|why not both? self-released their debut album last month but this Friday my heart is on fire drops physically for the first time via Chatterbot Records. We chatted with Izzy Beacom about releasing her first recorded material, what it's like growing up in diy, queer representation in the scene, struggling with mental health and what she's into right now.
The Grey Estates: Izzy, you’re someone that has been in bands in the San Francisco scene for a long time but this is the first time you’ve put any recorded material out there. You used the GoFundMe platform to cover the cost of production on your own. What made you decide to go that route?
Izzy Beacom: I reached this place where honestly for my own well-being I needed to throw myself into something, you know? And songwriting is what fulfills me most. I felt like the only thing holding me back was how I’d pay for the studio time without a label backing me. My friend Brody who produced the record ultimately brought up how I’ve always donated any profits from my music, gigs, merch, whatever, to local LGBTQ organizations and how that’s been celebrated in the community. He encouraged me to put together a page and see what I could raise like that. I remember him saying something like, “People know what you stand for and they don’t forget.” And yeah… the response was fucking beyond anything I’d expected but it really lit this fire in me to do right by everybody and put my whole heart into this, especially knowing there wasn’t going to be some industry douchebag telling me what to do.
You put it up on Bandcamp with the Name Your Price setting last month but this week it’s finally getting physical releases through Chatterbot. How did that collaboration happen and what can everyone expect?
First off, I don’t have any plans to change it being available for free or whatever somebody wants to give on Bandcamp. It’s totally staying like that. But I’ve always wanted to have my music on vinyl and I know people are super into tapes now. Chatterbot is run by, like, the trans icon of diy and their line up is full of amazing queer artists. It’s been SO HARD for me to keep this secret because my brain exploded when I got the DMs about making this happen and I can’t wait for everyone to see how damn cool everything looks. We’re starting with a vinyl run of 100 and then 50 white cassette tapes with red splatter. We’ll obviously look at repressing and restocking if shit goes well but yeah! i’m really excited.
You’ve been in and out of bands since you were 14 and you’re about to turn 25 next month. What’s it been like to come of age through your writing and performing? You were playing for awhile with a name that called back to your original project but changed last fall. What made you take that leap?
I fell in love for the first time when I started playing these tiny little venues as a teenager but I wasn’t singing anything at that point. I was too fucking scared so I let my girlfriend at the time sing my lyrics. I romanticized it in my head that she was giving me a voice. When that fell apart in every way, I didn’t want to commit to any project or person for a whole damn decade. I was in and out of shit and all over the place but it still felt like the scene was taking care of me through everything, giving me a place to go and music to keep me sane.
It took me finally being with someone who made me feel like, “Fuck it, I can find my own voice,” before I felt ready to throw myself back in 100% and I found the confidence to sing in front of an audience. I learned so much from those relationships but I wanted a new beginning, so I changed the band name because it was tied up in memories I wouldn't want to share if a stranger asked 'how'd you come up with that name?' every night on tour. In a lot of ways, this record is my goodbye note to all the people I’ve tried my best to love and figuring out how the hell to do that is a pretty universal part of growing up.
You’ve said in the past that why not both? is not only one of your favorite memes but a reference to you being bisexual. There’s songs on the record about women and men. Why is it important to you to be so upfront about your sexuality?
There’s power in the truth. When I first came out, my parents seriously thought that moving me from Texas to San Francisco made me gay. They were considering leaving good jobs to get me away from my girlfriend. Because I came out so young, because the community is what lifted me up… Look, music is what kept me alive. It’s never been an option for me to be closeted about who I am. Maybe because I’m a big mouth or maybe because I sleep around too much. Those would be the punk rock answers. But the real tea is when I was first finding myself, every time I found out someone I admired was queer? It made ME feel good. It still does. It would be insane for me to not want to pass that gift onto someone else.
There's always going to be straight white guys in music. Some of my best friends fall into that category. But I think there's a certain obligation for the rest of us to have each other's back and to not shy away from telling our own stories. As loud as we fucking can.
Do you feel that same obligation to talk about your mental health? That’s something fans have seen you be more open about in the months leading up to this record and there’s a lot of allusions to that struggle in your lyrics.
Yeah, for sure. I think… I think vulnerability is something I used to reject so hard. I wanted to hold myself to an impossible standard of having my shit together. I would always explain away times when I felt low and I wouldn’t acknowledge that I needed help. I thought like, oh I can stay in bed and it’ll go away. It took EVERYONE going away essentially once I’d pushed so damn hard for me to get that it wasn’t healthy for me to live in that cycle.
I’m on medication now. The stigma around that kept me off it for a long time. My parents were against it when I had a prescription as a teenager so I asked to be taken off it after a year or so and I carried that with me until it basically destroyed the world I’d built for myself. Therapy is harder for me but I’m working on opening up to people around me. I saw a lot of weakness in sadness and maybe it comes off like a sob story to admit you have regrets but how do you learn from shit if you don’t acknowledge you fucked up?
Being in the world is hard for me sometimes. That doesn’t make me a bad person. It could mean I make bad choices. I don’t know. I just want people to feel less alone if I can help it. Because I want to feel less alone. There’s this bridge of a Stars Hollow song that goes, “It’s not that you won’t be happy again. You just won’t be the same as you were before.” I’m clinging to that a lot lately.
Do you want to end on some less heavy notes?
Fuckin' please or I will never do a guest mix or bully you into letting me do a Toon Tunes for Kim Possible. OH MAN or freakin' Lapis and Peridot. Those would both be killer.
We'll figure something out! What are five songs you're feeling right now?
Let the record show that asking for just five is rude but okay. You better link these.
What's got you excited lately? Maybe summer plans to support the record?
There's going to be some touring, yeah. With some bands from here in San Francisco. Maybe a pretty big one that might surprise some people but stranger things have happened. Definitely ready to die for that Star Wars trailer and NOT ready for Endgame at all. Always hype for more Peter Parker content. The new Charly Bliss is about to become my life.
Ronnie Harvick took over on drums for why not both? when Max Morecki dropped out during recording. Are you still playing bass in Ronnie's band too?
I am! It's been a little on the backburner with us trying to promote the album but ten thousand percent I will always play with her any time she needs me and vice versa. I'm also in the beginning stages of writing with a dude friend and we're calling that band soda pressed. It's got big alvvays vibes. So if everyone hates this record, I've got other options, you know?
Pick up my heart is on fire on Chatterbot Records this Friday, April 19th!