Vivian Lajoie can often be found in thrift stores searching for work by other “outsider musicians” — those without classical training who record albums in the comfort of their own homes. Their music, she said, helps inspire her own work, which she described as ambient electronic and low-fidelity music.
“The sincerity of it, and the genuine feeling and emotion that they put into it” said Lajoie, a 23 year old from Valley Stream. “It’s really pure stuff and it’s charming.”
Lajoie will be sharing some of those songs she has found on WFMU.org’s “Friendly Persuasion” show starting Feb. 1 at 3 p.m.
“I’ll talk about where the artist is from and what I know,” she said, adding that it can be difficult to find any information about outsider musicians.
Lajoie says she herself is an outsider musician. She started making music in 2008, and began performing live in 2016. In October, Otis Fodder, the host of the WFMU show, listened to her cover of “Mr. Snuggles,” a song poem that Fodder’s band covered in 2002. He described Lajoie’s music paradoxically as “not really incredibly strange.”
“It’s self-aware to a point, but it’s still outsider,” Fodder said.
Lajoie likes to create that kind of music, she said, because it allows her to channel her emotions “in a way where I’m not completely suffering.”
Lajoie is a transgender woman. Assigned male at birth, she said that for a long time she had inklings that for her, this was not the case — she just hadn’t noticed it yet.
As a teenager, she said, she began to dress more androgynously to the point where people would ask if she was a girl. Lajoie would say that she was not, but would reply that she did not mind people thinking that she was.
At 17, she decided to do some research into transgenderism, and in 2015, she started taking hormones and testosterone blockers. “I immediately started noticing changes,” Lajoie said. “It was like growing up again.”
The medication, she said, not only changed her physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. “They made me look better and feel better,” Lajoie said. “I feel every now and then more in tune with my celestial body.”
On the other side of Nassau County, Lajoie’s friend Bailey Elis was going through a similar experience. He said he had always known that he was not a female, as he was assigned at birth, and noted his feeling of relief when as a child he took on a male role in a theater production of “Hansel and Gretel.”
“I just remember the euphoria of hiding my long hair,” said Elis, a 24 year old from East Meadow.
As the years went on, Elis said, he tried dressing in drag and speaking in a lower tone. But the final straw broke for him when, while dressed in a skirt for a dance recital, he caught a glance of himself in the mirror, and was unhappy with what he saw.
“I just looked in the mirror and I literally saw myself,” he said. “I was terrified.”
Elis began transitioning socially in April 2014 and started taking hormones in September 2015. He said that he, too, noticed some immediate changes including his voice going from a mezzo-soprano to a bass-baritone. “It just dropped suddenly,” he said.
Now, bound together by their shared experiences, Lajoie and Elis are starting their own band. Their styles differ — Elis said that he prefers punk music to Lajoie’s outsider music — but Elis said they would like to fuse the two in their songs.
“It seems to be kind of a mishmosh of our interests,” Elis said.
Both he and Lajoie said they would like people to know more about transgenderism. Elis wanted to clarify that transgenderism has nothing to do with one’s sexuality, and Lajoie wanted people to know, “We are not out to take over your positions.”
“We’re people, we have feelings and we’re not the end of the world,” she said.
Lajoie also wanted everyone to know that they are valued, saying, “Even if only three people are into it, keep rocking.”