When Sera Beth Timms came across a long, red wig at a store down the street from her home, the components of what would become LVXURI began to coalesce. “When I got the wig, I wanted to know who the character was,” says Timms by phone from Troy, New York. One thing was clear: “This isn’t Sera doing LVXURI.” Instead, the project centers around the character Aurora Dawn, a fierce and flamboyant woman with a mystical streak, who dispenses the tales of her life over slow, slithery grooves. On June 18, Timms releases her most recent LVXURI single, “Consulate Lust,” premiering exclusively on Audiofemme today.
At the time of LXURI’s inception, Timms lived in Los Angeles and was best known for her work as Black Mare and in the band Ides of Gemini. Where her previous projects had been heavy and more rock-oriented, Timms grew inspired by hip-hop beats, and was yearning to make something lighter and more danceable. She considered exploring different themes in her work as well. Somewhere in her notes, maybe a year or so earlier, she had written down the name Aurora Dawn. “I didn’t know who Aurora Dawn was or what I was going to do with Aurora Dawn, but I knew it had to do with the sun and some incarnation of solar energy,” she explains.
Timms had written one song and played it for two close friends— one of whom was photographer Nedda Afsari— and they decided to film a video for it on a planned trip to The Madonna Inn. “There are so many bands I know that have filmed in different rooms at the Madonna Inn. It’s such a great set,” says Timms of the hotel on California’s Central Coast that’s famed for its themed guestrooms. Timms found the wig right before that adventure and Aurora Dawn first came to life in the resulting clip for “Decussata,” released in 2019.
The video prompted an invitation to open for performance art rock outfit Stuntdriver at Los Angeles venue Zebulon. “I always need motivation to finish things because I’m always doing a million things at once,” says Timms. This show, she says, was a great opportunity to push herself to write more songs.
With her previous project, Black Mare, Timms made her own beats, but LVXURI required a different approach. “The beats for LVXURI are supposed to be a lot more sleek than the drums for Black Mare,” she says. “I started getting into that and realized that I didn’t have the chops to get as many songs done in that short amount of time to be ready for a show in a month.” She then turned to her friend Dylan Neal, from the band Thief, to collaborate with her.
Aurora Dawn and LVXURI continued to evolve in 2020, albeit not necessarily in a way that Timms anticipated. “I had all these grand ideas about performances that I was going to do and couldn’t do any of that in 2020,” she says. Instead, she began to incorporate mystical elements into Aurora Dawn’s personality and performance. As Aurora Dawn, Timms read tarot and sold crystals on Instagram.
She shot a few more videos as well. The clip for “Headlights” was made in the midst of the March 2020 lockdown in Los Angeles and was directed by her then-roommate Sean Russel Herman. “Aurora Dawn, the character, she loves to be directed and told what to do,” says Timms.
By the time Timms made the video for the song “Aurora Dawn,” her own life was in the midst of transition. “I was definitely living in a very intuitive zone,” she says. Timms left Los Angeles, initially to move in with a friend in Florida. On the drive east, she stopped in Las Vegas to film a video, without knowing which song she would shoot or, really, how she would do it. As a former video editor, Timms relied on her iPhone with a lens attachment for footage. “I was traveling by myself, with my cats, and I didn’t know anybody in Vegas,” she recalls. “There’s no real budget behind LVXURI, it’s just out of pocket for everything. I didn’t have the time or budget to hire a fancy camera person, so I just decided: let’s go with it. Let’s see what we can do, what we can get.”
“Consulate Lust” will be the last LVXURI single for a while, as Timms has plans to finish up work on a full-length release, which she says will include some of the previously released singles. Still, Aurora Dawn continues to have a hold on her creator. Timms shops specifically for the character, even when she’s not actively trying to build Aurora Dawn’s ultra-glam wardrobe. She says, “I go into an Aurora Dawn trance and I don’t even know what I’m doing.”
Established in 1926 to prevent unlicensed dancing in NYC bars, New York’s “Cabaret Law” is finally on its last legs after City Council voted Tuesday to end it. Many have been quick to point out that the antiquated law is like something out of Footloose, inappropriate for such a progressive, cosmopolitan city. While the law has been less strictly enforced since Rudy Giuliani used it to crack down on “rowdy” nightclubs nearly two decades ago, it still a red-tape nightmare for venues, bars and clubs – especially, say its critics, those run by and for marginalized groups, such as LGBT, Black, and Latinx communities. Now that City Council has voted to repeal, Mayor Bill de Blasio needs to approve the measure to officially end the 91-year old restriction.
The Country Music Association Bans Questions On Gun Rights, Then Rescinds its Gag Rule
Next week is the annual Country Music Association Awards, and the organization drew criticism this week when it warned reporters covering the event not to ask artists about so-called sensitive issues – specifically, “gun rights, political affiliations or topics of the like.” They threatened reporters who defied these guidelines with loss of credentials and removal from the event, but eventually rescinded the gag order when taken to task by artists and media via Twitter – including the show’s host, Brad Paisley. While the country music scene has often touted gun ownership rights, a deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas at a country music festival last month has caused some musicians to reverse their opinions and call for stricter gun control. To compound to issue, the head of the powerful country music PR firm that represents NRA Country (as well as artists like Dolly Parton and Kid Rock, who have since severed ties) is embroiled in a sexual assault scandal.
Last week, after publishing “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town,” I took the train across the East River to see a movie. A bit of distraction seemed necessary in that moment, even if it was in the form of a demonic clown named Pennywise. Sitting on the Manhattan-bound C train, I noticed a man in a grey flannel suit to my left. He, like most modern passengers, was fixated on his smart phone. The glow of its screen did not reflect Candy Crush, Snapchat, or Instagram, however, but a P.O.V. shooter game. The tap of his thumb did not cause hearts of affirmation to burst with confetti, but rather, launched bullets from a high-power rifle, bumping off “bad guys” one by one. I watched as my well-dressed neighbor selected guns, tightened his scope, and fired and rooftop gunmen.
At that moment, it had only been four days since the mass murder of festival goers in Las Vegas, and seeing any gun, whether real, toy, or two-dimensional gave me a swift kick of nausea. It goes without saying that the events that plagued Las Vegas on October 1st still plague us today, and will continue to do so – and it is because of that lasting sickness I write on this topic again.
There were a lot of things that didn’t make the final draft of last week’s Only Noise, in part because I felt there was a hierarchy of importance with certain details – namely pointing out the arcane excuses for assault rifle-ownership in America. What I did not have the word count to include, were profiles on the scores of musicians who have had the guts to protest groups like the N.R.A., and ideologies which uphold the mass armament of US citizens with little to no discernment.
Artists like Harry Nilsson, who, after his best friend John Lennon was murdered by a crazed fan with a .38 revolver, became the official spokesperson for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV). In 1981, a year following Lennon’s death, Nilsson told the L.A. Times, “I’ve never been an activist before, but when I was one of the people who had to hold Ringo’s hand after John Lennon was shot, I became involved. I said to Ringo one night just after the shooting, ‘If I could take this from you, I would. But I can’t.’ I was helpless, and that was the worst time in the world for me.” Nilsson’s life work became twofold: music, and gun control. Eventually he became National Chairman of a campaign called End Handgun Violence Week, which ran between October 25th and October 31st in the early 1980s.
247 people have been fatally shot in this country in the 10 days since the Route 91 Harvest Festival. Perhaps the CSGV could bring back End Handgun Violence Week, although the public faces far more frightening weaponry than just handguns these days.
Despite her recent op-ed in The New York Times, Roseanne Cash is no rookie to the gun control debate. Her activism traces back twenty years. She spoke out in 2015, when a gunman at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon killed nine people. This tragedy coincidentally occurred on the first of October as well – two years to the day before Stephen Paddock wreaked death on Las Vegas. The day after the 2015 attack, Cash urged citizens to sign a petition to reinstate the 1994 federal ban on assault weapons. “If you are as sick of gun violence in this country as I am,” the country artist wrote on her Facebook page, “then let’s stop talking about it and just do ONE simple thing.”
Unfortunately, this ONE simple thing has not appeared so simple to lawmakers. The 1994 assault weapon ban was never reinstated. Assault weapon opposition does continue to grow, however, especially after so many lives were lost at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. Guitarist Caleb Keeter of Josh Abbott Band was one of the first country musicians to completely alter his stance on gun ownership in this country, after the massacre in Las Vegas (he was at the festival when the shooting occurred). “I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd amendment my entire life,” Keeter wrote on Twitter the day following the shooting. “Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was.” He added, “We need gun control RIGHT. NOW.”
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a long list of country musicians who have done a 180 on their firearms position since the massacre – but a few do seem to be distancing themselves from the NRA. On October 2nd, the artist roster on the website for NRA Country (an organization linking upcoming country artists with the NRA brand and lifestyle) shrunk from 39 names to 37 – the slots for Florida Georgia Line and Rhett Miller had suddenly vanished.
Of course, more opposition has come from musicians outside of the country bubble. Artists like Lady Gaga, John Mayer, The Chainsmokers, and Vic Mensa have all spoken out on social media, demanding gun control. Ariana Grande, who has seen her fair share of concert-targeted violence, tweeted, “My heart is breaking for Las Vegas. We need love, unity, peace, gun control & for people to look at this & call this what it is = terrorism.”
Moby posted a meme on his Instagram reading, “MAKE IT STOP” above an assault rifle graphic. Below it, the artist wrote, “How many more mass shootings will it take? How many more lives ended? How many more families destroyed? We need sane, rational, sensible #guncontrolnow. The @nationalrifleassociation and every Republican who opposes gun control has so much blood on their hands. Mass shootings are evil, passing legislation that enables them to happen even more so.”
One can only hope that players in the country music scene – the scene most affiliated with the NRA and gun ownership – will eventually put aside the political demographics of their fan base and speak out. Perhaps country artist Will Hoge put it best when he spoke to Marissa Moss for Politico Magazine:
“Will this be the thing where all of a sudden every conservative artist comes out and supports gun control? That’s an unrealistic idea,” he said. “I do think this is the point where country artists are going to have to take long hard looks in the mirror and ask, ‘What’s more important to me: maintaining success at commercial radio, or doing what’s right?’”
The well-loved songwriter passed away on Monday after suffering from cardiac arrest. He was 66, and less than a week before, gave a final interview where he discussed his recent 40th anniversary tour with The Heartbreakers, a new band he was producing, and more (read the full interview via the LA Times). Many musicians who cited him as a huge influence paid tribute to Petty, including Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes, Miley Cyrus, Wilco, Kesha,Emmylou Harris, and more.
Shooter Opens Fire on Country Music Festival in Vegas
On Sunday night, as Jason Aldean played the last few songs of his headlining gig at Las Vegas’s Route 91 Harvest Festival, a shooter opened fire from a suite at Mandalay Bay (located across the street), killing some 58 country music fans and injuring hundreds more before ending his own life. While the incident is still being investigated, the debate on gun control rages on, and many have pointed out country music’s glorification of gun culture. Some stars have spoken out despite the genre’s tendency to stay silent on political topics. Caleb Keeter of the Josh Abbott Band (which performed at the Fest earlier that afternoon), posted a heartfelt statement on his changing views surrounding gun control, while Maren Morris released “Dear Hate” the day after the shooting to benefit victims.
Last Saturday, while performing at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom, Marilyn Manson was crushed by a falling stage prop. The assailing object was not a steel cage, nor a neon pentagram, but a sculpture of two massive handguns affixed to scaffolding. Manson was rushed to the hospital with undisclosed injuries.
Though it was a frightening incident (and one that led him to eventually cancel several upcoming tour dates), the knowledge that Manson was not in critical condition allowed a bit of black humor to creep into the scenario. Not 10 days prior, Manson pulled a toy gun on The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis during an interview, and later told him that, “the Columbine era destroyed my entire career at the time.”
Manson was of course referring to the 1999 Columbine High School shooting at the hands of teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. The post-Columbine news media, eager to blame the violence on anything but America’s lax firearms policies and clueless approach toward disaffected youth, found a horned scapegoat in Manson. Countless pundits and members of the religious right made reference to his devil-worshipping ways, as well as his messages of “hate, violence, suicide, death, drug use, and Columbine-like behavior.” In the late ‘90s, Manson became an even greater pariah than he already was. If, before Columbine, his name evoked satanic orgies and platform shoes, it was now irrevocably linked with one of the most terrifying acts of gun violence in American history.
Knowing all of this, it’s hard to imagine Manson – whose wry and dark sense of humor infiltrates most of his interviews – didn’t at least smirk at the irony of two giant handguns pummeling him onstage. I must admit that after learning Manson did not suffer any serious wounds, I smirked, too. Until Sunday, that is.
The very next evening, across the nation from The Hammerstein Ballroom, a lone gunman opened fire on a country music festival in Las Vegas, murdering at least 59 people, and injuring over 500 others. I paraphrase The New Yorker journalist Adam Gopnik when I say that, the word “injured” is not commensurate with the scope of physical harm and psychological scars inflicted on those 500. Acknowledging the dead dozens doesn’t mend the phantom limbs nursed by their families.
Suddenly, one catastrophic weekend fanned the ever-burning flame of America’s gun control debate, and this time, the music world felt the heat. Country artist Rosanne Cash came forward with a powerful op-ed in the New York Times on Tuesday, imploring musicians – especially country musicians, who are so heavily burdened with the identity of the gun-toting American – to stand up against the N.R.A. and the armed culture of this nation:
“I encourage more artists in country and American roots music to end your silence,” Cash wrote. “It is no longer enough to separate yourself quietly. The laws the N.R.A. would pass are a threat to you, your fans, and to the concerts and festivals we enjoy.”
She went on, “This is a moment in American history that can’t be met with silence. According to PolitiFact, from 2005 to 2015, some 300,000 people in the US were killed by gun violence. That’s roughly the population of Pittsburgh.”
Fellow country guitarist Caleb Keeter, who was playing at the Las Vegas festival that weekend, met Cash’s challenge of squelching silence; the artist’s opinion on the second amendment is now altered forever.
“A small group (or one man) laid waste to a city with dedicated, fearless police officers desperately trying to help, because of access to an insane amount of firepower,” Keeter wrote. “Enough is enough.” In another sick twist of irony, the shooter, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, bought most of his artillery at a shop so innocuously named, “Guns & Guitars.”
One might think that the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history – as the Las Vegas massacre has now been classified – would move N.R.A. lobbyists and politicians to the same extent as Mr. Keeter. Instead, the N.R.A. is silent, and President Trump claims that the gun control conversation is, “not for now.”
But the President and the gun lobbyists weren’t at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. They didn’t spend Sunday night dodging hundreds of rounds of ammunition fired from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel by Paddock. They weren’t there to suffer the carnage, and yet they continue to uphold laws which legalize the very implements that allowed Paddock to fire so relentlessly; namely, the easily acquired bump stock, which makes rapid-fire rifles out of semi-automatic ones, and can be purchased for $99.
Considering the coincidence that Marilyn Manson was once again in the news at the same time as a domestic mass shooting (though this time, not as a scapegoat), I couldn’t help but revisit Bowling For Columbine, Michael Moore’s 2002 documentary about America’s relationship with gun violence, in which Manson is interviewed.
When Bowling For Columbine hit theaters, I was 13. It was the first time I’d seen Marilyn Manson portrayed as a human being; sitting patiently in a chair and not writhing in fake blood or riding a potbellied pig. I was struck by his intelligence – by how articulate and gentle this agent of Satan could be. When Manson sat down with Moore, he spoke of Columbine and the media’s subsequent blame game.
“The two byproducts of that whole tragedy were violence in entertainment, and gun control,” he said, “and how perfect that those were the two things that we were going to talk about in the upcoming election. And also, then we forgot about Monica Lewinsky, and then we forgot about: the President was shooting bombs overseas, and yet I’m a bad guy because I sing some rock n’ roll songs,” he continued. “And who’s the bigger influence, the President? Or Marilyn Manson?”
Manson’s 15-year-old point is particularly sharp today, as conservatives strive to foist the responsibility for Las Vegas upon anything but the true culprit: the ease with which almost any American can waltz into a Walmart, and walk out with assault rifles, ammunition, and accoutrements that were never intended to hunt deer, but rather, humans. And for what?
Ask any Libertarian, member of the N.R.A., or gun-owning uncle why they need their AK-47s and TEC-9s, and they will all say the same thing: “for self defense!” But there are many flaws in that answer. First, look at the cold, hard facts about home invasion and “self defense.” Last year, the FBI released its 2015 crime stats, which proved a 7.8% decline in burglaries nationwide. Moreover, in 2010, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released data that in only 7% of household burglaries did a household member experience some form of violent victimization. That 7% is not to be scoffed at, but it also begs a few questions: 1) wouldn’t it be more difficult for burglars to victimize household members if they too, could not readily access firearms? And 2) Does having guns in the home ever truly make you safer?
According to figures from Aftermath.com, no. From 2005-2010, almost 3,800 people in the U.S. died from unintentional shootings. Over 1,300 victims those shootings were under 25 years of age. Additionally, a 2001 study by Miller, Azrael, and Hemenway reported that regardless of age, people are significantly more likely to die from unintentional firearm injuries when they live in states with more guns, as opposed to states with fewer guns. On average, states with the highest gun levels had nine times the rate of unintentional firearms deaths compared to states with the lowest gun levels.
3,800 doesn’t seem like such a high number for a five year period…when you compare it to the 30,000 gun deaths this country witnesses annually. In 2010, 20,000 of those gun deaths were suicides – suicides committed by people who didn’t have too much trouble procuring a gun.
I wonder if gun enthusiasts could use their “self-defense” logic on the victims of Mandalay Bay: could the concertgoers have protected themselves if each and every one of them was packing? No. When someone is shooting from the 32nd floor of a high-rise building, there is nothing you can do except run and duck for cover. Shooting back would do no good from the festival grounds – the man in the tower will always have the advantage. And yet, according to the logic of a Michigan Militiaman who was interviewed early in Bowling For Columbine, Paddock’s victims were ‘neglecting their obligation to be armed.’
“It’s an American responsibility to be armed. If you’re not armed, you’re not responsible,” he said in the film, struggling to buckle his belt. “It’s your job to defend you and yours,” he continued. “If you don’t do it, you’re in dereliction of duty as an American, period.” I wonder if that Militiaman could bear to accuse the Mandalay Bay victims of being “in dereliction of duty” as Americans,” today.
To me, passing legislation that allows citizens to purchase assault weapons and their vicious accessories; passively arming millions, and silently watching this happen again, and again, and again, is far more derelict of American duty than not owning an assault rifle. Raising our children in a culture that applauds and abets the “recreational” use of firearms is far more psychologically questionable, than going to town without your guns.
When the “self defense” argument doesn’t add up, gun-loving Americans turn to the Bill of Rights. “The Second Amendment says: I have the right to bear arms!” they shout. Well friends, there’s a big fucking difference between a musket and an AR-15. The fact of the matter is, most of the weaponry sold today didn’t exist when the Bill of Rights was written in 1789, and therefore should not be protected by it.
It is a nonsensical argument veiled in false patriotism and practicality, as if these trigger-happy citizens need their M16s for Fourth of July marches and weekend pheasant hunting. Their entitled cry that it’s “my right” to own an assault rifle bears the same insipid selfishness as a teenager trying to overthrow their parent’s household rules because they just turned 18. “Yes, legally, you may be an ‘adult,’ but you’re still in my house, eating my pot roast,” that parent might say. It seems that clinging to these weapons like toys and brandishing an irrelevant emblem of “freedom,” is more important to anti-gun control lobbyists than human life.
When Bowling For Columbine was first released, the wound opened by Harris and Klebold was still fresh and bleeding. The atrocity of Americans shooting scores of innocent people seemed at the time like a societal outlier. Now, it has become the hideous norm. And while Marilyn Manson will recover from his gun-inflicted wounds, I sometimes wonder if this country ever can.
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