Jesse Valencia interviews Globelamp’s Elizabeth le Fey about Sean Lennon, Desert Daze, and the realities of being a woman in today’s music industry.
Elizabeth le Fey used to be in this band called Foxygen and at one time dated a member of that band, Sam France. When their relationship turned violent and Elizabeth allegedly ended up with a punch to the face, the band excommunicated her and filed a restraining order against her. Elizabeth tried to speak out, but was silenced. She returned to her solo project, Globelamp, and was recently signed to Wichita Records.
The whole time she’s been moving up and doing her thing, Elizabeth has spoken out about her past involving Sam France. Then it was announced that Foxygen was going to play this festival in Joshua Tree called Desert Daze. Upset that the L.A. music scene had stayed silent about her story with Foxygen ever since Impose posted it in January, Elizabeth tried to organize a boycott against the festival for allowing Foxygen to play it. That’s when Sean Lennon, son of Beatle John Lennon and “feminist” artist Yoko Ono, decided to shut Elizabeth down because his friend is putting on the festival, so he private messaged her and then she tweeted about it and Sean got pissed that she shared the fact that their correspondence now exists out in the public, and his followers started piling on.
As a fan of Sean’s music and having knowledge of his mother’s supposedly feminist stance, I tried to plead with Sean, whom I respected, to reconsider Elizabeth’s position. To, at least, hear her out. As you can see, it didn’t go well.
Then it came to light that just the day before Sean told her, “I know that if Jimi Hendrix had slapped his GF boycotting all Woodstock would be ridiculous!”
I believe in our 2016 parlance this is called “Mansplaining.” For a bit more context about where I stand on this issue, please see my previous article Indie Music’s White Male Problem, because this is the moment I realized Sean Lennon is most definitely not a feminist as Elizabeth’s story, which was really just about her and Sam France, is now all about Sean Lennon and what is or isn’t mansplaining and it’s been absorbed into the broader public debate that way. As a result, more people seem to care about either attacking or defending Sean than what the real debate should be: whether or not to boycott Foxygen over Sam France allegedly physically attacking Elizabeth le Fey. Furthermore, it royally irks me that Sean seems to have engineered this entire fiasco and all he is doing is benefiting from it. Bad press is better than no press, they say.
First off, Sean has absolutely nothing to do with the situation other than he has some desire to see Desert Daze happen and could give a shit about artists like Elizabeth, but there’s a lot of other high-profile acts also playing Desert Daze including Primus, Television, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, The Black Angels, Deerhunter, and a bunch of other bands. What do they think about Elizabeth’s situation? What do the female performers at the festival think? Why is Sean “Mansplainer” Ono Lennon the only voice in the room? Because for a man of his social profile and privilege, Elizabeth’s voice is easily drowned out. No one sees her. No one hears her.
The cult of Beatles fandom is huge. When Sean Instagrammed about his talking over “Globelampgate” with his mom, thousands of people “liked” the picture and hundreds commented, and literally almost every comment was some Sean or Beatles fan fawning over Sean, and how wise he and his mother is, and how much they loved them. Every comment except for one, and this one comment from a follower of his summed up my thoughts about Sean’s getting into the mix of this drama perfectly: “I respect you to no end as a songwriter but you live in an elitist fantasy as far as your views on social issues are concerned.”
That’s it right there. Sean Lennon lives in an elitist fantasy. This is a Beatle’s son we’re talking about. Heir to one of the biggest-ever fortunes and legacies in Western cultural history. His social influence is far-reaching and, because of that, he gets to balk at the paltry qualms and quarrels of those lowest on the totem pole, because there does not exist a situation where he would ever experience what someone like Elizabeth, a solo female artist just starting out, might be going through or has gone through.
Put Sean in her shoes. She had to represent herself in court, had a restraining order filed against her, has been berated as being “crazy,” trolled and shamed online, and so many more awful things. Instead of people listening to what she has to say, thanks to Sean’s mouth-frothing Beatles-fan echo chamber, her claims and concerns have been dismissed as nothing beyond the attention-seeking sympathy of a jealous, vengeful ex-girlfriend.
Had Sean been in her situation, he would have had the best lawyer mommy and daddy’s money could buy. You’d better believe he’d have a ton of support. And what if nobody cared that his ex had been violent towards him and they continued to support his ex instead? Can you imagine a Beatles fan siding with this hypothetical “Sean’s ex” over Sean?
I’m confused. This is the son of a feminist? He might say so, but Sean has already whined about how people see only see him as the spoiled, slacker son of John and Yoko. I guess John and Yoko might have thought of themselves as feminists, or maybe other feminists thought of them as feminists, so that means Sean could be a feminist too, right? But if that’s true, then I’m not really sure if I understand what feminism is if we consider his father’s own admission and opinion of committing violence against women and, weirdly, with Yoko “giggling” at Elizabeth’s situation and simultaneously, ironically, announcing that she had plans to crowdsource a new project about gender violence.
Let’s also not forget that Sean once told someone they were an argument for abortion after they challenged his views on fracking. Don’t they realize how stupid it all looks?
Elizabeth le Fey sure does.
Jesse Valencia: Sean messaged you to try and stop you from boycotting Foxygen’s appearance at the upcoming Desert Daze festival. Obviously he didn’t know or care about your story, and then retaliated against you when you let the public know that you had been messaging back and forth about it. Since then, the debate in the media has transformed into whether or not Sean is mansplaining this whole ordeal, rather than on what should be the real issue, which is the fact that Foxygen are playing Desert Daze and your story of alleged abuse by Sam France is being drowned out and suppressed so that it can continue. Sean’s position continues to be that, regardless of the pain you’ve experienced, you’ve somehow caused him pain by reacting against his shutting you down. What is the present situation? What are your feelings of Sean’s appropriating your story for his own gain?
Elizabeth le Fey: This whole situation has been really stressful and triggering for me. My protest got derailed by Sean Lennon. I am pissed off that Sean has turned this completely around and made it about himself. He has a right to defend his friend’s festival, but he needs to put things in perspective. If a young songwriter reaches out to you saying they feel blacklisted, maybe you shouldn’t tell them to halt their protest, because that might be the only way they feel heard. He is really manipulative and acts like I went out of my way for his opinion about Desert Daze, which I never did. I just asked him to share my Impose story.
Jesse: Ironically, Yoko has struggled for years against this idea that she somehow broke up the Beatles, and you’ve been accused of causing similar tensions within Foxygen. Also, like hers, your voice has been silenced and dismissed by her son of all people. To me, it’s like he might as well be saying, “So what if my mom broke up the Beatles?”! Did you previously think of Yoko as a feminist? How has this situation changed your perception of her and Sean?
Elizabeth: It is definitely weird to have Sean and Yoko team up against me (that Instagram photo). I think if Sean was alive when Yoko went through all the discrimination and name-calling she received, he might be a little more empathetic to the underdog. I honestly don’t know how I feel anymore. I have always loved Yoko Ono and she has been a voice for me to be radical in the past.
Jesse: Have you been in contact with any of the artists performing at the festival? What are their opinions on the situation? Has anyone reached out to you?
Elizabeth: I told the band L.A. Witch about what happened to me and they were sympathetic and told me they would tell the organizers about Foxygen. Since then, I have heard absolutely nothing.
Globelamp – “Washington Moon”
Jesse: Nylon recently published, and then took down, an article on you from their website, but published a separate article in their magazine. What are your thoughts on that?
Elizabeth: I am baffled by the whole thing. They agreed to post it so I think they should have stuck with their original publication. If they didn’t want to give my story a platform, they have all the right not to, but I think it’s unfair to publish something and then retract it without an explanation. Especially when the subject matter is about feeling ignored as a woman in the music industry. Once again, if Nylon didn’t agree to post my story, I would respect their decision. I don’t respect them publishing something only to take it down. Very unprofessional.
Jesse: How have your fans responded? Have they been supportive?
Elizabeth: They have been so supportive. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to deal with the drama. They responded the same way I did. They were upset and mad. I found out because one of my fans tweeted to me that the link was broken. My good friend Elva Lexa set up a petition on Change.org.
Globelamp – “Controversial/Confrontational”
Jesse: Based on your experiences, what have you learned about the music industry’s treatment of women?
Elizabeth: I would say that it is harder to be treated as an equal as a woman. Guys constantly tell me how I should perform or tweak my sound. I have a feeling that if I was a solo male artist, they wouldn’t be telling me that stuff. I’ve also been called a “groupie” for hooking up with “fellow” musicians, how can a fellow musician be a groupie?
Jesse: Your record, The Orange Glow, is your first on Wichita, but you were a solo artist far before you ever met Sam. As such, it’s a common misconception that you didn’t start Globelamp until after your time with Foxygen. What are your plans for Globelamp once you can put all of this behind you?
Elizabeth: Yes, this is my first album on Wichita. I am aiming to record my next album next year and to continue writing songs and fighting the good fight. I hope to tour Europe again.
Globelamp – “Artist/Traveler”