An interview with The Blow

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Khaela met Miranda while living and working out west. She lived in Olympia for 11 years before relocating to Portland, both communities known for being very queer and full of artists.

“I do hear it a lot, people in New York saying ‘I hear Portland is so nice’ and it’s nice, if nice is what you want. It’s really nice. But if what you want is difference or challenge or an infusion of ideas or kind of like an intellectual conversation or any kind of thought provoking conversation at any level, it’s a lot easier to find in other places than Portland,” Khaela said.

I asked Khaela if she was part of the riot grrl movement, having lived close to the action around the time it all happened, when women were taking to the streets and the microphones to stage a revolution of being heard. I have always been just a little too young and separated from the movement, growing up in the Midwest, so I have always been so envious of those who were part of its initial affect.

“The funniest thing about the riot grrrl movement is in influenced me so much,” Khaela said. “But I was absolutely not a part of it. I wasn’t friends with anybody who was part of it — those girls were tough! And they were pretty intellectual and pretty razor edge and I wasn’t. I was too much of a spaz and I didn’t have enough &mdahs; my convictions weren’t particularly strong. I thought they were kind of harsh.”

“But that said,” she continued, “I never saw Bikini Kill play. How did that happen? I lived in Olympia from 1993 to 2004. Like how did I not see Bikini Kill play once? Not even? It was like you could take it for granted because there were so many amazing female role models, really, in that town that I was sort of like ‘Oh whatever — they can put up the tough front and I can be the tender middle!’ I assumed it was totally acceptable for me to be doing whatever bizarre thing I wanted to do on stage. I had both male and female role models covering that ground, and then I was like ‘Of course women are in bands!'”

Khaela noted that living in Olympia at the time, no one was particularly interested in what was going on in the outside world. What was happening there, in the small college town outside of Seattle, was much more interesting than anything in mainstream America.

“There’s something to be said for that safe space,” she said. “To go from that into a place that has lot more conversation and ideas thrown around — I mean, I’m glad I wasn’t 22 and in New York City and be thrown into the canon of music and art history. It can be totally intimidating.”

Khaela and other artists felt free to experiment with what they were doing on stage and with music and art, especially because camera phones didn’t yet exist.

“It was certainly safer too because there was less documentation. Like I can’t even find documentation of stuff I did. And now I think of all the stuff I kind of wish people had been video taping, when you don’t have any kind of pictures of,” she said.

Before going on her own as The Blow, Khaela was a member of The Microphones, an indie band that was a critical darling. It was founded by Phil Elvrum, who Khaela dated briefly.

“He was from my dad’s hometown, and he’s so nice and he’s great!” she said of how she had tried to convince herself it might work between them. “It just didn’t work and so that was publicly out there.”

Khaela is open about being queer and her explicit interest in relationships with women, but said that she hadn’t always been out in her career because she had been known as Phil’s girlfriend at one time. But after she was decidedly queer, she still hadn’t issued any statement on it — it just became inherently part of her persona because it’s who she is.

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On Paper Television, there are songs about boys and songs about girls. But Khaela finds it intriguing that people decide her sexuality based on lyrical content.

“People just see what they want to see in them,” she said. “A lot of people wrote about thte last tour — I don’t usually read reviews, Melissa shields me from them, but there was one when they wrote a recent review apologizing for their hetero-normative reading of the last tour. They thought ‘Oh she must be straight.’ Because of songs about boys. My thing about that is I’m interested in boys in certain times enough to feel really burned if one dogs me. Even if I don’t really want to write a love song about a boy, I can be annoyed with one.”

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