It started with a looper pedal, a synthesizer and an old drum kit found on the street.
Combining these tools with powerful vocals, Star Amerasu started a poptronic music project under the name Ah Mer Ah Su. Her first performance as Ah Mer Ah Su took place June 5, 2015 at San Francisco’s El Rio bar, and she’s been fighting for visibility ever since.
“It’s a hard road, to be a Black trans woman in the world and creating art,” Amerasu said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “There’s almost no space for us.”
Music has been part of Amerasu’s life since her childhood. Never attending a school for more than two years at a time, Amerasu moved around frequently with her mother until she graduated from high school in Austin, Texas. After that, she lived in San Francisco, New York and Portland before finally settling in Oakland, where she currently resides.
It’s also where she has been working toward advancing her music career for the past three years. Since 2016, Amerasu has released two EPs, one of which she produced herself. Now, she’s gearing up for the release of her self-titled debut album, Star, which she describes as a parallel to Solange’s 2016 A Seat at the Table for “black queer folx.”
“I loved that (A Seat at the Table) was this narrative piece of art. There was a beginning, a middle and an end, and you felt moved,” Amerasu said. “I was inspired by the idea of making an album and having it be a piece of work, a piece of literature, a piece of art.”
With that format in mind, Amerasu set upon creating an album that was also a story. Originally, Star was an EP. However, after recording five songs, she decided to instead expand it into her first full-length release. Divided by three interludes, Star tackles multiple issues in the vein of self-discovery. Every section introduction features a different friend of Amerasu, each of whom is a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Compared to her previous releases, which align more with the electronic indie genre, Star is a pumped-up, electropop collection of party anthems for the LGBTQ+ community and the club scene in general. With this shift, Amerasu hopes to make her music accessible to more people and hopefully gain a mainstream following that will allow her to later delve into her more niche musical interests. According to Amerasu, the album consists of music that’s not only what she wants to listen to, but that she thinks other people will want to listen to as well.
“There’s a thing about our community where a lot of the things that we enjoy has to do with escapism,” Amerasu said, “and so I was kind of trying to make music that felt like an escape, even though the content is very real.”
In the past, Amerasu’s music has conveyed truths about her personal life. Her critically acclaimed sophomore EP, Rebecca, is honest about her struggles with substance abuse and depression. Star continues this commitment to honesty, especially in the album’s section titled “Men.”
“I go through each boyfriend that had an impact on me,” Amerasu said. “I was in this abusive relationship with this person, and we went back and forth for two years. … I wanted to talk about how … we don’t have examples in our youth of what a healthy queer relationship looks like.”
Social commentary has also found a place in Amerasu’s music. Rebecca features the track “Meg Ryan,” which criticizes white feminism. Although Amerasu expressed interest in separating politics from her music, she also pointed out that it’s impossible to do so, given her inherently politicized identity.
And in the midst of the optimism and positivity shared in Star, there is still the bitter reality of the music industry’s refusal to openly embrace and publicize musicians like Amerasu, who are written off as queer musicians for exclusively queer audiences. According to Amerasu, this sort of erasure is detrimental.
“I think it’s so important that people realize there’s a gold mine of talented women of color, and all we need is opportunity to show that,” Amerasu said. “I’m like, where is my big break? I want it; I want success.”
This passion shines through in the message of self-love that Amerasu has committed herself to preaching in her upcoming album. Three singles have already been released in anticipation of Star. “Powerful” and “Perfect” are particularly bold proclamations of Amerasu’s self-confidence — proclamations that she hopes others will listen to and be inspired by.
“Maybe there’s a Black trans girl somewhere who is really into indie music and gets to listen to this and is like, ‘Oh, my gosh, it’s somebody like me who likes the same things I like and is talking about these things that are real that I’m also going through,’ ” Amerasu said. “So much of my life, I have felt so isolated and alone, and I just hope there’s people who (listen to the album and) realize that they’re not alone.”
‘Star’ will be released Friday on DERO Arcade.
Alex Jiménez covers LGBTQ+ media. Contact her at [email protected].