Des Ark: “I write songs for women and queer people”

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Des Ark is the musical brainchild of Aimée Collet Argote. The band has been through multiple iterations, lineups and styles, ranging from rollicking punk to sparse folk tinged numbers. And now the no-bullshit, no-way front woman is gearing up to release her third album, Everything Dies, October 6th on Graveface Records.

I caught up with Aimée while she ambled around North Carolina in her car.

des-arkphoto by Marc Kraus

 

AfterEllen.com: Where are ya from?

Aimée Collet Argote: I was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

 

AE: When and how did you start playing music?

ACA: My family moved to France when I was six years old and there was a grand piano in the house where we were living. For the first few months before I could speak French, I would sit at home all day and play the piano and I started to make up songs. When we came home to the States, my parents decided to get me a piano. Plus, I grew up in a really strong musical community in North Carolina, so it was pretty easy to plug into that at an early age.

 

Where does the name Des Ark come from?

ACA: It’s a town in Arkansas. And I just needed a band name so I opened up an atlas, closed my eyes and stuck my finger on a map. That’s where it landed. A few months into the band I realized I had actually spelled the city wrong. So, actually, it’s nothing.

AE: I did a little Googling of you and in your “I Google myself” section on your website you are likened to Feist meets Tool. Do you think that’s a fair comparison?

ACA: Hmmm, no, I don’t. Well, I mean, sure, because it’s not up to me. If that’s what somebody else thinks, that’s great.

 

AE: Is there one you’d like better?

ACA: Hmm, no, because I was raised thinking about music as a tool for social change rather than an expression of sound. So music is just like a vehicle to me and I have always had a really hard time with the influences question because I feel more influenced by stories of my family and my friends and my community than I ever have felt about music. I’m one of those people that eats up everything musically, but savors none of it. I don’t have a favorite band, I can’t tell you any names of any songs or records. Maybe I enjoy people pairing up Tool and Feist, because I’m like “OK, sure.” I don’t know where it comes from for them. It’s interesting to hear.

 

AE: Does your “ask me” section ever get wild?

ACA: Constantly. Lot’s of people being really inappropriate. We get a lot of questions at three o’clock in the morning when the bars have let out. They’ve clearly been broken up with that evening and are wasted and need to unload their entire life story onto our website. I think being a woman, being a queer woman, and being really very loud and expressive with songs that are dramatic lyrically, I think people really take it liberally.

I think people feel like they can really open up and also sometimes be way more inappropriate with me than they would be with John Mellencamp or something. Just really weird stuff. I can’t think of anything recently. Mostly just people thinking that I would date them if they hit on me. I get a lot of the weird stuff that other women in music get constantly. There’s always been a fine line for me especially on stage the difference between expressing sexuality on stage and sexing it up on stage. I feel like I express sexuality and talk about gender, and sex and relationship stuff but I don’t sex it up intentionally. I try not to participate in any of that. That line is very, very bold for me, but I think that for a lot of the world that line is very hazy and vague. And so I think people cross into the sexualizing of me probably more frequently than they would with musicians who don’t go there in songs. That’s always interesting.

Sometimes people open up, I get a significant number of people writing about music helping them through suicide attempts and things like that. I am really glad to hear about those kinds of things. You know where music has been therapeutic for people. Maybe technically those different kinds of people are crossing the same line, but sometimes it’s really good and sometimes it’s really uncomfortable for me. 

des-ark-2photo by Kim Newmoney via DesArk.org

AE: So, would you say then that girls really love musicians?

ACA: I don’t know. I more, mean as a woman I feel more harassed by audience members than my male counterparts do. I think it’s less threatening the way that it’s delivered to male performers than female performers. There’s an element of control that men feel like they have over a situation. Whether they’re on the receiving end of that or doling it out. As the receiver of that as a musician even though technically it’s my stage, and technically it’s my show, the degree to which men assume I’m their property and if they hit on me that I would say yes to that in any capacity. There’s an assumption there that I’m going to respond positively to that that.

 

AE: How do you find the line between being a.) an out musician and b.) a female musician? Are they inextricably linked, or are you treated differently being both queer and female?

ACA: I think that being queer as a human person in my life has made me extraordinarily stronger and I’ve lived much of my life without men in it. I have played with a lot of male musicians, but there have been long stretches of my life where I haven’t dated men and haven’t hung out with men. I don’t really feel like I need to cultivate a male audience. My songs are written for women and they’re written for queer people, those are the people I’ve been closest to in my life, who I obviously want to share my music with.

So, I think that’s probably different than if I were a straight person who was a woman and playing music. We’ve toured often in queer scenes and that audience is so different that it teaches me that those kinds of experiences at shows where I’m being harassed by men that there are stages where that just doesn’t exist. I’m not sure that I would have had as much exposure to that as only a female musician. I just won’t put up with shit because I know there are spaces where it doesn’t exist and I think there are straight women playing in hetero spaces that might feel that it is always part of the cost to yourself of being a musician. I don’t have that feeling. I think something that’s always been important about this band and about the audience is that it’s always been a space where I think a lot of different kinds of people can exist together and I think being queer helps me kind of reach out to those communities and be a part of them and invite them into that space as well. Because really what I would like to do is create spaces that are safe for everybody and since I identify as queer I think it helps.

 

AE: What are you most excited about in relation to the release of Everything Dies?

ACA: I feel like the last few years have been really intense. Both my parents had cancer back to back and I have a very close family member who’s been really sick. So there’s been all this stuff that’s been happening. And I feel like this record was the final stages of me letting go of a lot of stuff that I’d been holding onto. And it was the first time that I’ve really felt free to change directions and start down a new a road. I was just holding so much energy in those songs and in that process of making this record. I’m really excited to feel like I can let it go and it can do it’s own thing now.

 

AE: What’s one thing we wouldn’t be able to find out about you in an internet lurk?

ACA: I actually am in my car and I have a praying mantis loose in my vehicle that I picked up at a gas station right before you called me. So that’s happening right now in my life. And I’m pretty nervous about it. I have no idea where he is.

 

Don’t worry,  ladies: Aimée texted that she found the praying mantis. All is well.

For more on Des Ark visit the band’s websiteFacebook and Soundcloud.

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