Ah Mer Ah Su(photo: Jack Mannix)

It's the name of a Japanese Shinto goddess, in case you were wondering.

Well...it almost is. “I think it’s, like, a very traditionally urban Black African-American experience to make names that sound like things that you like,” says Star Amerasu one recent morning over the phone. “So I chose a name that sounded something like the goddess that I like — not trying to take her name as my own, cause that’s not something that I could take. And so Ah Mer Ah Su was born.”

Amerasu’s life leading up to her most recent album, Star, has, at times, approached mythic scale — she’s been tested by bigotry, saddled with responsibility, stricken with grief. But Star, recorded under her professional name, Ah Mer Ah Su, is an electronic pop work exploding with inspiration and hope — the happy endings and morals-of-the-story myths tend to perpetuate. On it, she has started writing her own. “I used to have the D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Mythology — I used to read about all the different gods,” she says. “I’ve done research about different types of gods, Egyptian and Roman…[and] Orishan — which is like Yoruban — gods and stuff. And so I’ve just been really fascinated with mythology and just creating my own mythology of self, too.”

Her life wasn’t always as triumphant as the tales she grew up with, though. “Y’know — I’ve lived a life. I’m 26, and I just feel like I’ve lived such a long life in 26 years.” Growing up a transgender teen proved its challenges. “I was in Texas at the time trying to get hormones, and I was really nervous about having to go to a nurse practitioner and finding the right one — there you have to go to multiple different places, and each time you have to try to find the right person who would be willing to administer hormones for you. Cause it’s Texas.”

However, it was during those teenage years she discovered her songwriting talents. In her school’s theater program, she collaborated with other students to write a musical from the ground up. Her song, “Hope,” ended up being the show’s final, triumphant closing number. “That’s when I really sort of got into songwriting.” She had also taken piano, guitar, and choir, and knew how to read music — all these influences came together to form the more folksy basis for her early work. “[Then] I got introduced to dance music at the clubs, and vogue and house music. I tried to sort of marry my first love...with the sort of new electronic and indie electronic music.”

“Y’know — I’ve lived a life. I’m 26, and I just feel like I’ve lived such a long life in 26 years.” — Ah Mer Ah Su

At age 19, she moved to San Francisco to seek easier access to hormone therapy. After moving on to New York and Portland, she found herself back in the Bay in 2015 — this time, in Oakland. Settling in with a community of indie electronica musicians and makers, she found inspiration among the likes of contemporaries like Vice Cooler, Saturn Rising, and Mykki Blanco. While older work has a darker edge — one of her breakout singles, “Klonopin,” explores the manifold nuances of loss, mental health, and medication — Star seems, by comparison, to be bursting with joy and optimism...without sacrificing detail. In between musical tracks are spoken-word items, snippets of discussion on the realities of queer life from friends like Maya Mones and Saturn Rising. “It sounds so narcissistic, but I really, purposefully pick my friends who I really believe in and who speak really good truths.”

But a lot of those people have moved on. “Vice Cooler, he used to live here; I opened for Peaches, I also opened for Mykki Blanco, and Mykki used to live in the Bay too,” she says. “It’s just really interesting to think of all these artists who, like, had a moment here and then left.”

Her too. One of many Oakland residents pushed out of the city by housing troubles, she’s currently staying in New York — but she’s coming back to the Bay soon. “My whole adult life has been here,” she says. “I think it’s just becoming increasingly, increasingly harder for the people who came here with the dream of something new and special to, like, actually like stay here to finish that dream. So many of us have left.” Her dream Bay Area artist is to work with Toro y Moi — another one-time local staple who eventually had to decamp to cheaper pastures, then boomeranged back.

Near the end of Star, if you’re paying attention, you’ll catch a reference to Orpheus — a character of Greek myth tasked with retrieving his wife from the underworld, but warned not to look back at her on their journey out. He does, and she dies. Star won’t be making that mistake. At this point in her life, she’s only moving forward. “I really feel the weight of the world on me, and I feel burdened by life...I know I’m not the only person who feels that way,” she says. “Some of us...have a really hard time letting go of things, and so this [album] was my way of trying to like help myself let go of things. And I know that by helping myself, I know other people will find that as the inspiration to help them let go of something that they are holding on to.”

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