“We’re Bird People Now”: Thin Pigeon’s Sneaky Musical Activism

by | Jun 11, 2019 | QUEER RVA

Richmond postpunk band Thin Pigeon uses their music as a tool for both expression and LGBTQ advocacy.

Be honest. Have you ever seen a thin pigeon?

While such an animal might seem impossible to find, Richmond’s young and mighty postpunk band, Thin Pigeon, has been rocking the local scene lately with their wobbly melodies and sharp eye for justice in activism.

“When I came up with the name Thin Pigeon, I didn’t intend to have any bird imagery,” said Max, Thin Pigeon’s vocalist and guitarist. “It just became a joke after a while, because people would ask me what the band was called and when I’d tell them, they would make bird jokes. So we went with it, and we’re bird people now.”

After only two years on the ground, and a couple member changes, Max, along with Quinn on bass and Micah on drums [Editor’s note: the group’s former drummer, Anna, left the band in April and is in all of the photos included in this article], are setting their sights on building their local crowd through inclusion and focusing energy into the hard topics — both in their music and in their day to day. Even the band’s name holds a story with depth that the world  needs to pay attention to.

“A lot of the songs I’ve written revolve around my eating disorder and how it affects different parts of my life, so I always knew the word ‘thin’ was going to be in the name as a sort of symbolic thing…” said Max. “Pigeons are not very thin, they’re chunky looking birds, and you can’t place this ideal on them to be thin. The way I think about it people who are perceived as women are often expected to be thin, to be beautiful, to be socially acceptable… It might sound kind of silly, but I thought it was like this cool sneaky metaphor.”

Topics like eating disorder awareness, racism, and transphobia have been no stranger to Thin Pigeon in their efforts to speak out and use their music to show people what really matters.

“I feel like a lot of people think that you can’t change the political climate unless you work within electoral politics, which is bullshit,” said Max. “I think that anybody can do solidarity work, and it looks a lot of different ways. With my music, I’m trying to create representation and support for trans people of color in the DIY scene.”

As a trans, queer person of color themselves, Max, along with the rest of Thin Pigeon, has made a point to be a representative for the good in the scene as both a part of their community and an ally to their fans and audience members.

“I like to show other trans people or people of color that there is a safe space for them within the alternative music and DIY scene — that they can go to a place where they’re welcome and this music is about them and for them,” said Max.

Of course, people from marginalized communities have often been through traumas in their own lives, and Thin Pigeon always strives to acknowledge that in their own performances.

“Every time we perform the song ‘Silver Spoon,’ I always throw a content warning in the beginning, since it talks about the damages of eating disorders,” said Max. “I always try to be conscious of the people around me at shows, and I want them to feel safe. I don’t want anyone to feel triggered by my music. I respect people who come out to see us.”

Being an ally to their fans isn’t the only endeavor Thin Pigeon has focused their time and energy into. They make activism a fundamental component of their existence as a band, using their music as a tool to aid with fundraisers and community organizing, for the Richmond community and beyond.

“A lot of it for me is through playing shows, but I do stuff on the side too,” said Max. And they hope to expand the issues they’re able to work on in the future.

“I want to get into doing work with harm reduction, mutual aid, and transformative justice,” they said. “It’s not a concrete job for me, but it’s just something I’ve always been interested in doing.”

Their time as a band has been relatively short, but all of their experiences both as musicians and activists have led Thin Pigeon to an appreciation for those who are allies in ways that go beyond lip service.

In particular, Max appreciates people who are willing to lend their resources to the cause.

“Donate when you come to our shows,” they said. “Listen to our music; buy our music. If you can’t afford it, at least spread the word.”

Max emphasizes that donations are important — and not just to Thin Pigeon themselves.

“The money doesn’t always go to us,” they said. “We have a lot of friends who work in activist groups, or will put on community fundraisers to help support marginalized folks in need. For me, it’s about helping trans artists continue to be able to do what they do, and just helping us to be able to survive. It’s a big part of allyship, along with respecting us out there.”

Ensuring that marginalized minority groups are able to lead their lives with as little interference as possible has been a cornerstone of Thin Pigeon’s own allyship. Just by making their music, Thin Pigeon and artists like them help shine a light on what is possible for others facing similar struggles to their own.

With their deeply held values and their passion for music and community, Thin Pigeon is looking forward to playing more shows in Richmond and, eventually, beyond. But for now, they’re trying not to get too ambitious.

“We’re mostly focused on the near future right now, and going day by day,” said Max.

Thin Pigeon’s next show will be at Wonderland in Shockoe Bottom on Friday, June 28, with Iowa band Karen Meat and fellow Richmonders Baby Grill. Doors open at 9 PM, admission is $10. For more info, click here.

Alicen Hackney

Alicen Hackney

Alicen Hackney is a music journalism student at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. Her passion is sharing and exploring music and it's cultural ties, and she is always looking for new artists and styles.

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