Writer Ray Vincent-Mills / Photographer Emily Doyle
On Wednesday 19 April, Beckett Kelly-Williams drummer – vocalist, artist and video game enthusiast – will be part of DIY rock night TEETUS DELETUS, held at the Victoria to raise money for his top surgery. He is part of rockabilly outfit The Bitter Lemons, art punk project Exotic Pets, and the political feminist tinted Hey Alamo.
Math-rock trio Luxury Nan Smell will also be on the bill, giving Beck a chance to stretch, headbang, and have a pint at the bar.
Birmingham Review caught up with Beck ahead of the gig, for a quickfire Q&A.
How do you find the brain space to be creatively engaged in three different bands?
“I kind of don’t sometimes. I’m really lucky that each band works slightly differently. So, like with Bitter Lemons, Rich (James, bassist) and Hayley (James, vocalist) are a couple and they live together. So, they create ideas and bring them to rehearsals, which frees up a bit of mental space. Pets is generally just chaos, and then after a while the chaos turns into a song.
“I think it’s only with Hey Alamo that me and Greg (Smith, guitarist and vocalist) start off with an idea then build on it. It’s not just me in the band, everyone has different ideas so that helps take the stress and strain of it. I can just hit loud things then that’s my bit done really.”
What do you get out of each band, personally and/or in terms of drumming?
“Each one is a different style from a drumming point of view, which helps. Sometimes I think if you’re in more than one band that all do the same thing it can all blur into one. Each band has their own identity because musically they’re all different.
“To be fair all the bands from a personal point of view allow me to have a creative outlet. There’ll be times where I’m slightly more excited about doing something with one band, or writing something new or performing a gig. But at the end of the day it all allows me to be a bit more creative and a bit more crazy.”
How is being trans in the alt music scene?
“You stand out quite a bit. There aren’t that many people – but I think it’s more than there used to be a few years ago. The only person I knew who was openly trans in any sort of alternative music was Dianne (formerly of Sofa King, now performing as DJ Birthday Girl and Lyn Vegas.)
“I suppose it’s good because it gives me an outlet to be a bit angry, make music about happy, political, and angry things. It gets a message across in a way that people wouldn’t engage with otherwise; you know, unless you’re terminally online arguing with people on twitter A lot of people don’t understand how you feel going through the world in this way.”
Do you think attitudes surrounding transness vary amongst different genres?
“Yeah, definitely. I think the more punk/punk adjacent you are the easier it is to talk or make songs about these things. With Bitter Lemons – that is more rockabilly, garage, rock & roll – these aren’t things people really talk about in those genres of music. Certainly not to the same extent in other genres.
I suppose that means that part of my voice is less heard in that genre opposed to Hey Alamo where there’s a whole song about being trans, because certain genres lend themselves to being able to say that. I don’t know if that’s because they’re slightly angrier and that’s how it feels being trans at the minute.
“You want to shout and be angry. It would be nice to change that with Lemons, bring in more thoughts of being trans and queer. It would be good for those people who listen to that kind of music to realise the world isn’t just a middle-aged white man with a quiff…as I sit here, a middle-aged white man with a quiff. Let me just flatten it down a little bit.
If you could add or change one thing to the music scenes you’re in, what would it be?
“Definitely more diversity. It is changing but I still think overall it’s a very straight, white, cis heavy scene. I think that’s across all genres really, there aren’t that many bands that cover all of those things. Particularly transmasculine voices are overall underrepresented quite a lot. Some promoters talk about pushing forward the voices of AFAB people and trans women. But then they never seem to put anything on that has transmasculine people in it. Most of the bands I know, I like or am in are white and cisgender.
“Hopefully it’s changing as more bands who are more diverse become more prominent. For example, Big Joanie and Nova Twins in the last few years have opened up a lot of people’s eyes that you don’t need to be a skinny white lad to make certain genres of music. That can only be a good thing.”
Why do you think there’s more of a push with transfeminine people opposed to transmasculine folks?
“Because we can fly under the radar. You either pass well enough that people don’t know you’re trans, or you don’t and people just think you’re a butch lesbian. A double edged sword really. Which is good ‘cause we don’t get even a fraction of the abuse that transfeminine people get in all aspects of society.
“Not just online but with the government, their attacks are always on transfeminine people not transmasculine people. It just means that it’s difficult to identify and see people like yourself on stage. Hopefully that changes as more people become more visible.”
Do you think your relationship with drumming will change once you get top surgery?
“Mmmm, probably not. It’ll be more comfortable as I won’t need a binder to drum. Being able to breathe helps! It won’t necessarily change that much, I’ve tried not to let anything stop me, or hold me back in that sense. I’m not gonna let me being me, having to wear certain things, stop me from enjoying my life.
“I’m a bit too old and I’ve wasted too much of my life not enjoying it to let anything hold me back.”
What are you going to do with your binders?
“I’m gonna see if anyone wants them. I’ve got friends with transmasc kids who have recently come out. Obviously, binders are expensive, they are very well worn but If it’s someone’s first binder and they don’t wanna splash out to get one, they can have it. I was thinking about doing a ceremonial binder burning but maybe it’ll just be a symbolic one instead.”
What are you most excited about when it comes to the new Zelda game?
(Beck momentarily gasps and flails in excitement.)
“Dear Nintendo, if you are listening, it’s not too late to change that the weapons break all the time. If I like that sword let me repair It, don’t let it smash into a glittery abyss.
“To be honest I’m really excited about having 4 weeks to be able to not work and just game. There’s gonna be a perfect mould of my bum in front of the PlayStation.”
Do you have any music plans post recovery?
“Hayley, the organisational queen of Bitter Lemons has been tryna get gigs from August onwards. She’s got a colour coded spreadsheet and everything.
“I recorded with Hey Alamo about two months ago and that’s in the mixing and mastering stage, so it should be released whilst I’m resting. Then with Bitter Lemons we just recorded four original songs which should be coming out from about June onwards.”
TEETUS DELETUS is hosted at The Victoria on Wednesday 19 April, featuring Hey Alamo, Luxury Nan Smell, Exotic Pets, and The Bitter Lemons. For more details visit: www.facebook.com/events/1260240814859897
For more on Beckett Kelly-Williams visit www.instagram.com/mundane_trans/
For more on The Bitter Lemons visit www.instagram.com/bitterlemonsband
For more on Exotic Pets visit www.ex0ticpets.bandcamp.com/album/hot-boys-on-campus
For more on Luxury Nan Smell visit www.instagram.com/luxurynansmell
For more on Hey Alamo visit www.heyalamo.bandcamp.com/music
For more gigs and events at The Victoria visit www.thevictoriabirmingham.co.uk