Saturn Rising, Bands In Portrait, by Robert Alleyne
Saturn Rising (photo: Robert Alleyne)

“Years ago I was afraid to make music,” Saturn Rising reveals as we discuss the path he has taken to get to this point in his career.

It is a surprising revelation. Saturn Rising is an artist whose music and performances are full of power, grace and identity. He fuses dance into his music with a captivating fluidity, and a raw, sometimes swaggering, confidence. The more we talk, the more he reveals a new side to him, which is often shy and private. “If I were not pursuing this career, I would not be on Instagram,” he confides when speaking about the way to generate visibility and put his name out there for shows. “I would not be doing any of this [social media].”

I ask if his social media presence reflects the real him, he replies, “it’s me; it’s not who I used to be, but it’s me...my social media journey has been me tiptoeing into this self that I am now.

“It’s funny, it reflects when I go home. When I go home to my family, you can see that they’re like, 'Oh, this is who you were all this time,' because I was so nervous and so shy all the time, so my social media used to be very like that,” he says, "it's definitely me, but it's been me growing.”

Saturn Rising has grown over the last few years from a dancer into a musician. “Music was the goal from the day I started, but I started as a go-go dancer, which then lead me to backup dancing, which then gave me space to have my own show. And then with that show, I met a lot of people who were willing to work with me, or who wanted to work with me on music,” he says. “[2016] was the first time I really had people behind the music and really trying to push it...I really put myself out there fully.”

Saturn Rising, Bands In Portrait, by Robert Alleyne

Putting himself out there has come at a time when the world is going through intense political change, and Saturn Rising is very conscious of this and its effect on his music. “There is a need for rebellion in this time,” he says. “A lot of the oppressive shit that’s going on in the world has inspired me to be stronger,” he continues. “My blackness exists, and my queerness exists in a way where I have to fight for it...now I’m writing about it because I'm seeing it in the world as this thing that keeps being attacked,” he says.

“I had this vision one time...I have always thought women were much stronger than men, so I had this vision that I needed to help men,” he shares. “I needed to help black boys, brown boys, even straight boys because their masculinity is a trap and I wanted to be an example of freedom...Even if you are the straightest person in the world, you should be able to look at me and go ‘that’s awesome,’” he exclaims.

As we discuss this more, it becomes clear that his cathartic desire to help people through his music is not just an outward expression of altruism — there is an element of personal resolution involved. “I hope that people see that it's not just me getting on stage being fierce. That fierceness comes from a fear. That fierceness is in response to my struggle. That fierceness is in response to, ‘I don’t have to make it because I’m a nigger in America.’ I don't have to make it. It is not set up in a way for me to make it, but I'm going to make it. And that’s where that stage attitude comes from.”

“I needed to help black boys, brown boys, even straight boys because their masculinity is a trap and I wanted to be an example of freedom."

We talk about issues of identity, and Saturn Rising continues in his calm, soothing tone. “On stage, I am very queer; I am very black,” he says. “There is a lot of masculinity, but I present femme, you know. It’s almost as if they are both naturally there, very two spirited. I think then the music cannot help but reflect that.” I ask whether he would be able to make this music outside of the Bay Area. He goes to respond quickly, and then the question sinks in, and he spends a moment realigning his thoughts. “I give the Bay Area and our community the utmost appreciation and respect for allowing me to exist in the way that I do. I cannot say that I know that I would find this space in any other part of the country. I know that I would have tried.”

“I go back and forth to LA. I’m really spoiled to see what their industry looks like. And their industry is so fucking busy, and it's crazy,” he says. “We have a music scene, but it's not the same set of goals here...the Bay kind of allows you to just make music.”

Saturn Rising, Bands In Portrait, by Robert Alleyne

When Saturn Rising creates music it often begins with movement. “When I write I have to stand up and dance,” he enthuses with a sparkle in his eye as he gently sways in time to Kehlani playing in the background. Standing and performing helps him to concentrate: “all of a sudden I can see the rhythms and I can feel how it's supposed to come out,” he shares. While his focus now is music, dance is still a vital part of the sound he makes. “The music scores the dance. That was really the goal; to make the music sound how I look on stage,” he says and shares how dancing is his favorite part of performing; through creating characters and stories.

The first few months of the year have given Saturn Rising a chance take these stories out to new audiences; touring Australia with Swagger Like Us, and performing at showcases during SXSW. The long-term plan that started with dance has evolved into a bold expression of identity, exploding out from a reserved persona. “I do it to resolve myself, [and] hopefully me resolving myself helps other people resolve themselves.”

Saturn Rising
The Elbo Room
April 28, 2017
10:00pm, $10 at the door

Tags: