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E.R. Fightmaster flaunts attraction and audacity on their hot new ‘Violence’ EP

Apparently, being a groundbreaking actor hasn’t been enough for E.R. Fightmaster. They didn’t stop at their historic role as the first nonbinary doctor on Grey’s Anatomy, or their starring love interest turn on Shrill, or even their work as part of the musical duo Twin. They still had a stellar debut solo EP to add to the list.

On Violence, the artist’s most personal project to date, this multi-hyphenate charms their way through queer masculinity, romance, and reclamation with aplomb. Their ear-catching mixture of rock, folk, and funk influences carry the listener through a solid set of tracks made to set a mood and bring some heat.

Featuring singles like “Bad Man” which “tackles what it means to be transmasculine in a culture dominated by the fragile cis male ego” and “Hot Shame” about “all the lightness of being that new love provides and the heavy loneliness of depression”, Violence shows off Fightmaster’s range and honed intention all at once.

We caught up with the star to chat about transmasc bops, butch/femme sensibilities, Becca Mancari, and more.

First off: did you always plan to capitalize on having the hardest last name in Hollywood?

I had literally no option. I was coming up with ideas for this solo project like that what the name should be and everyone I talked to you was like, “…it’s gonna be Fightmaster.” I think that people think the name is fake or that I chose this name, and I am so embarrassed by that, because I would have to be so unwell to pick that is my stage name. But this is me finally living out my destiny and having it now really be a stage name.

It would take some absolute gall to say “You know what I should be called? Fightmaster. And I should be on Grey’s Anatomy and call myself E.R.”

When I got announced for Grey’s Anatomy, my favorite comment was like, “I thought that this was a spin-off.”

As if you are the E.R. fight master.

It is a good spin-off name!

Obviously the Violence EP is fitting for your name, but what other experiences and feelings went into exploring the concept of violence for this project?

I was reading The Communism of Love, which is this wonderful theory book on communism and love, and there was a part of the book that was talking about non-violence as this kind of blockade to what we really need to be doing, which is becoming violent in the face of violence. Like, you cannot receive a punch and not hit back and think that retribution was there. It is actually our job to be fighting back.

I started to think about violence as a state of mind. And this EP was being written during a time where we were having a lot of conversations about transness and violence against trans people, but it was also being written while I was falling in love. And so this Communism of Love book was the summation of what I was feeling. I feel violently protective of this person that I love, I feel violently protective of my community. And so, what happens if this queer, transmasc dyke reclaims the word “violence” and turns it into a community-building word? A safe, sexy word? It’s a reclamation of the word itself.

It feels like an important part of butch/femme culture especially, that violent protectiveness.

Yes, you want to go to war for the things that you love. Cishet people that hate trans folks, they enact violence, right? But I don’t want to use violence as this noun; I want to think about it as less of an action and more of a state of being. I think that you’re actually much harder to hurt when you’re prepared for war.

This is probably your most personal project that you’ve worked on so far. What do you feel like developing it has revealed to you about yourself?

I think the project is a real combination of everything that I am. I’m a very playful person, I’m very activist driven, and I love art. With this album, I got to play with those concepts a lot. This project has a lot of the themes that I’m obsessed with like queerness and transness and the activism we do to protect those things, but it’s also really playful, which is like how I see myself. It’s a playful, sexy piece of art about queer love, and that feels like the most me thing I’ve ever done.

How do you feel it contrasts with your work with Twin?

Twin was a real duo project. It was the combination of Mike Aviles‘ style and my style; his punk drumming and my folk writing combined to make this surf-rock thing that was high energy and playful. Those songs were like little stories, little silhouettes, little moments in time. I think the songs that I’ve written for Violence are more thematic and broader. They’re about broader, larger experiences in my life.

What aspect of striking out on your own musically do you feel like you’ve come to value the most?

Finding out that I could do it all – and then bringing others in to help me. That was really important. I wrote the songs, and I wrote the music for them in my closet and my bedroom, and then I would take them to the studio and piece by piece we would build these songs. We lay down the bass and the lead guitars and the vocals, and then my amazing producer Riley Geare would come in and lay down the drums. When we had worked together long enough and I was trusting him, I would let Riley lay down something that he would hear. It became fun to have so much control that I could let go of the reins.

Part of that for me is that I didn’t grow up seeing a lot of queer people or a lot of not-male people playing the lead guitar, let alone playing every instrument on the album. Like I know those artists exist, they just weren’t what I was inundated with. I was inundated with the Guitar Center archetype of, like, this white guy that comes in and noodles forever. I just wanted to make sure that any queer kid that heard this that felt inspired by the music could go to the credits and see how much of it I was responsible for. That was important to me.

Are there any people that you see yourself maybe collaborating with in the future that you haven’t gotten to yet?

I literally am so inspired by every friend in my circle that it behooves me not to single out a single person. Everybody, all the queer people in my life right now, and the queer musicians that I’m around I am so enthralled by. I think the options are so endless that I’m keeping them close to the chest.

I would be honored if Mitski would touch any part of my work. And I’m a big St. Vincent fan, I think she’s so incredible and kind of transcendent. I’m truly obsessed with all the gay people around me right now. Liza Anne is amazing, Becca Mancari is amazing, boygenius and MUNA are amazing. I’m not wanting for inspiration.

Becca Mancari has been blowing me away.

They’re so amazing. Oh my gosh, “Homesick Honeybee”? What? Are you kidding me? I’ve been listening to that on repeat.

The amount of nonbinary talent out there that I had no idea I was needing!

The nonbinary boys are truly popping the hell off. There’s so many trans and nonbinary folks right now that are making good art. I think it’s a direct response to having to swallow so much sh*t recently. When I wrote “Bad Man”, it was like a reactive explosion to this anti-trans mentality and this constant need for cishet men to question the masculinity of anybody who is not a cishet man. And I think when I wrote this music, part of it was this energy of like, “You can question my masculinity as much as you want to, but I’m doing masculinity better than you and I’m not hurting anybody while I do it. Here’s this bop.

What’s it been like watching this project and this part of your art and expression flourish, while also going through the upheaval in the entertainment industry with SAG and WGA?

It’s a workers revolution, it’s awesome. It’s a workers revolution. It’s an artist revolution. Those union strikes are something I very firmly believe in. As frustrated as we all are with being scared about not making enough money to survive, the collective feeling that we derive from those strikes was so much more important. It was so invaluable. We are really getting separated; we’re told, “The writers do this thing, the actors do this thing, producers do this thing,” but then under the eyes of the law or the studios or anybody in charge, you are just a worker. And so you have to stand with other workers.

It’s the same thing for artists: you are just an artist, you are just a worker, you have to stand with other artists. You are not doing anything alone. We live in a community. I think that that’s the meta version, and the private version is that all of us are having these one-on-one conversations about what community looks like and how we can help each other and what we’re doing to adjust so that we don’t have to rely on these massive corporations for our bills. I think this period of time is really freeing. Sometimes it’s good to get a little hungry because it reminds you of what you’re capable of.

Last question: You know that trend where people will say like, “I post for the girls who walked the track in gym class” or “I write for people who say sorry when they bump into furniture”, like their hyperspecific audience. Who do you make music for, hyperspecifically?

I just love femmes. I love them. And I make music for trans boys to play for their girlfriends.

And is there anything more you want to add about this EP that you think people should come with while listening to it?

I certainly hope you come listening to it.

I don’t think they’ll have any problem with that.

No, that’s the goal, trust me.

Check out FIGHTMASTER’s full rocking roughhouse EP, Violence:

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