Nauticult Navigates Genre and Gender

by Jun 19, 2019Music, Reviews, Trans Life

Seattle genre-fluid band Nauticult has decided to change it up again. “We’ve recently decided to, instead of calling ourselves experimental hip hop, call ourselves experimental punk. That was a long discussion,” says vocalist Austin Sankey.

Although the band’s new single “CTRL+ALT-RIGHT+DEL”, from soon-to-be-released EP Human Use Of Human Beings, makes a strong case for the band as thrashy, industrial, hardcore hip hop, it’s also a jumping off point for a new direction. Nauticult has always been a place for Sankey to develop lyrically as well as explore her gender. The band’s next album will reflect that. “I think it’s definitely gonna be the album that I’m gonna talk about my femininity and social transitioning more. I’m trying to switch up my style completely,” she says, adding that she’s been listening to Bikini Kill, Heavens to Betsy, and as much trans rap as she can.

Nauticult has already changed a lot since its inception three years ago. Sankey had been rapping and making hip hop albums when she met death metal drummer Evan Fitzgerald, who lived with guitarist Dylan Berry. Fitzgerald had built a hybrid drum kit “with triggers and everything. I bet him I could rap as fast as he could drum and we started doing that,” Sankey says, who began rapping when she was five years old, inspired by her older brother’s turntables as well as Wu Tang Clan and later, JPEGMAFIA, Death Grips, and backpack rap.

At shows, Sankey often performs with a wireless mic, crawling on the ground or getting swallowed by a moshing crowd, though it’s not your typical Seattle punk scene. Nauticult has had pillow fights and trampolines at their shows, and the fact that two thirds of the band are some stripe of queer and gender-nonconforming means you won’t find much of a macho punk scene there. “I’ve been in mosh pits where it’s more queer and more inclusive and that catharsis is more beautiful and meaningful,” Sankey shares. “They’ve got a lot more use for catharsis and a lot more to be angry about and rally [around] than just like a bunch of dudes throwing elbows all over the place.”

Phantom Limb was Nauticult’s first EP, heavy with psych and noise punk influences over a rap style Sankey finds admittedly more primal and masculine than she presents now. The Human Use Of Human Beings EP tackles subjects of violence, both interpersonal and systemic, war, groupthink, and the commodification of people. In Nauticult’s upcoming project, Sankey’s taking aim at rape apologists, TERFs, and toxic masculinity.

The Human Use Of Human Beings EP release show takes place on July 9th at The Ruins in Queen Anne, a decadent venue with wall-to-wall murals and crystal chandeliers. It’s often a wedding destination, but Nauticult has a different design for it. Joining the lineup are bands So Pitted, Fucked and Bound, and Guayaba, along with live tattooing, as well as aerialist and burlesque performances. In fact, Sankey has plans to create a one-of-a-kind costume for the event, inspired by burlesque and the extravagant venue. Everyone who buys a ticket will also get a copy of the EP. Tickets for the release party are $15 and are available online.