Melbourne-based band Two Steps on the Water is Sienna Thornton (violin), Jonathan Nash (drums) and June Jones, on nylon-string guitar and vocals. Through her lyrics, Jones speaks of her experiences as a trans woman with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the result is a fine balance between strong and fragile, wild and restrained. With debut album God Forbid Anyone Look Me in the Eye, the band creates visceral music with a tension that draws you in and keeps you hooked.
Broadsheet: What can you tell us about your new album?
June Jones: God Forbid Anyone Look Me in the Eye* is a collection of songs written over a period of about nine months. While it isn't a concept album, all of the tracks are linked by themes of teenage trauma; being trans; love; sex; intimacy while coming out; fear and anger, etc. I'm still not very good at writing fiction, so I end up writing all my songs about me. I'm dealing with a few broader themes over and over, trying to come at them from a different angle each time.
BS:How easy is it to translate these themes into songs/lyrics? Is the process instintive, or cathartic?
JJ: I've been writing songs about my trauma for about five years now. There were a couple of years in the middle where I wasn't doing music stuff because I thought I wanted to be a cartoonist. But I didn't know how to talk about having PTSD in comics. Using my voice – literally – means that I get to choose when I whisper, when I sing, and when I scream. It is a pretty instinctive process at this stage, writing these songs. They aren't always good and a lot get scrapped, but all in all it's a very satisfying experience for me to write and sing these occasionally melodramatic renditions of my very real experiences of pain. I am a Scorpio, after all.
BS: Do you have any songwriting heroes?
JJ: I would say that the songwriter who has most stuck with me, as a radical new thing to have found at the time, is John Darnielle from the Mountain Goats, who I first started listening to around the end of high school. I think I have a lot to say about him as a songwriter and his influence on me. Honest, funny, crushing songs about trauma, fear and alienation (among other themes). These words sung by his voice, which I think for many is jarring, or piercing at the beginning, but for me now it's so calming and reassuring. I sent him our song, YoYo, in a tweet, and he said some nice stuff about it. That was a bit of a moment for me.
BS: Fantasy support slot – any era, any artist, anywhere?
JJ: For the last year I have been really in love with this band from NYC called Aye Nako(https://dongiovannirecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-blackest-eye). I would love to play with them some time. Otherwise probably the amazing Ah Mer Ah Su(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlK3VqVlWDQ). There are so many amazing DIY things being done by trans people and queers and people of colour and women around the world right now, and those are the projects that I am most excited about. It makes me a little teary how much cool stuff is going on everywhere. How good!
Melbourne Fri August 19 at The Tote
Sydney: Fri August 26 at Red Rattler
Brisbane: Sat August 27 at Trainspotters