Coming out of the closet is a unique experience for every individual. Some stories are happy ones of acceptance, ending in personal celebration. Others can be very negative, with family problems and lost friendships among the possible reactions.
Members of the Lawrence, Kan., band Grenadina are well-aware of the spectrum of possibilities. Three of the band’s four members identify as LGBTQ, and the one who doesn’t is an informed ally who accepts them for who they are — a group of dedicated musicians who want to rock and who just so happen to not be straight.
These stories start way before the existence of Grenadina, which formed in 2011. They begin in the band members’ late middle school to early high school years, and that’s really the only thing these stories have in common.
Guitarist Steph Castor was 14 when she began to question her sexuality.
“Long story short,” she says, “I became friends with someone who identified as bisexual, and I just kind of started wondering things about myself. I came out to my friends when I was 14 as bisexual, but I really still wasn’t into dudes at all.”
She hid her girlfriend from her mom until one morning when her mom picked her up from her “friend’s” house. Her mother asked, “‘So, are you and so-and-so dating?’ And I was like, ‘Well, what would you do if I said yes?’ and she was like ‘I guess I just have to learn how to accept it.’ So basically my coming-out story — it was very, very smooth.”
The only negative, according to Castor, was that her mother eventually told the rest of her family for her.
“It was kind of awesome, but also really crappy, because it was not on my terms necessarily. But luckily they were all totally OK with it.”
Castor says, “My mom treats my partner like another daughter now. It’s pretty amazing.”
The bassist of the band, Mia Morrow, has a different positive story. At the end of her freshman year of high school, she met a lesbian.
“To impress her, I told her I was bi, and we ended up talking and keeping it a secret from my parents, from my mom at least,” Morrow said.
One day, she decided she couldn’t keep her girlfriend from her mother any longer. The two of them went together and told her, and later, when Morrow and her mom were alone, “She sat me down and made me a make a pro and con list of dating that girl, and I was bawling. I felt really bad for not telling her.”
The situation quickly became much more lighthearted.
“So basically, I made the list, and after that, she took the list from me. She said ‘Uh, no possibility of grandchildren unless a turkey baster is involved.’ And basically made a big joke about the whole thing, and she said that she would love me no matter what. She was really accepting of the whole thing, so it was a pretty great experience on my end.”
Stef Petrozz, the drummer, has a much different take on coming out to her family. She didn’t choose when to come out, and the experience was negative for quite some time.
She says, “To make it short, basically in the eighth grade, I had my first girlfriend and I was also making my Catholic confirmation. My parents found out via childish eighth-grade girlfriend letters, stuff like that. It really was not good. They were not happy. I ended up getting punished for it. Basically, after that, I just hadn’t shared my life with them. According to them, I was just kind of asexual.”
Though this characterized their relationship for nearly 10 years, recently everything changed.
“Just recently with my mother, there was a family illness and all of a sudden everything was OK. I just wanted to tell her that I was happy, because I’ve had a partner for over three years now and I don’t know, when somebody gets an illness, you just really want to make sure that they know you’re OK. I told her that I love somebody, and she knew exactly who my partner was, and she was just like ‘I’m so happy for you two. I love you guys. I totally support you. You mean the world to me.’”
For some parents it just takes time, and patience can be tough, but for Petrozz things are looking up.
“So basically, now it’s like nothing ever happened. It’s like she and my father supported me the whole time,” she says.
Singer Katie Ford says being a straight girl in a band with musicians who are all out and proud has positively impacted her.
“It really has,” Ford says. “I actually have a little brother who is out and gay. So it’s always been something that I felt passionate about, and gay rights have always meant something to me. But until I got into this band, it just changed the way that I approach various situations. It changes the way that I talk about it, and it changes my arguments.”
She didn’t have any lesbian friends before joining Grenadina.
“I actually hadn’t really known any lesbians until I was in a super lesbian band, and now it’s just not even a thing. Whenever I talk about my band, I don’t say we’re a lesbian band, I’m like ‘we’re a girl band.’ It’s been really organic. It’s been really wonderful.”
Though the story of Grenadina as a group began in 2011, their roots go back at least three years, according to Petrozz.
“I moved down here from Chicago a little over three years ago because I met Castor. We started doing music together under a different name. That didn’t work out, so eventually we just kind of had Grenadina in 2011, just last year, and after trial and error of a couple people, we came into the amazing presence of Katie and Mia and now it’s just Grenadina — solid ever since.”
Petrozz met Morrow in culinary school, and then Morrow’s partner at the time was how they met Ford.
Castor adds, “It took like five minutes of jamming with both of them at different times — they were definitely in the band. Mia, well, she was in the band before she even played with us, and Katie showed up for band practice, sang one of her own originals, and we were like, ‘OK, we’re keeping her!”
Grenadina’s musical style can be described a number of ways — from alternative rock to psychedelic punk, if you can imagine that. In the band’s opinion, their style is best described by their fans.
According to Castor, “Girl-core, we kind of coined that term, that kind of started off as kind of a joke because we listen to metal, but we know deep down we can never be a metal band. It’s just fun, it’s a lighthearted joke. Also, somebody called us ‘melodramatic indie punk’ one time and I thought that was a pretty specific description.”
They are influenced by a variety of musical styles.
Castor says, “My main musical influence, my idol since I’ve been playing in a band, has been Brand New. But lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Mike Snow and actually a lot of hip-hop, too. We listen to a lot of Travis Barker’s hip-hop stuff and Kid Cudi, stuff like that. We’re all over the place. I think a few of us are really into Say Anything as well, at least lyrically and I think dynamically.”
Morrow agrees. “I’ve always listened to, like, reggae and Sublime. I’m kind of all over the place, but definitely, Brand New is a big influence.”
Petrozz adds, “I grew up listening to Queens of the Stone Age, Alkaline Trio and hip-hop.”
It’s no surprise that Ford ended up a singer with the kinds of artists she grew up idolizing: “Growing up, the people I always wanted to be were Shirley Manson and Alanis Morissette, for sure. I just wanted to be them, and I think they had an effect on what I do.”
Recently, the band recorded a demo CD called Pretend For Me. Ford says, “It was an awesome experience. Since we’re a kind of D.I.Y band we tried to look at this and say, ‘How can we do this in the most inexpensive way and still have solid enough sound to get our point across?’ So my stepdad, he has a four-track recorder, an interface, and Garage Band, and we all piled into my living room with our various instruments and the kitchen, yeah, the kitchen recordings, and we all just did our thing.”
Ford’s stepdad, William Chaffin, has really stepped up to the plate for the band.
Castor adds, “It’s really crazy. He’s just so supportive and he’s just endlessly trying to help us out. He designed our album art, too. He’s constantly creating stuff for the band.”
The band members seem to agree on their personal favorite song on the CD.
Ford says, “Definitely ‘Glamour Angst’ is my number one today. It’s just one of those songs. I wrote it in like two seconds, because the second I heard the music, it was like, it’s not even a question, these words just belong to this music.”
Morrow feels the same way. “I have to agree with Katie. God, ‘Glamour Angst’ is just so good. Petrozz mentioned earlier that this song, it has simple complexities that ring true with Katie’s lyrics flowing so naturally. […> That song, every time we play it’s just such a pleasure. It flows really well.”
Castor says that the members of the band aren’t the only ones who prefer that song: “‘Glamour Angst’ seems to be the one that everybody else comments on as well. I think it’s just the one that has the best and most identifiable and relatable message to it.”
Petrozz agrees. “Everything they said is completely true for me, too, but it’s one of those songs where I can shut off my brain, stop counting, and just literally play, and somehow it turns out right every time.”
Grenadina has two shows coming up. One is on Nov. 23 at The Bottleneck in Lawrence, and the other is Dec. 15 at the Kill Your TV KC Awards at Club 906 in Liberty, Mo. To find out more about Grenadina, check out www.facebook.com/grenadinamusic.”