If you’re not afraid, I’m not afraid is the sophomore record from Philadelphia’s Queen of Jeans. Led by Miriam Devora, Queen of Jeans use their music to explore queer identity in an increasingly intolerant America, utilising not acerbic punk rock but rich and gleaming pop to get their point across.
As the title suggests, the tone is most often hopeful and defiant, but there are the personal bumps in the road. ‘Centuries’ deals with the struggle of having the bravery to be oneself in an often unwelcoming world (“I close my eyes, pretend that I don’t see / A thousand judging eyes building blocks around me”), while ‘Only Obvious to You’ is a break-up song full of un-bitter acceptance and a tinge of regret.
The album was also made during a time of personal tragedy as Devora’s mother passed away just before the band began to record. It therefore operates on both micro and macro levels, the very personal grief combining with the wider grief of seeing whole communities persecuted, the the current climate of sexism, racism and homophobia mirroring the hostility of experience for those in mourning.
“The year and a half that I spent writing the songs for this album was probably the most difficult time of my life personally,” Devora tells label Topshelf Records. “I found myself in fear not only of losing my mom to her illness, but of losing my space within society as a queer woman, and watching space get taken away from so many others.”
But ultimately, If you’re not afraid, I’m not afraid is a record about responding to these feelings. About folding all of that pain and loss into a shape that is manageable to carry, if never quite comfortable. Some loads cannot be lightened, some weights never made weightless, but the very strain of bearing it can reveal a previously unknown strength. Devora captures this feeling neatly in a line on ‘Bloomed’, one of the tracks on the album that confronts these emotions head on.
My little tender soul
Bloomed and in control