The Mellow Side of Bill Bartholomew: An artist coming back home to himself

In early November, Rhode Islander Bill Bartholomew returned to Brooklyn, a place he called home for 10 years, to debut his solo record, “Beij,” and I was lucky enough to be there. It’s a special kind of thrill to see local musicians in other spaces, and self-identified artist of many trades, Bill (who told the crowd it was “terrifying” to re-enter New York as a musician) did not disappoint. Sitting at a tiny table at the back of “Pete’s Candy Store” – across from the heart-shaped sign reminding patrons that the donation of $5 was very much appreciated by the band, I witnessed Bill’s raw vulnerability and the support of old friends (many fellow musicians) come together in an intimate show.

If you’ve seen him play you know he likes to experiment with unexpected sounds; he sprinkles falsettos, guitar riffs, and musical dynamics into a set that could be rock, folk, metal, or a storytelling session. He did it all that night and instead of guitar-smashing-daredevil dance moves, Bill executed badass kicks, contorted over his acoustic guitar, and let the music go where it needed to – all while sitting in a chair (he shared that he had battled long COVID). By the end of his release show, I felt his joy and gratitude for being able to make and share music. I interviewed Bill Bartholomew right before this show and he explained how his two worlds (journalism and music) live side by side, and how creating on his own allowed him to “come back home” to himself.

Mayté (Motif): I’d like you to start by telling me all the things that you do so I don’t miss anything.

Bill Bartholomew: Oh wow… well, the way I’ve been describing myself now is singer, songwriter, media personality. Primarily, I’m a singer-songwriter for my project. I play drums in a number of bands in Rhode Island, and I was/am half of the band Silverteeth, but we’re on hiatus. And I am the host of the Bartholomew Town Podcast, producer and host at WPRO, and a contributor at Rhode Island PBS. That’s good enough.

M: How would you say journalism bleeds into your music or music into your journalism?

BB: For as long as I can remember I’ve always had two major interests in my life: music and current affairs/politics/news media, especially local media. I see them all under the umbrella of artist, especially in my specific role in media where I do reporting and straight-type journalism, but I’m more of a performer. When I do podcasting or radio, it’s all entertainment and [the] creation of content. It all bleeds seamlessly like that. Then there’s the more major side of it, which is the role of the artist serving as a mirror. Whether that’s through my music or podcasting, it’s all me experiencing the world, and then sharing my take on it. I feel like [music and journalism] are always going to be woven together for me. When I perform, now more than ever, there’s more storytelling during my sets. And when I create media content there’s a musicality to it; I use my hands a lot, even when I’m not on camera. I don’t see one as, “Oh, that’s my job, and this is my passion.” They both are things that I do. They all combine into how I would define my art.

M: I love what you said about interpreting what’s happening in the world – in both music and media.

BB: I think that’s the ultimate job. There are definitely people who have a more technical approach to music or media, and while I embrace as much technicality as I can, really, all that comes from is my own emotion or feelings on things. I’m always working on balancing what should be refined. And what’s better than being as raw as possible?

M: The name of your new album is “Beij” (“kiss” in Portuguese), right?

BB: Yeah, well pronounced.

M: Thank you! What was the vision for “Beij”?

BB: After spending 10 years focusing on music, I was looking for something to add to my portfolio and I naturally fell into podcasting, then talk radio, and then the journalism world surrounding COVID. I’m very thankful for that. I was still doing shows at my loft, playing out, drumming in bands, and recording demos, but my identity had really gone into the media side of things. Late last year I started to feel like I wanted to rebalance that. Having been in bands for a really long time, and also performing as a solo artist, I really wanted to follow my instinct to be by myself when I made music now… Through podcasting, I learned that I’m probably my happiest and more fluid- when I’m by myself. I have a team that I work with in radio, and there are major figures in my life- that I bounce ideas off of when I do podcasting, but I wanted to make a record and reestablish my musical identity by myself… where I was completely able to control my own destiny- anything I was able to accomplish or not accomplish, I could look back and say, hey, that was on me.

That meant recording, producing, playing all the instruments, and just being alone in my room with the door closed for several months. And then on the other side thinking: how do I want to perform this live? I decided it was going to be this indie, experimental, folk thing, with a little bit of northern country to it, all the music that I’ve always wanted to make.  And it was difficult because you get into those moments where you don’t know: Is this the right tempo? Is that the vocal take? So, I started to ask people that were close to me what they thought. It really came down to, for the first time really, me saying, “Let me see what happens when I work by myself.” That was really the impetus for this entire launch – no one is going to interfere with my vision. That may be the egomaniac talking, but I also think it’s the artistic process: the painter, the podcaster, the writer. That’s where I wanted to land more so than the camaraderie and the hangout that comes with being in a band; I prioritized the former over the latter in this case.

M: You created the landscape you needed to tell your truth with absolute freedom.

BB: I’ve been in established bands where there’s always been two songwriters, or in some cases, two front people. That’s a lot of time to spend splitting songwriting duties… and creating a vision that is emblematic of what you want to do is hard and beautiful when it works. But, I needed to go back home to myself, just writing songs and putting them out into the world.

M: You just said that and I got chills for you. That happens when I’m in conversation with people and they say amazing things.

BB: Oh wow, thank you.

M: You’re welcome! Many of the songs on your album feel like ballads, and your performance is typically more indie rock or metal, no?

BB: Some of the songs are really old songs… kicking around for 15 years, and others were written this year. I probably have 50 ripped legal pad papers of different lists of songs and somehow, I just landed on this batch. When I play live there is a tendency for this rock side to come out – and I’ll climb things! I love that aspect of the show, being as raucous as possible, climbing into the audience and laying down on the floor, or doing weird experimental stuff with my voice. But I think the true artist that I am, when I think back over the experiences that I’ve had, is that solo acoustic guy with no amplification in a cafe in Brooklyn, or a small venue somewhere – I think that’s the closest to who I really am and I wanted to tap into that.

M: When you were done with the album did you think- oh this was exactly what I wanted?

BB: You know, through podcasting I learned about creating and sharing content, [with] the idea being, “Let’s make it, learn from it and keep working.” A lot of people said, “Why even make an album? Just make a song.” But I felt like I needed to have a foundation. I deleted most of my old music off of Spotify… to establish a new foothold with the [listener]. Heaven-forbid, I’m unable to make music for some reason… and if someone stumbles upon my stuff, they’ll say, “Okay, I think I know where this guy was coming from.” It represents me. Then in May, right as I was finishing the record, my computer crashed and I ended up losing it temporarily. Luckily, I was able to recover most of it, but there was one song that I thought came out really good called “Lonely1,” which was completely lost. I was devastated… and my roommate, Randy Robbins, an incredible songwriter said, I think you can do that song even better, and I did. I’m really proud of the perseverance there… I was prepared to enter into a deep depression as a result of losing the record. I have really worked hard since the pandemic [at trying] to improve my mental health. And I think that if it was 2019 or early 2020, before I really started taking some steps, I probably would have had a complete meltdown or at least just given up on the project.

M: You took the setback as an opportunity. I wrote down a lyric from this song actually: “I’m an axe so complex.” Is that right?

BB: The lyric is “I’m an X”. A lot of people probably think that it’s an “ex” partner. But it’s the letter X and it has a couple of meanings. One is “I’m an X factor”, I guess. But really it comes down to how I see myself as somebody who has always been gender-neutral. I don’t identify as non-binary or anything, and I don’t advertise this, this is probably the first moment that I’ve ever stated this to a person in the public sphere. But I’m an X and I always have been. That’s why it hurts when people make fun of me for wearing pink overalls. I take it so deeply personally when people attack other people’s views. I don’t experience life through the eyes of a male. Now, I know that I am privileged to be a white male, don’t get me wrong, I totally see that… But the lyric is sort of a hint to people of where I stand in the world, I don’t really see myself locked into any gender. And I think that’s where our society is heading — toward gender fluidity and changing norms. One of the things I don’t like about bands anymore is moving heavy equipment. I’m pretty strong and I don’t love lugging stuff and some people make fun of me for that, [because the thought is], “You’re the guy, you should lift something up.”

M: It’s unfortunate that people make assumptions and create behavioral expectations of you, others, us… based on how we look and on the norms that are being upheld. We all have identities that we’re managing, that we might share or we might not. Thank you for talking about the complexity of identity, and for recognizing the privilege and safety that can come with presenting as male and white. Before we end, I wanted to ask one last thing about a specific song. I loved the lyric “Tell me your fire sign” because I’m a Leo, but I couldn’t figure out how to say the song title. Is it “Toucanet”?

BB: Yes! Like a little toucan, the bird. I wrote that song earlier this year when my partner was in Brazil. She goes pretty regularly but this time the trip kept getting extended, and then she got dengue fever, and it was just kind of a weird time. I wrote that song in one take. I bought a keyboard, set it up, and that song came out. I was like, “What? Wow, that’s new.” I’m not a pianist at all, but that song was pure soul and a pure expression of a February night… with lyrics like “When did my sky turn gray?”

Want to experience this indie record and learn more about Bill? Stream his music on Spotify or Bandcamp, visit bartholomewtown.com (and watch his podcast), follow him on Instagram at @billbartholomew for 2023 tour dates, and keep a lookout for him on WPRO and Rhode Island PBS.

Mr. Five-Neck Guitar: An interview with Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen

Okee dokee folks…
Do you remember the part in Fast Times at Ridgemont High when the character Mike Damone was trying to sell Cheap Trick tickets to a girl in the bleachers? He says to her,“Can you honestly tell me you forgot? Forgot the magnetism of Robin Zander, or the charisma of Rick Nielsen?” He then runs through singing a few lines of “Surrender” and “Dream Police” with a little air guitar accompaniment. We don’t find out if she buys the tickets or not, as he is interrupted by Stacy Hamilton played, by Jennifer Jason Leigh, who tells him she is pregnant. Well, you don’t have to travel back to 1982 and deal with Damone to get tickets for Cheap Trick in concert, you can simply hit up the Providence Performing Arts Center for Cheap Trick’s November 13th show. I was fortunate to chat with guitarist/songwriter of Cheap Trick, Rick Nielsen, by phone the other day. For those of you who don’t know, he is the one who sports the flipped brim ball cap and plays the multi neck guitars.

Cheap Trick – Rick Nielsen is third from the left. Photo by Martin Thompson

Rick called me from his home in Illinois. He had just returned from a Cheap Trick show in Cancun and mentioned they have two more Mexican shows this month. We had a fun conversation that bounced all over the place and had both of us laughing a lot. I told him that I used to go see Cheap Trick back in the 70’s and that I was one of those old guys. He replied, “If you’re old imagine how old I am!” I told him about the time I saw Cheap Trick open for Blue Oyster Cult at the Cape Cod Coliseum and how I literally walked into Cheap Trick bassist, Tom Petersson in the lobby. “What did he do?” exclaimed Rick, and he followed with, “Did he punch you or did you punch him?”

I wanted to know about his famous five-neck guitar. I asked how much it weighed. He told me simply, “too much!” I brought up that I have Gretsch with a block though neck that I think is heavy and he responded, “That’s a hollow body, that’s not heavy! I have a Gretsch Malcolm Young Model and that’s heavy! You must be a weakling, not one to carry a five-neck. The five-neck weighs a lot. I tell people I used to be two inches taller. I didn’t need to shrink as an old man but now there’s extra shrinkage.” As a guitarist I was curious as to what the tunings of the five-neck guitar are. Rick said, “Well, I have three five-necks so that’s fifteen necks. The first two have 36 strings and the other has 38, it has a mando-cello on it.” We went on to discuss his guitar picks and his pick flinging prowess. “I used to be better, I tore my rotator cuff a couple of months ago. I can’t even take my clothes off or on so I’ve been wearing the same clothes for months!” I asked how he can play guitar with a torn rotator cuff and he reported that, “It doesn’t affect my playing it affects my pick throwing which is more important than playing!” I told Rick that I still have quite a few Cheap Trick guitar picks that I caught back in the 70’s. He said, “I’ve never sold one of them but other people have. I order 60,000 at a time. I’ve never sold one but have given a million away”.

The original drummer Bun E. Carlos has had a complicated relationship with the band over the years. He had to curtail his drumming because of back problems. This caused issues with the band which led to lawsuits. The resolution of all this was that technically Bun E. Carlos is still a member of the band but no longer plays with them live. Nielsen’s son, Daxx, now plays drums for the band. I asked what Daxx’s age was and Rick answered, “He never told me. You don’t think I talk to him, do you? I think he’s old enough to drink though.”

I recounted a story I vaguely remembered reading in Circus or Creem Magazine about a controversy that involved the band Kansas and the listing of Cheap Trick’s name on a venue marquee. I asked him about that. His response was, “Yeah, they didn’t want anything known as a cheap trick out there. I mean it was Las Vegas, of all the cities in the world.” I wondered if it was the band or the venue that had the problem with the name. He answered. “It was the venue, we did a lot of shows with Kansas, the band were good beer drinking hellions back then, until they found God and they quit the band. One of them became a minister.” I commented, “Oh, Geez” and Rick said, “No, Oh, Jesus!”

A while back I saw Nielsen on the show American Pickers so I asked about that and commented that he must have quite the hoard. His response was, “Oh, Oh, yeah, I have a couple warehouses, a couple garages, a couple houses. I got a lot of stuff! Those are good guys, they didn’t even see my house or the other warehouse stuff, they only saw a fraction.” Again, as a guitarist, I wanted to know how many guitars he owns so I asked, “What is your current guitar count?”. He answered, “Well, I try to keep it right around 500, but I screwed up; I bought four last month. I just enjoy them. Better than blowing it on fast cars.” I came back with, “If I had the money I would probably buy a lot as well.” Rick replied, “I started with one, just like everyone, and I hardly ever buy new ones. Always used, they already have scrapes and scratches all over them so I don’t have to do that.” I pressed him to find which guitar was his favorite but he told me “It’s like picking my favorite kid or asking which guitar I would want on a desert island. What would I be going to a desert island for?” He did tell me about one of the top axes in his collection. “I’ve got a ’63 Merle Travis that they only made three of but now I found out they made four. They were 2000 bucks in 1963 but if you had that kind of money you could have bought a Volkswagon or a Mustang…so it really didn’t sell well. That’s one of the rarest things I have.”   

I said to him, “You’re 72 years old now, you don’t have anything to prove, you’ve had hits, success, you’re in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you don’t have to do this anymore so you must do it for the love of it, right?” He came back, “You mean riding in a plane everyday and getting frisked at the airport? Playing is fun, the traveling kind of blows but I like to do it, and I get to talk to guys like you and tell you about the five-neckers! How many strings were on it again? Who cares about this stuff other than guys like you?” I countered with “GUITAR PLAYERS! I could probably talk to you for an hour about that one guitar but we don’t have that kind of time.” He shot back, “I don’t really know that much about them! I am more of a songwriter than a guitar player anyway. There are always these super-whiz guys that can play rings around me. I’ve played in Nashville and every time I go there everyone in the audience is better than you are, well, better than me, I’m afraid to hit the first note.” To that I said, “I’ve seen technically proficient guitar players and while they may be good it’s all technique and no art.” He acknowledged, “Well, that’s why I stayed a songwriter, I can take that kind of criticism. Jeff Beck is my favorite guitar player, since the 60’s, I know him, he actually bought one of my guitars, we played with him in Germany and I told him he’s my favorite and he said ‘but you’ve got the hits!’” I agreed and said that “Surrender” has been referenced in movies and it’s even part of the theme song for That ‘70s Show, so I asked how that came about. He told me,“Originally they wanted ‘In The Streets’ by Big Star or ‘Surrender’ but they chose the Big Star song the first year but realized that they should have done “Surrender”, so we did it but we had to do it the same tempo as the other one so it fit in there right, we had to do a different arrangement, so we just added ‘We’re all alright to it”, and it made it more to go with the show.”

We were running out of time and had to wrap the conversation. I declared that I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to get to his show as I had my own to play and he razzed me, “Gee, what a true fan you are, not even coming to our show! You’d better write something good about us then!” I really wanted to see them so I asked if, off the top of his head, he knew where he would be the next night. He told me that he used to remember every detail when they were out on the road, flights, what airport has the greatest hot dog and so on but wasn’t sure about the schedule. Then he said that when he was a kid he had memorized the Presidents in order and began to recite them to me. “Washington, Adams, Jefferson…” He went on until I stopped him. I HAD to ask him one question that my girlfriend wanted to know: What the KISS connection was. He responded, “You come home and your parents are listening to KISS albums. It’s like the most embarrassing thing you can think of. Every kid thinks their parents are weird, parents are hippies-that’s weird, parents are holy-rollers-that’s weird, they’re trying to be your best friend-that’s weird. Everybody had weird parents, but just the thought of them listening to music that you weren’t supposed to listen to was weird. And it was pretty amazing that KISS asked us out on the road in 1977, that was a big plus for us because that’s when the Japanese press saw us which was big…and Gene [Simmons] loved it, because any reference to KISS was a money maker, love those guys!”

Cheap Trick will be at PPAC on Saturday, November 13th. For more about the show “Reach Out” to: PPACRI.org. That’s it for now, thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

Unconditional Love — 401 Counterculture Talks to Gay Parents To Be

Interview With Tyffaney and Andrea Fonseca


One of the most popular attacks on the legitimacy of gay marriage is the attack on a gay couple’s right to raise a family no different from the traditional (and clergy-approved) nuclear family unit that has long been a hallmark of red blooded Americana, despite its ever dwindling members. It’s a hazy memory of nostalgia-poisoned, rose-colored lenses about who and what should constitute the American family. Zealots clamor on with archaic statistics, shouted by their fathers and grandfathers before, a litany of fear mongering and misinformation. “We must not allow it!” they shout from the hills. “It will be the destruction of us all.”

In 2014, America is a vast and diverse landscape, where every morning parents of every size, shape, color, gender identity and sexual orientation imaginable awake and love their children unconditionally. They care for them, nurture them and educate them on their passage through the human experience. At no point does who they are change the way they love and protect these children. Despite massive advancement in gay rights and legal recognition of marriages and family building within a few short years in America — a triumphant hope for greatness to come — obstacles still abound for gay couples who wish to raise children.

I sat down with Tyffaney and Andrea Fonseca, a married couple in southern New England, who recently found out that Andrea is expecting their first child. We sat in the living room of their pretty suburban house on a quiet street over wine and pizza and talked about the hopes, dreams and fears they have about being a gay couple raising a child.

Adam J Schirling: How long have you been married?

Tyffaney Fonseca: Seven years this July. We’ve been together 12 years.

AJS: I suppose the first question is the most obvious. When two married women want to have a baby, how do you decide who will carry?

TF: We went through a donor program in California, which wasn’t our first idea of getting pregnant. I have a very good friend who propositioned me, who didn’t want any strings attached. He had two kids of his own already, but he just wanted to give us the gift of life. He knew we might need it. So we wanted to make sure legally that everything was on paper. He signed over his parental rights and we went through a lawyer who was also lesbian and married to her wife. They each had children, so she was knowledgable. But it just didn’t go. I had two miscarriages and some medical issues came up and I couldn’t carry. So we took a step back and thought about it and then the decision was to go through the donor program in California.

Andrea Fonseca: We tried to get her pregnant for about 8 months. We went to a gynecologist who told us what was going wrong.

TF: It just wasn’t going to be medically possible.

AF: So that’s when we decided I would carry. Originally the plan was that she would have a child and then somewhere down the road I would. But when she wasn’t getting pregnant, I said I think you should have the sperm analyzed and it turned out that he was the issue.

TF: And I was, too. There were two issues.

AJS: That must have been heartbreaking after all that.

TF: I went through all the emotions — happy, sad, jealous. I don’t think you can plan for getting so close to being a mother and having that go away.

AF: We aren’t religious people, we are very spiritual people, and when we looked at the bigger picture, it must not have been the right time. Then we decided to go with the bank. It was overwhelming and scary.

AJS: It was like looking through a catalog?

TF: It was a menu. Everything you wanted to choose from — eye color, skin color, hair color, educational background.

AJS: Before you decided to go with a donor program, were you attempting to conceive at home rather than a doctor’s office?

AF: I’m a nurse and I would bring home a specimen cup from work, he would put it in the cup, and at home we would put it in ourselves with a syringe. We wanted to conceive at home, that was important to us.

AJS: There are many heterosexual couples going through the exact same thing, facing obstacles they may not have expected. Do you think because of your status as a gay couple that you had extra challenges or do you think you had similar experiences as those couples on a personal level?

AF: Our friends and family have been so giving of themselves, helping us clear our minds of any stresses. I guess I haven’t experienced anything that would be different than any other married couple.

TF: I always thought that our advantage is that we are both women. The fact that if one of us can’t carry the other one can. You know? Even though that wasn’t our original plan.

AF: Exactly. One woman-one man doesn’t have as good of odds as we do!

TF: It was definitely stressful making sure we chose the right sperm, though.

AJS: At the beginning, did one of you want to carry more than the other?

AF: The original plan was that she would carry first because she was older, and a few years later I would have the second with the same donor. We would each carry one with the same donor and then be done.

TF: The new plan is that we will harvest my egg and she will carry surrogate. We bought four files of donor sperm and we have two on bank, so the baby will have the same genetics and hopefully both of our genes.

AJS: You said you have very supportive friends and family. Was there every any negative feedback?

TF: No. We have been very fortunate. Everyone has been in our corner, and we have been very thankful that they are interested in our story. It’s not the norm and it’s something they’re learning. They are used to the typical heterosexual couples — mom, dad, three kids and a dog — and here we are, two hard-working, educated moms to be, who are halfway there, who have achieved so much in society as a gay couple and are still reaching. Everything we wanted has happened. That’s our story. Everything we’ve wanted to achieve, we’ve went for it and they’ve rooted for us.

AJS: Do you think you face, as two women,  different challenges than a gay male couple with the same goal?

TF: Absolutely

AF: Unfortunately, yes.

TF: Even now, lesbians seem as if it’s the ‘in thing,’ you know? It’s the cool thing. It’s like, queue Katy Perry “I Kissed a Girl,” but when you have two men, there’s still a reaction like, “Ugh. How dare they?” Switch it to the lesbians and people react like, “Okay, I could watch this all day.”

AJS:  So would say you receive much more positive feedback as two women having a child than two men may?

TF: Absolutely. When we recently told a couple of our gay friends, they were startled. They couldn’t even wrap their minds around that. It was if they thought “your lives are ruined.” Really any of the negative feedback we’ve had has been from gay men, some of them our friends.

AJS: How come? Do you think it’s because they’ve experienced a backlash?

TF: Yes.

AJS: Tell me more about picking out the donor and your apprehensions. You mentioned it was like a catalog?

AF: Yes, it was overwhelming. There were hundreds, and you could pay to see a picture.

AJS: So it’s like you get the stats, but you have to pay extra for the pictures?

AF: Exactly! You had the free access that gives you all the info you need and you look through it and it’s like, how do you begin to narrow this down? So we started thinking like what ethnicity, we wanted to be represented. We finally found someone. One day I came across this one catalog, he was half Irish-Italian, half African-American. It was close to representing our backgrounds, and we started reading his stats and some them even gave you celebrity look-a-likes! His medical background was good and they even write essays, so we read his essay and his words were perfect. He sounded like the perfect person, and we had probably read through like 20 or 30 essays for the hundreds that were on there, and this one just really stood out. Now, she didn’t like not being able to see…

TF: I’m a visual person, I wanted to know.

AF: That was big for her, so I said we would narrow it down to a couple and then we would buy the photos to look at.

TF: One night I read over his profile and his description of himself. He just seemed well mannered, well spoken, not afraid of himself, and he started talking about his mother. The way he talked about his mother, he said that when she visits, they hang out and have a couple of beers and spend time talking. Now my grandmother was very important to me, I was raised by my grandmother. She was a drinker, she liked to kick back, sit around the table, and drink beer. Right then and there I knew I needed to see this man’s pictures.

AF: As soon as we saw them, we didn’t even look at anyone else’s. He was the one.

AJS: Just to backtrack a bit, did you ever consider adopting?

AF: We had. We knew we wanted to try for natural, but we always said that if it didn’t work out we would adopt.

TF: We were just talking about this the other night. When we first met, I told her that if I ever adopted, I would adopt a child with HIV, because they are the ones that most people don’t want. I would like to experience having our own children but we are totally open to adoption.

AJS: When your child is growing up, if they expressed an interest in organized religion, how might you approach that? Seeing as most religions aren’t accepting of your family dynamic?

AF: She wants to baptize the child, but if we do, we want to find a church that we can be a part of, not just baptize and never go to church again. So we are still deciding what to do with that.

AJS: With bullying usually referred to as an epidemic in our country, are you apprehensive about having young children as gay women?

TF: We know bullying is a big big issue. I try not to let it worry me, but I know there is always going to be that one kid. I hope that if they do come in contact with that, that since we are open and honest with them, we will give them the tools to deal with it … but that’s kids. I know kids who are bullied just for being a little overweight.

AF: And we’ve learned how to respond. It probably doesn’t bother me as much as it would her, but that’s just our difference in personalities. I’m more of the “I don’t care what anyone thinks and I’ll tell them where to go and how to get there.” Even at work when people see I’m pregnant, they’ll ask about the dad. And I’ll say, “Well, Dad is a mom and she works in insurance.” Nine times out of 10 I get positive feedback.

AJS:  With this being your first child but not being the mother who’s carrying, Tyffaney, do you feel like you will have less of a motherly instinct? Are you naturally gravitating toward a fatherly role? Or is that just my misjudgment of the situation as a heterosexual male?

TF: No, that’s a great question. Honestly I think that I play both sides of that fence. I’m maternal because I’m a woman, I gravitate toward the baby. I want to nuture and take care. But not being the carrying mother, I also feel like I am paternal. I tell Andrea, “Don’t do that, let me get that for you.”

AJS: So you’ve adopted more of that role since she’s become pregnant?

TF: Yes, it’s come naturally.

AF: So it’s actually forced me into the more feminine role and now since I can’t do the heavy lifting or whatever, she has taken over and it has been interesting.

AJS:  Do you feel like that more paternal instinct will carry on after the baby is born?

TF: I don’t know, that’s tricky. I really can’t speak for the future.

AF: I think she will be more maternal after. I will probably be the hard ass. In some respects, she’ll be more maternal but other times she will be much more paternal. It will be an interesting blend. We don’t really know what to expect. We are the first of our lesbian friends to do it this way.

AJS: Everything feels like it’s been fluid for you two. What do you have to say to the naysayers, or the people out there who have all these disapproving ideas and presumptions? “Your child will absolutely grow up gay.” “Your child will grow up with perversions.”

TF: I say you sound like an uneducated idiot. I  mean you’ve seen kids grow up in battered homes and alcoholic homes and kids can’t grow up in gay homes? If a child grows up to be gay, they were born that way. We all were.

AF: I always say I grew up with straight parents and I’m gay. I didn’t grow up being exposed to any gay people, my parents aren’t homophobic, I just didn’t know anyone.

TF: As far as I know, I’m the only gay person in my family. I grew up raised by my traditional grandmother in the Catholic church. I go against all those odds.

AJS: What are the biggest apprehensions you have about parenthood?

TF: I’m definitely apprehensive about not carrying the baby. I’m just getting older and I know there is a plan in place for us but, where does that leave me as a women who wants to be a biological mom? I get apprehensive that my genes haven’t been passed down. At times I don’t verbalize that because I don’t want to be negative and selfish and interfere with this positive environment we have now. I’ve been reading books about other non-biological moms and what they went through, and they make it easier. It’s ok to talk about it and get it off your chest. You have to communicate it.

AJS: Do you feel like if you do get to go with your plan b and she carries your biological child for you, that will help appease those feelings?

TF: Yes. Genetically seeing a baby carrying on my genes, but as a wife, a woman, a mother, it doesn’t matter. I was the one who inseminated her, that is my baby, our baby. I think about that and that is what pulls me out of those feelings.

AJS: How do you feel about that Andrea?

AF: After I was pregnant, I was trying to get myself into a place where I knew my role, preparing myself, we didn’t know what to expect. I wanted to know my role and how was I going to feel about that. Because the roles were reversed so quickly and now she was the one preparing for what I thought I was going to be doing. When we talk about it, I tell her, as a women naturally we want to carry, it’s what we were born to do, but it’s not like we are out there in the wilderness. What we really want, when it comes down to it, is to be parents. So maybe you aren’t carrying for 9 months, but we will be parents. Whether I have it, you have it, we adopt, at the end of the day we are still parents and that’s what we wanted. So that’s where I come from when she expresses her feelings about that. We don’t just want to walk around and be pregnant forever, we want to be parents.

AJS: Do you have any ideas of the kind of role model you want to set to your children not only as gay women but as mothers? Growing up, you look to your mother for certain lessons. What do you expect to instill?

TF: I just want to be the mom I never had. I was raised by my grandmother; my mother was murdered when she was 24 and left behind three babies. I never had that one-on-one motherly relationship. I just want to be that woman in my child’s life that I didn’t have. I want to be the mom that my grandmother wished her daughter could have been to us. Be a straight shooter, say what’s on your mind, know that you’re not alone. From a paternal standpoint, I want to be the father I never had. Whatever my child needs me to be, I want to be that person and that driving force.

AJS: That was a wonderful way of putting it.

AF: I hope to instill what I learned from both of my parents. I realize that we learn male and female things from parents, but know that’s just society’s roles and you don’t need to be a male to teach certain lessons. I want to teach hard work and education. I want to teach what’s gotten us so far. I think if we can teach that to our kids, they will turn out just fine.

AJS: What do you feel are the biggest misconceptions from people who may not know any gay couples?

AF: I would love to know, what is it that we do different? Other than the way we do it, there is nothing about our lives that is any different. We are two women, but everything else we do in our day-to-day lives is the same. We get up, go to work, walk the dog, pay taxes, spend time with our families. I just honestly don’t know what they see. They just don’t understand that we are two women in love.

AJS: Does it ever bother you to turn on the TV to see the debate over gay marriages and gay families? Other people debating your fate and your future?

TF: Yes! It angers me. Who are you to condemn me? You point the finger and you should have four more pointing back at you. The same people coming at us, down the road you find out they do or have done horrible things.

AF: It goes to show you that your sexuality has nothing to do with the mistakes you make.

AJS: Is there one childhood moment that you are personally looking forward to as a mother?

AF: I think, for me, we have decided that I will be “mommy” and she will be “momma,” but I know when the baby is old enough they will decide what to call us. I can’t wait to hear what names they choose to give us.

TF: I’m looking forward to teaching my child how to ride a bike. I taught myself, I gave myself bumps and bruises. I want to be that mom to take the training wheels of the bike. But hearing who I am to them, “Ma, Mama,” however they perceive me.

AF (To TF): I like hearing that. I never knew that’s one of the things you were looking forward to, teaching them to ride bikes. It’s nice.

AJS: I always end my interviews with the same question. Even in the supportive environment you have, you still face adversities. What would you want the average person to know about you as first time mothers who just happen to be gay?

TF: I just want other gay couples to know that it’s achievable. If you really want it that bad you can make it happen. And don’t be afraid of change. If you have questions, ask them. You aren’t a mental case, we all have the same fears. I want people to know that it’s freeing to look outside yourself and ask for help. To know that I got this far and you can, too. Don’t fall under the norm of a lesbian or a gay man if that’s not what you want. Don’t fall under the norm of a typical straight person. As long as you have faith and work hard, you can be in this happy place.

AF: I  want people to know that I have all the same fears as any new mom. I look forward to the same milestones. I’m just as hard working. And regardless of what people think is different between our lives, I’m really going to give it my all to be the best parent and provider for this baby and any other babies we are blessed with.

Interview with The Menzingers


Chatting with Tom Way

On May 29 at The Met, you have the opportunity to check out one of the most exciting punk bands out there today — The Menzingers. Hailing from The City Of Brotherly Love, they have a new album out called Rented World and have been electrifying crowds on both sides of the pond. I chatted with co-guitarist and vocalist Tom Way about the band’s current tour, working with Epitaph Records and what it’s like for a punk band in 2014.

Rob Duguay: The Menzingers are currently on tour with Buffalo punks Lemuria, fellow Philadelphia rock act Cayetana and PUP from Toronto. Last time I saw you guys at The Met you opened for Hot Water Music last January and it was a hell of a time. What is it about The Met that makes The Menzingers want to come back?

Tom Way: New England has always been a special place for us. When we first started playing out of state in high school bands, New England was on the edge of our charted territory. You can always count on a good show and a good diner. There’s something inherently comfortable about the area.

We first played The Met a few years back with Anti-Flag and it was such a great time. A very dear friend of mine went to RISD and we ended up having one of the most memorable nights of tour yet. It’s just a great venue in an interesting place.

RD: Last month, The Menzingers came out with their fourth studio album, Rented World, off of the legendary label Epitaph Records. Being your second release off of Epitaph, how is it working with Bad Religion’s Brett Gurewitz and the organization as a whole?

TW: Working with Epitaph is nothing short of fantastic. It is the label I have aspired to be on since I was a kid. Actually signing to the label and coming full circle is a lot like some kid from south Philly throwing around a baseball his whole life and signing to the Phillies. While we were starry eyed at first, we’re now a lot more comfortable with our working relationship with Epitaph. The people who work there are stand up individuals. Brett Gurewitz is Brett Gurewitz. I mean c’mon — how cool is that?

RD: Whenever I interview a punk act, I ask this question: In your opinion, what’s the state of punk in the 21st century? Do you think it’s fallen off from being out of the mainstream or do you think it’s right where it belongs with people having to look for punk albums rather than having it shoved in their faces?

TW: Ahh, to quantify the unquantifiable and label the nameless. What is punk? I have no idea, but I know whole heartedly that the idea of “mainstream” is so much different than what it was that it’s difficult to even call it “mainstream” anymore. People don’t buy records and people are leaving the radio in droves. Warped Tour may not have punk bands on it anymore, and bands that were huge punk bands in the ’90s can oftentimes barely draw anyone to shows. But why shouldn’t it be that way? That was 20 years ago. TWENTY YEARS. Twenty years before those punk bands peaked in the ’90s, punk didn’t even exist.

Has particular pigeonholed styles of aggressive rock & roll fallen off? Sure. However, the ethics of accomplishing things on your own and starting your own bands, and your own venues, and throwing your own shows are as strong as ever. Things are certainly weirder now, and the music itself has changed, but the part of “having to look for punk albums” has gotten even easier than it was when it was more mainstream. The days of the internet are here.

I’m sure that there will always be some shitkicker in a Casualties t-shirt walking around the mall causing trouble. At least I hope so.

RD: After this tour in support of Rented World, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for The Menzingers?

TW: Lots of touring! Heading to Europe in the fall with our dear friends in The Holy Mess and The Smith Street Band. We’re so excited!

It should be one hell of a show with The Menzingers, so I highly suggest you go. Tickets and showtimes available on The Met’s website at themetri.com. I’ll see you there!

The Menzingers’ website: themenzingers.com

401 Counterculture Hangs Out with Mister Sister


An Interview with Devin Mayim-Daviau

I have been in my fair share of sex toy shops and porn stores in my 30 years on this planet. Some were amazing, some were terrifying and some I’d rather not discuss. Experiences will always vary when you choose to patronize the wonderful world of sleaze for sale.

On a recent beautiful morning, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Devioune Mayim-Daviau, the owner of Mister Sister Erotica, the popular local favorite erotic boutique in Fox Point. We sat on two chairs outside her storefront, her bulldog curled at her feet, enjoying the long awaited warmth of the New England spring sun. Devioune, Devin to her friends, invited me to sit with her and discuss just what it means to be a “Queer owned boutique that understands the need to not only celebrate the diversity of all sexualities and sexual expressions, but also to actively honor and cultivate them.”

Adam J Schirling: Tell me a bit about yourself. How did you end up running a high-end sex toy boutique on Wickenden Street?

Devin Mayim-Daviau: Well, prior to this store, I had two stores in Provincetown. I guess what originally got me into this was that there wasn’t really anything out there for women. There were probably, like, a dozen women-owned erotica stores across the United States and I think we have a different hit on sexuality. I really wanted a comfortable place for women to come and it surprised me how uncomfortable men are going to one of the big chains. So I wanted a place where gay people could go and it not be “gay friendly” and just be gay. I carry a lot of stuff geared toward our community, but also for heterosexuals, trans… That was the main reason though, because I personally couldn’t go somewhere and be comfortable.

AJS: What made you make the move from Provincetown to Providence?

DM: The economy, really. In Provincetown, you’ve got five months to make your money. The trickle down effect took a while to hit there, and the rent just kept going up. You see the writing on the wall eventually.

AJS: How was your reception on Wickenden Street when you first arrived?

DM: Ah, I loved it. I mean, immediately, folks up from all up, down, and across the street came over and introduced themselves. The shopkeepers here are really tight with each other and with the neighborhood.

AJS: Did you have any negative experiences?

DM: Just from one person and she’s no longer on the street.

AJS:  How do you feel about the modern day reception of erotica, considering how much more mainstream it is compared to the past?

DM: Everybody has sex, you know? I don’t think I’m seeing more customers, but people are much more willing to explore their sexuality now. There are gynecologists and sex therapists who send people to my stores and it’s really surprising. Sometimes there is a woman or a gentleman in their ’70s and they come here to get educated. It makes me feel like I’m giving back to my community. I think what really differentiates us is that none of us consider ourselves sales people. We want to help figure out what works for you, rather than sell you the next best thing. It’s a blessing to be able to help someone who’s never had an orgasm.

AJS: And how is business doing?

DM: It’s good. We have a great reputation. Five years in a row we’ve received the highest customer satisfaction rating online and two years ago, the best erotic boutique in the United States (independent) at the AVN Awards. I’m always asking how people hear about us and it’s either from word of mouth or they find us online.

AJS: People will always have misconceptions about different groups of people and different sexualities. One of the points of my column is to help dispel these. What would you want people to know about either you personally or as a business owner?

DM: I would think that the biggest misconception that people have is that you are a sex whore or something.

AJS: Just by being in the erotic industry?

DM: Yes, I’m actually fairly conservative in my private life. I get hit on a lot by women and sometimes men, though that’s rare. I think it’s worse for the gay men who work here. Everyone who works here is gay, which is nice for our community. It provides a sense of comfort to our customers.

AJS: In what ways are you active in the gay community in Providence?

DM: We are yearly sponsors of gay bingo, they raise funds monthly for AIDS and supporting families living with HIV. We do tons of donations for gay pride and auction baskets for fundraisers in the community. And if the students from Brown or RISD or wherever have fundraisers, we always help out.

After our chat, Devin gave me a tour of her wonderful store and we discussed the ins and outs, no pun intended, of the vast assortment of toys and clothing for almost any and all sexual identification, fetish and appetite. She happily greets customers as they come in, quick to put them at ease and ensure them she is there for all their questions. I purchased a wonderful book of erotic photography from local artist Greg Easton, said goodbye to Devin and headed back into the midday bustle of the street. My last glimpse through the front windows saw Devin happily perched behind the counter, surrounded by products made for the sole purpose of increasing someone’s happiness, and customers looking to make their sex lives just that much happier. We are living in dark times; open and free sexuality is one of the last redeeming features of humanity. We should value this industry of happiness, and the merchants of happiness like Devin who strive to make Rhode Island a place where more people are getting their rocks off in more wonderful ways.