Featuring Mars Ganito of Aye Nako | By Kelley O’Death

Brooklynite Mars Ganito is best known as the vocalist and guitarist of Aye Nako, a DIY band who have forcibly wrenched pop punk from its oft misogynistic, heterosexist, and predominantly white roots to create catchy, youthful jams for fans of the genre who have long been ignored or maligned by its progenitors. Aye Nako embark on a short tour with Screaming Females this month, and are in the process of writing songs for their third record, which Ganito says will be more “heavy, dissonant, [and] weird” than their 2015 effort, The Blackest Eye. Outside of his work with Aye Nako, Ganito is working on a horror film called “Flesh” about a Black serial killer, and considering creating his own podcast. “For like seven years, I’ve been an avid podcast listener,” he explains, “but lately, [I’ve been] thinking about starting my own with my friend Laetitia [Tamko] from Vagabon. Now that I’ve said it, I have to do it!” he laughs.

Photo by McCann
Photo by Joe McCann

On Video Games:

I was always a quiet kid, but if you knew to talk to me about video games, I would suddenly become impassioned and talkative. That remains true today. I lived for video rental stores and scanning the backs of the boxes trying to decide in what alternate universe I was going to spend my weekend. The feeling of getting to be someone else, somewhere else—I was desperate for that. I needed the escape. I needed a break from being the confused, traumatized, isolated Black girl that I was.

There was a weird phase where I didn’t play video games much at all. I gave my them up to have a “social life” and focus more on making music. Two years ago, I came back to them. I’m all caught up on which games are which, and I follow a handful of Let’s Players who seem chill and actually aren’t bros. The most famous one is a bit of a turd, but reminds me of my little brother, so I find myself liking him anyway. He cried on FaceCam during the season one finale in Telltale’s “The Walking Dead”—that means… something? Heh. I had this passing dream of game design. I have the software, but not the patience.

Since my homecoming, I’ve gone deeper into PC gaming. I love “The Sims” series, “Duke Nukem,” and “Roller Coaster Tycoon,” but since then, I’ve discovered all these cool ass indie games that are thoughtful, soothing, interesting, visually stunning games about depression, driving a gay car, looking for your friend in a cyberpunk version of San Francisco, an Iñupiaq girl and her arctic fox sidekick on a treacherous quest to save her homeland, and having the secret power of rewinding time, but only your best friend knows, and y’all are trying to solve the mystery of a missing girl.

I think video games get a lot of flak and [are] deemed a waste of time by non-gamers, because they are only thinking of AAA titles and, like, picturing adolescent boys/infantile men in their basements calling their virtual enemies “fag” or something. Meanwhile, there’s so many girls and women who game, so many queers and trans people who game, so many people who aren’t bros. I feel a stinging in my heart when a “friend” comes at me with their blasphemy, saying they straight up don’t like video games. You just haven’t found the right game for you.

Mars Ganito 2016
Photo by Joe McCann

On Wrestling:

I can only count on one hand the people in my life that I can talk to about wrestling these days. I’m talking WWF and WCW era. My dad got me into it. I tuned in every week till I was 17 or so. He and I used to walk across the street to our neighbor’s place to watch the pay-per-view events like “Wrestlemania” in the early ‘90s. I was friends with the kids who lived there, but they didn’t like wrestling, so here I was in the smoky room of a double-wide trailer with two gray-haired men, watching sweaty, nearly naked men touch each other. It’s no wonder I turned out gay.

I’ve seen it live several times, but mostly only the independent circuit wrestling they had right outside the border of Arkansas at Lady Luck Casino. This is where I met Jerry “The King” Lawler and Grand Master Sexay—known only as “Too Sexy” Brian Christopher at the casino—a bunch of times. They also had some wrestlers there who were sort of knockoffs of Diesel and Razor Ramon. My mom’s hobbies: gambling and wrestling. She has stacks of electronic handheld card and slot machine games and stacks of wrestling DVDs and films starring The Rock.

There’s a meme out there some gifted person made involving four images of finisher moves being performed: Swanton Bomb, Stone Cold Stunner, Rock Bottom, and Pedigree. Two out of four, I’ve personally experienced. The text part of the meme says something like: “C’mon, I won’t do it for real #growingupwithsiblings.” One of my older brothers was also very into wrestling, so I’ve been in my fair share of headlocks, leglocks, chokeslams, the torture rack, and powerbombs that ended up breaking the bed.

I’ll always have a place in my heart for wrestling. I’m thankful that YouTube exists, so I can relive some of the most exhilarating moments in my life, such as the time when Stone Cold [Steve Austin] snuck up on Booker T at the grocery store and asked if he wanted some ketchup with his ass whoopin’, Rey Mysterio performing his aerial moves, when people got chokeslammed through the ring, when Goldust did or said extra gay things to the other wrestlers, the goosebumps I got when The Rock said anything, and the times Chyna entered with her fireworks bazookas. To be quite honest, when I hear anyone say “TLC,” my first thought is tables, ladders, and chairs.

P.S. I was up late when I heard from a friend that Chyna had died. For the next 48 hours or so, it felt like someone punched me in the stomach, I was so heartbroken. It was so important for me growing up a “tomboy” to see a woman like her. She wasn’t what adults said a woman was “supposed to look like,” but she was the first woman to participate in the Royal Rumble and was an intercontinental champion. She wasn’t afraid to kick men’s asses, and I always appreciated that.

Requiescat In Pace

Photo by McCann
Photo by Joe McCann

On Hair:

Most early photographs of me exhibit a shy mixed kid in oversized t-shirts, sweatpants or “Ninja Turtles” shorts, and poofy, frizzy hair. I had coarse, curly hair down past my butt. I kept it in one long braid. I took a chance and did something drastically different for once when I was 14 and started wearing it in two braids. It required something other than Pert Plus and Herbal Essences, but those are the products the adults bought for me and I didn’t question it. I didn’t grow up with any Black family members, so I wasn’t taught how to care for Black hair. My first haircut wasn’t till eight or nine years ago, and I only recently started using the right products. If you see me wearing a hat, it’s very likely due to my insecurities surrounding my hair, not because of the weather or for style.

My stomach churns when I see white people with dreadlocks. It churns when I think of the times men in my life poked fun at me for taking long in the bathroom, as if was washing, conditioning, and combing long hair is a two-minute ordeal. It churns thinking of white men reading this and thinking how silly I must be to talk about hair. I guess it’s also silly to bring up how when Black people let the hair on their head grow out naturally, they get denied jobs, suspended from school, and are assumed to be unwashed and drug dealers.

There’s a new ad for SheaMoisture that I haven’t watched yet, because I know it’ll make me cry and I don’t want to do that right now. From what I’ve read, the commercial makes a statement on how there’s a separate section for the “ethnic” products, while the “normal” haircare section gets to be called “health and beauty.” A quote from the founder of the company, [Richelieu Dennis]—“I have often said over the last 20 years that the beauty aisle is the last place in America where segregation is still legal”—resonates with me and my story. I used to either shy away from or even make fun of the “ethnic” section. This makes me want to vomit remembering how firmly established my internalized anti-Blackness was at that point. That section tends to be where you can find skin bleaching creams, which, had I thought more about, I might have used instead of wearing only pants and long sleeves so my skin wouldn’t tan those couple of summers in the middle of my teenage years. My reasoning: “No one would love me if I have dark skin.”

Be sure to catch Aye Nako on tour this month, as well as pick up their latest album ‘The Blackest Eye’ through Don Giovanni Records.

Aye Nako Tour Dates w/ Screaming Females:
May 11 – Windup Space* – Baltimore, MD
May 12 – Rock & Roll Hotel* – Washington, DC
May 13 – Back Bay Brewing* – Virginia Beach, VA
May 14 – Hardwood Park Craft Brewery* – Richmond, VA
May 15 – The Mothlight* – Asheville, NC
May 16 – The Station* – Charlotte, NC
May 17 – Georgia Theater Rooftop* – Athens, GA
May 18 – The Atlantic* – Gainesville, FL
May 19 – Churchill’s* – Miami, FL
May 20 – New World Brewery* – Tampa, FL
May 21 – Will’s Pub* – Orlando, FL
May 23 – JJ’s Bohemia* – Chattanooga, TN
May 24 – Off Broadway* – St Louis, MO
May 25 – The Bishop* – Bloomington, IN
May 26 – Northside Yacht Club* – Cincinnati, OH
May 27 – Mahall’s* – Lakewood, OH
May 28 – The Bug Jar* – Rochester, NY

Stream Aye Nako’s The Blackest Eye via Bandcamp.

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