- Coming out party: Musician Melissa Ruizesparza Rodriguez now goes by Saakred.
A bellwether of creativity and queer art in San Antonio, Saakred has stepped into new territory with Make Believe, a vision of taut and emotional rock 'n' roll. On previous releases like 2013's Fli Hy and 2014's Ballroom Sessions, Saakred dabbled in electronic treatises and one-on-one songwriter sessions.
On Make Believe, backed by bassist Andy Bernal and drummer Robert Gonzalez, Saakred drops into an otherworld of weeping guitar and mystic voices.
Outside the studio, Saakred is in brave new territory as well, coming out as transgender earlier this year. The first effort since that personal revelation, Make Believe finds Saakred navigating outside the gender binary, searching for the joys and exquisite pains of life.
On "Not Enough," Saakred sings in a deep lament about being placed in the margins. "Boss forgot my name again," Saakred howls, before entering into a torrid post-punk riff.
On the five-track effort, Saakred creates a sense of piety, a doctrine referred to as the "holiness of everything." On "Pray," this personal canon resonates when Saakred repeats the title line like a mantra and cuts into a goosebump riff.
In anticipation of the release at The Ten Eleven on Friday, we spoke to Saakred on transgender life, Make Believe and losing an old identity as Melissa Ruizesparza Rodriguez to more fully become an artist.
Saakred seems to be a creative project in a permanent state of flux. Where is it right now?
When I started Saakred, I thought so long about the name I wanted to call this project specifically. And then it began to morph into my identity. It's really allowed me to morph as a person, to become really who I want to be. Everything about changing your name is really empowering for me, for somebody who has had a lot of questions about my own gender.
There's a lot of sadness in a lot of my music. With this album, this is me finally coming into myself. I'm also shedding the identity of Melissa. It doesn't resonate with me anymore. I've come into my identity as transgender. Having a new name has totally allowed me to imagine myself in a new way.
Make Believe has taken on new meaning, imagining myself as who I want to be or as who I see myself to be. That idea is used in terms of how to make your dreams a reality.
On Make Believe, do you speak directly to your recent announcement as transgender?
I don't know how my femininity or masculinity is translated through my music, but it's a reflection of who I am. There's some really fucking gnarly intense parts and some gentle whispers in your ear.
A lot of the reasons I felt empowered to come out was knowing that there are a lot of other people in my position or worse that can't. They feel that their life would be in danger if they came out. I feel protected in this community, at least.
But I don't know how that's going to translate to the way I talk about or promote myself. Am I a transgender artist now, or just a musician?
The language on this effort is very simple, but very powerful. How did you approach the songwriting aspect?
The way that I write is very stream-of-consciousness. I don't ever write down lyrics.
That's where the catharsis comes in — you're able to pull out things from your subconscious. It's my daily vocabulary. I'm not consciously trying to be poetic.
I could write really political music and I tried that. What felt more real was to talk about my experience of being alive and living. That's Make Believe.
Your voice is an instrument, but not in a traditional melodic sense. How have you refined this tool of yours?
Those are the moments, when I'm in a four-hour trance, I've felt my voice change. There's a physical moment when you enter an out-of-body experience. You're able to transcend the physical world. When those moments happen, my voice is physically starting to change my throat, like a psychedelic experience being sober.
That sounds very spiritual.
That's what Saakred is about. It's the holiness of everything. Holiness in the sense that it's magical or pure. The dynamics of these songs are everything about the natural movement of the Earth. The way that natural systems are. They shift and sometimes it's calm and then a fucking storm comes. It's inherent in the human and I'm just translating my experience as a human being.
Saakred Make Believe Release feat. FEA, Se Tu Propio Dios
$3, 10pm Friday, March 6, The Ten Eleven, 1011 Avenue B, 320-9080, theteneleven.com