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FYF’s Sean Carlson accused of sexual misconduct by several women; Goldenvoice cuts ties

FYF Fest 2016 - Saturday
photo by Anastasia Velicescu

Sean Carlson, founder of FYF Fest, has been accused of sexual misconduct and assault in a detailed new report from SPIN. The report comes shortly after news that Goldenvoice has ended its partnership with Carlson. Goldenvoice didn’t give a reason for their decision at the time, with company head Paul Tollett saying in an email, “effective immediately, Goldenvoice has ended its relationship with Sean Carlson. We’re evaluating our path forward as it relates to FYF Fest.”

In the report, SPIN details incidents that are alleged to have happened between 2010 and 2015 to four different women. They also spoke to a man who worked with Carlson from 2006 to 2010, who was uncomfortable with what he saw of Carlson’s treatment of women, which he says was an “open secret” in the L.A. music scene. “One of the nights of the [2010] festival there was a house party,” Carlson’s former coworker says. “Sean rolled up to the party and was just like, groping girls… y’know, grabbing their asses and just being super aggressive. It seemed like he was kind of joking around at first, but then they’d say, ‘No, stop that,’ and he would just keep doing it. That was the thing I saw in person, and I was like, okay, I’m out.”

Natasha Ryan, a great photographer who used to shoot for BrooklynVegan, previously told her story anonymously to a Tumblr account, The Industry Ain’t Safe, across two separate posts (in the first she said she was on assignment for BrooklynVegan, but she clarified in the second that she mis-remembered and was actually shooting Matador 21 for another publication). Of her experience, she told SPIN she was approached by Carlson while in a hot-tub at the VIP after-party for Matador Records’ ‘Matador at 21′ festival in Las Vegas in October of 2010.

“This guy just kept coming up to me and trying to take my bra top off and I had to keep batting him away,” she says. “I didn’t know who he was. I was just hoping he’d leave me alone.”

About an hour later, Ryan was alone, waiting for a bathroom, when the man she later identified as Carlson approached again. “He just started grabbing me and trying to kiss me and was trying to pull me into the bathroom to make out with me,” she says. “I kept saying, ‘Stop, get off me,’ and he kept saying, ‘But you’re just too cute to not make out with.’ He finally backed off after I pushed him off again.”

Ryan later described the incident to her mother, who SPIN spoke to and confirmed her memory of the conversation.

The other three accounts SPIN details are from women who requested to remain anonymous. The first of these, “Beth,” describes being assaulted by Carlson while using the bathroom at an LA barbeque in 2013:

“I’m sitting there urinating and then the door just barges open, and it’s Sean. I’m like, ‘Oh wait, hold on a second, I’m actually peeing, hold on,’ and he just came in and wouldn’t leave,” Beth says. “I’m like, ‘Hey, I don’t wanna do this in here, I wasn’t planning on you coming back here.’ And he just didn’t say anything. He just looked completely different, like his eyes looked dead. I’ve never seen anything like this before. He did not look like the same person. He shut the door and he must have locked it, because he put his hand on it and I couldn’t open it.” Beth remembers standing between Carlson’s body and the bathroom door, struggling to get it open as Carlson’s outstretched hand held it shut.

“I turn around, and his erect penis is just out of his pants,” Beth continues. “I remember trying to bargain with him, rationalize with him, like, ‘Hey, you’re a really cool guy, let’s go on a date first, I don’t wanna do this, I’m not ready to do this, please, let’s not do this’ and he kept asking me to kiss his penis. I think that’s when I realized, oh my God, this is not okay, this is really a problem and I’m scared. I felt trapped—I mean, I was trapped. So he just kept demanding that I kiss his penis, and I did. In my mind, I was like, ‘Maybe I’ll just do this and he’ll let me go,’ which in retrospect does not make sense. But at that time I was super panicked and I just couldn’t believe what was happening.”

In her memory, Beth says, she watches herself kneel down for the kiss as if she were outside her own body. “So I did it and I stood up. He kept his hand on the door and I kept trying to pull the door open,” she says. She happened to be wearing a long dress and no underwear. “He lifted up my dress, and his erect penis was touching my butt. I just felt like, ‘Oh my god, this guy is about to enter me, what the fuck is happening right now,’” Beth says.

Beth goes on to describe opening the bathroom door and getting away from Carlson, then being caught again. “He pulled me on top of him, he had me pinned down by my wrists,” she said. “I’m struggling to get away and he’s like, trying to kiss me. And then somebody opened the back door, thank God, because that sound startled him and he loosened his grip on my wrists and I was able to pull free.”

Beth showed SPIN screenshots of text messages she received after the assault she describes, coming from Carlson’s number. They read:

Hey [Beth], I owe you an apology how I acted last night. It wasn’t ok and I want you to know that I am sorry. I hope that I can show you in the future that I am a good person. And we hopefully we [sic] cross paths soon. I will make you smile and laugh. Have a good day : )


Hey [Beth], want to send you one more text and apologize to you for how i acted. I know an apology means nothing but I hope in the near future that I can make it up to you and show you that I am a good person. – Sean

Beth also filed a police report following the alleged attack.

Another woman, “Sarah,” who also asked to remain anonymous, says Sean “forcibly made out” with her, and at another party, tried to follow her into a bathroom to make out with her again. After that, she says Carlson invited she and a male friend to ride home in his Uber. When they accepted, Sarah says Carlson insisted on riding in the back seat with Sarah, and her friend riding in the front. She continues:

Carlson “distracted my friend into picking some music and turning the volume up while he proceeded to put his hands all over me and again try to make out with me.” Carlson repeatedly slid into the middle of the back seat, she says, groping her breasts and thighs as she tried to block with her shoulder and lift his hands off. Stuck in a moving vehicle and in front of a friend, she didn’t want to make a scene.

“I sort of silently tried to get him to back off, and he would, for like 20 seconds, and then try again,” she says. “This continued most of the way home.

The fourth incident SPIN reports on involves a former publicist, “Jane” (not her real name), who worked with Carlson for over two years. She recounts her experience with Carlson on the dance floor at a show:

“As the night went on, Sean was just getting a little bit in my face, being overly flirty,” Jane says. She remembers him getting “too close,” putting his hand on her lower back as she tried to dodge away. “I kept trying to jokingly say ‘no’ in a way that wouldn’t be embarrassing, ‘cause it was a group of us so I didn’t want to make it uncomfortable,” she says. Jane felt Carlson should have known his advances were unwelcome, because he had met her boyfriend in the past. “Not that that should make any difference,” she adds, “But that was very clear.”

“And then at one point, he just decided it was okay to kiss me,” she remembers. “I had told him to stop getting into my zone a few times before, and I had to push him away.” The other men intervened, pulling Carlson aside and telling him to stop.

Carlson responded to SPIN by email about these incidents, saying:

Incident 4 [Jane] is true. Incident 3 [Sarah] is generally true, but I did not follow the individual into a bathroom. My conduct in both of these incidents was inexcusable.

The descriptions in Incidents 1 [Natasha Ryan] and 2 [Beth] both contain serious misstatements and omissions. However, on both occasions I acted inappropriately and shamefully, and deeply regret my actions.

I am genuinely, unequivocally sorry. I lay fault at no one’s feet but my own. I am ashamed by how I acted and feel terrible for the pain that I have caused. Actions speak louder than words.

In December 2015, my years of recklessness and selfishness hit a breaking point; I had to make a promise to family and friends that I would change, or risk finally exhausting what remained of their compassion and support. I gave up alcohol for good, I embraced therapy, and I asked, sincerely, that my family and friends forgive me. Nevertheless, these corrective actions do not excuse my reprehensible conduct, and are small solace to those whose pain I am so sorry to have caused.

Other accusations have been made anonymously against Carlson, as recently as today (11/15), on The Industry Ain’t Safe Tumblr. One account reads:

In 2009 Sean Carlson was running shows at a venue I was interning at. After a show one night he got wasted, and drove me to a bodega trying to touch my boobs the whole time. When we got back he made me, another intern, and my boss play spin the bottle. I figured it would just be harmless fun until he started making out with me aggressively and wouldn’t listen when I told him to stop. It got scary and weird, so I pulled my boss aside asked him to help or stop him and all he said was “this is on you girl”. At one point when he was coming at me again I pushed him away and went in the bathroom (mostly to just hide). He followed me in and blocked the door and I started FREAKING out and screamed at him to leave. He wouldn’t and tried continuously to make out with me. Eventually I broke down crying because I was scared and that got through to him, but after a long time of refusing to leave and saying things like “I’ll leave if you give me a blowjob for like 5 seconds”.

Another account includes, “Sean from FYF came to our office and bragged about his penis size to our female staff.”

A third anonymous person says, “Sean Carlson (FYF founder) has been a predator for years. The stories on this blog are not the worst of it but I fear going into detail because it will give away who I am and I fear retaliation.”

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