Frequently asked questions
Hello! We have found that several common questions regularly come up in the course of our conversations about our band. We've compiled the answers to those here.
Who is in Sarah and the Safe Word? How does the band identify?
Sarah and the Safe Word is a rock band from Atlanta, GA comprised of Sarah Rose (vocals), Kienan Dietrich (guitar, vocals), Beth Ballinger (keys, vocals), and Maddox Reksten (bass, vocals).
Sarah is openly nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns. Maddox is an openly transgender man who uses he/him pronouns. The rest of the band identifies, in varying shades, as members of the queer community.
We are careful to distinguish that while we are a band comprised of queer people and we will always be passionately vocal about the progression of queer rights, that is not the only focal point of our music we want people to fixate on.
Are Sarah or Maddox willing to go into detail about the specifics of their transitions?
We're happy to answer any question within reason, but would kindly remind you that we are a rock band - not an educational organization or resource regarding transitional care. We also believe that the process of discovering and affirming gender is one that is not contingent on any medical procedure or process. Additionally, we believe it is not the sole responsibility of any member of a marginalized community to educate people.
The National Center for Transgender Equality has an excellent resource of frequently asked questions regarding transgender people available here.
How did Sarah and the Safe Word start?
Our vocalist Sarah Rose and our guitarist Kienan Dietrich knew each other through the Atlanta music scene, playing in different bands and often sharing bills with one another over the greater part of a decade. When Sarah and Kienan’s former bands broke up, they decided to try playing music together, culminating in the recording and release of an EP titled Afterlife in early 2016. The band expanded when they recorded the band's independent first LP, Strange Doings in the Night, in early 2017, incorporating strings, keys and bass.
Why is your EP Afterlife no longer available online?
The biggest is that it was recorded in the early phases of our band's existence and we no longer feel as though the quality of those recordings are a good representation of our band. We're exploring options to re-mix/re-master those sessions in the future.
For those interested, it can still be downloaded for free via this Google Drive links: Afterlife EP.
How did you come up with your band name?
Sarah came up with it while driving in the car because it had nice alliteration. That's literally the whole story. If they had known where any of this was going, they probably would have picked something without their name in it - but here we are. They tried to change the band name at one point, but then the rest of the band talked them out of it.
Beyond that, our band supports consent and communication in relationships.
How has being a group of openly queer musicians impacted you as a band?
We'll be the first to acknowledge that with any kind of platform comes a responsibility to cultivate a safe space for queer audiences. That's why we mention at every show that our performances are safe spaces for anyone of any race, gender, and sexual orientation - and we will continue to do that for the rest of our band's existence.
Each of us have our own experiences and struggles with being openly queer musicians, but would prefer to disclose those in relevant discussions.
Is it more economical/trendy/hip/acceptable to be a queer/femme musician nowadays?
This is a stupid question. Please stop asking us this question.
How do you classify your band's music?
At face value, we've always called ourselves "cabaret rock," in that we take a lot of influence from the cabaret movement of the early 20th century, as well as traditional elements of rock and roll. In a lot of ways, the cabaret-burlesque community of that time carried a lot of the same values as the punk rock movement that followed it - women's liberation, freedom of sexual expression, and anti-establishment narratives.
Beyond that, all of us come from vastly different musical backgrounds with hugely different influences - including mariachi, jazz, blues, metal, post-hardcore, hip-hop - which is why we're hesitant to confine ourselves to one genre. Ultimately, we'll leave deciding what we are up to you, the listener.
You sound like Panic at the Disco's older stuff!
What’s your opinion of Laura Jane Grace and Against Me!?
There is no question that Laura is a prolific trailblazer who paved the way for other trans people to have a presence in the music community. We have the utmost respect for her.
Some outlets have previously said that your band is “apolitical” - are you?
This is a misunderstanding of our previous comments. Nearly all of our songs address a human politic of some kind - although some of them may not be as obvious. A few of our songs like “Dig A Fancy Grave” are blatantly political. A lot of our songwriting is fixated around the fantastical and driven by storytelling - but that doesn’t mean we’re hesitant to comment on an issue if we feel like we can provide a unique perspective on it. We also continue to be vocal in our live performances, offensively or otherwise, about the things that matter to us.
What’s the safe word?
We used to answer this humorously with things like “papaya” - but now we like to defer people to resources that can help them better determine what healthy risk-aware consent looks like within the BDSM community. This article is a great resource regarding the “Traffic Light System.”