already 7 murders of trans people, all of them women, have been reported this year in my country - Jaquarrius Holland, Ciara McElveen, Chyna Gibson, Keke Collier, JoJo Striker, Mesha Caldwell, and Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow. 6 of these women are black and one is native american. as white trans people we have to work every day not to lose sight of all of this.

so im sharing this also to recommit myself to bringing the basic right to exist without fear to everybody, starting with those people in the most present immediate danger, of losing their lives to institutional violence - not just trans but black, brown, disabled, poor, neurodivergent, intersex, gay - to confront not just the ways ive been repressed but the ways i was formed by and comply in oppressive structures myself, and my responsibility to dismantle them simultaneously in my own mind and on a social scale, because only the end of these structures can bring that basic right of existence without fear, because i live in a country founded on black slavery and native genocide, and i continue to comply in and benefit from the disenfranchisement of these people daily even as i am somewhat disenfranchised by interconnected structures. as a small gesture to this end im donating any money people choose to exchange for a download of this ep to black and pink, "an open family of LGBTQ prisoners and 'free world' allies who support each other [and whose] work toward the abolition of the prison industrial complex is rooted in the experience of currently and formerly incarcerated people," because it's specifically relevant to trans issues but it also prioritizes a population that's in very present immediate danger and, in pursuing prison abolition, targets a major tool of state violence and control.

Enjoy the music, thanks for reading, and thanks from the bottom of my heart for singing with me, crying with me, and being there to hold each other close while we work through it all.