Hit the bars where SA music makes its home and who do you see on stage? Dudes unlimited, on every instrument, of every genre and playing on every evening. Of course, women represent a good take of the creative musical space in San Antonio, but as Melissa Ruizesparza Rodriguez of Saakred says, it’s largely a hetero male space.
As Saakred, Rodriguez produces dark, abrasive electronica and heartstring rock ‘n’ roll, products of the creative search as a queer musician. Along with Pink Leche, a producer of raspa-sweet electro art-pop, the pair are some of the most visible and imaginative queer musicians active in SA. We sat down with the artists to discuss queer music in San Antonio in all its shortcomings and proud progress.
Would you identify as a musician or a queer musician?
Pink Leche: My music and my identity are super tight, so connected. My music, my background in music and the people I grew up listening to have made me the queer person that I am. And now it’s engrained. I’m fucking proud to be a queer musician, I’m proud to be queer.
Saakred: It’s hard to separate, it’s us making music and we’re queer people. I think it’s all about whether you’re into visibility or not. Or if you understand the importance of visibility.
Both of your stage names speak volumes about your music. What do they mean to you?
PL: Pink Leche is actually from the [Rio Grande] Valley. It’s a raspa. It was one of my favorites growing up. Being an educator, we’re always being warned—“don’t use your name online”—so I always had to go by an alias. Pink Leche to me is where I come from, it’s totally the Valley. And pink is queer, but also, milk reminds me of Harvey Milk.
S: In music, there’s something that you connect to when you’re creating, when you’re singing. For me, this is a sacred thing, what I’m doing here. It’s the idea that everything is sacred. People started calling me that and it’s become my identity too, which has been cool because it’s gender neutral and something that I dig.
Has the SA scene been a receptive outlet for your music and message?
S: I don’t think that outlet is there. Us as queer musicians are paving the way for other queer musicians to do that. Being a woman who’s non-conforming, it’s fucking hard. Because the women that exist in this music scene further patriarchy, playing the game in a way that sexualizes themselves. I would argue that there aren’t many spaces that are available.
PL: We as queer musicians need to find those spaces that allow us to be who we are and do what we want to do.
S: I think you’re right. As a queer performer in a heteronormative space, when I play, women come to the front and queer people come to the front ... It’s existing in heteronormative environments and changing the spaces from within.
Do your performances and music help shine a light on queer SA?
PL: I think it’s very refreshing as a queer person, seeing a performer like that. Especially since we don’t have very many in San Antonio. If a queer person hasn’t seen you before and goes to your show, they’re like “oh shit, this is happening in San Antonio.” I think it’s cool we’re doing this.
S: I’m sure we’ll continue to see young, queer artists come up in San Antonio. I believe that we’ve helped make a way for that. I know we have. There was nobody doing it when I started, and Pink Leche came along and I’m psyched we’re doing it together. There are other artists that are doing it too, but I don’t think they’re out in the same way or as visible. Things are starting to happen that are indications of progress, but they exist in bars.
Pink Leche, could you break down your song “Young, Gifted and Gay”?
PL: It started off building up my song bank by using some covers, including Nina Simone. I was thinking about “(To Be) Young, Gifted and Black” and I thought it’d be rad to do “Young, Gifted and Gay.” A friend was listening and said, “What you’re doing is badass. But you need to be powerful. This song is power. And the way you’re singing it is timid. You need to bring it.” So I did a different beat to it and sang much louder and it came across how I wanted it to. You can hear the pride in that song. It shows my journey as a person. And singing to others, it’s like “guys, it’s our time.”