Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij could be the new face of gay — if it matters
RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer email@example.com
With Beach House.
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Face it: Society is getting kind of used to the celebrity come-out story. Ricky Martin comes out and we applaud; Chely Wright becomes the first out country singer and now we know her name — ho-hum.
But when Rostam Batmanglij talks about being out as part of the big-buzzed indie group Vampire Weekend, nobody seems to notice.
Maybe it’s Batmanglij’s everyman look — he’s handsome but doesn’t smolder like Martin. He’s the understated hipster dude in the funky clothes. He just … is, minus the whole producer/multi-instrumentalist bit he performs for the band.
“I think sometimes there is so much pressure to conform to a straight identity,” he says. “But also, there’s pressure to conform to stereotypes of gay identity. I hope that’s less and less a pressure nowadays.”
Nothing about Vampire Weekend’s vibe is particularly threatening, but their music is innovative enough to stand out. The sound is happy with reggae-ish beats and endearing lyrics. Their scruffy image proffers likeable appeal for college- and high school-aged kids that includes a new generation of LGBT youth unrestricted by labels. Like Batmanglij, they are living a life that doesn’t find the need to thrive on completely gay environments as may have been the case 20 years ago.
“Just like there are different kinds of straight people, it’s the same for gays,” he says. “But now there are various gay role models.”
Batmanglij came out to the media last year, saying it was something he felt he should do. It didn’t have the shockwave impact of other musical coming outs, but it didn’t have to for Batmanglij. Really, he just finds it tough to figure if his coming out had any kind of impact on either the band or himself.
“It’s hard to perceive,” he says. “I certainly believe we had gay fans before I talked about it. I just don’t know if gay people would approach our band based on that fact.”
What does weigh heavy on Batmanglij is not his gay identity, but his Middle Eastern heritage. When asked about the Washington Post’s article where he discussed having issues with “whiteness,” Batmanglij dismisses the condensed version of his life in that article, but also shifts to a troubled tone when talking about his heritage.
“I have a complex relationship with being of Iranian descent and now more than ever,” he says. “There are a lot of things not talked about in America and so much is repressed and kept in the dark. Middle Easterners aren’t represented well. I think that I’ll continue to have an issue with it. There are ways to look at things without the cynicism.”
Thus it’s actually harder to be Middle Eastern than gay, right now?
“Certainly in America,” he laughs.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 1, 2010.