Denver quartet Purple Denim covers a lot of ground on its debut EP, The Purple Demo: everything from the corporate grind to the life of a trans-rights pioneer to the story of Frankenstein's monster.
“The songs are conscious of social issues,” guitarist Jon Seid says. “One of our songs, ‘The Ballad of Marsha P. Johnson,’ is about a prominent trans-rights activist. I think that’s something that’s important to all of us.”
Purple Denim, made up of Faffs Riederer on bass and vocals, Luisa Zamora on drums and vocals and Jimby Moon and Seid splitting guitar duties, has also released one music video – "Oh! Heartless Creator,” based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
“It's is the story of Frankenstein's monster told from the monster's perspective,” says Riederer. “Most of the lyrics are sampled from Mary Shelley's text but rearranged to fit the structure of the song. The song covers the events of the first half of the story, the same parts portrayed in the 1931 movie.”
The idea for the song came out of a collective songwriting session between Riederer, Moon and Seid.
“We started with the image of rain,” Riederer says. “Jimby Moon had written the chord progression, and it just grew from there. I reread the book and highlighted passages that I wanted to use for the song and just strung it all together as best as I could."
The band, which draws sonic influences from dance punk trio E.S.G. as well as post-punk/synth-pop legends New Order and old-school punk rockers the Clash and X-Ray Spex, has gigged around, mostly in DIY spaces. The group has shared the stage with Denver punk band Velvet Horns and genre-non-conforming bi-trans-queer-people-of-color collective TúLips. The three bands don’t have much in common sound-wise, but they are all part of the same community.
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“It’s fairly intimate,” Seid says of the band's live set. “We try not to blast people away by being overpoweringly loud. There might be some vague dance-type movements from certain people.”
Purple Denim’s sound is danceable and fairly upbeat when contrasted with the somber lyrical content of some of its songs.
Take the “The Ballad of Marsha P. Johnson," which pays homage to the early advocate for transgender rights. Zamora says Johnson, and another trans-rights activist, Sylvia Rivera, are two people who are legendary in certain segments of the LGBTQ community.
“They are queer icons of color,” Zamora says. “That’s who I draw a lot of inspiration from.”
“It’s important to remember people who paved the way,” Seid adds. “It’s still incredibly relevant and a legacy that can’t be forgotten.”
Zamora contributed lyrics to another song on the EP, “Piss on Your Future,” born from the frustration of being a person of color in a corporate job dominated by white people.
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"[The song is about] being around white professionalism and being from a poor working-class background, feeling constantly around people who have nothing in common with me background-wise and class-wise and feeling like the complete other," Zamora says. "It was my reaction to that.”
As for the name, Purple Denim?
“Jimby has a pair of purple pants we are all very fond of,” Seid says. “And they are denim. It’s all we could settle on.”
The Purple Demo is available on Spotify.