Meet Jay Som: the New Queer Voice of Indie Rock

Jay Som
Courtesy of Cara Robbins

Jay Som can pinpoint when inspiration struck for her lush, aching debut album, Everybody Works: It was during her 2016 tour with fellow indie rockers Mitski and Japanese Breakfast. “I knew it was going to be special because we were all Asian-American women,” says the 22-year-old California-born songwriter. “I didn’t have that when I was younger.”

Emboldened, Som (real name: Melina Duterte) set out to create a project that examined the lives of the oppressed—women, people of color, the queer community—with the goal of galvanizing them. Recorded and produced in her Oakland bedroom, her new LP expands on the lo-fi aesthetic of Turn Into, her 2015 collection of demos, to embrace a heartier sound.

While many of its lyrics are abstract, the title track explicitly addresses the long-standing dismissal of marginalized groups. “As a female-identified musician and a queer person, you have people constantly telling you the world isn’t made for you,” she says. “I think this is a very sensitive time where we should be thinking about people who don’t have as many opportunities as the typical white indie band.” 

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