Get To Know Gender Envy: Nottingham's Queer Pop Punk Band

Words: Rose Mason
Tuesday 16 May 2023
reading time: min, words

Queer, friendly and all about having fun. Meet Gender Envy...


It was a joy to speak with Jae, Luke, Sam and Jake - the punk loving musicians who make up Gender Envy. Their diverse catalogue of songs are creative, uplifting and cover real and raw experiences that they find their audience truly relate to. A Rescue Rooms opportunity sent them from playing intimate gigs at The Chameleon, to playing to a crowd of 500. Now with a calendar full of summer gigs, they’re loving band life, making new music, and bringing much deserved attention to the Notts punk scene...

Where did the band begin?
Sam: I wanted to start a band. I happened to meet Jae online in lockdown in 2021 and they had a housemate called Luke who was also a musician. Before Jake was in the band we had a different drummer, a guy called Andy. Eventually he had to leave, he moved back to China. That was the inception of Gender Envy. I managed to pull these different people together, we had an interest in punk music. We all knew Jake through Punk Soc. 

Was it always going to be punk that you explored as a genre?
Sam: That was certainly where I wanted to take it originally. I grew up on cheesy pop punk. Fall Out Boy and Green Day were really big in my teenage years. I love the nostalgia associated with that. I think it's pretty fun and, to be honest, an easy genre to play. I'm not the most technically proficient musician. I certainly won't be shredding away like any sort of metal guitarist. I only wanted to start a band to be able to play live music with friends and have fun. So for that, having a fairly simple but also fun genre was really good. From there I think we have diversified a bit. We’ve steered a little bit away from the traditions there and gone down more of a groovy route now which has been really fun, but that has happened naturally as we've written more music together.
Luke: Things definitely changed direction when Jake joined because we all have pretty different music tastes and Jake is into heavier music than Andy was, so brought some heavier drums in. I'm into folk punk, so any songs I write are on acoustic guitar. 
Jake: Jae is quite gothic, theatrical, emo pop punk. 
Jae: Yeah, I am a theatre kid at heart. 


How would you describe the Gender Envy sound?
Luke: For a while, none of our songs sounded the same, which is really bad. But the more we started writing stuff, the more we realised there are actually cohesive elements between all of them. As we've done it more, we've realised, this is what Gender Envy sounds like.
Jae: I think it's also the way that our song-writing process has developed as we've been a band, writing intensively over the last year. It started as an individual bringing most of a complete song. But now we are going for a more cooperative writing process.
Luke: We do definitely have an unusual dynamic, in the sense that we don't really have a lead singer and the two of us have distinctly different singing styles. Sound tech always hates us. They're like, who's the lead singer? 

At the moment you only have one song out, a stripped back version of Paper Planes on YouTube. It touches on some heavy topics but it’s joyous and uplifting at the same time. What's the story behind it?
Luke: I wrote Paper Planes because I’m queer and I’m gender queer. It's about my grandmother, Mina, who died when I was 16 when I was just figuring out that I was queer, and I never got the chance to say it to her. So it's basically about what she would think of me now, and whether she would approve, whether she would be supportive and also remembering the positive things about growing up and having her as a grandparent.

I spent most weekends at her house and one of my fondest memories is with my cousins and my sisters. On sunny days we would sit at her kitchen table, make a bunch of paper planes, draw on them with felt tip pen and race them in the back garden. The chorus says ‘I’ll wear the boots you bought me when I was fifteen’, because I have a pair of Doc Martens that are falling to pieces because they were the last thing she gave me before she died. I keep getting them fixed, but I am determined to not get any new boots because they are the last thing I have of her. My dad sobbed when he first heard it because it's about his mum. Everyone gets very emotional whenever they hear it.


In terms of the wider public, how do you feel Paper Planes has been received?
Luke: People seem to really like it. 
Sam: We now have people who sing it along these days as well.
Luke: It feels really nice having written a song that's so personal to me and my life as a queer person, and having other queer people connect to that and with their relations to their families. 
Sam: It's a softer moment in our set which maybe is why it resonates with more people. A bit of a breather, and the fact it's on a pretty emotional subject as well, I think that helps it resonate with people.

Do you find your audience feels represented by your music?
Jae: I feel like our setlist is about our experiences, and is very relatable to our audience. The experiences we are writing about are our own, but I feel like they are very commonly shared experiences as well, so it adds that level of relatability to the songs. 
Jake: I can relate to it, as someone who's queer, who inhabits the same spaces, listens to similar music. It's really easy to listen to for me, as a person trying to relate. All our songs, in some way or another, have an element of catharsis. Our live shows aren't very serious. It's fun for us, so it tends to be fun for the audience. The topics are heavy, but by making it fun, it's relatable in a way that's uplifting and supportive.
Luke: That is something people always come up to us and say, is that it looks like we're having a lot of fun on stage. People really like that. 
Jae: I think it sets the atmosphere for the whole room. Personally I'm just in it to have fun. That is basically why I'm doing this.
Sam: I'm purely in it for the money!

What has been your gig experience in Nottingham so far?
Luke: Earlier this year, we played Rescue Rooms which was insane because that was our fourth gig ever, and we literally got it by spamming the headliner [King No One] on Instagram. 
Jae: They put out a post saying they were looking for local supports, so to tag your favourite bands. We had so many of our friends tagging us that they had a look and decided that, although we weren’t that big, we better matched the vibe than a lot of the other bands that were suggested.
Sam: It was a really surreal gig for us, a 500 capacity venue which was absolutely massive, a huge step up. Before that we'd only played at The Chameleon which is a lovely venue but really small.
Jake: We've got loads more gigs announced too, which you can find on our Instagram.


Do you feel that this helped to launch Gender Envy?
Sam: To use a cliché, it was our big break. It's definitely put us on the radar, and the pay allowed us to pay for our first bit of studio time. From that, we recorded our first single, I’m Over You (You Wish I Was Under You), which will be out in the near future. That all has built from Rescue Rooms. 
Jae: You can see the Fall Out Boy inspiration. 
Luke: I was very proud of that title. I can't lie. 
Jake: As if you've gone to an AI bot and said 'generate me a pop punk song title about a breakup'. There you go.

How do you find the pop punk scene in Nottingham?
Sam: People maybe don't give Notts pop punk scene enough credit. There are bands playing in and around that genre who we've been lucky enough to share the stage with. It's kind of odd that a lot of our big gigs have been playing with indie pop bands. Pop punk in Nottingham is maybe not the biggest thing, but there are some really great bands, like Molars, Los Fatso Libres, George Gadd and The Aftermath. There have been some great bands like Taco Hell and Warm Copies over the years. There's been a bit of an undercurrent of punk. Maybe we’re spearheading that revival here? Nottingham is amazing for music. There's not really one scene that is massive in Nottingham, music is just massive in Nottingham, and I think that's really beautiful. 

Catch Gender Envy at Dot to Dot festival 


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