Musicians Amber Coffman of the Dirty Projectors and Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast came forward earlier this year to share their experiences as victims of sexual harassment and assault by music industry peers. Their decisions opened the floodgates of hundreds of women sharing their own stories through social media.
“For many of us who’d gone through these same nightmare situations in places that should’ve been safe, or from people we trusted in our creative community, the outpouring of stories like our own opened up a lot of old wounds,” says singer Tracy Keats Wilson of Positive No. “I felt suffocated by it.”
She and her partner and bandmate, Kenny Close, reacted by writing a song, “Reinvent the Space,” to channel her frustration, rage and pain into something productive and positive. “The song allows me to vent decades of feeling diminished and silenced,” Wilson says.
What began as a simple form of personal expression born from personal experiences morphed as the band began playing it live, where it resonated with other victims.
“When you perform a song live, you surrender it to the room and it belongs to anyone who feels a personal connection to it,” Wilson says of their goal to create allies for those in need when situations arise. It was an easy call to decide to donate proceeds from the song’s sale to an international movement to help end harassment called Hollaback.
Recorded at Audio Verite in Lakeside, the digital single comes with a pack of buttons with messages about speaking up to make spaces safer. When it came time for cover art for the single, the band turned to crowd-sourcing, asking Facebook friends who’d ever been victims of harassment or abuse to submit a photo of their hand to be used as part of a montage. They got 60 within a week, including two children’s handprints, which gutted them, she says.
“We want the cover art to symbolize that victims aren’t alone, but also remind others that we’re real people,” Wilson says. “We’re your family members, your co-workers, loved ones and neighbors. We’re all genders, ages, races, nationalities and sexual orientations. Anyone can be bullied, harassed or assaulted.”
Many of those who submitted handprints privately also shared their stories, which Wilson calls heartbreaking and beautiful.
“It’s been such an incredibly moving experience for us and it’s honestly changed the meaning of the song to us, too,” she says. “What began as an insular inspiration is now fueled by all of these shared stories.” S
“Reinvent the Space” is available Nov. 21 at positiveno.com/music.