Lesbros: Mitchell Townsend


The trusty website, UrbanDictionary.com, has several definitions for the term lesbro:

1. A man who has more friendships with lesbians than other women or men.

2. The male equivalent of a fag hag.

3. A heterosexual man who is either one or both of the following: a brother to one or more lesbian sisters, or, friends with a disproportionate amount of homosexual women. “Wow, your brother really only hangs out with gay girls, doesn’t he! And you’re a big gay yourself, sister! What a lesbro you’ve got there!”

To us, a lesbro is a little bit of all, but at his core, a lesbro is a male friend to at least one, but possibly several, lesbians. This column shares a little bit about some famous lesbros that we love.

This week’s Lesbro: Mitchell Towsend.

Mitchell Townsend plays instruments with strings on them for cash, check or money order. He has played onstage and in the studio with artists ranging from Matt Costa and Jack Johnson to Chuck Ragan, Dave Hause, Fireball Ministry, The 88 and The Watson Twins. He also composes music for Sword & Shield Music Co, a music house he co-founded with friend and co-conspirator James Rota.

AfterEllen.com: Of the above three definitions of Lesbro, which do you think describes you best?

Mitchell Townsend:
I guess I would fall in number 3 territory. However I wouldn’t be bummed to be more of a 2. I would get way better Lilith Fair tickets. Just kidding.

AE: What is the best thing about your lesbian friends?

Same thing that is awesome about any of my friends. They are interesting, funny, good people that help make existence a lot less boring. If you have any friends who truly care about you, who have your back through the s–t and the gold, then you have won at life and you should consider yourself lucky. A person’s sexual orientation is a senseless consideration at that point. Great people are great people, whether they like to play with boobs, wieners or legos.

AE: What stereotype about lesbians have you found to be false?

I would say most of the stereotypes are rather misleading and false, as stereotypes tend to be. One that comes to mind is the idea that all lesbians are masculine and “butch.” The first lesbian friend I ever had was one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen to this day and there was nothing “man-like” about her. The backwards-assed, shallow dips–ts of the world like to consider homosexual people to be some sort of bizarre voodoo-sect of weird, hedonistic freaks or something. Not true. At that point you are merely taking a blind and uninformed stance against something you are simply unwilling to understand and that is stupidity defined.

AE: Do you think that having lesbian friends has anything to do with where you fall on the Kinsey scale ? Care to comment on your own sexuality?

I’m not really into scales, as my beer belly should point out to you. I don’t know — I’m a pretty boring and predictable “straight-guy” I guess. I’ll still rewind the Phoebe Cates pool scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High a couple times.

I love girls. I’m scared of them, though. I think for the most part, I’m about 14, maybe 15 years old when it comes to dealing with the ladies. Might be part of the reason why I don’t leave the house much.

AE: What do you think it is specifically that draws you towards being friends with lesbians?

The fact that they totally up my chances of getting a steady gig with Melissa Etheridge or k.d. Lang. Just kidding, that’s not funny. It’s kinda funny.

I am drawn towards being friends with anyone who is a good, interesting, fun person. I don’t give a s–t if they like dudes, chicks, blow-up dolls, ferrets, whatever. Being able to have a friendship with someone you can truly respect is a wonderful thing. The fact that all of my gay and lesbian friends have to deal with the severe scrutiny of the disapproving knuckle-dragger sect of the human race every day, and do so with nothing but courage and pride, is worthy of the utmost respect. I’m drawn to anyone with that much character.

AE: How have your girlfriends responded to your friendships with lesbians?

Most of the lesbian friends I have had I met through a girlfriend. I don’t understand how any straight girl could be anything but psyched about the idea of their dude having a lesbian friend. She likes girls, so she isn’t gonna diddle your guy behind your back one night in the car after a movie. You can bet your sweet ass one of your straight girlfriends will, though.

A lesbian is a great friend for the straight girl too because she makes the perfect “wingman.” You’re gonna be rolling into the neato Silverlake bar with a sidekick who has zero interest in competing with you. So when your favorite skinny-jeaned hipster guy with an ironic mustache offers you a ride on his fixed-gear bike and invites you to come see his band that he says “sounds like early Bob Dylan,” your lesbian homey isn’t going to swoop in and vag-block you.

Again, one of your straight girlfriends sure as hell will. If your straight “bestie” even remotely fancies the concept of f—ing your boyfriend, at some point she is going to do so. Whereas your cool lesbian friend is going to be like “Whatever, that guy’s mustache sucks, he doesn’t have tits and his band is poser bulls–t — he’s all yours.” Instead she’ll go home with Drew Barrymore who has been in the corner of the bar on mushrooms, hippie-dancing in a circle all night. Everybody wins.

AE: You have played in lots of bands. When I first met you, you were in one of my all time favorites, Red Five and most recently you’ve played for Matt Costa, The Watson Twins — I mean the list goes on and on. I figure you must have some pretty amazing tour stories. But I’m really interested in the stories from the ‘90s and touring with riot girl bands like L7. What was the energy like surrounding those female musicians and have you seen that now a days?

My first tour that I ever did was the very first Warped Tour in 1995. I had joined Red Five a week beforehand. It was a way more diverse lineup on that first one compared to what Warped eventually became and L7 were one of the really cool standouts. Us, L7 and Tilt were the only bands on the tour with any female members.

The ladies of L7 were hard-asses and it was not a pose. It wasn’t like what passes for a “tough rock chick” now — like The Kills or something. Donita Sparks would break that girl’s cocaine legs like a twig and then kick her boyfriend’s ass, too. Same with Jennifer Finch the bass player. Nobody f—ed with those girls.

It’s funny because that tour had no shortage of menacing tough guy types on it who never had shirts on, but the L7 ladies had the most intimidating presence of any of them. They also out-rocked pretty much every band on the bill. The jumpingest, chuggiest drop-b hardcore band sounded like The Partridge Family compared to L7 playing “S–t List.”

Those ladies were nice though. I hung out with Donita in catering all the time and she was super cool. I actually had a pretty rad tour-crush on her because when she got offstage and washed the mud off of her, she was super cute. I’d often pass out on the bus at night thinking about her awesome chrome gangster tooth.

There were a lot of great bands in that era with really compelling ladies in them. The Breeders were great. Kim Deal is one of the coolest people alive and at that time could out-drink anyone on earth. We played shows with The Fastbacks, who were great. I loved The Muffs. Kim Shattuck from The Muffs was another lady who was super cool and cute as hell, yet would have no problem punching you in the face if you gave her a good reason. Lush were a great band. I fell in love with Miki Berenyi, the singer of Lush, after seeing her open a beer bottle with her teeth. The head of publicity and lies at Interscope Records used to tell me she was going to set me up with her but it never happened.

As far as whether or not you still see that particular energy nowadays, to me it really all just comes down to the character of the people involved. That’s what made all of those bands great. The ladies of L7 had a big, menacing presence to them and they were unique. They weren’t writing songs about how sad they were that they gained four pounds because they ate too many vegan brownies after their folk singer boyfriend broke up with them in front of the health food store. Their music was a genuine reflection of themselves as tough chicks who will punch your lights out. Even though the music may not be kindred, I see that same brand of sincerity now in a band like Tegan and Sara, in the sense that there is a band making really good music that is all their own and it is so genuine.

We also still have ladies like Chrissie Hynde, Joan Jett, PJ Harvey. I saw Joan Jett when I got dragged out to a Warped Tour one year and her sheer rock n’ roll sincerity made every other band on the bill sound like they were still playing in a garage. So yeah, it’s still out there — thankfully. It is a whole different thing than turning on the TV and seeing “Ke$ha” on Saturday Night Live and thinking “F–k, my 12-year old niece could have written this bulls–it with a Casio and the autotune app on her iPod.” Soul-crushing.

AE: What happened with Red Five and what are the two singers doing now?

Red Five finally broke up under the obese weight of the gigantic Interscope-bulls-it-monkey on it’s weakened back in 2000. That is a very long story that we can save for when you start your column about how major labels can crush artist’s skulls with a brand of thinking that comes from having their head’s lodged so deep in their own asses that they cant describe what sunshine looks like.

Beth Carmellini and Jenni Mcilrath — the two wonderful ladies from Red Five, true Queens Of Rock in their own rights — are both doing great. Beth lives in Oakland. She paints, still writes music, still sings and plays guitar like a wicked motherf–ker. Jenni is back in Los Angeles after a stint living in Brazil. She is raising a family and is also still writing great music with her soothing voice of gold. I love both of them dearly and my time spent in that band were some of the greatest times of my life.

Keep up with Mitchell on Twitter @MitchHTownsend.




















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