In honor of National Coming Out Week, it seems more than appropriate to share the coming out story of a musician. However, Michael Stipe and Freddie Mercury have already visited this blog, and I don’t want to be knocking you over the head with these familiar names every time “music” and “gay” come up together. There are numerous current musicians who have come out, and quite a few who have come out in the public eye. These are artists you can listen to now, artists that are relevant and entertaining and also out.
So, with that being said, I’ll share Rostam Batmanglij’s story about coming out through music, especially to fans of the music. Batmanglij is a member of Vampire Weekend, and the 27-year-old is the only gay member. When he’s not playing a few thousand instruments for Vampire Weekend or writing their lyrics, he’s also involved in Discoveryand produces for hip-hop group Das Racist.
Vampire Weekend released their first album, Vampire Weekend, in 2008. It spawned singles like “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” songs that bloggers ate up and posted and reposted. They were named Spin magazine’s Best New Artist and shot for the cover of the March 2008 issue before their debut album was even out – a first for the magazine. Basically, this was a band that was just on fire – and a band that had started as a couple of friends messing around at Columbia University. However, with all of this buzz, a spotlight was put on everything they did, and pressure was amped up for the release of the second album.
Batmanglij has said in numerous interviews that he tells those who haven’t come out yet to just do it now. He has also said that you don’t have to throw it in someone’s face, but as a musician combating homophobia, you need to just get it out there. In one interview with Spin, he says that you can prepare an audience by handing them some gay subject matter and seeing if they run with it or not. Either way, he advises coming out – something he felt he had to do with the release of Vampire Weekend’s second album, Contra, which was released in 2010.
Contra features a song co-written by Batmanglij that deals with gay subject matter. “Diplomat’s Son” features lyrics including: “That night I smoked a joint with my best friend/We found ourselves in bed/When I woke up he was gone.” In one interview, Batmanglij says that the song expresses something real about his sexuality, and he felt it was necessary to come out so that others could understand he was comfortable with it. Just before the album came out, he came out to Rolling Stone magazine, and then further discussed his sexuality with Out just weeks later.
Since that time in 2010, Batmanglij has been fully out and generally embraced by the indie rock and surrounding music communities. He has continued to write songs with gay themes, including one for Discovery entitled “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.” Plus, you should definitely check out “Diplomat’s Son” here, mostly because it is incredibly catchy but also because it does have really awesome lyrics.
Batmanglij found a way to come out to hundreds upon thousands of people, and he was able to do it in a way that made him comfortable and stayed natural. He didn’t pull any stunts, and he didn’t hide behind the rest of his band – instead, he followed his own advice to just come out now and accept that others would be analyzing him for it. While this isn’t always realistic, it is comforting. Batmanglij surrounded himself with people who cared – his band mate Ezra Koenig wrote “Diplomat’s Son” with him and sings most of the lyrics – and who didn’t turn their backs on him. While negativity permeates, there are people who care and who understand and who write songs about this understanding. Rostam Batmanglij is one of them.
Okay, now, just a few side notes:
- The Horrors, one of my current obsessions, recently covered Beyonce’s “Best Thing I Never Had” for the BBC Live Lounge. It is SO GOOD, and you should just do yourself the favor now and have a listen. Basically, it takes this already wonderful Beyonce song and turns it into a chill, kind of dark but beautiful listen. I mean, really, just put this on repeat. You’ll be obsessed, too.
- M83 has a new album coming out Tuesday – FINALLY! Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is a double-album, and it’s been streaming on Urban Outfitters’ website (which is a little strange, but whatever, you can listen to it in its entirety). Listen to the full stream now, and then download the album ASAP on Tuesday – or buy it in person, if you’re still into that kind of thing.
- Neon Indian is going to be at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights on Saturday! Yes, I know this is homecoming weekend here at Kent, but this show isn’t until 9:00 – you can go to your homecoming parade, your football game, whatever else, and still have plenty of time to get there and scope this out. Com Truise and Purity Ring are opening, it’s $12 to get in, and it is bound to be a good time. Hopefully I’ll see you all there!