photo courtesy of Nick Roth

Lash and McQueen, members of BaptationN, performing onstage in Bremerton.

BaptationN: A Look Inside Tacoma’s Local Heavy Metal Scene

December 2, 2022

On September 4th, 2021, Eden Lash and Giovanni McQueen played a house show in Lash’s backyard,called the Poser Pleasure Party. At first, the two were not meant to be anything more than an impromptu duo. However, Lash liked the dynamic and sound they had together so much that they decided to form it into something more. Lash’s old band, Accidental Brain Damage, had just broken up. They made music in the genre of dreamy bedroom pop, and their disbandment left Lash longing to create something heavier. This longing led to the birth of BaptationN. (Even after pressing Lash for the origin of the name “BaptationN,” she did not concede. My speculation is that the name was chosen because it rhymes with lactation, but I suppose we can never know for sure.)

A couple months after the first Poser Pleasure Party, the two began to experiment with the sound they were envisioning for the band. Lash categorizes the music the band made when they were first starting out as riot girl with some punk influences, but they quickly realized that this wasn’t the direction they wanted the band to go in. “We all had always wanted the music to be heavier than that, it never really felt right just to stay [there], and I think over time we’ve evolved into the kind of sound we really always wanted to achieve.” With Lash on lead vocals and guitar and Gio on bass, they aim to create music that keeps the listener on the edge of their seat via discordant and gut-wrenching riffs that leave you feeling uncomfortable and frustrated, yet still with a lingering desire to see what’s to come. This technique is proverbial, as tritone scales, or scales that are not found in either major or minor scales, have been used for centuries to make listeners feel uncomfortable and on edge.

BaptationN draws their inspiration from the hardcore punk band, Portrayal of Guilt. In late September Lash and McQueen attended two of Portrayal of Guilt’s shows in the SeaTac area. At the show in Ta-coma they convinced the people working sound to play their album in between sets. If that wasn’t affirming enough, after the show they got the chance to meet the lead singer of Portrayal of Guilt, Matt King. After hearing their album, he offered the two a spot as an opening act for the band’s next show in Tacoma. If being recognized by your biggest musical inspiration is not a defining moment for band, I really don’t know what is.

According to Lash, the best part about being in BaptationN is their live shows. The first BaptationN show I went to was in early June at the Spanish Ballroom in Tacoma. I had met Lash a couple months earlier and quickly learned that she was in a band; I had listened to a few of their band’s demos on Bandcamp, so I had a general idea of the kind of music they made. Despite this, I had no idea what to expect. I was beyond excited, partly because it was my first local show since quarantine (although up to that point I had never gone to a local show that made music of this caliber and intensity), but more so because I was infinitely curious to experience what BaptationN was truly like, aside from their online demos and the occasional low-quality video of past shows on their Instagram page (@baptationn.) As soon as they started playing, I became enthralled. Watching Lash up onstage performing was a window to a side of her that was incredibly alluring to me. Onstage, she seems to become completely taken over by the music and fully immersed in her lyrics. “When I’m onstage, it feels like a whole different world. I feel like I become a whole different person,” Lash remarked. And from an audience standpoint, I completely agree. Everything from her uncanny stage presence to the nonplus nature of her singing over the heavy, panic-inducing guitar, bass and drums instantly captivates the audience.

On September 3rd of this year I attended the one year anniversary show of the Poser Pleasure Party. It was meticulously planned, considerably more so than the first. Lash’s whole backyard had been overtaken by sound equipment, instruments, lights, decorations, a plethora of ramshackle rugs as a makeshift stage and signs posted about, giving directions and laying out the rules of the show (because the show was in a residential neighborhood it was advertised to be a drug and alcohol free environment, as a courtesy to Lash’s family as well as the neighbors who so kindly put up with the rowdy teenagers and tumultuous music. Unfortunately, people did not follow said rule.) The crowd was restless and wild. There is something so turbulent about the energy at a BaptationN show. The anticipation, watching the soundcheck foretasting the show, everything heightened all leading up to the very moment the band begins playing. The hold that Lash and McQueen have over the audience is quite impressive. Everyone in the crowd screams along to the parts of the songs that are remotely desirable. Heads are violently banging, and bodies are colliding into each other as the chaos of the music ensues.

Being in a mosh pit is exhilarating, but at the same time utterly and completely terrifying. Picture this: you are surrounded by a sea of sweaty strangers, you’ve been standing for so long that you’ve begun to lose feeling in your feet, yet you look down to find them still dancing along to the music. Getting tossed around, back and forth with bodies swirling around you like human bumper cars. All while the lethal noise of BaptationN fills your ears and shakes you to your core. I am mystified by the sense of togetherness that moshing creates. As intense as it might sound, there is a underlying notion of community umoung the chaos. Moshing can make people feel free and connected. Now I am not saying that after reading this, you should go out and just slam into your friends for fun. This activity can at times get out of hand if the participants are not familiar with it, or if their primary goal is to harm others. But I want to recognize that when practiced safely and with caution, moshing can be an almost therapeutic experience. From my point of view, it creates a sense of belonging. When you are in the midst of a mosh pit, you have the freedom to release all your built up emotions, and to dance like nobody is watching. This may sound contradictory because you are in fact surrounded by people, but the thing is the people around you are also doing the same. There is no judgement afoot. You can move and dance without care about who is watching and how silly you might look. It’s quite freeing, releasing yourself from the confines of self doubt and insecurity, not worrying about how you might be perceived to others.

These ideas correspond with some of the ideologies of punk culture, that being individual freedom and accepting doctrine. Coming from someone who is an outsider observing the punk and metal scene I find the overall culture so fascinating. The fashion, history, ideologies and the other forms of expression like art, literature and films. Unfortunately, the punk and metal scene can also often be extremely problematic. Everything from the the praise of an indifferent and apathetic outlook on life, to the utter lack of representation for POC, women and queer folk. In popluar bands, but more so with the people behind the scenes running the shows, they are almost always older white men. Breaking those stereotypes, BaptationN aims to prove that they can make the same music to the same extent, if not even better in a field primarily dominated by cisgender white men. They want people to take the band seriously, regardless of Lash and McQueen’s age and identity.

I asked Lash about her favorite show that BaptationN has played so far, and her answer was very surprising. It was back in May, at Lucky Liquor, which is a small dive bar just outside of Seattle. Since it was a 21+ show, the only people that showed up to see them were two of their teachers from Tacoma’s School of the Arts (SOTA) as well as a few older men who had already been in the bar, who were confused as to how these two seemingly inexperienced seventeen-year-olds managed to get the gig in the first place. As soon as they started playing though, their whole demeanor shifted. “The energy in that show was probably the rawest that I have ever experienced, and I haven’t been able to replicate it since then.” Lash compares the experience of being up on stage as her own bizarre form of meditation. “It’s a feeling I can’t get anywhere else” she went on to say, “[performing] is a time to reflect on my lyrics, feel them, and have other people feel them, too.” Eden writes such intense and intimately poetic lyrics like “I watch your body fold; I imagine I’m in the middle” or “Holes in my alibi, hills on my lover’s body.” For Lash, writing songs is an emotional outlet. “It’s the only way where I can get out some of the lingering dreams or feelings out of my system.” Spoken like a true Pisces moon. She explained to me that her creative process looks something like this: throughout the week, she jots down certain phrases that pop into her head, or certain dreams that resonate with her, builds on that, adds in guitar, and then brings it to McQueen and he adds bass. The band practices regularly, with time set aside in the day using equipment provided by the music department in their school, and time outside of school with personal equipment, all to further perfect their sound, compose songs and plan out set-lists for shows. Being in a band is extremely time consuming, and requires a lot of hard-work, effort and dedication. All qualities of which Lash certainly possesses. 

The energy in that show was probably the rawest that I have ever experienced, and I haven’t been able to replicate it since then

Less than a year after their first show as BaptationN, the band’s debut album titled Bare, Open, Field was released on Spotify and Apple Music. Bare, Open, Field is a compilation of songs that were originally written for shows, but were studio recorded to reach a further audience online. Lash and McQueen worked tremendously hard saving up the money to pay for a studio date. And when the day finally came to record all seven songs, they were both understandably extremely nervous. The one pitfall of recording their songs in studio is that “[It] will never be the same as live performances, and I think that’s something that’s sad about the people who only listen to us online.” The songs on the album, and most of the music that Lash writes in general mainly tackle different aspects of the perplexities of organized religion: how religion can change a person for better or for worse, and the inherent uncertain nature of faith as a whole. Having grown up in a heavily religious household, Lash found herself with a lot of questions surrounding her faith. “I think that a lot of the time with religion, either bad influence or good influence on your life there can be lot of emptiness if you don’t experience either side of it, for example if you grew up with it and loose it there will still always be a part of you that thinks back to those experiences and teachings.”

On the other hand, if you grow up and find a religion that fits you, it completely alters your life. That is something that I’m so baffled by. Without religion, your life can be so empty, devoid of questions and devoid of answers”. The title “Bare, Open, Field” comes from a dream that Lash had where she was (you guessed it!) standing in a bare open field. This title coincides with Lash’s aforementioned views on religion as something that can at times be so barren and empty. One of the most popluar songs on the album is titled Cutter. This song seems to depict the frustration and confusion that stems from a lack of understanding with why people of who subscribe to certain extreme forms of religion pin all their faith into a “vessel of hope,” as described by Lash, without question, and then proceed to demean those who raise said questions. The song portrays Lash, or whoever is represented in the first person, violently and vengefully crucifying the one guaranteeing salvation. Conveyed by lines like “You say you’re messiah, I say you’re a liar” and “You say you’re my savior, I dig the nail in deeper.” As the song progresses, you can feel Lash’s anger and frustration building. She delineates this with a switch to scream-singing, an extended vocal technique usually employed in extreme styles of music, particularly in death metal and other sub-genres of heavy metal. This is even more true when listening to the song played live. Thinking back to hearing this song live at the band’s anniversary show in early September, it was performed with so much more emotion than in just the studio version. Everyone in the crowd, (myself included) singing along with Lash’s lyrics like “My life is never dull, I crave something stable.” truly shows the effect BaptationN’s music has on it’s listeners. We feel her pain with her, and we can relate to this universal feeling in our generation, of a longing for answers in a world that is so unreliable, whether that be in the confines of religion or just in general. You get to see how emotionally, passionately, and indignantly she plays her music. This is what I love about BaptationN. The purely expressive and raw manner in which the songs are performed in, and the effects their music has on the listener are nothing short of breathtaking.

I want this to be an ongoing thing.”

BaptationN currently has a second album in the works, the themes and release date are yet to be revealed however Lash did say that the songs are going to be written specifically for an album in a cohesive narrative, unlike their debut which was a compilation of pre-written songs. As for the future of BaptationN, “I want this to be an ongoing thing, I feel good about BaptationN and what we are doing, and as far as we can take it, I want to take it there.” BaptationN’s evolution is quite impressive, to say the least. Going from small a backyard house show to releasing an album, and playing established venues all in the same year truly attests to their talents. Although this particular kind of music is not everyone’s cup of tea, I hope that you will still find the space to value the art as I do. BaptationN’s Bare, Open, Field is streaming on all platforms. For more, you can look to YouTube to listen to a few demos from their upcoming album or follow their Instagram to stay updated on upcoming shows and releases.



This piece was originally published in Inkwell’s Kitchen Sink Issue.

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