Jesse Valencia

Indie Music’s White Male Problem

Jesse Valencia examines recent instances of abuse in indie music circles and wonders, why aren’t abusers being held accountable?


It’s been a bizarre week for indie music. Life or Death PR & Management Founder and CEO Heathcliff Berru was exposed as a serial sexual predator and Foxygen’s Sam France may have found himself in hot water for alleged physical abuse of his ex, Elizabeth le Fey.


Left: Heathcliff Berru, fallen CEO of Life or Death PR. Right: Sam France of Foxygen.


Berru’s case has exploded. Several women including Amber Coffman of Dirty Projectors, Yasmine Kittles of Tearist, Chelsea Wolfe, and others have spoken out against Berru, claiming he groped them, grabbed their asses, made them touch his dick, tried to kiss them. All kinds of gross shit. Berru’s disgusting behavior has been rightfully outed by several women in the music industry, leading to his resignation from Life or Death who’ve formed a new company in the aftermath, Liberal Arts.

But is it enough? Is Berru going to do any time? Likely not, blaming his actions on “addiction to drugs and alcohol.” My, my. How original.

We can’t let that excuse get him off the hook, but by and large my gut feeling is telling me that it’s going to. Why, you ask? The music industry is as rotten to the core as the movie industry. It isn’t a simple case of widespread hedonism. Male abusers are protected because they’re making other people loads of money and the culture implicit in those industries is designed to keep that dough rolling in, whatever the cost. Money is money.


Ariel Pink

DIIV’s Devin Rubin Perez


Consider Ariel Pink’s sexist comments about Madonna, or DIIV’s Devin Rubin Perez’s posts on 4chan a while back (DIIV, interestingly, was a client of Berru’s at one time). Musicians and artists aren’t role models by any means, but come on. Where’s the accountability? My parents used to tell me when I was a child (whenever I went overboard and said or did stupid shit), “Sorry is not good enough.” There has to be punitive action. Why are we letting these sick losers get away with this shit? Hey, it’s all rock and roll, maaaan

There are multiple reasons for this. Motormouthmedia’s owner Judy Silverman told Think Progress concerning Berru, “… fear was very pervasive, and all of these women didn’t want the usual: To be called sluts and whores and they deserved it, or, it didn’t really happen. … Women don’t want to lose their jobs, their reputation, they don’t want to litigate, they’ve been harmed and they think they can live with it and they’re going to move forward.”

The male-centric culture of indie rock, and the music industry at large, perpetuates this same fear, shaming, and violence towards women. This logic could also be applicable to Foxygen whose interband conflicts have been covered extensively. Globelamp’s Elizabeth le Fey was so closely involved with the group that when she wrote a controversial Tumblr post a couple summers ago, many people thought Foxygen had broken up, claims that were quickly dismissed by the band.


Elizabeth le Fey


Most recently, le Fey, who just recently released her second record under the moniker Globelamp, gave an extensive interview to Blake Gillespie of Impose Magazine where she describes in detail how she was shunned, shamed, and silenced by Foxygen and their legal team after allegedly suffering abuse at the hands of Foxygen’s lead singer, Sam France, whom she dated during her time in the group.

When she and France fought, le Fey recalls, France became physically violent. In October of 2013, le Fey tweeted a pic of her busted lip after France allegedly struck her in the face. Months later, after separating from the group, le Fey was served with a 32-page restraining order by France.

Le Fey found herself without a voice in the court proceedings, which favored France and his deeper pockets. Gillespie gave her one in his article, but Fort Williams Management, who represents Foxygen, wrote in an email to Gillespie that by running his story he was “giving voice to Sam’s abuser …” Others in the comments section trolled le Fey, telling her that her narrative is “old news” and “wasn’t important.”

Is this a classic case of victim blaming? The abused framed as the abuser? One thing that is clear is that the music industry seems equally keen, as it appears to with every other case, to dismiss a thing like this as insignificant, which is why no one seems to be talking about it. But why aren’t we talking about it? Why is there so much fog and uncertainty around these and other stories that are bound to pop up? Why did it take so long for Berru to be outed as the “The Bill Cosby Of Indie Music”?

Indie music has a white male problem, and it runs deep.

Whether it is artist or management, whether it is sexual abuse, physical abuse, or stupid shit being said, we can’t allow ourselves to tolerate it. We must demand accountability. We must give space to victims, to unheard voices, and not shame or silence them, especially women, who obviously have the lesser hand in it all, and weed out the sick bastards abusing them and keeping them down and getting away with it.

I’m not going to mic drop on this one. I’m going to hand that microphone to you. Spread the word.


Jesse Valencia

Jesse Valencia is an actor, musician, writer, and filmmaker from Northern Arizona whose writing has appeared in Phoenix New Times, Flagstaff Live!, and The Big Smoke. He first appeared onscreen opposite Tom Sizemore in the indie crime drama Durant’s Never Closes, and is currently studying screenwriting at the David Lynch Graduate School for Cinematic Arts at the Maharishi University of Management. He plays music with the band, Gorky, who've put out the records The Gork…And How To Get It!, More Electric Music, and Mathemagician. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in Literature from Northern Arizona University, is a veteran of the U.S. Army, and is currently at work on his first feature film.

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  1. Adam Moore said:

    Written by a dude whose band has a song called ‘Dat Ass’ with an image of a woman’s behind used as artwork. Fuck this article.

    • Jesse M Valencia said:

      Yes, my band did put out a song called ‘#Datass’ featuring an image of a woman’s behind. According to you, that somehow disqualifies me from speaking out on repeated sexual abuse in the music industry towards women by men, the majority of whom in power are white. Equating a silly song I wrote with a very real and traumatic crime is disrespectful to all victims of sexual abuse, and you should be ashamed of yourself, because there are a lot of other artists out there, many of them women, who have released similar songs featuring similar artwork. Would you say the same thing about them? That women, or anybody, who celebrates sex and the human body in consensual, fun ways should not be allowed to stand up for victims of sexual abuse? Get your shit together.

      While we’re focusing on me, though, I thought you might like to add fuel to your argument. Here is a music video where I play a parody of Fred Flintstone who physically attacks and tries to have sex with Wilma, as the rest of the gang frolic through Bedrock City as similar patriarchal representations. I look forward to hearing your argument of how I am perpetuating misogyny by satirizing it. Here’s the URL:


  3. Jimmy the Sprinkler System said:

    not sure if i can listen to foxygen’s music anymore…

  4. politicalcorrectnessiscancer said:

    If this article was called ”indie musics black male problem” or ”indie musics female problem” people would freak, but when it’s white males it’s all good. Apparently you’re only racist if you’re racist against minorities. I am a woman, and I am so fucking sick of all this misandrist, liberal, moronic politically-correct bullcrap that has infested people’s brainless skulls. If you really want equality for both sexes, stop accusing white men who enjoy playing music of having a ”white male problem”. You are the racist here. YOU are the problem. It would be one thing to personally attack these musicians and leave race issues out of it, but you are attacking every single white male who had anything to do with (indie) music. THAT is misandry. Most of the music you probably like has been recorded, produced and written by, you guessed it, white males. You can’t just side with women just because they’re women. ”If there was inequality between the sexes, women would be able to just get away with any claim they make about men about rape, sexual assault and other things.” Oh wait a minute! They already do! I think we found the problem here. Feminism isn’t about women’s rights. It’s not about equality between the sexes. It’s about hating men. And to all men who are feminists: you have failed. You are a failure, and you are pathetic. You are beyond saving. I am sorry. You will have to live as a pathetic, self-hating cuck who obeys these angry and disgusting women who will smear anything on a man just try to make themselves look like ”powerful, independent females”. Sheesh, if they’re so powerful and independent, why do they have to post their own pathetic problems all over the internet? I hope you one day see the light, but if you’ve gone this far, you probably won’t. Good luck.

    • Jesse Valencia said:

      The issue isn’t against white people. It’s that there is a culture in the music industry that protects men from backlash when they’ve abused women. It isn’t about race, it’s about focusing on one aspect of this problem, which is white males in rock and roll and their clique being protected from abusive actions and language. How many high-profile black rock and rollers can you name who’ve abused women? How many women can you name in indie rock who’ve abused men? Do your research. I’ll wait, because really you’re just spouting second-rate alt-right talking points here with no real argument. I’ve noticed you commented under the name “political correctness is cancer.” I’m more pro-first amendment than anyone, but this isn’t a first amendment issue. Nice try.

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