In the first episode of the new scripted comedy podcast Tampon Rock, roommates Deja and Chloe are at a rooftop lesbian bar when the band Tampacks (“spelled CKS for copyright infringement reasons”) kick into their song “Vagina Dentata.” Conversation halts as a breathy bar-rock incantation of “V – A – G – I – N – A” drowns out the crowd. A moment later, the music fades down and conversation returns.
“I feel like this band is a little too on-the-nose,” says Deja.
“More like on the vagina,” Chloe replies.
It’s a small, funny moment, the kind that largely make up Tampon Rock — between its many musical numbers. Created and written by three queer women, Sarah Aument, Alysia Brown, and Sophie Dinicol, Aument describes the show’s goal as “making light of existing outside of heteronormativity, and all that comes with it.”
“I experienced my queerness a lot with music,” she explains. “And I knew that I wanted to have a reason to make music that sounded like riot grrrl.”
Tampon Rock’s plot revolves around heroines Deja, who is Black, a little shy, and new to dating, and Chloe, white, out-going, and deceptively self-assured, who are brought together via the eternal Bay Area concerns of rent and music. In addition to living together in a cramped Oakland apartment, they form the spirited-but-identity-stricken rock duo the G.O.A.L. (the Greatest of All Lesbians).
“The characters are like people we know, and have sometimes been,” Aument says. “That goes for all of us, and for all of the characters kind of interchangeably. ”
Brown and Aument are both talented, lifelong musicians themselves, but where they agree on their creative projects, their fictional counterparts are on entirely different wavelengths. The band’s identity becomes an early source of tension in the show, as the two struggle to agree on what the G.O.A.L. should look like, sound like, and who exactly is the frontwoman. In the second episode, the band’s first show goes almost completely off the rails when Chloe unveils her tempestuous (and unpracticed) Ani DiFranco-inspired folk number “Happy Mother’s Day, Dad,” which opens: “Dad why do you hate me? Dad, appreciate me.”
“For Chloe, she is so inspired by people that she thinks she has to fully become them,” says Aument. “She doesn’t know that she can just be herself. I experienced that a lot when I was first writing music. I definitely wore plaid when maybe I didn’t want to.”
“One thing that we realized is that my queer experience was a lot different than Sarah’s,” says Brown, who is Black herself, but grew up in the largely white South Bend, IN. “I had made a joke about how I knew I was gay before I knew that I was Black. And I didn’t even really have that experience of what it means to be gay. I found out I was gay when I was 25.”
By centering the story entirely around queer characters, layers and gradations of the LGBTQI+ experience like these emerge naturally from the story. And though the show’s main characters are musicians (and musical numbers often take center stage), Tampon Rock’s real focus is the interior space of relationships.
“Especially friendships,” says co-creator Sophie Dinicol. “My female friends are so, so important to me, and I feel so close with them. So exploring how those relationships bend and change, and what they go through, especially at that age.”
“A lot of the stuff that happens is stuff that happened to us,” says Brown. “I had an ex who came out as poly after we broke up, and I had to be like, ‘wait, did I really want to explore polyamory?’”
Can the G.O.A.L. get it together and truly become the Greatest of All Lesbians? Tune in Thursdays to find out.