Entertainment » Music

Meet 'This Is Queer' (aka Enio Chiola)

by Kevin Langson
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Nov 14, 2017

The label 'independent' gets thrown around shamelessly in discussing film or music, but it doesn't really get any more independent than Enio Chiola, performing now as This is Queer. His music-making is a one-man labor of love that has morphed over the years -- a home-brewed mastery that has manifest in multiple genres. His strokes, whether guitar-based or electronic, seamlessly capture both fragility and angst.

I stumbled upon his music circa 2003. Finding his openly gay folk/pop album, "Yellowbrick," was no slight thrill for me because he brought a queer voice to the sort of music that spoke to me. Not being one to adore the divas of the day (unless you count Tori Amos), Enio filled a sort of void between my nascent sexual identity and my musical preferences. "Yellowbrick" had lament, but it also had sass. Now, in 2017, '90s nostalgia is alive and well with his new self-titled release ("This Is Queer"), which utilizes the era's beloved alternative rock sound to convey the conflicted emotions defining amorous pursuits.

When I discovered he had a new one, I asked him to take a few minutes to reflect on where he is at now.

Back to his roots

EDGE: You have been writing and recording music for quite some time. What would you say has evolved and what has remained consistent at this point?

This is Queer: This last album was like a 'back to my roots of songwriting' when I used to just pick up a guitar and write songs. It was very stream of consciousness. With the last few albums I did -- 'Panic' and 'Immolate' -- that were more electronic, I experimented with different kinds of songwriting. I would write and record and change sounds and lyrics as I would go; but this new album I made a very conscious decision to be quick and not think too much about what I was doing and just write it -- let it come from my gut. The technology and my recording capabilities have changed definitely. I can do a lot of great things that I didn't used to be able to do, but after a while you get to a point that you just want the songs to speak for themselves. The consistency is the ability to pick up a guitar and write songs like I used to when I was 18 or 19 when I had all this passion and angst.

EDGE: Can you say something about the This is Queer moniker? Are you using that exclusively now?

This is Queer: About 10 years ago, I wanted to start "This is Queer," but I wanted to make it a sort of ambient electronic sort of feel. It never took off because I was busy writing all the time. But I had the name in the back of my head. Then, in the last couple of years I realized that if you go on YouTube and ITunes there's just a whole ton of Latin rappers named Enio. There's at least a dozen now, singing in Spanish or Portuguese. I began to feel that when people saw my name they would equate it with that sort of music, so I felt that I should branch out. At that same time, I very consciously wanted this album to be very different than the last one, which was synthetic with no guitars. This one is rock -- a little heavier and a little darker -- and I wanted that disconnection, that that was Enio and this is This is Queer; it's a very different feel.

Like that grunge sound?

EDGE: I have a soft spot for this '90s grunge/alternative, and it's not a genre that has much gay or queer representation. It's refreshing to have that. Would you say that over the years gay men have connected to your music? Have you tried to reach them as an audience?

This is Queer: I try. I really try. I haven't reached a whole bunch of people. It's tough. I find music in the gay community, on a mainstream level, is not the kind that This is Queer makes. A few people here and there like that grunge sound; but a lot don't, and I don't understand exactly why not. That was the kind of music I was listening growing up -- Hole, Smashing Pumpkins, Veruca Salt. That was it for me. Even Tori Amos was in there, too -- but most of it was heavy guitar music. Gays are not very prevalent in rock music.

EDGE: This genre of music does well to express the messiness or bittersweetness of either relationships or the artistic life. And this sound is a lot different from some of your other records. Can you say why you chose this particular sound now?

This is Queer: When I look at my career in music, I want to be able to pull out an album and be like, 'this was my EDM album; this was my folk album; this was my rock album.' I want to be able to play with other genres. I'm not a huge fan of Beck, but I appreciate how he transitions from one completely different genre to another.

With this one, I finally had the capabilities to do an alt-rock album so I decided to go with it. I put on my '90s hat. I listened to a lot of old Smashing Pumpkins and Hole albums. The new Veruca Salt album was also a big inspiration. That anger and that emotion I really wanted to convey in my music, so I decided to go for it. It wasn't that I needed to do this but more that I hadn't done it. I had played with the electronic stuff and now wanted to go back and do this. I wanted this album to be blaring at times. Even though the songs are slower, I wanted you to be able to turn it up to 10 and feel the abrasiveness of it. Stuff in the '90s had that, but a lot of stuff now doesn't have that same 'umph.' There are a few here and there.

One man band

EDGE: Do you do your own producing?

This is Queer: I do everything myself. The room you see here (via Skype) is where I record, produce everything. I put my headphones on, have my Mac Book in front of me, and just go for it. I would like to collaborate with other people, but I don't have many friends who are musically inclined that live in the same city. So, everything you hear on the album is me -- the drums I play around with and produce. My niece sings back-up vocals on "Au Pair."

EDGE: Can you say something about what it's like to be a musician in Toronto? Are you performing?

This is Queer: I performed solidly for a couple of years, playing anywhere I could get my hands on. Now I have a full-time job, my husband, our dogs... my music is really focused on the recording and having an Internet presence -- getting it out there as much as possible.

In Toronto, the scene is different than it was before. Everyone kind of knew each other; there was a small group of people who understood who you were. There's a different vibe now, which is great. I'm happy for the young artists who are putting themselves out there. But the music industry is so saturated now that it's hard to find those diamonds in the rough.

Coming from his subconscious

EDGE: What is your lyric writing process?

This is Queer: I have a friend in New York, Billy Merrill, who is a poet and he just released book called 'Vanilla,' and he and I write a lot together. He'll send me poems, and I try to turn them into lyrics. Or sometimes when I'm stumped, I'll send him a melody and he tries to write lyrics. That happens on occasion, not too often. This album I did myself. When I write lyrics there's a surreal moment when I'm not really thinking about what I'm saying. The lyrics are just coming. I'll like a line, and I'll go 'I'll put that in there'; and it's not until after I write the song that I listen and think, 'holy shit, that's what that song's about?' On occasion I'll change a lyric here or there because it doesn't really make sense. It's like I go into a zone in which I'm not conscious what I'm saying until it's put down on paper.

There's a lot of disappointment in this album because I had some friends who I am no longer friends with, and I don't really have a relationship with my father anymore; and there's a lot of stuff about me as well. I think back to when I was writing a lot of these songs; I didn't know what I was writing about, which is my favorite way of writing lyrics because it means these are as modest as they possibly can be. They are almost coming through from my subconscious. When everything is done, I connect the links and realize who the song is about.

EDGE: 'A Mess' stands out to me. It seems to be about infatuation and to be a bit dark. It skirts this edge musically.

This is Queer: That song I wrote when I was 21. The first verse and the first chorus are on my first album, 'Yellowbrick,' as an interlude. When I go back and listen to that song I always love it. When I was writing this album I was looking at my back catalogue, at songs I had abandoned or never given the attention they deserved. So, I finished this one and added a longer second chorus. And that was me -- not anymore because I'm happily married, but when I was in my 20s I was jumping head first into relationships and I fantasized about what was going to be. Then I would get super disappointed, and a lot of the time this thing would happen where guys would come up to me and be really into me. I would be cautious for a week then ease into it then after a month they would be like, "Ok, I'm done with you." And I would think, "but you started it. This was your thing. You wanted me." That song is probably the most honest in terms of what I used to go through back then -- that idea of feeling like a fool, feeling ashamed but when I look at you, you look calm and so cool. A lot of it is part of growing up, you know -- being confused, hurt, angry -- and coming to terms with it rather than being embarrassed by it.
I revived some old songs for this record. It has an angsty teenager feel, and I wanted to tap into what I was writing about back then because a lot of it fits the genre.

For more on This Is Queer (Enio Chiola), visit his website.


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