Between receiving shock therapy and being strangled by a pontificating clergyman, Kera Armendariz, the frontwoman of the Los Angeles-based band Kera and the Lesbians, is in a perpetual state of upheaval in the band’s music video for “Snakes,” one of the tracks from their EP Year 23.
The video’s rapid shift of images, including black-and-white shots of a series of eyes peering through holes in a wall and Kera in tears, donning a crown of thorns, echo an interpretation of the band’s self-described genre: Bipolar folk. This kind of folk reflects the uneven and unpredictable sound and content of human life, the rapid ups and downs that come with lived experience.
This is not the kind of folk music Woody Guthrie could have ever imagined existing, and yet it feels like a mirage of the American West in its wildness.
Kera and the Lesbians create a kind of folk music that refuses to stay level or even at every layer. Each track breaks out of the genre’s aural parameters and draws on surf rock guitar riffs, on a variety of drumming styles, from punk to psychedelic; and on the wild vocal dynamics of Armendariz. She uses a range of volumes, onomatopoeias, and vocal contortions to bring diverse sounds to the Lesbians’ songs.
The lyrical work throughout Kera and the Lesbians’ songs is what really gives the Lesbians the right to call themselves “bipolar folk.” Tracks like “Nailbiter” address facets of mental illness in a cathartic manner: “Mind starts to worry, slightest thing could set it off, cold paranoia, heart skips a beat, it’s bound to stop.” Kera and the Lesbians are unapologetic in embracing and writing songs about their emotions and mental headspaces, making them a great listen for those who take comfort in musical validation.