Image Courtesy of G.L.O.S.S’s Bandcamp
G.L.O.S.S. (Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit) formed in Olympia, Washington in September 2014 and released Demo (2015), their first EP, after a two-day recording period in January 2015. They became famous overnight in the underground, receiving praise for their annihilating guitar riffs, exuberant D-beats and, above all, frontwoman Sadie Switchblade’s uncompromising politics. In between their self-titled debut and the more inclusive Trans Day of Revenge (2016), the band focused on marginalized voices, particularly those of trans and queer peoples. Song subjects included removing toxic abusers from communities (“Out From The Desk”), calling out problematic stereotypes (“Masculine Artifice”), and fighting against your oppressors—literally, as violence was a topic that often came up in their music. Sadie asks us to “Give Violence A Chance” in the face of police brutality and neutrality, and in “Targets of Men,” Sadie asks a stalker if they “want the pepper spray first / or the pocket knife?”
The current political climate is important to G.L.O.S.S. because Sadie identifies as trans-femme, and all the other members are queer and/or gender-defiant. LGBTQ+ voices are seldom represented in the punk world, so G.L.O.S.S. closed a gap that desperately needed to be filled. This makes G.L.O.S.S. possibly one of the most “punk” punk bands in recent memory.
However, the weight on their shoulders may have been a little too much. On Sept. 12, Sadie stated that the band had turned down a $50,000 record deal with Epitaph Records, citing that “as Epitaph is distributed by Warner Music Group, we can’t ethically partner with them.” Despite the fact that it was published on her private Instagram, her statement made headlines in numerous publications, with many thinking that it was a publicity stunt. Geoff Rickly of the influential post-hardcore band Thursday said the announcement was “in the running for punk humble brag [sic] of the year.” Then, on Sept. 25, G.L.O.S.S. released a statement to Maximumrocknroll that the band had broken up. Many believed that the record deal was the reason for their split. However, the record deal may have been less like a wrecking ball and more like the last Jenga piece keeping the tower standing.
Recently, Perfect Pussy frontwoman and MTV news host Meredith Graves and riot grrrl trailblazer Kathleen Hanna were in conversation for music publication The Talkhouse, and both seemed to have better insight than actual music media as to why the band split up. Graves noted that Epitaph was “trying to purchase them effectively on the strength of their identity, which is why a lot of people really like them.” When Hanna referred to the $50,000 as “nothing” as well as “a total slap in the face,” Graves alluded to the fact that marginalized peoples such as members of G.L.O.S.S. have been “historically underpaid.” This type of lowballing meant that if the band had accepted the offer, they would have been exploited as a result of the cult of personality that surrounded them, with which their disbandment letter expressed discomfort. But even if the members found themselves too exhausted to carry on against the hype, the strength of their efforts made all the difference. G.L.O.S.S. pushed and shoved their way into the predominantly straight male world of punk so that they could represent the marginalized, and recount their stories of survival. Their struggle created space for new queer bands to come and take their place, and made the hardcore scene a little safer for those who needed it the most.
If you saw them live during Toronto hardcore festival Not Dead Yet this weekend, that safe space was present. The audience members closest to the stage were all young, many being queer, trans, or nonbinary presenting. During the show, guitarist Jake Bison broke his instrument on stage and another band let him borrow their guitar. While Bison tuned the guitar, Sadie stopped to asked the audience how their day was. One trans woman said that when the bouncer saw their I.D. with a photo taken before they presented as femme, he said, “this is some Bourne Identity shit!” In response, Sadie told her, “You’re a superhero!” followed by a collective cry of joy.