Colorado Springs-raised musician, singer and songwriter Xadie James Antonio (they / them) – who has made music with Definitely Maybe, Scatter Gather, Witches and Science and, currently, the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra – has been released as non-binary he a few years ago, for mixed reactions.
“It’s a challenge, because I think we have this idea that coming out is a situation like ‘I’m out’, when for me it took a long time and trying out the identity, if you will, before I was’ out ‘, says Antonio.’ Coming out has changed my life in so many ways that I never expected. I lost touch with old friends, with family members who couldn’t stand the changes I was going through. It changed the way I interact with work – for example, choosing whether or not it was safe for coworkers to know that I am nonbinary or not.
“But at the end of the day,” they continue, “the people who really wanted to support me and be there for me were so deep, and I am fortunate to have such a supportive family and a chosen family. . “
Antonio fell in love with music at the age of eleven and began to try his hand at various instruments.
“I got a bass guitar in fifth grade for my birthday, with vague ideas of being in a rock band,” they recall. “I jumped around and played a bunch of different instruments in my school’s music program, including brass, drums, cello, double bass, and electric bass. I was never able to choose just one thing, which felt like a burden to me at one point. But I later realized how beneficial it was to be well balanced and how much it helped me arrange and compose.
Listening to Adrianne Lenker, Nina Simone and Deerhoof further fueled Antonio’s love for music.
“[Lenker] is one of the greatest songwriters of our generation, ”they say. “So magical and really makes me feel my feelings. Nina Simone is such a brilliant performer and a true virtuoso. No one can play like she could with such conviction. Deerhoof is one of my favorite rock bands. It’s like watching a controlled explosion while playing.
Antonio’s first solo project, performed under the nickname Sweet, is an EP titled I do not know.
“Meek is the result of experimentation,” they say. “I had been playing in bands for so long and wanted to do something that was purely expressive and a little punk rock. It was also important to express my homosexuality through music in a way that I had never done before. I often call it performance art, because Sweet is kind of a character that expresses that kind of queer alienation and rage in a crazy world.
“I try to be in character when I play softly,” they add. “I interact with the public. I go in and out of the stage with changes of fanfare or costumes. It’s immersive and so much fun. I am working on a full LP, which I plan to release in winter / spring 2022. When recording this music, I just like to let it out and put it in place without paying too much attention to being perfect. After all, it is expressive. It’s punk rock.
Using drum pickups with synth samples and drum machines, Antonio made the I do not know The EP sounds like it was made with a full band.
“I really do this to create as much sound as one person can,” they explain. “I use sensors attached to each of my drums to trigger samples of synthesizers, drum machines and sounds I find strange. I have a bass amp that plays all the bass samples and another that plays all the treble samples. Then I sing alien voices over it. It’s like leading a whole group, but it’s just me.
Besides speaking out, Antonio wants to help other non-binary people. They notably made sure that the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra, with which they have been playing since 2014, change the dress code to be more exclusive to the genre.
“The story goes like this: I told the management that I wanted to wear a dress for the performances rather than a tuxedo. They responded by changing the dress code from “Men should wear a tuxedo and bow tie and women should wear a black dress” to “Anyone can wear tuxedos or dresses”. They really changed gears without hesitation, and I am very grateful to them, ”says Antonio.
They also decided to open a portable high-fidelity recording studio at home near City Park, open to LGBTQIA musicians on a sliding scale.
The sweet EP, I do not know.
“The recording world is very male-dominated, and I’d like to mix that up a bit as much as I can,” says Antonio. “I lost access to a recording studio that I was part of for a long time a few years ago. So I decided to create my own portable hi-fi recording studio. From spring 2021, I start working with people.
One of their future projects is a chamber orchestra with a focus on LGBTQIA musicians, which is in the early stages of research and development.
“I’ve always played in rock bands and orchestras, and those things have been very separate. This project will be a chamber orchestra that will play the songs and compositions that I write ”, explains Antonio. “I want this group to focus on larger scale arrangements, including strings, winds, percussion, and synths / keyboards, with myself singing on them. I am inspired to merge the worlds of DIY and groups with the classic world.
“I also want this project to reflect myself and my queerness much more than previous projects could for me,” adds Antonio. “I want to have makeup, visuals and accessories. I want our performances to be a very immersive experience. I am currently recruiting friends that I have played with in the past and am just looking for what the group will look like when it reunites. We should be playing shows by late summer / early fall, although nothing is currently booked. It’s a big project, but I’m here to take it up.
For more information on Xadie James Antonio, visit their website.
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