Q&A with Lil Lavedy
By August Edwards
Hip hop artist Lil Lavedy will release her debut full length Hella Spiders 666 on December 18th. As the album name might suggest, the eight tracks are bizarre and just straight up fun to listen to. It’s a little experimental, it’s a lot of hip hop and a lot of punk, and most of all it’s fiercely honest to the artist’s story. Pre-order for this album is available now on Bandcamp.
Las Vegas raised, Lil Lavedy has found a home in Albuquerque that’s allowed for her passion to continue to flourish. An essential but difficult step for artists to make is to create opportunities for themselves - this is something that Lil Lavedy understands well. Read on to see the joy she creates in the face of adversity.
Tell me a little bit about how you got started on your musical journey.
My musical journey kind of got its start in folk punk. I had been playing the acoustic guitar for a while, but I wasn’t very good at it. And I remember, once I was riding the bus to an Against Me! show, in maybe 2007 or something. And I asked my friend was Against Me! was, and they were like, “oh, they’re like folk punk.” And I was like, that’s a stupid fucking combination. And I ended up making and booking that folk punk tour for eight years.
After that, I had a band for a short while that was on more punk end, where I played ukulele with distortion. And it had always been a dream to make hip hop, and I started making that dream come true in Las Vegas. I was getting free recording time in exchange for being the errand girl for [a] studio.
What was the process of booking those tours?
I was living in Las Vegas and at the time there weren’t other people booking folk punk. That wasn’t a thing that people did. So, if I wanted to see musicians that I wanted to see, and play shows that I wanted to play, I had to be the one that booked it. I started booking at a particularly young age. I think the first show I booked, I was sixteen. And then from there, had some of the big names of the forgotten past, such as Black Death All Stars playing in my basement.
When did you move to ABQ, and what was the decision behind that big move?
I moved to Albuquerque about two years ago. By the time that I moved out here, I was pretty high and dry. I’d been working somewhere for a very long time making really terrible wages and living in poverty, depressed, my apartment had bed bugs. Every conceivable part of poverty and depression was hitting me. And somebody suggested that I move out to Albuquerque, and with a little bit of help I was able to.
Have you had a good experience here so far, within the music community?
I love it here. Not only is it the most inclusive music community I’ve been a part of, it’s also just kind of the nicest, and the least picky. It’s not separated in the genres that people play—I think you can’t be picky enough to do that around here. You just get to enjoy whatever comes into town.
You do like to, not bounce between genres, but you explore and experiment with different genres with your music. Correct?
Definitely. I think that kind of comes from somebody who’s played bluegrass, and has played in a punk band. It’s important for me to not let go of all those different things. I love collecting and curating and exploring music, and I think people who kind of like sit with their small selection of what they liked in high school, they really limit their possibilities. One of the amazing things about hip hop is that, when it comes down to it, it’s really limitless.
What drew you to hip hop?
It’s something that I have had a lifelong love for. When I was a teenager I was a little punk kid with a mohawk, but my first musical love was hip hop in a bunch of different spectrums. My dad was a big hip hop nerd, he had hundreds of different CDs for me to pick through. I loved the sound of an excessive bass just shaking out my sinuses. As I grew older, I grew to understand what [hip hop] really is there for. It’s a tool for poetry.
What does this album mean to you? What’s in it for you?
I just wanted to be as in-your-face trans as possible. Hip hop is such a great tool for being unapologetic and almost egotistical about how great you are. And you don’t really get to see a woman that’s trans talk about how great they are, consistently. In any platform. As much as my lyrics talk about my depression and sadness and everything that comes along with mental illness, I also wanted to just talk about how badass I was. And that’s not something that I always believe myself, but I’m really hoping that it makes it so other people have the capacity to feel that themselves.
I also wanted to stir up some conversations. There’re lyrics in the songs that I think are gonna make cis people feel really, really uncomfortable. And if it does, it’s supposed to. It’s supposed to make you sit and wonder why those lyrics make you uncomfortable. For a long time I had a hard time with the moral story of myself—like, should I talk about my body sexually? Considering with most trans women, the only way they get seen is in a sexualized nature. But like, fuck it. It’s my body.
Overall, this album’s important to me for more than surface level reasons. I survived a suicide attempt and then I woke up out of the hospital like, oh my god, my favorite album that I ever worked on almost didn’t get to come out. Since I’ve been out the hospital, I’ve been full force, this has to be real.
What’s your reward for creating?
I feel like I will accomplish something if I just get in the ears of two different people: people who have never seen or known a trans person; and then other trans people that are like “finally, someone’s saying this!” I measure my success very humbly. I just will be happy if it just gets spins and gets noticed at all. I think I’ll be happy with this album no matter what.
What does your ideal day look like?
Right now, it only includes music. I’ve been jobless since quarantine and been staying that way. I’ve made more money off of unemployment than I ever have in my life, which is a little sad considering how hard I’ve worked in my life.
I love sitting on my back porch playing guitar or ukulele, just chain smoking. Once I have some idea going on guitar, I go in and start producing it on the keys, make a track with the drums and whatnot. If not, I’m just listening to music. I feel like there’s genuinely a difference between someone who like, is mildly interested in music, and somebody who spends their life like, “I gotta find something new! I’ve already listened to everything I already know.” That quality of looking for something new always drives me to find awesome and amazing stuff.
You mentioned the inclusivity of Albuquerque music and musicians. Could you describe that for me?
My introduction into ABQ music had been the Mountain Blood Fests. I had toured and played two Mountain Blood Fests. When I moved out here, that didn’t exist anymore. So, the first thing I found was Corpus Arts. In Las Vegas, the queer community isn’t like this. The queer community is either big money bars, or they just stay home. It’s not as active or engaged. It’s really hard to just make friends and be surrounded by mostly queer-identified folk. Going to Corpus Arts and being like, wow, everyone here is so cool but in their own way, and they’re always so sweet. It was a welcoming experience. I was going to Corpus Arts once a week, no matter how cold it was, sitting there shivering just being like, “I’m so happy to be here.”
I gotta say, although it’s been fun, safe, and inclusive for me, I also witnessed two separate trans folk get assaulted at shows here without any follow-up. It always gets broken down to a scuffle, but it’s usually targeted violence against a trans person that doesn’t get followed up. It breaks my heart. But I see the people who are running the scene out here actively trying to do their shit about that. Aiming for the future, sometimes you can’t keep everyone from being an asshole.
What is the importance of community to you?
I think community is something we do to feel a sense of belonging and safety. Accountability is a part of that. I think so often we forget that accountability needs community—you can’t hold somebody accountable while ostracizing them and not giving them anywhere to go to learn and grow and exist and change. I witness that firsthand. Marginalized people are gonna be the most affected by some sort of social ostracization. Ostracizing marginalized people because they have symptoms of trauma isn’t cool. As a community, we need to do better with seeing what trauma looks like within our friends and making sure that we emotionally take care of and support the marginalized people around us.