It's June 30, 4:12 p.m. CST. We call Loners Club via Zoom.
“Can you hear me? Can you see me?” she says.
"Perfect. So, what were you saying?” I answer.
“Man, to be honest, I think I forgot," she says. "Oh wait, no I didn’t. We were talking about who I stan [slang for being an obsessive fan]. Yeah, let’s talk about that.”
Despite what her moniker may imply, Loners Club, a Dallas-based artist, loves connecting with people. The 23-year-old musician, whose real name is Beverly Etta, has spent much of quarantine reaching out to other artists of color: M3CCA, Ebo, Brionne. These are just a few of the Dallas artists she has been frequently texting and actively stanning.
“You gotta stan more POC artists in Dallas,” she says. “They’re giving me hope.”
Recently, her hope has been in short supply. After George Floyd’s murder, Loners Club took to the streets, demanding the change that she is not optimistic will come.
“With our president, nothing is going to be done,” she says. “I don’t trust this man to fix anything. So we have to check on the person next to us. We gotta make sure our people are OK.”
Loners Club’s first love was the stage. When she was 11, her elementary school class went to a Fair Park performance of Mary Poppins.
“That bitch flew,” Loners Club says, recounting the awe she still feels at the power of theater. “She flew into the fucking sky, and I knew that was it for me. I had to fly, too.”
Theater was another way to tell stories, which has always been Loners Club’s modus operandi. It was also the rare setting where she felt included.
“I was never cool enough. I was never jock enough. I was never anything enough,” she says. “Everyone is somewhat of an underdog in theater. We’re all just weird kids, so I fit right in, because I’ve always been somewhat of a loner.”
When she adapted the sobriquet “Loners Club,” it was about more than a stage name. She wanted a persona, an identity that was hers and hers alone.
“‘Loners Club’ was my own little world where I could be anything I wanted to be,” she says. “There weren’t any rules besides my own.”
The artist blends hip-hop, soul, blues and rap with her love of Goth culture, creating a genre she calls “Goth soul.” The result is disorienting and oddly beautiful: The voice is what you might expect from a soul singer, but the visuals are moody, almost haunting. Take her recent EP Leave Me Alone, for instance. On the cover of the album, Loners Club clutches a teddy bear and stares directly at the viewer, her opaque contact lenses masking her eyes and giving her a zombified look. It’s creepy.
She wears those contact lenses when she’s not shooting a video or an album cover. Even if she’s going to the grocery store or talking to a writer over Zoom, she’s wearing those cloudy contacts. It’s a way to maintain her solitude, she explains, a way to telegraph that even if you know her, you don’t truly know her. Those feelings of loneliness have only intensified in quarantine.
To stay busy, Loners Club has been trying to write and create more. Yet so far, little she has done has been able to stave off the tumult of despair coming at her from every corner of the globe. It’s not just George Floyd; it’s not just the pandemic. Loners Club is a Cameroonian American, and right now, Cameroon is engulfed by multiple conflicts. Climate change is drying up Lake Chad, a source of water for multiple African countries, and has exacerbated poverty for millions of people. In the resulting free-for-all for resources, violence has been rampant. The country also is in the midst of a civil war, with armed groups fighting the government for control of the country’s two English-speaking regions.
“I may not be Cameroonian any more,” Loners Club says, glumly reflecting on the future of her ancestors’ home. “I may not have a nationality.” The artist is exhausted, dejected and wondering what to do when life seems pointless, like an endless cycle of pain. Yet even now, she is still creating. She has more time, of course, but she’s also creating because Loners Club is trying to be more open.
“I’m a bisexual Black artist, and this might be the best time ever to put out music,” she says. “We need more artists that look like me, whether you’re gay or Black. We need you.”
Her recent release “Where’s the Weeeed?” was written three years ago, but Loners Club thinks it is as timely as ever.
“I wrote it on a broken heart,” she says of the song. “I was going through one of the worst breakups, and it was a weird-ass breakup. So, at least once a week, I would smoke. This song is about how I depended on that when I was heartbroken. I wanted that person, but I couldn’t have that person, so shit, where’s the weed?
"I feel like everyone right now, whether you’re a smoker or not, feels like that. The world is too much.”
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This isn’t to say Loners Club is advocating for lighting a spliff and forgetting the world’s problems — quite the opposite, in fact.
“We need people out on the streets,” she says. “We’re giving the police billions of dollars, and I’m an after-school teacher paying for my own supplies. That shit needs to change.”
At the same time, she believes in protecting your energy. It’s OK to be alone, she says, and to go for hours, even days, without talking to other people.
“I may not talk to anyone for a while after this,” she says. “But I know my people got me. All of those artists I mentioned before, they got me. That’s where the hope has been coming from me. The fact that other people are thinking of me. I’m thinking of them, too.”