This is Skylar Pocket, a trans-fronted New Brunswick band allied with the Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ movements in America. This band is deserving of your attention, not just because of the music they produce, but the values they hold.
Skylar Pocket’s sound is a blend of influences of chaotic punk bands like Bomb! The Music Industry mixed alongside the humanity and lyrical wit of groups like The Mountain Goats and Big Thief. The band’s most recent EP, “Never Going Home,” is a wonderful collection of songs that deal with the things that life hangs over your head; love, family, leaving home, and the overall emotional turmoil of aging in the 21st century, to name a few.
During quarantine, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Skylar Graham has been doing their best to produce new music. As a Central Jersey group, Graham has expressed the band’s attachment to the “New Brunswick basements,” as well as Boontunes, which Graham describes as a “really welcoming environment for people who might not normally feel very comfortable at a show.” The band recently released their 2020 submission to the NPR Tiny Desk Contest, linked below. The submitted song, “2 Hell With Heaven,” was used as the soundtrack for one of NPR’s highlight videos.
Graham is transmasculine and nonbinary, and I was able to speak with them on their experience fronting a popular band with this identity: “My voice is definitely heard on a level that not everyone experiences. Most of the struggle comes with being nonbinary and how my nonconformity is overlooked. On the flip side, it feels so incredible to see how may trans kids come out to our shows and message me about how our music has helped them in their journeys. It’s a long, tough journey and I’m happy to make kids like me feel less alone.” Graham came out as nonbinary and started socially transitioning when they were just 14 years old.
Skylar Pocket is an increasingly popular group in the Central Jersey music scene, and have used their following to benefit causes that they have allied themselves with. In support of the LGBTQ community, the band helped raise $300 for the LGBTQ Center in NYC in November of 2019, while also playing the Translifeline show at Boontunes every year to raise money for that foundation. In support of the protests over the unjust death of George Floyd, Skylar Pocket has been sending out merchandise packages to people who matched their donation amount to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, with “around 30 packages” being sent out on the first week alone (per the first week of June). The band has plans for more merchandise and apparel that will go up for sale soon. Graham assures that the band plans to use the sales “for other bail funds.”
In light of the news that Bandcamp is waiving all fees in an attempt to provide the artists who use their site with much-needed financial gain, Skylar Pocket has donated all their proceeds to the Black Visions Collective.
Horn player Kiyon Cho, who is a Black American, feels a strong unity with the movement: “Seeing these protests, and seeing the national outrage sparked by George Floyd’s murder is definitely something that I stand by, and something that I’ve been trying to support! Even though it isn’t my job (or the job of any other person in the black community) to educate others on their privilege and the issues at hand, I’ve been doing my best to teach others about the issues and encouraging others to do more research as to what they can do to support the movement.” Cho gave her full, extended thoughts on a post on the band’s Facebook, which can be viewed here.
As always, I wanted to present the opportunity to Skylar Pocket to spotlight other New Jersey musicians, bands or organizations that they feel deserve more attention. Here’s what they said:
“There’s too many but to name one, Tula Vera has some of our best friends in the scene and I can’t wait to see where they go, especially with the upcoming release of their new album.” – Skylar Graham (Lead Vocalist/Rhythm Guitarist)
“Tula Vera and Pollyanna! These bands are always so welcoming and loving every time we play shows with them. They’ve definitely helped create this amazing environment that we want to have at all of our shows. Both bands have made me feel a lot more welcome in this community, and as a whole, are just full of really rad people!” – Kiyon Cho (Horn)