Lesbian-fronted Otep brings their powerful, political brand of rap-core to Canal Club this week
Los Angeles alternative metal band Otep is coming to rock Richmond’s Canal Club this Friday, another stop on their lengthy “Equal Rights Equal Lefts” tour. Well-known for their openly lesbian singer Otep Shamaya, who covers sensitive topics such as abuse, religion and politics in her lyrics, they’re a band sure to resonate with Richmond’s LGBTQ community. Shamaya’s hair-raising death metal growl will likely strike a chord with Richmond’s metal heads, too.
The speed at which Otep found success is impressive enough, the kind of near-overnight success that bands vainly dream of. While anyone in a local Richmond band would attest, your first couple shows will likely be grungy house parties and local bars that book shows every night. A big name festival and record deal probably won’t be on the schedule – unless you’re Otep, who got a record deal before they’d even recorded a demo.
“I got some people together and we started writing songs,” Shamaya said. “The next summer, we were playing Ozzfest. Honestly, we only played four or five shows before we got signed. I think our seventh or eighth show was Ozzfest.”
Shamaya wasn’t even into music at first, with her creative interests all over the place as a child. She wanted to draw for Pixar or Disney at one point, a far cry from the punishing, brutal screams she belts out for a living.
“Music was sort of relatively new to me,” Shamaya said. “I was kind of a lost child. I thought I was gonna be a writer, then I thought I was gonna be a poet. The first thing I ever did in my life was draw, so I thought I was gonna be an illustrator for awhile.”
Otep’s music, known equally for its thrash and rap-rock elements, has served to inspire LGBTQ people in the closet to come out and open up. Shamaya was especially inspired by one moment with a young fan.
“I was talking to somebody about their experiences,” Shamaya said. “It was a young person who came out to their family because of our band, and because of the things that I’ve said and stood for, and she’s in high school. I was so amazed and so proud of her, and thanked her for her bravery and courage.”
In addition to their LGBTQ-friendly tones, the political message behind the group is also an important element of Otep. They’re things that Shamaya thinks account for the diverse crowd Otep draws to its shows.
“We’re a political rap-core band, is really what we are,” Shamaya said. “People try to throw us in the metal category all the time, but we’re not a metal band… but we’re very inclusive. So we have gay people, straight people, trans people, pansexual people, we have everybody coming out. That’s really been wonderful.”
Despite Otep’s inclusivity and advocating for the LGBTQ community, Shamaya has still encountered opposition to her sexuality in her normal life. Luckily for Otep fans, it’s only provided her with more inspiration, like the brutal ass-kicking we witness in “Equal Rights, Equal Lefts.” In the track Shamaya spits venomous lines like, “He called me a dyke, I called him an ambulance.” Coming from Otep’s most recent album Generation Doom, the song serves as a firm reminder that when it comes to an attack on someone’s sexuality, Shamaya will fight back for both herself and her fans.
“I can’t let this thing happen to me,” Shamaya said. “I got to let this out, and I’ve got to share this because I know how those have had it, and I need them to- I need to share this and I need to feel my community, and I want them to know that I’ve got their back, and I hope they got my back.”
Catch Otep at the Canal Club this Friday (snag tickets here) with doors opening at 7pm. They’ll be joined by Doll Skin, Fire From The Gods, One Day Waiting, Synthetic Nightmare and N4RED.
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