Chez Goodspeed and I recently had the chance to speak with the co-founders of Ice Cream Support Group from Richmond, Virginia after the Rebirth of DIY panel at MACROCK. We scurried into a long, narrow hallway after the panel, hosted at Hotel Appalachia, to chat more with them about Ice Cream Support Group, music, and ice-cream in general.
GrizzlyGround: So how about we start with a little bit of background on each of you?
Jafar Flowers: Alright, cool! I’m Jafar Flowers. I go by they/them pronouns. I’m a trans non-binary person. And… Well I guess I started a lot with spoken word in Richmond— a community organizing through race and sexuality and gender at intersections especially when the police killings of innocent black people happened two years ago— it always happens, but like when it was a really big thing on Richmond’s campus.
I came to Richmond because of VCU and I’m now in the theatre department at VCU. I guess that’s background information on me.
Christian your turn!
Christian Something: I’m Christian Something. He / him. I was a computer science major and was just unhappy about being in school and wanted to start pursuing art. I applied for the film program, but got rejected and had all these ideas of just making art— because it wasn’t just music. I wanted to find a musician to make movies for— music videos and do photography, but that didn’t happen. I didn’t find anyone fast enough, so I created Ice Cream with Jafar to sort of just do our own thing. Start making music under our own thing. And then after that we found people and I was just like… oh.
But we found people and you know we want to do just everything really. So it wasn’t just music, ya know? I want to do an installation— learning how to combine technology and art. Let’s do that. I want to make music. Let’s do that. Also music videos and all that other stuff. We have a core group, which is just like the musicians on basically the label. Then we have basically everyone else that we know— friends that are part of Ice Cream in some sort of way in the peripheral and we are just trying to link up with other people in Richmond to make Richmond a better place for people to come through.
Can I have a little bit of background on Ice Cream Social?
Jafar: Yeah! Okay, so Ice Cream Social is a specific DJ event and that’s not the name of our group. I guess it was my idea because I had gone to Godfrey’s and other places in Richmond that are like gay and queer clubs and I was like, “I’m not having fun here! People are getting micro-aggressive. The music isn’t for everybody— it’s like all pop.” Some people want to listen to hip-hop, trap, or like dancehall music, reggaeton. Or even just like techno or something.
Where’s an event for queer people to dance, have fun, love themselves, meet new people with a variety of different music and a variety of different people that they feel like represents them?
And I’m like, okay, I made the Ice Cream Social and had a ton of different queer people in my city playing. We had a rotating list of about five different queer people of color and then we were like-- okay, anybody can come! Ever since then people have been reaching out to me about the Ice Cream Social being like, "Wow! I had fun there-- it’s cool invite me I want to DJ I want to do these things."
Christian put out something that was like— who wants to learn how to DJ? And a lot of people in our town like femme people, women, non-binary, queer people and POC and other marginalized folks were like, "Wow I really want to DJ, but I don’t know how."
So now Ice Cream Social is becoming a thing where people are reaching out to me being like we want to have it here, so it’s just going to continue to be a space where I’m giving people a platform to DJ and the people at Ice Cream to DJ.
Basically just opening up a space for people to come have fun, come love themselves, come dance, and have a really good time. Just to know that when they’re coming to the space you are on the priority list. You deserve to be here and if anybody is making you feel uncomfortable, is being homophobic, misogynistic, or mean. We can handle that.
Do you DJ? Do you make music?
Jafar: Yeah I do DJ. I do make music.
What’s your name for that? Is it still Jafar Flowers?
Jafar: So I guess Jafar Flowers is just, like, me. Then I have a lot of different projects with people. Verbena Blossom I do with Dan. Dan was the person in the orange hat that was sitting down with the blue Kimono on.
He’s in Mango, right?
Jafar: Yeah! I guess, uh… So, like, we… (Jafar pauses for a moment).
I didn’t believe in myself doing music. At all. Ever. Or even art. This summer and first semester was so hard for me. I was like— I have all these ideas and I don’t know how to do them. I’m anxious, dadadadada. Over winter break I was like alright, so I need to do something. I feel like there’s a lot of stuff going on. I feel crazy underrepresented etc.
I just hung out with Dan a lot and we recorded a lot of projects. We recorded a short film that’s a variety show called Hydrangeas.We just hung out all winter break. It was just really making different things, watching movies, listening to albums that inspired us like Flying Lotus and other things. Flying Lotus has a segment called Before the Quiet Comes its a short film about gang violence in the neighborhood, black male expression, and a bunch of other intense stuff. We watched all of that and I was like okay I want to make something just start making beats. Dan does stuff on SB-404-- I was just like what do I know?
I’m just going to talk. I started talking over the beats and it became sort of a freestyle kind of rhythmic thing with no rules recently. Every time we did it, we made a set amount of songs for our EP and our EP is called Verbana Blossom.
When we perform live, I improvise the first part of the set all the time. After it I always feel really sell-concious about it every time I do any sort of music, but every time somebody is like, "Wow, something really resonated with me."
My friend Mars told me he really wanted to do something because he heard a lyric that I improvised on the spot at that place, so it’s been really good. It’s been really freeing. It’s given me a lot of experience and practice with just recording the process in general. It just gave me a lot of self-confidence. I really enjoyed making it. Dan did all the production. I did all the speaking and singsongy aspects. I learned.
Now after we released the EP I feel like I know what my sound is and what I want to do. But it’s just an amazing way to get started, it's a lot of fun and great and people love the sets a lot. I wear a lot of flowers when I perform. So people like it a lot and always feel like some of the lyrics connect with them.
Christian and I started a thing called BLVCKPUNX and our first EP is called You Are Here. We are also making a mixtape together that’s not out yet. We got sidetracked because we just started talking about what is annoying us then. We were like racism, specifically anti-blackness, police stuff or whatever we both had experience with, so we just started venting and talking about it. And I was like I wanna yell about it. So I did and Christian started making beats to it and it just evolved from there. It was something between noise, rap, punk, I don’t know. So many things. It was indescribable, but the whole thing is like the voices of our people that are underrepresented and what that sounds like and a lot of times it sounds angry. We made that and then it slowly became mission statements.
After You Are Here people reached out and wanted to see us play places and other black people in our community want to be a part of this. It’s really exciting to see what this is going to turn into. Those are the two music projects I’ve been doing and I also finally just made a SoundCloud because all my friends were like, “JAFAR!" and I was like okay, I’ll make a soundcloud! I put a spoken word piece up there.
I’m primarily a writer and a spoken word poet and that’s how people kind of discovered me in Richmond first because I’m always talking on a panel, in a speech, or like in front of a microphone. I love to talk so I want to do more of my spoken word places too— in venues and stuff like that and applying sound to it. Yeah, I’m really new to music and production, but I’m just jumping headfirst into it. Right now what I’m working on is my own producing of music, so I can produce stuff for my words and other people who just need stuff to speak or yell or sing to.
Sounds like the best way to do it.
Jafar: Exactly! It’s been a lot of fun.
Jafar: Literally that.
What flavor of ice cream is your music?
Jafar: Oh my God! Mine is strawberry. I don’t know about Christian’s.
A resounding strawberry, folks. You heard it here first.
Jafar: It’s nice. Not too far from vanilla, but very different. There’s a sharp sweet tang in the form of a hug on your tongue.
That is going to be a great quote. Tattoo that on my fuckin’ forehead.
Christian: I don’t know. It’s always been like vanilla or chocolate. When you get Neapolitan ice-cream it’s always in the middle by itself. I end up wanting that the most. I’m like why is it by itself there? Strawberry, you are now my favorite. It used to be vanilla. Chocolate, I’m working on. But strawberry, it’s good. It’s just always tiny... It’s always tiny.
It’s the small sliver in the Neapolitan.
Christian: And it’s the most important! It’s the tastiest too. A lot of times in the Neapolitan there’s strawberry chunks too, so it’s cool.
Side note: I killed an entire carton of Neapolitan ice-cream last week, stress eating last week.
Christian: By yourself?
Yeah, by myself. Thank you so much for your time! This was awesome.