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Interview | Trash Boat frontman Tobi Duncan talks about keeping his sexuality and career separate

The singer was never told to hide his sexuality to help his career take off

By Steve Brown

The frontman of the pop-punk/emo band Trash Boat, Tobi Duncan admitted he never denied being anything other than himself.

Tobi, who identifies as bisexual, is set to perform at Reading and Leeds Fest this year on the main stage – the biggest gig the band have ever played so far.

Ahead of their gig, Tobi sat down with Attitude to discuss what Pride means to him and the lack of LGBT+ frontmen in pop-punk/emo bands.

You’re set to perform at (Reading &) Leeds Fest this year! That must be exciting, how are you feeling in the build up to it? 

It’s main stage so it’s going to be the biggest thing we have ever played, I can’t wait! It’s going to be a big step up for us.

You identify as bisexual, what does Pride season mean to you?

Pride, to me, is being able to live as the person you want to be, unashamedly and without concern or fear of reprisal.

When did you know you were bisexual?

I don’t think there was a specific age or time. I guess I just always felt a certain way and never denied it.

How was the response to you coming out?

I never came out. I just lived the way I wanted to and people just learned along the way if the topic came up naturally.

There is a lack of LGBT+ people in rock – especially in frontman roles – was it hard for you to come to terms with your sexuality while trying to achieve your dream career?

Not for me. I’ve always been confident and happy to live as the person I wanted to be.

My sexuality and my career seemed completely separate, one could not affect the other.

Who were your idols growing up? Was it hard to connect with your idols if they weren’t queer/LGBT?

My ‘idols’ were Zack De La Rocha, Slash and (naively) Phil Anselmo. The only LGBT ‘idol’ was Freddie Mercury.

Whether they were LGBT or not made no difference to me. I wasn’t looking for an idol to live vicariously through and hope to be like that was in the LGBT community, it wasn’t an important factor either way.

I could idolise anyone regardless of sexual orientation.

Did anyone ever try to tell you not to come out and be yourself while trying to get your music off the ground?

Nope! I’ve always had very supportive friends and family.

If anything when I told my mum I was bisexual she almost encouraged me to accept that fact that ‘I was probably just gay’ I always found that funny.

With generic pop-punk/emo songs, the music is very much “hetero-normative”, are you trying to change this with your music?

I don’t tend to bring my sexuality into my music other than using multiple gender pronouns when referencing potential emotional/ romantic interests. (E.g ‘How Selfish I Seem’)

Do you try and incorporate your sexuality into your songs or do you try and keep your music ‘gender neutral’?

I incorporate it whenever necessary. I haven’t yet written a song to specifically reference it.

When I was growing up, one of my idols – and first and lasting crush – was the likes of Brendan Urie who sort of made it ‘acceptable’ for modern men to wear make-up, is this something you have seen changed in the music industry?

Brendan Urie is an extremely talented and charismatic man. Definitely still a lasting crush for me too.

Men have been rocking make up since the 70’s in glam and rock bands, all the way up to my main man Patty in As It Is rocking a full face of makeup on magazine covers.

As a society I feel like the stigma is becoming less and less prevalent which is a good thing.

Are people becoming more accepting of gender-fluidity or is it something that still needs addressing today?

It’s something that will always require a degree of discussion as it’s something that will always be changing and adapting to society and culture, hence the term ‘fluidity’.

I’d say we’ve come further in understanding it recently than we ever have but there’s a long way to go.

Do you feel people do not associate being LGBT+ with a pop-punk/emo band?

So, I’m not sure how other people associate punk rock and sexuality but for me the two have never been distinct.

I’ve never felt a clash between being bisexual and existing in the punk rock community, in fact I have always found it incredibly welcoming towards me.

Do you think that the music industry is more accepting towards the LGBT community then say the likes of Hollywood which has been slammed for its lack of LGBT+ characters/actors?

My experience in music has been incredibly positive. I can’t think of a time when I’ve been put upon because of my sexuality.

Perhaps that is because of the people I have surrounded myself with or perhaps it is because I don’t take any shit but that’s how it has been. I can only hope people are extended similar kindnesses in TV and film.

Trash Boat play the main stage at Reading & Leeds Festival Aug 24-26.