"Darkwave for All": Meet Monica Skinner and Gabryella Desporte of Hex in the City
Photos by Kassidy Curry
Hex in the City (HITC) is taking on the Austin music scene one white, cis man at a time. Neither Gabryella nor Monica are new to the music industry, but their latest project, Hex in the City, is already bringing a darkwave (sorry, had to) of change to the typical white-washed and male-dominated lineups that fill a majority of Austin’s venues.
We spoke with the duo about subcultures, dream lineups, and booking actually inclusive shows.
Can you both introduce yourselves and give a little bit of your background?
G: My name is Gabryella Desporte and I am a nonbinary artist, DJ, and visionary residing in ATX. I have a background in visual arts, and have been DJing for about 6 years. When I’m not working on shows with Hex, I am an after-school teacher that teaches both STEM and arts related curriculum to elementary age students. I also lead individual art workshops, and book shows with my BFF Monica with Hex in the City.
M: My name is Monica Skinner, I’m an Austin native who pretty much does a little bit of everything music-industry wise, including booking with Miso Presents, Hex in the City and locally for Barracuda, music festival production and logistics, street team coordination, performance in my band Kid Atomic and audio engineering both in studio and live. I’m angry a lot of the time, and I channel that through my voice and my work, challenging cis/white privilege and advocating for minorities.
Who are some of your favorite artists/musicians/inspirations?
G: One of my favorite producers at the moment is Swan Meat, a producer born in the US and now residing in Germany. Her work is cinematic and powerful, and she uses samples across all genres in her mixes and tracks. She creates soundscapes that evoke certain emotions within the listener that carry them on an auditory journey, and does excellent work on creating story arcs within her music. Would recommend if you’re looking for experimental music to meditate to.
M: I’m currently really into Yaeji, Princess Nokia, Show Me the Body, Beach House, Japanese Breakfast, Power Trip, Turnstile, Fontaines D.C., Mannequin Pussy, Surfbort, Death Grips, Idles, and Kali Uchis. Locally, my current favorites are Hotmom, Pleasure Venom, Wurve, Malion, House of Kenzo, P1nkstar, Troller, and Molly Burch.
How did Hex in the City originate? What’s the story behind the name?
M: Gabby and I both have a long history of being into primarily darker genres, and as POC we have both experienced the disproportional representation in these genres - many popular punk, darkwave and electronic artists are cis white men. I had been booking for some time, but wanted focus in on a more specific client base. It definitely makes things a little more difficult, but it is worth it. I got tired of working with and seeing the same handful of generic cis white male indie rocker bands on every bill, so I decided to do something about it. Gabby and I have both always been passionate about supporting artists of color and artists in the LGBTQ+ communities, so we figured hey, why don’t we just make our own event series where we literally only give voices to minorities, in spaces where they are not typically heard?
G: Monica and I had originally been in talks of collaborating on shows because I was incredibly interested in it, and we had a meeting at Spiderhouse one day to talk about what our project would be. We found an old, defunct website that looked like it was straight out of Geocities that had a list of notable goth clubs all around the world -- and one name struck us in particular, Hex in the City. It clicked for the both of us immediately that this was the name of our project, and we ran with it!
“I got tired of working with and seeing the same handful of generic cis white male indie rocker bands on every bill, so I decided to do something about it.”
What genres are you most drawn to working with?
G: My parents were both club kids back when Elysium was Atomic Cafe, so I grew up listening to industrial, new wave, and other goth music genres growing up. I had already grown up loving the sound, but I felt like Austin was lacking a scene that included more of a goth presence. I hope to book more shows that are specifically catered to industrial/IDM/techno etc. artists, and to have more femme-identifying, queer + trans, folx of color as the headliners of our shows. We are also now looking into booking drag shows, and hope to include more drag queens/kings/quings/more in the future.
M: Austin’s darker subcultures - punk, doom, darkwave, dark electronic, have been just that - subculture, and primarily DIY / on the down low. I think that this has developed from a place of survival - these genres had to go underground because the mainstream Austin scene, as weird as they may say they are, does not always support these subcultures. Growing up, entering these scenes, it is not always easy to feel like you belong, especially as a person of color, womxn or queer person. I’ve been pulled out of mosh pits because of people fearing for my safety as a woman, I’ve been given countless “what are you doing here” looks, and I’m sick of that and don’t want other minorities to have to experience it. We want to bring these genres to more accessible platforms and locations, and create safe spaces for minorities to know that they belong, without question.
“There is nothing radical about just booking “more women” -- it’s 2018; trans and nonbinary people, especially queer folx of color, have bands and have existed forever.”
The ATX music scene is huge, how is HITC working to diversify the “Live Music Capital”?
G: Hex in the City is working to diversify Austin’s (very white) music scene by explicitly booking artists and performers that are LGBTQIA+, folx of color, and more as acts within our shows. [More] often than not, we felt that many (especially) local shows only highlight white male talent, with few women or people of color as headliners. It is imperative to put a spotlight on underrepresented artists, and to critically think about how we are using our voices to uplift them.
There is nothing radical about just booking “more women” -- it’s 2018; trans and nonbinary people, especially queer folx of color, have bands and have existed forever.
M: I think my last answer kind of covers this one too. I’m sick of seeing stages full of cis white men, lineups with no POC, and tokenism in the sense of “well, one member of one band on my entire lineup is a woman, so we’re advocating for diversity, right?!”
What does diversifying the scene mean to you?
G: To be honest, I don’t like the word “diversity” because it implies that people from non-white, non-cis backgrounds exist for the experience and learning of cis white folks within certain spaces. In the conventional sense, by bringing a “diverse” position and argument to the table, we create a platform that lends agency to creators of color, that are queer, that may be differently abled, etc. so they can also have a voice to represent themselves and their art. It’s not an easy task, but with enough shouting and protest, those that are willing to listen might hear us.
What have been some challenges you’ve faced in a predominately white/cis/male music scene?
M: As an industry professional, I can’t count the times that people have assumed that since I am a younger woman, I must be a groupie, or the merch girl, or trying to sneak on stage to get close to the band, when really I am in stage black, doing my job, lifting heavy gear and hustling just as hard as anyone else. It has honestly turned me off on audio work, which I used to believe was going to be my primary career path. It’s a hard struggle, wanting to fight through it and be the representation that I want to see, without letting the gaze of the typical cis white male audio bro make me just want to give up.
G: I can only really speak from a performer’s point of view so far, but I think a pertinent issue within the music scene is having your voice held at the same weight as those you are booking and performing with. Too often have I felt that I wasn’t being taken seriously, and also have had issues in the past where I’m questioned about my ability to DJ. It’s patronizing, and makes me feel like my talent has less value than my white male peers. Also, please stop calling all women “sweetie” -- it’s getting old.
“To be honest, I don’t like the word “diversity” because it implies that people from non-white, non-cis backgrounds exist for the experience and learning of cis white folks within certain spaces.”
If you had to pick, what is your favorite show you’ve been to, and your favorite show you’ve booked?
G: My absolute, all-time favorite show I have ever been to would have to be seeing Aphex Twin at Day for Night Fest (RIP). Even though the rain could have easily swept me away, it was easily one of the coolest, most transformative moments of my life. Close second would be seeing New Order live several years ago when Austin Music Hall was still around (also RIP).
Another top show experience I would note would be going to see Father at Southbank Centre in London a little over a year ago -- there was a lot of local talent, and the show was in a series put on by M.I.A. I regret not seeing Mykki Blanco the next night after that show!
M: That’s a really hard question for me so I’m just gonna do a top three for both of those. Shows I’ve attended: discovering SSION at Fun Fun Fun (so long ago) was amazing/life changing, Tyler the Creator at Day For Night in the rain, also amazing, and locally, Calliope Musicals at the Central Presbyterian Church during SXSW this past year was pretty magical. Shows I’ve booked: Divide and Dissolve, a doom two piece from Australia whose lyrical content is all focused on decolonization and dismantling white supremacy played a showcase of mine at SXSW this past year @ Hotel Vegas, our most recent Barracuda show with Malion, Brontosaurus, Shitbag and Hotmom, AKA all of my local faves, kicked major butt, and #3 would have to collectively be all of the house shows I used to throw in San Marcos with the label I founded, Chapter 12.
What does your dream lineup look like?
M: Another tough question…. I’m just gonna list artists too. TR/ST, Dreamcrusher, Yaeji, pretty much every 88rising artist, pretty much every Holodeck artist (working on it!), SSION, King Woman, House of Kenzo, Asian Dope Boys, the list goes on…
G: Can it be a techno festival? My dream lineup would have to include all techno artists. I would want Dreamcrusher, HEALTH, TR/ST, Zola Jesus, Laurel Halo, Rabit, Arca, Andy Stott, Holly Herndon, Chino Amobi, Lotic, and Yves Tumor on the bill, with Paula Temple and Clouds doing a B2B set. Legendary. I’d also want Kamixlo, Shygirl, Sega Bodega, Toxe, and Coucou Chloe on the bill, along with a Teklife showcase with DJs Taye, Earl, Kush Jones, Ikonika, Jlin, and more.
Q:What are some future goals/plans you guys have?
G: My long-term goal is to see Hex flourish into a large-scale, FFF/ACL-sized music festival. Hex Fest, anyone? Speak it into existence.
M: My initial response is to book larger artists, bring well known POC/Queer performers to our spaces, but I also want to always have local talent be my focus. More collaborations would be great, Hex shows in more venues would be great. We have a few coming up at Elysium that I am really excited about, so growth in the sense of having a larger sprawl and a larger platform that we can provide to our artists is what I really want to continue with.
Do you have any shows or events coming up?
G: We are working on a drag show! The world of drag is such a beautiful lifestyle and experience that everyone should see for themselves at least once; drag is the quintessential, most OG form of gender play and genderbending, wherever you are on the gender spectrum, especially because black and brown trans women were the ones that paved the way for it to become mainstream.
Catch Hex in the City’s next show this Saturday, 1/12, at Barracuda featuring Stonefield, Pearl Earl, and Wurve.
18+ | Doors at 9 | $10
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