InspiHERed By spotlights phenomenal women in the Black queer community—everyone from artists to activists. Each week ELIXHER features someone whose personal journey and individual craft inspire us to dream bigger, laugh harder, and love deeper. This week we chat with Alphie Starr, the beautiful and super talented singer of the D.C.-based music duo lowercaseletters.
ELIXHER: Tell us a little about yourself.
ALPHIE: Well, I’m 24 [years old]. I’m going to be 25 next month. I’m from D.C. originally. I went to D.C’s. School Without Walls then I went to VCU [Virginia Commonwealth University]. I came back here and started doing music. I’m a Scorpio. I like music. I like to sing it, play it. I’m in accounting, but that wasn’t my major [in college]. I just kind of fell into it. That’s what I do during the day.
ELIXHER: You’re part of the music duo lowercaseletters. When and how did the group begin?
ALPHIE: A couple of years ago, I went to a party at this loft warehouse on New York Avenue and I met John Beckham, the other member of the group. I asked him to teach me how to play the guitar. So then we were doing sessions and lessons. I caught on quick. (He says I’m a natural.) I started singing and playing. He was like, let’s start a group. So that’s how it happened.
ELIXHER: Where did the name come from?
ALPHIE: We were having a Gchat conversation trying to come up with a name at the time and we liked it. It stuck. It was one of those things that develop more meaning over time. The more we think about it, the more we say it, the more we associate ourselves with it, we find cool, different meanings in our lives to go with the name “lowercaseletters.” It’s cool.
ELIXHER: What are some of those meanings?
ALPHIE: Well, we found out we like alliteration. Personally, one of my favorite poets is E. E. Cummings and he wasn’t a fan of syntax. He wrote his name in all lowercase letters. Right now, we’re incorporating it into our EP. Basically we’re incorporating the letters of the musical alphabet into that. And I personally don’t like capital letters for some random reason.
ELIXHER: How would you describe your sound?
ALPHIE: We’re chill. We both have soul. With the beats that come out and the bass, “soul” makes sense. But it’s always developing because we never know what’s going to come out. Some of our tracks kind of have a folk sound. We dibble dabble. We’re actually about to do this rap track.
ELIXHER: Oh yea?
ALPHIE: Yea. [Laughs.]
ELIXHER: Are you going to rap?
ALPHIE: I write poetry and yea, I rap. I got a little hip-hop in me. And J.B. [John Beckham] won a couple of rap battles sometime ago. So we’ll see how it goes. That’s originally what he was doing before he met me—doing rap tracks and stuff like that.
ELIXHER: Cool. When did you begin pursuing singing as a passion?
ALPHIE: Technically, I’ve been pursuing it my whole life. But I guess recently when I met John. Before then I just would sing all over the house. I was in choirs in high school and I have a really musical family, so it’s always been a part of my life. But as far as it materializing as something I could do? When I met John.
ELIXHER: What drew you to the craft?
ALPHIE: I wouldn’t call it “boredom” because I wasn’t bored. I’m just a kind of go-with-the-flow kind of person. So when things present themselves, I’m not really one to say “no” to doing something. I just like to do and see and try. And it’s been fun thus far, so I’ve just continued to invest my own self in it. It’s really fun to do. It’s just awesome.
ELIXHER: Do you write your own music?
ALPHIE: Yea, all the songs beside one track that my father wrote are written by John and I.
ELIXHER: What topics do you tend to write and sing about and why?
ALPHIE: Typically, I try to write about universal things. Sometimes I write about love or sex, but not too overtly sexual—kind of suggestive. Mainly it’s what I call feel good stuff because I don’t like mean music. We did this one song called “dutchie.” It’s the most recent one we did. It sounds like it’s about smoking but it’s more about using smoke as a catalyst for friendship. I write about whatever comes to mind. Whatever feels good and sounds kind-hearted.
ELIXHER: You said you write about love and sex. I have to ask, are you writing specifically about women?
ALPHIE: I keep away from pronouns because I don’t like to hear gender pronouns in any music really, so it’ll be suggestive. There’s this one track called “giveme.” “Give me something pretty to look at/Give me something wild to smile for/Give me something beautiful to/Give me some of you why don’t you.” It’s suggestive. I like stuff like that.
ELIXHER: Do you ever worry about being boxed in as a “queer female artist?”
ALPHIE: I’ve thought about that but those are things I try not to worry about. Just continue doing what you’re doing and don’t be afraid to not do it. I like to think of it that way. Ultimately I try to just do instead of worry about it.
ELIXHER: Who or what inspires you?
ALPHIE: Love is inspirational. Relationships. Internal feelings. I think everybody has melody inside them. You just have to be honest for it to come out. So inspiration comes from within.
ELIXHER: I like that. Describe yourself in three words.
ALPHIE: Um, I’m so bad at this! [Laughs.] Only three?
ELIXHER: Yup. [Laughs.] What are the first three that come to mind?
ALPHIE: Okay. You got to give me a second. [Laughs.] Sarcastic is one of my main ones. Sweet. And, um, musical.
ELIXHER: What’s the biggest misconception people have of you?
ALPHIE: I don’t really like to think about how other people think of me because it makes me anxious. So, I sincerely have no idea.
ELIXHER: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?
ALPHIE: I always think about how emotional the work is—and life is. I’m kind of a deep feeling person. I guess maturing and growing up has made me able to handle certain situations emotionally. I’m not overly emotional or anything, but being able to reel in my emotions, especially with perceptions that other people have of me. Not necessarily not caring what people think, but just doing and being who you are. That’s a journey that I think I’m coming along well in.
ELIXHER: What makes you proud to be a part of the Black queer community?
ALPHIE: I always feel at home. They’re generally very nice people. Loving. The community [in D.C.] is small, so people want to know you and they’re fun if you don’t get into the drama. I try not to do all that. I feel blasphemous when I say that it’s not the only [community I’m a part of]. But it’s not. I’m not trying to deny or dilute my own sexual identity by saying that the Black queer community isn’t my only community. We have our specific communities and I want to be a part of all of them.
ELIXHER: What changes would you like to see in the Black queer community?
ALPHIE: I don’t see particularly anything the community needs to do to grow.
ELIXHER: Individual people but not as a whole community.
ELIXHER: So what’s next for Alphie?
ALPHIE: I’m just chilling. [Laughs.] Doing some more shows. Writing more songs. I’m just chilling. Just living life. Rolling with all the punches and connecting with different people and different places along the way.
Check out more of Alphie and lowercaseletters at lowercaselettersmusic.com. Look out for their upcoming EP!