Yes, There’s Really a Band Named Kera and the Lesbians

Kera Armendariz’s intro into the music world is what every kid dreams up in their bedroom at 13 years old—forming an all-girl punk band. Growing up in San Diego, the music scene was offering the kind of passion and soul she wanted to emulate in her own music. By the time she was in community college, she met bassist Phil MacNitt (who masters a ton of other instruments, too.) There was an immediate, kindred connection, and, in no time, they were making music together. Soon after, she was introduced to “Mikey”—Michael Delaney, a drummer who seemed to mesh so well with the now-trio that his role would become integral: He designs the band’s art and videos, and his stuff is plain rad. (Kera jokes that he’s like the “George Lucas” of the band.)

So began Kera and the Lesbians, a self-proclaimed bipolar folk band featuring one bad ass lead, Kera, and two dudes who aren’t actually lesbians, but who’s counting?

1Photo by Sinziana Velicescu 

To understand their genre, you don’t need to look further than the stage itself—and if you can’t get to a show, I recommend watching their videos. They come alive in spurts, settle into deep valleys, and then shoot through the roof again, with plenty of energetic movement—Kera vibing hard off Phil’s bass lines, and Michael keeping the back bone of the band and it’s performance in spiritual sync. It’s a thing to witness. I liken it to what it may have been like to see power bursts from legendary Mia Zapata back when The Gits were playing gigs, mixed with the luminous intricacies of Janis Joplin. But it’s topped off with something completely brand new and authentic, and that’s Kera—and the lesbians, of course. They really are a package deal—filling a new space with their soul music, which as we know, never really stops evolving.

“I feel like I am never in the middle—I’m either hot or cold,” Kera said. “And that’s reflected in the music. I like the idea of it being quiet and sort of contained and then all of a sudden—in one second, shit hits the fan. I can’t operate in the middle, it’s too boring for me.”

Michael’s contribution to the band aesthetic is the stuff nostalgia is made of. Think about tickets and posters, flyers and passes you keep and pin up on your wall or save in a box—we collect it and remember it, and Michael’s magic touch really puts a stamp on what this band is all about—a damn good time. They did a house benefit show back in November called Punxgiving with other bands like White Fang, Feels and DJ Colleen Jean, which lends itself to where they stand among other artists and independent, DIY events—especially in LA, where labels like Lolipop Records, who identify as a “conglomeration of punk kids, loveless teen dreams and pop enthusiasts trying to change the world,” create super fucking cool publicity for bands like Kera and the Lesbians. Lolipop featured them on their Best of Lolipop Records: Volume One mix, and released the band’s EP, Year 23, at Lolipop’s Cassette Release Show around this time last year—a song that feels like a vacation in (or from) the mind. (And yes, I said cassette. Tapes never went out of style, guys!)

2Photo by Amberlie “Ammo” Bankoff

Even away from the stage and the buzz, there’s a palpable attention to detail seen in their music videos. Sinziana Velicescu and Michael Delany directed the band’s video for their song “Snakes,” with stunning art direction from Lonnie Francisco. The black and white video takes a spin on science and mysticism, and there’s some baby snatching, too. Honestly, when I think of a character named “Snakes” I think of the movie Home Alone—the crooked kind of folk. Now I understand what Kera meant when she described being “hot and cold”—you try to explain their music, their lyrics, their demeanor, and you have to recognize that there’s a high, happy, wild way to explain their sound and mood, and then, there’s also a dark, hushed, introspective way to explain them, too.

LA Weekly recently named Kera and the Lesbians one of the top LA bands to watch in 2015—and we full-heartedly agree. The show responsible for kicking the most ass was that one show everyone was talking about from October at the Bootleg. That night, they took to the stage with Heathers, Girlpool and legendary Devendra Banhart DJing in between sets, which won them a DoLA award for Best Show of 2014.

“I felt very grateful,” Kera said. “You try not to let it get to your head, but it was just so unreal. The next day I was like, ‘Did that really fucking happen?”

She sites Devendra as a mentor and friend, feeling honored to share the stage with him again. “I got really lucky and got to play a song for him at one of his shows. And we’ve kept in touch since then…He’s just a wonderful human being.”

Her other faves right now include Joel Jerome and Girlpool (both are signed to Burger Records) and Future Islands’ Sam Herring, who Kera said has “such an ability to heal through his music”—something she feels is an essential element in music: healing and bringing people together. She has to chuckle, though, about sexuality stereotypes.

“It’s ironic, right?” Kera said of the band’s name. “Because, everybody likes to be labeled, but I find that sexuality is so free—there’s no point in labeling people. Maybe we’re getting to a point where we are loving people instead of just seeing them as man or woman.”

She says their upcoming album will explore the art of loneliness—she wants to create a record that finds you in a time of aloneness, where you pick yourself up and gather the most strength. But how it ends, that’s still a mystery.

“Some women can be real assholes too!” Kera  said while reflecting on the many ways sexuality is presented, and the misconception of women being “easier” to handle than men. So much of that is what this band is all about—breaking down binary system that’s no system at all. “I’m just living,” she said. When not making music, she enjoys riding around town on her motorcycle.

The sky’s the limit for this Gemini and her lesbians. The band has their sights set on releasing their debut album sometime in September/October 2015, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be waiting in the dark until then. As we speak, the band’s already scheduling loads of recording time. In February they’ll be returning to the Echo in LA with Avid Dancer (a band favorite for Kera) and releasing a video from a new single. They’re preparing for a west coast tour and SXSW come springtime, and this summer they’re hopping the pond to London to act in a feature film. When you have something to say, and you decide to create some music, there’s no middle of the road for this band—just a whole lotta soul. 

Find out more about Kera and the Lesbians on their website.