G.L.O.S.S. and the Unbearable Weightiness of Success

Two weeks ago, Olympia punk band G.L.O.S.S. revealed, via a statement by lead singer Sadie Switchblade on her now-removed Instagram account, that the group had turned down a $50,000 record deal with Epitaph. Last week, the band wrote a post on Maximum Rocknroll announcing that they were breaking up. The band will play two more shows together: Not Dead Yet Fest in Toronto, happening October 13-16, and one final show in the Pacific Northwest for which details have not been released.

This is disappointing news from a band whose presence and politics were both vital forces in queer communities in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. And the band also seemed to be just getting started; they formed in late 2014, released two stellar EPs, and had just made that big announcement about the Epitaph deal. As summarized by Switchblade, G.L.O.S.S. turned down the deal specifically because they wanted to move forward on their own terms, maintaining a DIY spirit, and a grassroots connection to the queer communities for whom the band has always said it exists.

And yet: some of the language in the band’s MRR note is especially remarkable because of its honesty and lack of precedent in dealing with mental health. From the original post:

G.L.O.S.S. has decided to break up and move on with our lives. We all remain close friends, but are at a point where we need to be honest about the toll this band is taking on the mental and physical health of some of us. We are not all high-functioning people, and operating at this level of visibility often feels like too much.

We want to measure success in terms of how we’ve been able to move people and be moved by people, how we’ve been able to grow as individuals. This band has become too large and unwieldy to feel sustainable or good anymore—the only thing growing at this point is the cult of personality surrounding us, which feels unhealthy. There is constant stress, and traveling all the time is damaging our home lives, keeping us from personal growth and active involvement in our communities. Being in the mainstream media, where total strangers have a say in something we’ve created for other queer people, is exhausting.

It’s fairly amazing to have major music blogs devoting column inches to this note, from a band who remained fiercely loyal to their queer base from start to finish, and who have not shied away from acknowledging how being trans has specifically affected their lives as musicians and public figures. Study after study finds that queer and trans people come up against mental health issues at higher rates than straight and cis folks. G.L.O.S.S.’ taking steps to preserve its members’ mental and physical health throws a wrench in the works of the suffering, pitiable trans person narrative so popular in non-LGBTQ discourse. Here is a group of artists prioritizing their health and safety, enacting self-care as activism. The breakup is a blow to queer music, but the continued health and success of its five members is an immitigable asset to queer communities.  

by Katie Presley
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Katie Presley is a writer and editor currently based on the East Coast (help, how did this happen??). She's been with Bitch in one form or another since 2010, when she started as a New Media Intern, and most recently served as Bitch's first and only Music Editor, from 2016-2017. Past resume lines include Assistant Producer for All Songs Considered at NPR Music, panelist on Pop Culture Happy Hour, and bylines at NPR and Ms. Katie is also a doula and herbalist, and writes a blog on herbal medicine, "The Herbal Apprentice." She also co-founded the first full-spectrum doula organization in Texas, The Bridge Collective. She is also a late-comer to being a Dog Person, but currently lives with four cats. 

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