Culture Envy: Transistor Riot

The emerging dance-punk group discusses gender, politics, and the joy of being on stage

Isabella, Brie, Jaylin & Riley. (Kristen Frier)

Isabella, Brie, Jaylin & Riley. (Kristen Frier)

Transistor Riot, named for the pun “Trans-sister Riot”, is a four-piece group made up of charming individuals with tunes that will make you want to dance the whole way to your local police station molotov cocktail in hand. 

On drums is Brie, the mom of the group, delivering precise rhythms. On bass and vocals is Isabella, or Izzy if you’re in a hurry. Jaylin can be found tearing up the guitar, and Riley, who produces, is also on keys, and occasionally bass. 

The songwriter is primarily Riley, but it has now become a jam-based and collaborative process  rather than meticulous like in the band’s earliest days. Their latest release was a single called “Burn” co-written by Riley and Izzy. 

“It’s very politically charged, it’s very angry,” says Izzy. “It’s a lot of hating cops and burning buildings.”

Brie and Riley used to play together in a band called Kitty Prozac, but after that group stopped playing together Riley was inspired to be a part of something new. 

“I was really infected with the sort of creative, fun energy of being on stage that [playing with Kitty Prozac] brought to me,” says Riley. 

Transistor Riot was born from fun and creative energy, and with Riley’s previous knowledge of electronic music.

“The other name we were considering was ‘Neon Echo’, which in retrospect is just terrible.”

Influential artists like LCD Soundsystem, Death From Above 1979, Melt Yourself Down, SoulWax, and Electric Wizard, have helped Transistor Riot forge their dance-punk identity. 

“We are all trans people, and I feel like there is a certain energy that queerness has that can be portrayed really well through music and is sometimes absent in the Vancouver music space. I feel like dance-punk itself has a little bit of an association with queerness that I would very much like to further as the identity of the genre,” says Riley. 

“I like to view my gender very much as a performance, in the same way that the music itself is a performance. I like to kind of revel in being a little bit of a gender-fuck.” 

While it is not a new notion for youths to act out and make themselves heard, trans folks haven’t historically been given as much of a platform as their cis counterparts.

“It’s just normalization,” says Jaydin. “When I had family at the show, it was really great for them to see not only who I am now but also the community, and now they are part of the community and they get it.” 

Transistor Riot has only played two shows together with the current lineup, both only a couple weeks apart. 

“Even if we fuck up,” says Brie. “Everyone around is supposed to have fun. We’re supposed to have fun and the crowd is supposed to have fun.” 

The band is expecting to have another single or two out within the next six months so keep your ears open, your mind open, and your dancing shoes laced up. 

“I have an album that I’m aiming to [release] next summer that’s kind of about my transition and the band is called Decoy Photon,” says Jaylin. 

Keep up with these folks and check out their other projects. Pale North features Brie on drums. Izzy and Jaylin are working on another group called Sixth Grade Softball, which should have something to see in 2022.