Emily Twombly is a long time friend of Chain Letter. From her time managing Origami Vinyl, to running Record Club at El Prado, to her consistent presence at shows and events, and, lately, working as a creative force at FYF, Twombly has earned the massive amount of respect we have for her. More importantly, Twombly has a warm, generous spirit and an activist heart. Over the years of knowing her, she's inspired us over and over, so we'd like to share a short conversation we had recently so that you, too, can be inspired.
CL: You're originally from the east coast. I've always felt as a touring musician that the east coast has a better scene for heavier, political, left of center music as well as a friendlier touring environment in general (shorter drives, etc). Having lived on both coasts, do you think that's true?
ET: I've never been in a band so I've only ever toured with friends' bands here and there BUT I would agree that it's easier for bands to tour on the east coast. That was at least the case when I was living there. I saw a lot more punk houses back east than I do here - more couches to crash on after a show. Given the close proximity of cities, there is definitely more of a community feel to the scenes over there - specifically the DIY punk scene. I've yet to get a handle on the "scene" in LA but I think that's mostly because LA (and CA) are so spread out that there a million different smaller scenes that are hard to find if you haven't already been a part of them for a long time.
CL: In LA we've recently seen a rise of what I call commercial feminism, from Girl School to "The Future Is Female" t-shirts. As someone involved in feminist politics, talk to us a bit about your thoughts on the current state of feminism in music.
ET: In general, I think a greater awareness of feminism and women's issues is always a good thing. I believe there definitely needs to be a larger, more public conversation about the inequality in the music industry as a whole - not only about women but also about people of color, and the LGBTQ community. There are a lot of "girl gangs" popping up around LA that are cool in theory but worrisome in practice to me. I think they miss the mark in the sense that they don't necessarily include ALL women in their groups and they seem to often be a lot about image and less about action. I also don't think the answer is booking shows that have only bands with women in them. I think the goal needs to be eventually booking shows that are equal parts men and women and being cognizant about whether or not women and LGBT folks will feel welcome at a show or an event.
CL: This is obviously an election year and among lefties there's an ongoing debate: Bernie or Hilary. But I find the debate among feminists of who they should support even more intriguing. What are your thoughts on this?
ET: This is a tough one! A female president is obviously long overdue. I just wish that Hilary's politics lined up with my own re: war, big corporations, foreign policy etc. In the long run though, I don't think Hilary would be a bad option if she were the democratic candidate. I do think that the sexism against her is really problematic and damaging. I don't think her policies are much worse than a lot of men who have run in the past yet, I don't think they got torn up in the media as much as she has. This article kind of sums up a lot of my feelings for the whole thing: https://medium.com/@laurenbesser/had- bernie-been-bernadette-the-heartbreaking-truth-about-american- patriarchy-ea29caf04331#.8wgtwp7pw
CL: There seems to be a resurgence of punk surrounding transgender/feminist politics, but to be honest I'm woefully uneducated about what bands we should be paying attention to in this area. Can you give us a crash course on some of your favorites or notables?
ET: There are so many out there and I'm still learning about new ones. Here are some of my favorites though: RVIVR, G.L.O.S.S., Priests, Downtown Boys, Sex Stains, Perfect Pussy, Tacocat, Childbirth, Chastity Belt, The Coathangers. I'm sure I'm missing many more.
(Editor's note: We recently stumbled upon Torso, a punk band from Oakland whose record absolutely slays.)
CL: Many people know you as Emily from Origami Vinyl. What's that like for you? Will OV have a lasting legacy?
ET: Honestly, I hope that my job will never define me. I'd much rather be known for my art and my character and my personal accomplishments more than anything else. Yes, I worked at Origami for a very long time and I'd like to think that I shaped it positively but OV is not me and I'm not OV and really, that shop wasn't MY dream, it was someone else's. I had a great time working there and I learned a LOT and gained so many really great opportunities, and met so many amazing people in that time - I feel really grateful for that. The best part about working there though was that we all had this cool vision of what the shop could accomplish as a type of community center and I think we were able to do a lot for a while. But when everyone else involved changed their priorities, it kind of took the wind out of my sails a bit. I hope that people will remember OV fondly. Often times, it feels like the haters are much louder than supporters but I hope that won't stick in the long run.
CL: (CL co-founder) Heather was recently in a Barnes and Noble which now has a huge vinyl section. Is this good news or bad news? Has the vinyl bubble finally burst? Is there a way forward for local record stores?
ET: Vinyl at B&N is really bad news in my opinion. The biggest retailer for vinyl in 2015 was Urban Outfitters. In general, vinyl sales are up but vinyl sales at independent record stores are down. This is a moment in time where people really need to come to the rescue of their local businesses. If you don't want your neighborhood overrun with shitty chain coffee shops or even worse, vacant spaces, you need to stop shopping at Amazon when you can walk out of your door and buy the same thing at a local shop. There is a huge difference between supporting a local business and actually putting your money where your mouth is.
CL: Waaaaay too general question: are things getting worse or getting better?
ET: Ugh I would love to say that things are getting better. But the state of this country is really scary right now. With Trump flooding the media, and kids hiding behind their screens all day, the future looks bleak. BUT that's not to say that there aren't people who are trying to change things and that if we all get together, put our fucking phones down, and rise up against all of the racists, and sexists, and homophobes, and bigots and mainstream media and major corporations, I still believe that we can change things for the positive. Only a little overwhelming, isn't it..
CL: Tell us about the last person or art or thing that inspired you.
ET: Seeing Downtown Boys perform really moved me. They are doing something so important and they bring so much raw energy and emotion, you can't help but feel motivated. They're truly the embodiment of "punk rock" and back up their thoughts and opinions with actions and are really working hard to make a difference in the world we live in.