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Pride: Sourpatch Provide Queer, Transgender Visibility in San Jose Music Scene

In Music

Despite not having a single political song in their set, indie-punkers Sourpatch is one of the most political bands in San Jose. That’s because it isn’t just the band’s lyrics that matter, it’s the band themselves, and Sourpatch openly and proudly represent the queer community—and have a blast doing it.

“Just being who you are, if it’s being trans, queer, just by being yourself, if your songs have anything to do with your life—which they usually do—you’ll be speaking to someone who’s like you,” says guitarist Christine Kaloni Tupou.

The members of Sourpatch, who all take turns singing, and even switching instruments around, write ultra-catchy twee-punk songs which tend to be about themselves and whatever they’re going through. “They’re personal,” drummer Rich Gutierrez says, “I think a lot of our songs are mostly dealing with emotions. It’s all about heartbreak, it’s all about being fucked up. People are into it, but then they see who we are, and are like, ‘I’m more in tune with this than I thought I would be.’”

In addition to providing visibility for the queer and transgender communities, Sourpatch makes a point to bring other queer-core bands from out of town into San Jose, which had been a scene seriously lacking in the South Bay before Sourpatch took that initiative. In fact, the band even created a DIY festival, Think and Die Thinking, which goes into its third year this November, with the mission of showcasing punk and indie bands that have members that are queer, transgender, women and/or people of color. So far it’s been a big success.

When Sourpatch began six years ago, the group members weren’t really thinking about any of these things. They weren’t even trying to make a “queer-core” band.

“It wasn’t intentional. People do that, like ‘this whole band is going to be nothing but people of color.’ That’s fine. I’m into that. It wasn’t for us. We’re just friends. It just happened to be that way. It was very serendipitous,” says Gutierrez.

Tupou and guitarist Nicole Munoz started out by playing a handful of songs Munoz had already written that were inspired by the sugary-sweet ’90s bands Velocity Girl, Rocketship and Tiger Trap. Gutierrez and then Mander Farrell later joined the band and everything just clicked.

They never were much for playing bars or clubs, but instead opted for basement shows, rented halls and coffee shops. Gutierrez already had years of experience drumming in hardcore and grind bands, and had put on countless under-the-radar punk rock shows since he had been old enough to go to shows.

“I am a firm believer forever about DIY culture. I have friends all over the world now, from just playing in the basement,” Gutierrez says.

Touring helped the band meet up, quite often, totally unintentionally, with a lot of queer-core bands in different cities. These bands taught them a lot about how other cities were fostering these kinds of scenes.

“Seeing what people do in other towns, it’s like, why can’t we have this? You kind of get used to people being pretty ignorant. Not in a bad way, just people don’t know,” Gutierrez says.

Sourpatch has also become more actively involved with creating a space for tolerance and diversity, whether they’re putting on shows in their basement or coffee shops or wherever. When issues come up they try and deal with it in a constructive way, so that people learn. Once they had a drunk girl act up and start calling everyone “gay.” They asked her to leave, but in the process they explained to her why behavior was offensive. They later saw her on a different day and she apologized.

“She was like, ‘do you remember me? I’m the girl who you kicked out cause I said everyone is gay.’ She’s like, ‘I say stupid things when I’m drunk,’” says Tupou.

Think and Die Thinking was an attempt to actually prepare a more formal mission statement for the kind of space they wanted to create. Sourpatch members think it’s important to provide examples, and for young queer punks to see others like themselves on stage playing music and making art.
“For me, I really wanted to go out of my way to make these events accessible to a lot of people, people who are marginalized,” Gutierrez says.

When it’s time for Sourpatch to get on stage and play whatever show they’re playing, everything political falls to the wayside. It’s just about enjoying music and singing songs from the heart, whether it’s about falling in love or having a broken heart. And that’s about the most political thing anyone can do.

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