Culver City’s The Blank Minds embrace the trans community and blaze a trail for LGBTQ+ allies
By Sarah Ahern
The final years of high school are often filled with angst and heavy emotions as teens ready for college, careers and adulthood. For Culver City-based indie pop-rock band The Blank Minds, those years involved more than the usual transitions — namely reforming the band after the departure of their original bassist, and lead singer Flynn Namala coming out as a transgender man.
The Blank Minds play contemporary alt rock that sounds reminiscent of Twenty One Pilots, but with ska breakdowns comparable to Reel Big Fish. This summer they’ve been touring the state to promote their new EP titled “Becoming Him,” a project that reflects on both Namala’s experience coming out and the quartet’s other members’ personal journeys from boys to men.
The band is also organizing and headlining a concert for this weekend’s Becoming Us Fest in downtown Los Angeles, featuring 15 queer, female-fronted and/or LGBTQ-friendly indie music acts. The effort taps their ability to convey positive messages both on stage and in social media, which has been a sanctuary for Namala.
“When I was a closeted trans kid, I was on Instagram all the time because it was the only place where I saw people that looked like me and went through the same troubles as me,” says Namala, a UCLA junior. “When I was coming out, I looked at trans guys on Instagram for how to transition, and I looked up to them — they were some of my favorite people even though I’d never talked to them.”
Namala’s aspiration to use social media as a guiding light for others has also propelled the band to not only greater notoriety, but also a deeper connection with fans.
“When they [direct message] us and say, ‘This is the first project I’ve heard that feels like it’s for me and about me,’ that’s super powerful,” he says.
The Blank Minds’ music is not intended solely for the LGBTQ+ community — in fact, Namala is the only member of the band who identifies queer. Bassist Nathan Lopez, drummer Drew Castellanos and guitarist Ryan Silver hope to show the band’s straight following what being an ally to that community looks like.
“You don’t have to be trans or queer to understand their struggles or support people,” says Lopez. In an Instagram promo for “Becoming Him,” he adds: “… we find ourselves growing up and growing into a world that a lot of us might not agree with, so in order to make our message heard and spread that positivity, we have to become the people that we want to become.”
Becoming Us Fest puts those words into action. Held in partnership with L.A. Counterculture (a monthly art show promoting local teen artists) and Point of Pride (a nonprofit resource group for trans individuals), the show’s ticket proceeds will help purchase safe chest binders for young trans men who can’t afford them — helping them flatten the appearance of their chest and cut a more masculine figure without endangering their physical health.
“The festival is really all about promoting the scene, and us helping bands take the steps they need to reach success and help push them,” Namala says.
In a media-saturated world, the band recognizes — and demonstrates — that messaging can be just as important as the music itself, which is unique enough to stand out from the crowd but still relatable for anyone who’s willing to give it a listen.
“Just because I write about an experience that isn’t the mainstream one doesn’t mean that experience can’t be [somehow] applicable to everyone,” Namala continues. “And just because I’m highlighting a community that you don’t personally connect with, that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own connection with it.”
Becoming Us Fest happens from 4 to 11:59 p.m. Saturday (Aug. 25) at The Vortex, 2341 E. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. The show is all ages and tickets are $10 at theblankminds.com and eventbrite.com.