"IT'S EASIER HERE for me to feel human," says Andrea Genevieve. For years, Genevieve occupied a small corner of Portland's music community as the guitarist for the all-powerful heavy psych trio Purple Rhinestone Eagle.
She's speaking now about her home in Oakland, California, where she moved from Portland in the summer of 2012. She's finding the city's diversity to her liking. She's also found a new community of musicians, and a new band in Queen Crescent. The four-piece—which includes flutist/vocalist Melissa Vu, bassist Marisela Guizar, and Amy Martinez on drums—is a natural extension of Purple Rhinestone Eagle, mining early Black Sabbath records, Frank Frazetta paintings, and the Buddhist writings of Pema Chödrön.
"It's a really different thing," says Genevieve, speaking by shaky FaceTime connection along with the other members of Queen Crescent from their San Francisco practice space. "It's really pushing my boundaries. I'm a more precise guitar player now. I'm not just trying to fuzz-out—it's more refined, but not polished or douchey."
Their instrumental "Waking the Tigress" shows that other side, although heavy riffs still play a big part in songs like "Majic Moonjynuh" and in first single "Culture Vulture." But perhaps the most notable sound on Queen Crescent's excellent self-titled LP is the heavy use of flute. The instrument appears throughout, not just fluttering in the background. "That inspiration—Los Dug Dug's—was an important element to what they were seeking," says Vu, referring to her bandmates.
The four women share a love for the flute-featuring Los Dug Dug's, a Mexican psych band from the '60s, as well as female bands of yore, like '70s female funk band Isis and '90s Portland queercore duo the Need. But it's important to point out that Queen Crescent's formation goes deeper. "For me, it was important to get women of color together," says Martinez. "The bands I loved were 90 percent male. And white. There's just something really powerful about women of color playing the type of music we do."
Martinez hopes that Queen Crescent has potential to inspire young women. They're still finding their own inspiration from within the tight-knit Bay Area rock scene, one that still manages to flourish despite rising rents that squeeze many artists from the city. Genevieve says it only makes them work harder to sustain the band. But it's not all work and no play.
"We're all enjoying it," Genevieve says. "It's fun as fuck."