When you really sit down to think about it, music is one of the most extraordinary gifts the world has to give. For an individual, it can put words to emotions we can’t necessarily articulate ourselves, change a mood or bring you back to a specific memory. I could probably go on and on about how music is chicken soup for the soul, but instead, I’d like to highlight one of the greatest gifts music has given me: Other people to share it with.
When I first spoke to Lynn Casper, about a year ago, she had contacted me about a website she and her friend, Jax Keating, had started called Homoground. They wanted me to make a themed mix tape for their site to share with their readers, and of course I was like, “Duh, I’ll do it!” it’s only one of my very favorite things to do in life. Since that time, the site has grown and turned into something I wish were around when I was younger. Not only do they have weekly guest mixes, they also have a weekly podcast featuring queer bands playing music from genres across the board.
Homoground is such an important project, not only because sharing is caring and everyone needs great music in their lives, but because for queer kids who feel alone, confused or abandoned, the website fosters inclusion and builds community. I got to speak to Lynn and Jax about what’s in store for their site along with some really great plans for the future — some of which, if you’re interested, you can be a part of as well.
Lynn Casper and Jax Keating
Photo by Channing Duke
AfterEllen.com: You know, just from how we started talking, that I love mix tapes and music in general, so I love what you’ve been doing with Homoground. What was the motivating factor for you in creating it?
Jax Keating: Lynn and I go back. We knew each other in high school in Wilmington and were the only out queer people that were really into music. We maintained contact and Lynn works a lot with film and is really great with online technology. She’s always had a lot of love and appreciation involvement with the queer music scene and the queer movement in general.
I work as a contact tour manager for a lot of queer bands, some straight, but mostly queer. So when I came back to Wilmington for a couple months last winter, we were just going to kind of shoot the shit and came up with an idea, wouldn’t it be cool to have it all in one place. So we started getting together our contacts and it started out as our friends’ bands, which were still big bands, but people we knew personally. Lynn was able to get it online and that’s I guess where it all started.
Lynn Casper: Yeah and I had done some podcasts in the past, but never kept them going as long as this one. So I was really excited when Jax and I were talking that she was as excited about this as I was. She had been wanting to do this for a while too.
AE: Yeah, that is really difficult actually. Not so much the starting, but the continuing. I’ve had problems with that in the past as well. For anybody that is trying to start something of their own, what advice would you give them about pursuing something like this?
JK: Lynn and I have both started a lot of projects in the past, both individually and together. So I feel like the reason this has worked out is that we’re really a good team and we’re really lucky. We support each other and motivate each other and call each other out. It really comes down to the team. My advice is to have a really good parter.
LC: Definitely having a partner who is as excited about your project as you are, and also just focusing on something you love. I mean, I’d be doing this on my own anyway if I wasn’t doing Homoground. I’d just be in my room listening to music – this is just sharing it with other people.
Another thing is doing something you want to spend a lot of time doing. I have a full-time job and then I get home and then I’m working on Homoground. You just have to do something you’re extremely passionate about. Music has always surrounded me. My dad always had a lot of instruments and Jax, too.
JK: When we first met, I guess we had kind of known each other but not really, but you contacted me because you wanted to start a band. And then we kind of dropped it. We wrote like three songs, which I don’t remember anymore. [laughs] But that was back in 2003 or 2004 maybe.
LC: And then I guess the struggles with our queer identities have been with both of us throughout our lives. So we just took those two and combined them because they’ll always be in our lives.
JK: Yeah, I guess we both grew up in kind of a small, Southern, more conservative, bible belt kind of town, so having our resource online was really important. We wanted everything to be accessible because we didn’t have that for ourselves back in the day. Before the Internet we didn’t have a lot of queer music we could just easily find out about, we just learned from each other.
And even after the internet boom, there was nothing that had it all of this queer music compiled, so we wanted to put it in one place where people could find it.
LC: And I think, going back to music playing a large role, not just being around it but just finding those first few queer artists was so eye-opening to me. It was like, wow, there really is this world of people out there who think and feel the same way that I do.
JK: Yeah everything from Ani to Bikini Kill, The Butchies, across the board. Every time I found a new person, and listened to their lyrics, it was the only thing you could relate to growing up in a small town. What else where you going to relate to?
AE: Yeah, well and I guess some of the exciting part now, is that more queer bands are able to be out and proud. The pickins were pretty slim back in the day just in terms of who was even out to begin with. But now there are so many more people who feel free enough to be themselves that we’ve even got a lot of different genres represented.
JK: Yeah, and we don’t pick one particular genre to speak about. One of the most shocking things for me and I’m so impressed and amazed and excited is that, between Lynn and I, we probably were able to use our own contacts to get us through the first three or four months of doing this. But now, we get non-stop submissions. We’ve had to shut down submissions a few times just to catch up. It’s amazing to me. And I just feel like we’re scratching the surface. It feels incredible.
LC: They’re all so diverse from each other too. All different ages and genres.
JK: Yeah, we would love more R&B and Hip-Hop. But there are so many different submissions from genres and different countries.
AE: Well I definitely think it’s a great resource for artists wanting to get their names out but also for readers and music lovers in general — gay, straight, questioning, whatever — for learning about new and different artists. So, it’s a really great repository.
You’ve got your podcast which features a lot of the artists you talk about, and then you’ve got your mix tape project. What are some of your favorite mix tapes?
JK: Well in terms of mix tapes, I hit The Slope one a lot. There’s a good mix of classic and funny stuff. They’re all close to my heart. I don’t think there’s one that I haven’t listened to, like, five times.
LC: Jenny Woolworth did the Riot Grrrl mix tape and that one has gotten the most plays. There’s some really good stuff on that one.
JK: With the mix tapes, my favorite thing is just being able to reach out to so many communities. Connecting with journalists and photographers, filmmakers, allies. We get excited about it — our fans learn about them, their fans learn about us.
LC: The whole concept is fun. I mean, who doesn’t want to make a mix tape? [laughs] We get really excited about it.
AE: Well, one of my tattoos is a mix tape, so obviously it’s close to my heart too. It’s kind of my thang. Being able to easily spread around music that can have an effect on somebody is a really powerful gift that you don’t really think about until you’re the recipient of something like that. For me it’s huge. I’m older than both of you are but the idea of a mix tape for kids growing up today is totally foreign. So to be able to share even the idea of something that was such a big part of my life with a younger generation, is awesome.
JK: I think that’s exactly why all of these are totally sentimental for me. We ask someone to contribute that we feel passionately about and they either pick a theme or we pick one. Then when I’m in a certain mood I can just point out a mix tape and play it and it still has that special feeling.
AE: What’s the best way for people to submit their music to you?
LC: We have a submission form on our website and they can even attach their files to it. We’re pretty easy to stalk on Facebook. We’re good at getting back to people and we’re really into collaboration. We’re open to working on a lot of projects so people can feel free to get in touch with us if they’ve got an idea for something they’d like to do with us or if they have an idea for something they’d like us to do or if we should change things around.
AE: I had a mix tape with you all I think, like, a year ago.
LC: Yeah, I think yours was the third one.
AE: Oooo! Well I’m really impressed with how much the site has grown and changed since then. The more growth the better so it’s awesome to hear you’re open to more collaboration and thinking outside the box.
LC: It’s so great to hear that other people are excited about our project.
JK: Yeah and we’ve helped book some shows now too. So we’ve been covering some live shows, I think we’ve had like ten of them so far with people like MEN and Mitten, Bitch and others. So we’re trying to multi-task as much as possible. We’re looking for volunteers, anybody who would like to help out!
LC: When we were growing up we were obviously isolated and didn’t have access to these things. So giving people an outlet to help out with this project and make them feel that they’re a part of something is also a big reason we’re doing it.
AE: So tell me about your Kickstarter campaign and the feminist playing cards. Are you two big card players?
LC: Ha, honestly no. But we were thinking of ideas that would be creative and fun and be different than selling t-shirts or something. We wanted to make something people would be in to. So one day I was just kind of brainstorming and thought of playing cards. I thought it would be really cool to just have this deck of playing cards with, I think at first it was Riot Grrl bands on it but then I thought it was too limiting. So I thought, feminist playing cards.
So I spoke to a few friends who are illustrators and they were like, “Wow, I’d totally be into designing something for that.” So I reached out to a few different artists.
JK: We were trying to find a lot of musicians who are also artists. Like, Marissa Paternoster from Screaming Females, is one of the artists and Lauren Denitzio from Worriers (she was a former member of The Measures). And one of the other artists is actually drawing Lauren, so there’s like a back and forth which is cool. Cristy Road, who is pretty well-known. She did a lot of Green Day’s cover art.
We wanted to get as many people involved as possible because Kickstarter is such a network-driven tool. So having X number of artists involved was important so that they could reach out to their friends too.
LC: Yeah and just doing a creative project with other people contributing has been so cool. Seeing the drawings progress has been really cool.
AE: Tell me a little bit more about the Kickstarter side of things, where should everybody go and what will they be getting?
LC: They can go to the homepage, FeministCards.com and it’ll take you right to the Kickstarter page. We’re trying to raise $12,000 and that money will go to the artists for their work and also to the production of making the cards. The more we raise the more we can print.
For $20 you can get a deck of cards, for $40 you can get two decks and an 11 x 17 print of one of the cards. It’s more of an art piece. I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the drawings but they’re coming out really beautifully.
AE: I have, they’re really impressive. Like, kind of incredible. I totally thought people were just Photoshopping some words over someone else’s art. I had no idea they did it themselves!
LC: We didn’t want to get caught up in copyright infringement issues, so we really wanted them to do it on their own. Some of these artists are actually pretty well-known for what they do, so I’m pretty confident that they’ll turn out really well. I just want to see more of them, so that’s why I’m really excited to hit the goal. [laughs]