Oakland trio rocks the queer community and beyond
The musicians in Easy Queen are members of Oakland’s queer community. The trio—guitarist, songwriter Audrey Howard; drummer and percussionist Genesis Fermin; and bass player Veronica Savage—were familiar with each other from other projects in which they’d been involved.
“I’ve always had multiple bands going on at the same time, playing both originals and covers,” Howard said. “I wanted to start something democratic. I get so much out of the support of a band. I love the creativity and comradery of being together. I sought Veronica out. She was in a band called Dolorata. I loved her bass parts, and she has a magnetic stage presence.
“I met Geneses when I was working at Expression College. Someone gave me a copy of their EP. I was impressed and found out they were a drummer, so I asked them to audition, since they sang and did harmonies,” Howard continued. “Things clicked from the first rehearsal. After we got together, I felt like we had some queenly vibe going on. We chose Easy Queen as our name because the words flowed naturally and we have a nice flow, both in the music and in the band. We also have gorgeous vocal harmonies, sick guitar solos and even spoken word.”
As the band got to know each other, they began writing songs. “I usually will bring in a riff on guitar, with a sketch of a lyrical idea,” Howard said. “Once we all start playing together, the song takes shape, as we explore and experiment. ‘This Not That’ [one of the songs on the band’s self-titled debut EP] started as a simple guitar riff and that one phrase, which had randomly popped into my head.”
“Veronica is a great lyricist, and she came up with the words. Genesis always comes up with a killer beat and vocal harmonies,” said Howard. ”I had some fun throwing the ‘devil’s interval’ into the guitar part—which is a flatted fifth, something that you hear Black Sabbath use. It sounds really metal and foreboding, but it’s fun to put it into an upbeat tune. I definitely think we’ll be doing more co-writing; it’s pretty magical to bring our strengths together creatively.”
After they had enough songs, the band honed the material with live gigs. When it was time to record, they headed to Expression College in Emeryville, a school that has classes in all aspects of the music business, including record production. “They have a [recording] studio. One of the last classes in the program is having students record a band in the span of two days,” Fermin said. “We came in, set up shop and started playing. We made it fast and dirty—all live, with a few overdubs. We didn’t have time to spend weeks in the studio.”
“It was magical,” Howard said. “Many a local band over the years were able to record there, in exchange for giving the students a chance to learn audio engineering. We recorded our EP with guest engineer/teacher Stephen Hart, who was awesome to work with. It was done completely over two days, since we were well-rehearsed and ready to go.”
The four songs on Easy Queen capture the interplay the band has at live gigs. “The Voice” is a folk-rock tune, with eddies of processed guitar and a mid-tempo groove. It describes the soothing inner presence that guides through troubling times, with a chorus of wordless harmonies. “This Not That” opens with the guitar hook that repeats throughout the song. The straightforward beat supports spoken word verses, augmented by hand claps that bring to mind a ’60s girl group. It ends with an interplay of overdubbed guitar solos that jump back and forth between the speakers.
After the EP was released, and before the COVID lockdown, the band promoted the album with frequent gigs, including a CD release party at Albany’s Ivy Room. Afterward, they used the club to make a video for “This Not That.” On screen, each member of the band gets to perform a verse, sitting in a photo booth, giving the song’s serious lyrics a playful feel.
“Lani and Summer, the owners of the club, were very cool and let us use the space for the video,” Howard said. “They were closed during the day we filmed it on our iPhones, but they opened it up and staffed it for us. Genesis is a talented video editor. We all had some input, but Genesis had a lot of great ideas and did the vast majority of it. We synched the music by singing along to a recording while we shot the video. Genesis did a great job of lining it all up in the edit.”
Easy Queen will play the Annual Dolly Parton Hoot at El Rio on Saturday, March 4. El Rio, 3158 Mission St., San Francisco. 415-282-3325. More information on the band is on their website: easyqueenband.com/home; one can listen to their EP on their Bandcamp page: easyqueen.bandcamp.com/album/easy-queen and can watch the ‘This Not That’ video on YouTube: youtube.com/watch?v=DMW12JwmxU8.