Why diversity in rock matters, by Scarlett O’Hara frontman Moises Lopez Jr.

Moises Lopez Jr. is a singer for Scarlett O’Hara, an active rock band made up of Spanish-speaking Mexican Americans. Born in Weslaco, Texas, the 31-year-old vocalist is a first-generation Mexican American on his father’s side and also proudly represents the LGBTQ+ community as a gay hard rock frontman. Originally formed in 2008, the band helped spearhead a local subgenre known as “South Texas Metalcore”. In addition to Lopez Jr. features Scarlett O’Hara Arnie Bernal on drums, Logan Burns on guitar and Alek Samodouroff on bass. Their 2021 singles “Friction” and “Obsessive” were both huge successes for the group, receiving a lot of radio airplay and landing on several Billboard charts. Their latest single, “Witching Hour,” was released today — the video can be seen below. Given his unique background and the subject of Scarlett O’Hara’s latest single “Witching Hour,” we asked Lopez to share his experience growing up as a minority trying to make it in rock music, and why it’s so important to share songs with a focus on mental health. Hi M. Head below to see Lopez’s words, but first be sure to check out “Witching Hour.”

Scarlett O’Hara – ‘Witching Hour’

I came out while in high school when I was 17 years old to my best friend and old bandmate at the time. I was incredibly nervous about it. Being gay was not something that was very common in our small town, let alone in a metal band. Despite that, I felt ready to say it or at least admit that I had same-sex attraction and none to the opposite.

We were on our way to Guitar Center and I remember struggling to just come out and say it. My heart started racing, so to ease my anxiety I made it a bit of a guessing game. His first guess was that I had a girl I was crushing on. I replied, “You are so far from the answer that you could develop frostbite.” After we bought our guitar strings, we went back to my house. That’s when I took a deep breath and told him. My words were “I’m not too sure about my sexuality, but I think I like guys. No, actually, I know I like guys.” At that moment he smiled at me and said, “Oh, brother, you’re fine, don’t even worry about it.” I didn’t really know how to react because it wasn’t what I had prepared for. He was very supportive about it, in fact all my band mates and other school friends were to my shock.

I felt like one of the lucky ones because my coming out was very smooth and easy, even though the majority of my friends, if not all, were straight guys.

That being said, it was a little different when it came to my family. My mother didn’t take kindly to me coming out, but it wasn’t because she was upset that I was gay. She was more afraid of me and worried about how the world would treat me. In her time, and most of our parents’ time, homosexuals were not treated very well and, unfortunately, were even killed for it. There was also an outbreak of HIV among gay men and she was concerned about that, so I understood where she was coming from.

I never actually told my father face to face. I was too scared. My sister ended up telling me later that she had a hunch that my then-boyfriend would come over often. She told him she loves me no matter what. His response was “El es mi hijo de cualquier manera.” That means he’s my son anyway.

From a young age, I think music was always something I dreamed of pursuing. I remember singing along to Selena’s songs while I was still in diapers. My parents used to be migrant workers so I always went to different schools and was around a very diverse group of kids. I originally never wanted to be a frontman because I was shy to speak, but singers were hard to come by in our area, so I ended up watching YouTube videos on how to do it and I took it up. The only gay icons in rock I knew of were Rob Halford and Freddie Mercury. Mind you, that’s one heck of a bar for me to reach…no pressure!

Forgive me if I leave out some notable ones, but as far as Latinos in rock and metal (or at least the ones I knew of at the time) were Metallica‘s bassist Robert Trujillo, Coheed and Cambria‘s Claudio Sanchez and Pierce the Veil. Latinos in rock weren’t the majority of what I saw growing up. Not that I’m complaining, but it’s a fact that rock and metal was dominated by white men.

One of my idols when I first started singing was definitely Breaking Benjamin. Lead singer and guitarist Ben Burnley was the guy I wanted to be, but he was absolutely nothing like me. He was this 6’4″ white guy and I was this 5’5″ little Mexican teenager who couldn’t even grow a full beard. I don’t really look like most of the guys in the top bands today. I don’t know if things would be different if there were more people like me out there. However, I try to look at it positively. I’m the only one out there who looks like me, and maybe it will inspire rock fans who look like me too.

Both bands I’m in right now – The Sight Of Impact and Scarlett O’Hara – are amazing and I love them to death. They never had a problem with me being gay. I remember talking to Arnie, our drummer, and he said that Logan even gave them all a pep talk before I joined them to make sure they weren’t going to say anything that could possibly be hurtful for me because of my sexuality.

At the moment, I don’t think LGBTQ or minorities are being shunned from rock and metal, but I also don’t think it’s really encouraging or encouraging for them to participate. I don’t think there are enough different people in the rock scene. This is something I discovered firsthand during my time at Scarlett O’Hara. I think improving that would be a big step in the right direction for creative freedom. It would open our eyes to the many different approaches that people from different backgrounds can have to the same genre of music by adding their unique flair.

People from different backgrounds have individual perspectives to bring to the table, which is one of the reasons I think diversity is so important. You walk into a Latino household, white, black, Asian, Indian, etc. and I guarantee you they will all cook you a meal differently. I feel the same goes for rock music. Diversity leads to more learning because we come to understand our differences in our cultures. This leads to a greater variety of expression in writing, in sounds, in performances and even in images. The more different styles of music and people we see, the more it can directly influence and inspire the music and performances of today and the future.

Having a more diverse group of people in music says, “Hey that person did it, they struggled up there but did it. What’s your excuse?” It also opens us up to learning about other cultures through a shared love of music.

Also worth mentioning is the connection between this topic and mental health, which undoubtedly exists. I can see how diversity, or lack thereof, can affect the mental health of a lot of rock musicians, regardless of race. It could quickly become a lonely world without the support of close friends and family.

When we did a post about me being a gay frontman, I was lucky that the response was very positive, but feeling different from your peers can still take a toll on a lot of people.

The topic of mental health has been extremely prominent in our music as it is something I am constantly balancing. I wrote the lyrics to our new song “Witching Hour” based on someone being haunted by a ghost, spirit, demon, their own mind, whatever you want. This person is going crazy trying to prove to others that they are haunted, but no one will believe them. So they turn to drugs or other abnormal tendencies in an attempt to cope.

The “stop blaming the voices for all the bad choices” line is me saying to take some responsibility and stop saying “Oh, I do bad things because I’m sick or going through things. ” It’s not an excuse. Shit happens sometimes, but if you need help, seek it. There is no shame in that. I know that many Latino men in particular can be incredibly stubborn when it comes to seeking help. The lyrics to many of our latest songs are meant to break that stigma.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, there is help available Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration website. To speak with someone on the phone, call 1-800-622-HELP (1-800-622-4357) or text 1-800-487-4889.

We all struggle with things on a daily basis. Some more than others. There is NO shame in seeking or needing help. When I was at my lowest point, I told myself, “I can only go up from here.” My advice to Latino and LGBT youth is this: Don’t think for a second that you can’t accomplish something because of your skin or orientation. Work hard and you will learn to appreciate what you have more than those who just have things handed to them. Finally understand how to love and respect yourself.

As a band, we hope that we can be an example to others that it’s okay to fully embrace who you are, while recognizing that it’s okay to seek help for your mental health when you have need it. Through our music and our actions in our daily lives, the goal is to be a realistic, achievable example of a Mexican-American, openly gay frontman, following in the footsteps of those before me.

Check out Scarlett O’Hara’s website to keep up to date with their upcoming releases.

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