To celebrate his new single, Local Gay Bookstore, we caught up to discuss his favourite lost bookstore, Lambda Rising in Washington, D.C. (as well as other book shops like Outwrite in Atlanta, and the distributor Goldenrod).
Before you listen, I need to warn you – we go ALL about the houses, with a bit of a peer support session in the middle of the episode all about the trials and tribulations of being a musician!
Find out more about Eric by visiting his website.
Eric Himan 00:00
I missed these places like I miss those moments. You know when I look back at my career, and it sucks because I’m not around anymore, so let’s give them a little tribute.
K Anderson 00:12
I am K Anderson and you are listening to lost spaces, a podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode I talk to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories they created there, and the people that they’re used to know. Eric Coleman is an award winning singer songwriter, and his played shows with the likes of Barney Frank, Melissa Ferrick, and Leon Russell. To celebrate his new single local gay bookstore, we caught up to discuss his favourite last bookstore, lambda rising. I need to kind of warn you, though, that we go all around the houses with a bit of a peer support session in the middle all about the trials and tribulations of being a musician.
Eric Himan 01:26
My performing history has started in 2002. Really, when I put out my album I go on and I was actually able to start touring because I graduated from college at Penn State in 2001. I put out an album in 2000, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. And it was like a self titled thing, it was just me acoustic and I go on felt like more of a band more of a better writing in that way. And then from there, I just kept putting out an album one or two years back to back to back, and I would just start touring. And I was up in Pennsylvania. And then I would just grow further out and further out and further out. And just made touring like my number one goal. So in the end, it was it was great, because I was able to make a living meet a lot of people be very hands on and and continue to put out albums. And then I’d swing back to that town again, when I had a new album, that I felt like I was on like a circuit.
K Anderson 02:28
And so what was it say? Like in 2002? What was it like being on being a bit presumptions here? But let me finish the question. What was it like being an out musician at that time?
Eric Himan 02:41
At that time, I, I was just getting my feet wet into it. 2003, or, I think it was three, that was the first time I was in, like out magazine or advocate magazine. And that I felt was a nice introduction to being an out artist. Or as before you’re just an artist to who’s gay and like, but, but be and this is before, like the internet is really kind of what it is now. So I mean, everything was more like, Oh, he’s gay word of mouth. Like unless you were in those big national publications. You really weren’t getting. It’s not like I could just jump on on Facebook and be like, I’m gay, you know, because that wasn’t.
K Anderson 03:28
So you have to carry a sign around then.
Eric Himan 03:31
Yeah, exactly. So you kind of had to, you know, find your people and planet. So that was like playing a lot of pride. So it was in some ways, it was easy in that way. Because you’re I was younger, and like, you know, playing these songs, and I was new, and there weren’t a lot of people doing what I was doing. In some ways, it was great. Because I felt new. I felt like I was a male version of what people saw a lot of female versions of, because I’m very influenced by females more as musicians than I am men, which is a very gay stereotype. But yeah,
K Anderson 04:11
Eric Himan 04:12
But I need to Franco and Melissa Etheridge and Tracy Chapman and like, I just went down that road. So I was always thinking, I remember one time some gay man said to me, I don’t think people will listen to you. Like gay men just like dance music. Like, well, the gay men that I know, like have dance music, but they’re all listening to like Tori Amos and Tracy Chapman. Like they also have that part of their music collection. So I’m gonna appeal to that. But then I would go play prides and some of them would be great because of the novelty of what I was. And there weren’t many people doing it like I remember getting compared a lot to Rufus Wainwright in the very beginning, but but only because we both were out gay people. It wasn’t we don’t sound anything alike. I was playing guitar, he plays piano. I mean, we were very different. But people will lump us together every once in a while and articles and stuff. So it was, it was getting on a stage at pride in a negative way, when they would be like, well, you’re not a drag queen. And you’re not a lesbian singer songwriter. So they were like, where do we put you? And it was really like, I mean, in price still are kind of like that. Now, even with Ru Paul’s Drag Race being as big as it is. It’s like, it’s, we’re back to that. It’s like, oh, women, you know,
K Anderson 05:38
yeah, yeah, this is, but this is exactly my experience. It was always like, oh, the acoustic stage is women only. So we don’t have anywhere for you to go.
Eric Himan 05:50
And you would think that would be different, because there’s so many of us. Like I can, I don’t know, there’s so many, but I can name a tonne of them. But I, I struggled with that. And I felt like I had to kind of push and be like, well, I’m that guy. And I’m gonna get like, you know, attention for being that kind of guy. Like I’m gay. But I’m a singer, songwriter, and I’m an artist who happens to be gay. My music isn’t gay, but I’m gay. And then gay media would just be like, I remember one time, I was doing a photo shoot for a magazine, I can’t remember. It was like one that’s probably not around anymore. It was like one of those magazines. There’s like a tonne of them at a time that was like, DNA and genre and like, one of them. And they set up a photoshoot. And I was like, Oh, great. Now my guitar. And then the guy’s like, you know, picture picture picture. Okay, let’s guitar and then I’m just standing there. I’m not. I’m not I’m such a reluctant artist. I’m not a I’m not a showy offi artist. I’m not a if I didn’t have to do music videos to get attention or be visible, I probably wouldn’t be. But it’s just this constant. You Well, you have to, oh, well, if you want attention, if you want people to show up to shows you got to do this. So we’re taking the picture. And eventually he goes, Okay, now take off your shirt. And I was like, No, I’m not. I’m not doing that. Because I knew the minute you do that, it’s not about the music anymore. It’s about this. And I resisted that and resisted that and resisted that. And, and then I would watch other people do all that crap and and get a lot of attention for it. And it was always a struggle, because it’s like, well, it looks like you know, they’re getting all the audience you know, from that. And that was always very hard to not buy into that. Yeah, and, and always try to stick with the lesbians, but the lesbians would, every once in a while, they’d be like, you’re not a lesbian. You know, and that was hard because
K Anderson 08:01
oh, no, lesbians never say things like,
Eric Himan 08:05
Well, I was open for like Melissa ferrick. And I would open for, like, all of these women, you know, and their audience would be like, dude, get off the stage. Like, you know, not so a lot so openly. But like it was I knew I was playing to an audience that wanted something a little bit different. But it was very hard to build that audience of men in that same kind of way. And it not be about sex, the physicality and set Yeah, and I just wasn’t that I was. I’ve always written my songs, just like any artist that’s trying to tell a story.
K Anderson 08:45
And so did you make like so I know that it doesn’t, it’s not really that common now. But I know that in the mid noughties for me, there were lots of friends I had who made the conscious decision not to be an out musician, because I didn’t want to be defined by that. Did you have any kind of tussle with that?
Eric Himan 09:04
Um, now because I was so so excited and glow and like, I was so happy with what when artists were out and what I got from that, like that i there was no other way to do it. And I felt like you know, playing any kind of game as to hiding it or anything like that was just so much effort in a dishonest way. And it was hard to be this earnest. You know, I’m telling my truth and hoping to have a dialogue with people via song and then not include that. Like it felt. It felt very like I’m tricking you. I mean, it’s hilarious right now I’m on Tick tock, which is garbage.
K Anderson 09:54
Eric Himan 09:56
That’s my opinion. and friend of mine was like, oh, there’s a lot of music people on You should really get on there. And I resisted and resisted and then the pandemic happened. I’m like, Alright, well, I got nothing to do. I’m going to see how this works. And then I got on there. And it was like, of course, I’m not posting any videos of me half naked, and I’m not doing anything necessarily overtly gay. I guess you could say, I’m not on there reading people or, you know, doing anything. overtly gay. So my audience because I’m just putting music out is like, 75% women. And then even today, I thought, oh, maybe I should do a post about being gay. And I don’t even think that like, I don’t know if that’s really coming through. I just thought that was kind of funny that like, when I would play shows and, and that’d be such a moniker like, here comes gay singer songwriter Eric Simon. I mean, I was always I struggled with why do we need to put the word gay in front of it. But I was never about, like, deleting that part of who I was in my songs. And obviously, who I’m speaking about and what my story is. Yeah. But I would get advice from industry people saying you shouldn’t have done that. Oh, really? Oh, yeah. Like, like, I would, like I’d be, you know, playing an event. And someone would be like, Oh, this is a showcase for a record label that I’m sure they’re not looking for anybody gay. With Yeah, like, Oh, you should play pride, not this festival. Like there was a, like, this is what gay men do. So you know, you should be doing this. Like, I would get a lot of unsolicited advice. As to, you know, there’s a reason all these older people came out after, you know, their careers were so big. You know, there’s not a lot of people who would who went in like that.
K Anderson 12:03
Yeah, I mean, my experience was, I had the same kind of advice that people were giving, like, maybe just like, don’t say what the person’s gender is in the song, maybe just say they, like just, you know, just don’t like don’t make it a big deal. Don’t make it a focus. And then I’d be like, but the whole like, as soon as I start talking in between songs, people are going to know what the fuck is the boy? In pretend
Eric Himan 12:29
Yeah. And they would be in as much as they’re not expecting you to be gay. They’re also not expecting you to not be talking about your life.
K Anderson 12:39
Eric Himan 12:40
And they are mission of a woman would be pretty apparent after a while when you write songs about trying to find love in a world where you’re not getting it or dealing with coming out and people not liking it, or your family kicking you out. Or, you know, so I just inundated myself in in gay media and the gay world. Because I felt like I had a voice in it. Yeah. And then I watched it completely take a 180 Oh, you know, just been interesting. Where I don’t feel like I mean, gay media started to kind of shut off, the more progressive we got. It’s like somebody turned down gay media as volume.
K Anderson 13:25
I know what I mean, elaborate.
Eric Himan 13:29
I feel and this kind of goes in with the bookstore thing too, is because I feel like as we got more progressive, people didn’t feel they needed to go to gay bars to be seen and to be out. And we now we have like, all these apps that people can be gay, no matter where you are, to find somebody, you don’t have to actually be in a club. So then gay clubs start hurting and straight people start going to them like bachelorette parties and stuff. Then gay men are getting mad, like, What are all these women doing in my my gay club, and then I watched gay print media disappear, like one by one. Like, you know, we don’t need this many magazines are like, Oh, we don’t need a weekly gay rag. You know, this town, and they start finding like it harder and harder to support themselves with advertising. Oh, people don’t really need to know that you’re gay. Like, like, we’re over that. Why do you have to define yourself by your sexuality? Why is your sexuality a personality, which is hilarious to go from like gay singer songwriter to now like that gay parts gone, and I didn’t take it away. It went away. And then you put into the bookstore, you know, element and they start all going out of business because people don’t feel like they have to go into a space and be inundated with LGBT artists and books and and they can access all this stuff, in their own privacy in their own time. And they and that element of culture starts to disappear. But we aren’t we past this point where we really need these places.
K Anderson 15:05
Yeah. But so it’s not that media has become so streamlined in what it’s representing that it no longer has space for other voices. That’s not what you’re trying to say.
Eric Himan 15:18
No, but but there is an element of what I feel like LGBT media is now because all of those smaller elements are kind of disappearing. All now you have all the big ones. And big ones are focused on big. So like, if they have an opportunity to feature a young, unknown person, or Kim Kardashian, gay best friend, you know
K Anderson 15:46
what I mean? Or a straight A straight person who signed to a major label, but it’s trying to appeal to that market? Oh, yes. Yeah.
Eric Himan 15:53
And I feel that now more than ever.
K Anderson 15:58
Yeah. So let’s, let’s talk then about touring to at the top of the conversation, you, you were talking about how you were building your career by touring and going to different venues. And some of those venues happened to be queer bookshops, one of which we’re going to talk about today, which is lambda rising. Before we get onto that, though, I think it might be worth talking about the kind of coffee shop scene in America, because I don’t think it’s very common in other parts of the world. There’s probably not that much to explain. Other than there, there are lots of venues where people perform in coffee shops, rather than pubs. I think it’s an American thing. Like here, there’s, I mean, it’s maybe more common now. But most gigs for singer songwriters would be in pubs, rather than in coffee shops, and most would be in the evening rather than the den.
Eric Himan 16:54
I’m not a coffee shop singer. I am a pub, like bar singer. I have a I loved having a big voice. I like playing a lot of covers, you know, amongst writing my own stuff, because I I just love music. And there’s something fun about like, how people try on clothes. Like I like trying on songs. You know, like to play a hollow note song is like, Oh, I wonder what I’d sound like doing a hollowed out song. Like, oh, I wonder what that sound like doing a Katy Perry song. You know, like, it was always fun to do these things. And then to to have this immediate instant opportunity to do that that night. And to get an immediate reaction. That’s why I love live performing more than I like recording any time is because it’s so instantaneous. It’s like, you’re on do this, try this, you know, and you’re just it’s just a very quick back and forth. Whereas like, you know, social media and being online and recording is like a very delayed process. But coffee shops whenever it was a necessary evil, it’s like Oh, are you an acoustic artist? singing and playing acoustic guitar? Well, you belong here. No, I belong there.
K Anderson 18:13
That’s like the total opposite of what that what my preferences? I’m like, Everybody sit down. Everybody Be quiet. I’m gonna tell you a story. But you prefer that kind of cutting through the noise?
Eric Himan 18:25
Oh, yes. It feels like it’s the chase. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It’s the game of like, how good am I? Well, let’s see. Let’s see if I can cut through all this. Yeah, yes, noise and get people to pay attention to me. And that was always the fun of playing in, like in bars. And I was playing gay bars. And I was playing dance club bars where they like, you know, take the record off. And they’re like, go, Oh, my God. It was such a fun challenge for people to have to listen to me. You know, or their turn off a TV behind you. And it’s like, go like that was for me a challenge. I anticipated sitting in a coffee shop. While people are not there for you initially. And having them kind of just sit and listen and and trying to keep everybody quiet. At or worse. It’s like too quiet. And are you guys bored? You know, Am I boring you with this? I
K Anderson 19:27
bet so hey on. We were about to talk about a coffee shop type situation out me.
Eric Himan 19:33
Yeah, a lot of the bookstores where that coffee shop kind of atmosphere. But but it was a little better than that opportunity of just playing your average coffee shop. Because you know those bookstores. You’re right they did have a coffee shop vibe, but they weren’t coffee shops and the fact that people were in there because they were desperate for, I think to be surrounded by culture. To be surrounded by something that they didn’t get to live in their, you know, every day of their life, which they probably wanted to, there’s an acceptance and being in that space, it was a comfortable warm space. And here you are as an artist coming in there, which a lot of artists didn’t do, you know, coming in there and bringing your thoughts and opinions, and they can be open about their thoughts and opinions. Maybe they couldn’t be that way at work. Maybe they couldn’t be even that way their own home. You know, but this was a space where you could be as open and loud. And, and, and I love that I love the buzzing of that coffee shop was like a stark version of that. It was like I would used to they were open mic nights in Philadelphia that I used to play at this place called a point that got its fame from having artists like Bruce Springsteen and Bonnie Raitt. And all these people played there when they were just starting out. And they would have this open mic night, and I would go and I try to get on so that I could play a show there. And I remember just it was the idea of of like, let everybody be quiet. But then them themselves, you know them themselves out there. The people that were putting it on were like, Well, you know, I mean, like, they’re the ones making all the noise. And you you’re playing a very quiet like, you know, you’re playing a very quiet song, we’re just like, and and then they’re the ones going. Okay, how much is that going to be? So, I
K Anderson 21:37
Oh, yeah, cuz that’s the other thing when you play in a coffee shop, and you’re in the middle of a song, and then the coffee machine starts.
Eric Himan 21:46
That’s all you’re hearing is sound is the steaming of the milk. And then you’re hearing them tap out the the thing on the espresso, and they’re making all this noise and, and then it’s this idea that, oh, you should be grateful you have an opportunity to perform your music in this place. And, and then I would be always be too loud for those places. Okay. Whereas when you played in a gay bookstore, you were the special event. When you’re playing in a coffee shop. You’re just atmosphere.
K Anderson 22:18
Okay. Okay, so thankfully, that’s not what’s happening. That’s not what we’re talking about. today. We’re talking about lambda rising, where you got to have a raucous good time. Oh, yes. Do you remember the first time you went there?
Eric Himan 22:31
I remembers probably 2003 or four. I was I would play in DC because I was in Pennsylvania. And lambda was in DC, right off Dupont Circle if I remember. And it was a very overtly, like, gay neighbourhood by DuPont Circle was the gay, you know, area of DC, like the Castro was the gay area of San Francisco. And it was just a really awesome vibe. You know, like walking around like Santa Monica and LA, or, you know, West Hollywood, their areas that just like somehow made you feel like you weren’t, like you fit. And this was made for you, in a way that like, that’s how lambda rising felt. And I was playing all there’s like a few other lambda. There’s another lambda rising in Virginia. I think it’s like a chain. But I just remember going in there and seeing like, DVDs of movies I didn’t know existed that were based on gay male relationships, and, and musicians and music that was done by artists like Katy laying. And, you know, I don’t know, I think it was like, Oh, this isn’t just a porn store. Because I felt like a lot of times gay bookstore. And believe me since I came out with this song. It’s hilarious. How many people equate gay bookstore to porn? Like, no, I wasn’t writing about a porn, gay bookstore. I was writing about a gay bookstore. But yeah, I mean, that was in there, of course. And that was a part of some of it. And it was provocative. But it was, but it wasn’t all of it. And it was it was sometimes it was a very small, if not there at all, because I remember there were a lot of lesbian owned gay bookstores, like there was one in Indianapolis, where it like, you know, didn’t have any of that element of porn or anything like that. And there’s even a portlandia which I don’t know if you’re familiar with that series. I think there’s a there’s two characters in there that were like two women running a, like a lesbian bookstore. And it was at some of it was just really like that, you know, it was like women running a place that they felt like was about women’s opinions and women like it’s very women centric, because there there aren’t those places you know, that aren’t You know, may the places that were made for women were like, gyms,
you know, was that you know
Eric Himan 25:08
what I mean? It wasn’t the women centric places, especially lesbian women centric, where the bookstores and the people that carried my music, through a lot of those bookstores, the distributor was golden rod. And golden rod was an LGBT specific one where people would send their albums, and then they would plant them in all the gay bookstores. Ah, so now it was run by women and predominantly women were the ones featured in that I remember what my rep for that was like, Oh, this isn’t dance music. Nope, stick it with Ani, stick it with Melissa. Like sticking with all those women playing guitar. So a lot of my beginning and being in lambda with my actual CDs was because of goldenrod.
K Anderson 26:03
And so so it was the first time there a gig.
Eric Himan 26:07
No, first time there was just going in there. I think I was gigging at a club called like, like I Oda. And that was one of my first gigs in DC. And I remember going from there going to lambda rising, and ended up buying, like, I don’t even see it. This is that this one? This picture right here.
K Anderson 26:29
Eric Himan 26:32
Yeah, like this, this one right here. And it says, without music life would not be fair. Like written on a brick wall. And I remember buying that Atlanta rise in the very first time I was there, because I thought, oh, wow, like, there’s art in here, which was something that I left out, you know, in saying like what these bookstores had, but a lot of them had art. And it wasn’t just like, you know, pornographic art. It was legitimate art by gay artists. And it was some of them, you know, all of them were independently owned. But lambda rising was one where I felt like it was so classy. And, and it was like art by gay people, music by gay people. Like, all of these things came from somebody who’s just like you, and when you’re looking for that kind of representation in your life, when you’re not surrounded by a growing up. And I mean, we I didn’t know anybody that was gay growing up, and people just weren’t gay in your house when you were growing up, or in your neighbourhood, or anybody said anything. Gay was something that you did when you left. You know? Yeah, yeah. So to see to see all of this come from someone that shared this, this thing about you was so exciting to me.
K Anderson 27:49
Yeah. It’s almost overwhelming, though, isn’t it? Like so much content that you didn’t know existed? Is you’re just faced with it all at one, one go?
Eric Himan 27:59
Yeah. And that was an thing about that. That was like 2003 2004. So I mean, 2020 is like, yeah, there’s so much of it. It’s not even like, it’s not something you could fit in, like 100 stores. But at that time, I felt like, it was still a very burgeoning thing, you know, to be carried in a store like that. And there weren’t that many Arthur authors that would travel around and talk about gay books that they had written, gay themed books they had written and there wasn’t a lot of artists that were running around saying, like, I’m an artist, hmm, you know, and travelling around, like, the internet was not nearly what it what it is now. And the and the ability to not be able to just have to go somewhere to see someone. I mean, I kind of long for that a little bit still, is that older way of like, you had to experience stuff fully, and sometimes only in one way.
K Anderson 29:07
What do you mean, like you had to make an effort?
Eric Himan 29:10
Yeah, I mean, the common de piece to that is like, you make an album, right? Like, you’re you just put all these songs on something, you make an album and you you’re putting it out, you don’t have to even physically put it out. It exists without it being like a physical CD or an album. And then you think to yourself, should I put it on Spotify? Or should I just make it available on my website? Well, sorry, my friend, but like, people would say to me, no one’s going to hunt you down as a beginner person just finding you on on your website. Now, you’re going to have you’re gonna have to be on all these platforms or else people will not find you. And and there was a time where people had to seek you out to find you. And, and I guess I missed that. Like no one takes the effort. I think it’s much harder to get people to take that effort of like, Oh, well, I’m gonna have to go to his website to get his album because I can’t get it anywhere else. And it’s such a risk, you know?
K Anderson 30:15
Oh, yeah, well, that was the thing, isn’t it like that commitment you would make from buying a CD? of like, well, I don’t know what any of these songs sound like, I’ve heard one thing on the radio, and I kinda liked it. I don’t remember the tune, but I know, I kind of liked it. And I’m gonna spend 10 pounds on this, which is dirty water anymore? No,
Eric Himan 30:39
you have to you don’t have to make any commitment. In fact, if you’re not on Apple Music, or Spotify, which are to me, also, because you’re not you’re a performer, but you’re also a listener. So it’s like how you consume music, it can be completely different as to how you produce it and put it out. Like, I’m making CDs, like, or I’ve made CDs, I’m kind of done with it now. But I made last year I made was, I think last year, I put out my contenders album. And I did it through one of the, you know, crowdfunding things. And so I had to have a physicality to it, to put it out. And it’s like, I don’t have a CD player. You know, because I just don’t have one. So to me, that’s the ironic part about how you consume music is so different sometimes then how you want to see it produced to put it out. And, and the way that you have to put it on all these platforms is like people will not seek you out. And people will. You can only ask people to do so much because buying a song as is not even a thing. Yeah, yeah. People don’t even have to buy a song anymore. Yeah, I don’t like I, you know, I somebody pops up on in the world, I go to iTunes, and I’m like, oh, who is this person or Apple Music. I don’t have to pay for it. I don’t have I just consume it. And I walk away the value of that music, I think, and all of this stuff has made music so and valuable. And so even live music to be kind of invaluable. Unless you’re in like this world. You know what I mean? Unless you’re big. There used to be that 2002 to 2008. I felt like, people were like, I don’t even care if you’re big. Like this is where I want to see people, I want to discover people, I want to find people like I want you to be my artist, and you help define my taste in music. And that was exciting, because people were looking for new newness. And now it’s like, people aren’t. People are getting that so much and so saturated, and it’s so free. They don’t pay for crap, that I think they’re like, this is boring, I need to I’m only listening to this, because this is valuable. So I struggle a lot with that.
K Anderson 33:06
It’s a tough one. Because like, you know, at the same time, you are able to reach more people through Spotify and Apple Music like people that you would never have been able to reach. Like I totally get what you’re saying and that that those
Eric Himan 33:21
interactions to me are not as valuable as as I feel like somebody who would take the time to do a little bit more. I watched some guy complain on tik tok. Because again, I’m kind of figuring out how this works for musicians. It’s one guy’s like, I have a he’s kind of mad. So young guy had like a, an okay voice. He’s like a cute guy. So a lot of I think, and he was just doing wedding stuff. He’s like, sing with me. You know what I mean? And it wasn’t anything striking or anything. It was just, he was consistently, like, nice looking. And he was also on Spotify. And he guess he had stuff on other platforms. But he was mad. And he’s like, Okay, you guys, like I have 100 likes because they put the picture of themselves behind them of their pages, is like I have 100,000 followers on this app on tik tok. But I only have 200 views on Spotify. And I only have this many Instagram, which was like 4000 Instagram followers is like, I don’t understand 100,000 and then nothing. So that to me is like how people consume music. Like he couldn’t get people into his own music using these platforms because people are just shuffling.
K Anderson 34:38
Yeah, but I mean, that kind of takes takes us back to that conversation about showing your chest. Yeah, in the Yeah, you might get people’s attention and you might get them to, you know, follow you or whatever but it’s not doesn’t mean that they’re going to engage with your music or give a shit about you.
Eric Himan 34:58
I think at that time, like of Lambda rising. And when I was playing a lot of gay bookstores, there was also my space. And the joy about my, well, it’s honestly the joy about my space was that it was, there was a platform that was really built Well, for musicians. That wasn’t about music videos. And it wasn’t it was you had to listen to people. Like, I remember on it, you had four tracks, as a music page, you had four tracks, and that was it, there was nothing else anybody really got from you, other than a picture, and four tracks. And people had to sit there and listen to it and go like, Oh, actually, this is good. Whereas now it’s all everything. I mean, Instagram is terrible for musicians, you know, because it’s all, mainly picture based. Here I am playing a big show, what does it sound like? Who the hell knows? You know, it’s all and everybody has their own bias. So everybody is like, positioning themselves to look like they’re all doing a lot better than they actually are. But you’re the one who’s holding the camera. And if you’re like, pointing it, like pointing it behind a crowd picture. And it looks like you’re standing in front of a crowd, people will go, Oh, you’re standing in front of a crowd. And you’re really not. Whereas like, my space was like, This is what you sound like, and
K Anderson 36:18
it is what it is. And he is how you’ve chosen to customise the background of your page. And here’s
Eric Himan 36:25
the, this small parameters of that. May, it was was almost easier than the vastness of Yeah, tick tock and things like that now, because it’s just all it’s coming at you also fast and I think my space was really built. Well, Facebook is not really built well for that.
K Anderson 36:47
Yeah. I think yeah, I mean, I think the bigger issue is this, like, the contradiction of people’s need, or just like, purported desire for authenticity, without then also recognising that that’s actually really boring. And also like the council council culture existing. So there’s this, like, you need to be authentic, but you need to also do it within the parameters that we’re setting for you. Exactly. You can’t be you can’t be a flawed human being you have to be open and honest. But not. But not.
Eric Himan 37:28
Yeah. Yeah. And, and tick tock and I mean, more specifically, to that. It’s so funny to, to see, like, playing those gay bookstores, you had, like, this person was like, in your face, and you’re like, I’m Eric, and this person’s like, I’m Greg. And you’re like, Greg, I’ll see you next time I come back, get on my mailing list, you know, like, there was this interaction. And now it’s so funny to me. When I see some buddy on tik tok talk about their hundreds of 1000s of followers, and this recent element of ever getting banned in America, you know, because of the President. So of course, the day that came out, you know, you’re on tik tok, and every other video is somebody being like, Oh my god, you guys, I just want to say like, I love all like 100,000 of you. And like, you really mean so much to me. And this platform is going away. And this has really made a big difference in my life. And and tik tok followers versus like, my space or Facebook is even more faceless. Like, it’s even more, there’s so many people that are like, this is their picture. And you’re like, what are you and they have no videos or whatever. But I mean, it’s so it’s just so inauthentic. You know that it’s like you’re saying it’s so funny to be everybody has to be perceived as like, this is the real me, take me or leave me. And then and then those interactions that they’re looking for are just just as empty, you know, as the expectations that they place on them. I don’t know. I could talk about that forever.
K Anderson 39:04
Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s
Eric Himan 39:07
like the world is going like it’s like, people doing double dutch, like the jump rope double dutch. And, you know, and you’re like, that’s how I feel now about every time I go back to music, and try to put it out or try to do something. I mean, even with the gay bookstore song, it’s like, I feel like I’m doing this weird game of double dutch where I’m like, do I jump in now? Okay, I’ll wait. I do jump in now. And and, and it’s just getting faster and faster, the older I get.
K Anderson 39:35
Yeah. And so what are you jumping into?
Eric Himan 39:38
media, okay, like jumping into, into putting yourself out there, you know, in a way that that you know, is authentic. And that you’re trying to put your music into, into this very fast saturated. This ain’t gonna stop for you. So you better figure out when to jump. And if you jump in correctly and fall, that’s gonna keep going as if you never jumped in at all. Yeah.
K Anderson 40:08
Yeah. And I know like, it’s, it’s a weird thing to say as a singer songwriter who is obsessed with talking about themselves. But it’s it’s hard to talk about yourself on social media without sounding like a prat.
Eric Himan 40:24
Oh, completely. But but then it’s, it’s funny to watch all of these people on tik tok and all these apps, especially again, especially Tick tock, it just boggles me because it’s like, none of you have an agenda. None of you have business like none of you have, there’s no art, you’re pimping out, you’re not a painter. There are people who do that kind of stuff. But the majority that I see is like, they’re just your average person living their life trying to get famous. Hmm. And, and that is youth culture. Right now. I had, I mean, I had a 16 year old, you know who’s now 21. And that 16 year old was trying to do it before tik tok on YouTube. like YouTube was the I’m going to be famous, oh my god, my followers, like, like, I need to, I need to speak to my fans. And you are not doing anything, artistically. outputting you know what I mean, you’re not, you’re not putting out anything. It’s just you blabbering on about your, your, you know, your opinions. And if you can spin that into a business, you know, where you’re making shirts that say you’re stupid things on it, like, awesome. But for me, I just laughed, because where people, those used to be the musicians, those used to be the artists, those used to be people who, who made and produced and did stuff. And now it’s just people regurgitating other people’s content as if it was their own, pretending to say something that someone else said from a movie. And a funny little way. They’re not trying to be comedians in real life. Everybody’s just using it as its fun little thing, that now they’re getting obsessed with how many numbers you have, and how many people are your fans? I hate that word.
K Anderson 42:18
Yeah. I mean, I would say like, I know, we’re just totally slagging the whole thing off, but it is an art form in itself, like that. I was gonna say vapid ness, but that makes it seem like I’m not being sincere. That there is there is an art form into creating like a meaningless content.
Eric Himan 42:42
There is there’s an art form to being successful at getting people to look at you. Yeah, yeah. Like, and, but sometimes I feel people, most people on things like that have to reduce themselves to the lowest common denominator, which is very taking off your clothes. Yeah, in some kind of way. In order to, to get that. Yeah. And if you, um, and that and going back to the gay bookstore thing. And the gay media, I felt like that was what was to be expected of me. And at that time playing those bookstores, especially when they were less about that and more about community. That was what made them so special to me, and why I wrote a song about how much I miss them, you know, is because I was on tik tok, because I was on all these things, and I am watching gay media just kind of shy away from, from whatever that once was. And then those places to one by one just vanish overnight. to like, they’re almost all of them are gone. To me is like, I know, it dates me as an older person to be putting out music talking about something that was also dying out. But I felt like this is this is meaningful, this is authentic. This is this is showing an homage to, to the not only the people that went there, but the people that ran them, and most of them had to probably lose their, their hat on it. Because, you know, you just wait it out and wait it out and wait it out. And then all of a sudden, it’s like, okay, can’t wait it out anymore. We have to close and just see that happen to, you know, places like that. Also, based on how people consume books just as much as they consume music, where bookstores were like, independent bookstores were like a dying thing in general, let alone these specialty gay bookstores.
K Anderson 44:42
So there’s like that extra element. Isn’t there that extra layer that lots of the owners would have felt that pressure because it wasn’t just a business. It was a community help?
K Anderson 44:54
Okay. So let’s talk about lambda, because we’re going all over the place. Can you describe the layout to me?
Eric Himan 45:02
Oh, yeah, I remember it being kind of, like, a, almost like a record store, like long way like that, you know, with different shells and stuff. And it was not a very big place. But it was a very community place. And that’s why it stuck out to me and why I mentioned it in the song is because every time I would go to DC, I would stop in there. You know, because it was like, it was it was a very concentrated version of what other bookstores were, it was a smaller space, but yet, it seemed to have, I don’t know, better selection of gay art and, you know, musicians and DVDs and like they seem to have whoever was doing all of their curating seemed to have a really good pulse on what was new, they also kept a lot of the magazines in there of like, the local magazines like Metro weekly, which I was featured in a few different times. So you would, you know, I’d go to DC before I played no matter where it was, even if it was there. And I look at Metro weekly to see how it was like listed, you know, my show that was playing, and if people were, it was like a very community, check in like, Oh, good, I’m in I’m here. Like, I’m going to go there first and say hi to everybody.
Eric Himan 46:25
You know, and I don’t think you got that in many cities, especially as you got more in deep into the country in the middle, like where I’m at right now, I don’t think you necessarily got that potency of a community, it was very sparse. You know, like, in some ways, I loved playing small town gay places. Because people were so desperate for like, something that when you came, it was an event, there weren’t many of them, but they really treated you awesome, because they were like, thank you for coming to, you know, bumblefuck, whatever, you know. And, and in the bigger cities, you know, people saw a little bit more gay life, and they didn’t feel like it was such a odd, you know, small commodity that they had to grasp. But because there was so many of them, like in DC, you’re like, Oh, I’m going to play for an audience of people who are really going to get this because there’s a lot of people here. Yeah, you know, the same wavelength. Yeah. So talk to me then about what a gig at lambda rising was, like, if I remember correctly, it was like, in the back. I’m dating myself, because I feel like, in my mind, I hate to say, you know, because a lot of these places, I can’t just pull up and look at it inside. It’s like a lot of them have blended in my brain to be to take on characteristics of each other. Like, I have to think like, you don’t I mean, like I’m thinking of Atlanta. And then I have to remind myself, Oh, no, that was the place in Atlanta Milwaukee. Because if you think about it, it’s like there they were, like almost like little Walmart’s like, they’re all selling the same kind of stuff. So it’s like I see rainbow flags. And I’m like, Oh, wait, which one was that? Which one was the one that the flags on the side, I wish almost the one that had the books over here and not over here. Because they all they all carry the same stuff. You know what I mean? So I remember just being very long ways like that. And they had a really big window out front, again, wasn’t a very big place. But it was potent, like I said, and so you, when you performed there, what was it like? Just exciting to just be able to be amongst that community, you know, just like, like a lot of them it was just an opportunity to, you know, to be a part of the culture and not necessarily be staring at it. You know, feeling a disconnect, like people cared about your opinions. people cared about what you were writing about. And what I would do is set listen in a place like that gave you know bookstore, like I was so particular as to what I wanted my message to be. It wasn’t necessarily about Oh, what song is the catchiest? It was like, What song is talking about what people are in here talking about? You know, what songs Can I play in here that other places I don’t feel? I feel a sense of like, Oh, crap, this is really gonna. I’m the one that has to walk out of this bar alone. Tonight, is someone going to follow me? Is somebody gonna beat me up like all my, my parents worries about me going and playing gay clubs or gay spaces, was like, Oh, well, be careful because after you’re done playing, somebody could bang you over the head while you’re putting your guitar in your car in the middle of the night. You know, that’s how things were back, there is still like that, you know, as people are still getting beat up and, and, and taken out, you know, after walking home or, or doing things, but I just remember that was your opportunity to play the songs and feature them in a way that you didn’t get to feature them in other spaces because people might perceive them differently.
K Anderson 50:30
Yeah, you know,
Eric Himan 50:32
I would be playing like a bar pub or something. And people like I’d have a table of people who are like, all into it. And you could tell they’re straight, you know, group, you know, so that it was always weird to be like, Oh, I’m winning them over. I’m winning them over. Until I ostracise myself right now, by playing by playing something I know, I don’t have to play. Yeah, and I would test that all the time. You know, but, but those gay bookstores were like, this is my chance to feature something. And a part of me that that doesn’t get to see the light of day as much, you know, lambda and outright and all these other different bookstores.
K Anderson 51:14
Yeah. And the chance to talk about the the background to this song without then having to send to yourself as well.
Eric Himan 51:23
Oh, yeah. That like you’re This is about my husband. This is and before even he was my husband, like, you know, we got married. Yesterday was our eight year wedding anniversary. Wow. I know, can you believe that that gay people were able to get and that’s, that’s illegal. By the way. Eight years was illegal in this country. We had to get married again, two years after that, for it to be legal. So we’re legally married six years, illegally married eight years.
K Anderson 51:51
Oh, so where did you get married?
Eric Himan 51:53
We got married here in Tulsa at the Tulsa garden centre. And, and I think we just hit a point where we’re like, this is ridiculous. Like, we need to do something to show everybody that this is where we’re at in this, you know, and that, you know, even though it’s not legal, you know, we’re showing everybody around us that this is important to us. Okay.
K Anderson 52:19
Do Do you remember hearing about lambda rising? closing?
Eric Himan 52:24
Yes, I remember, every time you would go to a different city, like you would hear about, you know, oh, that’s not doing so well. Or Oh, you know, it looks like that’s not here. But I remember there were times where I think it was lambda ryza lambda rising, you’d go past there. And it wouldn’t it just vanished. Mm hmm. You know, that happened quite a bit where like, wasn’t, didn’t This used to be. And then it’s like, sorry, they went out of business. And it was, you know, and then I remember golden rods saying like, and then they went out of business, like the distributor wasn’t making a lot of money on in the stores, just as much as the store owners weren’t making that much money on the product. So when the distributor kind of folded, like golden rod did and sold everything. I mean, now that with where were they going to get their stuff? So then, you know, following suit, they kind of all started to fall apart and dominoes. Yeah, I’d love to see a flourishing of that come back that vibe, come back, especially to DC. You know, I just remember that time period, and it’s kind of that place sticks. And in my mind when I look back on on LGBT rights and LGBT progressiveness, and that we felt like we were moving and we were fighting against something, but we were all doing it together. Like I I really look back when I think about lambda rising, I think about that vibe. And then in a store wasn’t just a place that had a bunch of things in it. It was these stores, especially lambda rising, like there was something living and breathing in there. And it was exciting to be in a place that that was what now I think we kind of take for granted and live online with like, you know, you it doesn’t it’s not as as rich of an experience the way people go back and listen to vinyl music, which they don’t have to do. And vinyl felt kind of dated. But if you listen to vinyl the way people who really love vinyl listen to vinyl, and mp3 sounds like crap. You know, like your it misses. It dumbs it down, and you miss so much that you didn’t realise was in there. The way that when you listen to vinyl, that you hear texture, you hear elements to it, things move in a better way. There’s like a a sonic piece to it that wasn’t there before and an mp3. And yes, mp3 is are great because you can travel quickly with them. And they they they suffice in ways that don’t have anything to do with music, generally. But I feel the same way about these bookstores like lambda rising the way I feel about vinyl. Like, yeah, it’s it’s a little harder to get. It’s a bit outdated. There’s quicker ways to do things. There’s quicker way to buy things. But the feeling and the the richness of that experience can only be felt by by going back to things like that.
K Anderson 55:42
Did you ever go to lambda rising?
K Anderson 55:46
if you did, I would love to hear from you. Tell me your stories and share any photos or anecdotes that you might have. From that time. You can reach me on all social media platforms with the user handle K Anderson music. And you can also find out more about Eric at Eric hyman.com. And depending on when you listen to this, he may or may not still be using tik tok without spaces is not only a podcast, but a concept record as well. I’ve been writing songs about queer venues and the people who used to live their lives there. And we’ll be releasing songs over the coming year. You can hear the first single well groomed boys which is also playing underneath my talking right now on all streaming platforms. If you liked this episode, I’d really appreciate if you subscribed, left a review on Apple podcasts or just told people who you think might be interested in hearing about it too. I am K Anderson and you’ve been listening to lost spaces.