(L-R) Romy of The xx, Josette Maskin, Katie Gavin & Naomi McPherson of MUNA and Lynn Gunn of PVRIS
“Lesbian bands” are often synonymous with famously queer duos like Indigo Girls and Tegan and Sara, but they are part of a long lineage of out women unafraid of singing about their lovers, who just so happen to be other women. Whether it was from the folky front womyn of the singer/songwriter heavy '60s, the first all-lesbian rock band Fanny in the '70s, the punk rebellion of The Runaways or The B-52s fusing new wave and pop in the '80s, lesbian bands (or groups that include an openly queer, bisexual, or sexually fluid female member) have been a staple of the industry, influencing pop culture all the while.
Now, in the post-t.A.T.u. years, there are several noteworthy lesbian bands giving voice to queer themes and stories through song. Although their sexuality isn’t necessarily what they want to be known for, it’s worth recognizing their queering of their respective genres, and providing the community songs they can relate to, without having to switch up pronouns or instilling a sense of irony like with Katy Perry or Demi Lovato’s sapphic singles.
Here are 16 lesbian and queer-fronted bands you should keep in rotation.
PVRIS' out vocalist Lynn Gunn leads this modern post-electro-pop trio in rousing live shows and riveting recordings alike. Their first album, 2014’s White Noise, was certified silver, care of singles like “St. Patrick” and the passionate plea of “You And I,” which is one of the top tracks on a popular romantic Spotify playlist of the same name. Their sophomore release, All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell, just dropped last month and provides more insatiable, esoteric songs like the slow burning “Heaven.”
Check Out: “What’s Wrong,” “You And I,” “Winter”
Rituals of Mine
Formerly known as Sister Crayon, the duo made up of Terra Lopez and Dani Fernandez caught the ear of Warner Bros. execs, who signed them and re-released their indie albums Devoted and Cynic as The Reworks. Rituals of Mine are back in the studio now, working on a follow-up third LP, which will hopefully keep their signature electro-soul sound.
Check out: “Ride Or Die,” “Devoted,” “Your Girl”
Queer California trio MUNA have a Haim-like vibe, but with a Depeche Mode edge. Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin, and Naomi McPherson make up the RCA-signed band, whose debut About U is chock full of perfect pop gems. Next up: Opening for former One Direction heartthrob Harry Styles on his North American and European tour dates.
Check out: “I Know A Place,” “Winterbreak,” “Crying on the Bathroom Floor”
Hurray for the Riff Raff
Out Puerto Rican front woman Alynda Segarra is from the Bronx, but Hurray for the Riff Raff's songs are more Bob Dylan than Jenny from the Block. Now living in New Orleans, the band’s ATO release The Navigator has a decidedly Southern vibe with bluesy storytelling from a voice that’s as smooth and aesthetically pleasing as Lady Gaga’s.
Check out: “Living In The City,” “The Body Electric,” “Pa’lante”
What started as a duo with Yacht’s Jonah Bechtolt turned into a solo project for Khaela Maricich -- up until her girlfriend, Melissa Dyne, became a part of The Blow for their forthcoming album Brand New Abyss. An art-pop band whose live show is a huge part of the appeal, their upcoming tour with Portland-based queer solo act EMA is not to be missed.
Check out: THE WOMAN YOU WANT HER TO BE
Romy Madley Croft is perhaps rock music’s reigning lesbian darling. With so few queer women invited to the stages of massive festivals like Lollapalooza, Coachella, or Glatsonbury, her androgynous presence and lyrical genius is embraced by crowds of all ilks. Both xx albums have produced perfect ethereal pop songs, and Romy’s eschewing of what a female performer should look like is thwarting conventional ideals with every SNL or late night appearance.
Merilou Salazar and Jessie Meehan perform unapologetic pop punk with feminist themes, which makes them instantly popular with queer crowds. Influenced by L.A.’s history of inclusive punk (The Germs, X, Joan Jett), WASI continues the tradition by tricking even the most bro-y of dudes into singing along with “Pussy Grabs Back.”
Check out: "Floor Talk," "And the World," "Pussy Grabs Back"
The Nth Power
Nikki Glaspie lent her talent to Beyoncé’s original all-female band as her touring drummer, and she’s also played with legends like Chaka Kahn, Jay-Z, Kanye West and George Michael. But in her spare time, she leads her own spiritually-based trio, The Nth Power, which will imbue sounds of jazz, soul, and funk on their fall tour.
Check out: “Could It Be,” “Right Now,” “Only Love”
Kera and the Lesbians
Front woman Kera Armendariz is the only actual lesbian in Kera and the Lesbians, as her bandmates are dudes. But even if the moniker is hilarious and a bit misleading, the music (“bipolar folk from Southern California”) is to be taken seriously. Songs like “I’m Late” are surfy seaside ditties for chill Saturday nights, while “November” is for a long autumn stroll with the one you love, all narrated by the eccentric and always entertaining wailings of Kera herself.
Check out: “November,” “Nailbiter,” “Green”
The all-lesbian band from Los Angeles went full-throttle with their spring release, Fingering It Out. Standout single, “Sheets,” is a sexy rock romp that is accompanied by a gender bending music video featuring mustaches and The L Word star Anne Ramsay.
Check out: “Sheets,” “Mine,” “Crazy”
It Was Romance
Bisexual writer/actress/comic Lane Moore not only writes and sings the pop-punk band’s songs, but she directs the queer-themed music videos, too -- including a shot-for-shot lesbian-themed remake of Fiona Apple’s “Criminal.”
Check out: “Hooking Up With Girls,” “Philadelphia”
Vocalist Jana Hunter identifies as non-binary and often dons flashy suits on-stage and in visuals. The Baltimore born-and-bred alto both sings and speaks about political and social issues, and Lower Dens’ latest album, Escape From Evil, is both topically and musically an updated spin on 1980s post-AIDS consciousness ala Annie Lennox and George Michael.
Check out: “To Die In L.A.,” “Brains,” “I Get Nervous”
Marissa Paternoster is frequently regarded as one of the best guitar players today, and her ability to play across genres bring broad audiences to her New Jersey punk trio’s shows. Their fall tour will preview new tracks from their highly-anticipated follow-up to 2015’s Rose Mountain as well as old favorites and deep cuts from their previous four albums.
Check out: “Hopeless,” “It All Means Nothing,” “Wild”
Several of the Savages members fall under the LGBTQ acronym, but the London-based post-punk quartet shun all labels -- including “girl band.” Their live shows are known for their raucous, riotous energy, and the albums are just as highly regarded -- both 2013’s Silence Yourself and 2016’s Adore Life were nominated for the Mercury Prize.
Check out: “She Will,” “Shut Up,” “Husbands”
Heather McEntire commands this Southern rock trio whose take on alt-country is fresh, raw, and full of iconic imagery. Fans of lyrical narratives paired with a darker side of the genre will enjoy the gothic tinges and Biblical references alike.
Katie Stelmanis spearheads this Canadian outfit with operatic and otherworldly influences. Their third album, Future Politics, came out mere months after Trump was elected President, which is to say, it was as timely as it was timeless. Austra is progressive synth-pop with something to say, and Stelmanis sings it all beautifully.
Check out: “The Beat and the Pulse,” “Painful Like,” “Future Politics”