No Turning Back, My Chat with Hi Fashion

Picture it, California, 2011. A handsome young photographer boy and his drag queen best friend travel to the city of San Francisco in search of happiness, prosperity, dancing, and the largest bloody mary bar in town.  They stumble drunkenly down a sunny street, when suddenly, a fence blocks their way. They peer curiously through the cracks into a sea of naked men and women, leading one another down the street on leashes and think, ’is this the leather Garden of Eden?’ Seduced by the beats of a nearby stage, they find their way past the white face painted giants guarding the entrance to this land, being sure not to anger the hairy beasts with whips, peering behind their aviator shades. Soon they find themselves entranced by a flashy siren exclaiming herself as Amazing, their feet moving to the beats and eyes fixated on her army of beautiful men dancing on stage to her every word. They come to shortly after- confused, laying on the ground, wrapped in rainbow streamers and horny, unsure of what they experienced. That young photographer boy was me, the garden was Folsom Street Fair- and the sirens? Hi Fashion.

(Check out more photos from Hi Fashion's Folsom Street Fair Performance here)

Now this was the first time I saw Hi Fashion perform live, but it certainly wasn't the first time I heard them. I've been intrigued by their music for a while now. Hi Fashion mixes electro-clash realness with satirical, well-toned lyrics, stirred up with some fabulous 90's house beats; sealed in queer fuck-off-rock solution and carted around in a hand-bedazzled Gucci bag- and I'm entirely unapologetic for loving all of those things.

So on this, the day of their newest video release for "You Tuk My Luk", Hi Fashion and I sat down over cocktails and hors d'oeuvres (well, ok, over email, but I know I was drinking at least), and discussed things like music and boners and such. Check out their new video and then read on!

(Hi Fashion remarks about their new video: "It was like creating a rainbow universe inside of a shoebox. We shot over 30 luks on a white screen in a small white space.  We created all the luks, and it features Rick, Danny our beloved and hooded choreographer, and me. It was shot, directed, and edited by Jim Hansen. He is the genius director behind everyone's favorite Chloe videos on youtube. He's a dream to work with.)


Nark: You seem to be really on top of your game when it comes to DIY fame in the modern music world, is Hi Fashion your first music project? If not, how did you adapt with the times? We all know records just don’t sell anymore!
RICK: I was in a project a couple of years ago in NYC called OPTI-GRAB with my preciouses JOHN ROBERTS and TRACY MURPHY. It was right when all the labels were merging and collapsing and right before Youtube and all that.  It felt like the whole thing was ending at the time but the diy model hadnt really HAPPENED yet.  Now there are SO MANY WAYS to get your music out there its AMAZING!! I feel like I never expect anyone to do more for us than US and that's helped me be a lot more proactive about it all. Since we started, we have never been WAITING for someone to discover it, we have been putting it out there in as many formats as we can dream up and I think that's the total opposite of how it felt before.
JEN: Yes this is my first music project, aside from several music-based fundraisers I have organized. (And the time I played Jan in Grease at summercamp). I never thought my first project would look like this, though….I always thought it would be a very direct nod to 90s hardcore/punk…like an all- female answer to Fugazi. But this is not a complaint by any means-I’m completely overjoyed with what this is and excited about where this will take us.

NARK: It’s important for bands nowadays to have a few tricks up their sleeve- viral videos, active networking and etc- what tricks do you have up your sleeve this year?
RICK: We are really expanding our web presence and finding as many ways to communicate to people as possible.  And it is also the year of MUSIC VIDEOS for us.  We are doing everything we can to find those wildly ambitious people that wanna make cool shit and know how to follow thru and collaborating with them.  Its about making a GIANT team of collaborators.  And then we are also doing some entirely art based work that is more bonkers and more unpredictable and totally inspiring to let people into our creative crazy brains.  Because we do so many costumes and clothing designs, we've decided to sell individual pieces on line as well so the whole world of HI FASHION becomes more multi-faceted and accessible for everyone.

NARK: Did any specific incidents inspire you to write ’I’m not Madonna’?
RICK: In fact YES. We had just cut Jen's hair into a bob with bangs and like 2 minutes later Vogue Magazine put out a cover of Halle Berry with the EXACT same hair. And Jen sent me a text of the cover saying, "if one more person thinks I'm Halle Berry today I am going to FREAK."  I almost peed my pants laughing and we started a nonstop text riff(the way we write MOST of our songs) riffing on the idea of being mistaken for famous people (I think I said, "tell me about it, sister.  Everyone thinks I am Barak Obama and it's just because of this damn blue tie I have on.)  When the idea of being mistaken for Madonna entered the joke-sphere, there was a moment when I went "HOLY SHIT." And Jen was like, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" and the basic lyrics of the song were written like an hour later.  We are both HUGE Madonna fans, and the idea of pretending you were Madonna being MISTAKEN for Madonna and trying to get away from it all seemed like the most insane and somehow most imaginable idea ever.  I am IN AWE of that woman.  She has functioned at the TOP OF THE GAME in the public eye for so long its mind boggling.  She's just so DAMN GOOD at what she does.  And this is a hard business.  I imagine there are days when she doesn’t want to talk to ANYONE. When she asks her self, "Why am I doing this? Can I keep this up? " When the sheer exhaustion of being her must be mind boggling.  And it all made me love her even more than I already did.  She is such a bad ass.  And she confronts all of that (I am sure) and still comes out on top CONSTANTLY.  It's insanely impressive and beyond inspiring.  We have a thing that we do when we are unsure what to do next (whether its from a business or artistic standpoint). One of us will say, "Well what would Madonna do?" And there is ALWAYS an answer.  She's like a guardian angel.

NARK: We know being ’Amazing’ is a full time job, but how do you two spend your days off in LA? Champagne atop the Hollywood Hills? Cheetos and Roseanne? (just secretely hoping I’m not the only one... Who does both...)
RICK: What exacly do you mean by DAY'S OFF? I am usually sewing costumes. And then when I stop sewing, I start sewing more costumes.

NARK: I know we haven’t sat down over some Teen Vogues, doing our nails and had a heart to heart, but I still would say it’s safe to assume that Hi Fashion is fueled by pure queer magic, yes? (which is different than faerie magic, less herbs)
RICK: There is NO SHORTAGE of queer magic in this phenomenon.  And queer magic is made of sequins and glitter.  And maybe hairpins too.  I'm a bit of warlock but JEN is most definitely a witch.  A queer witch.  A QUITCH.
JEN: I’m a quitch, plain and simple. And there’s so much magic that happens when we come together with the dancers, the costumes, the videos….pure queer magic.

NARK: What does the word queer mean to you when it is tacked onto you as a person and onto your art and music?
RICK: I like queer. I have always felt it referred more to unusual or uncommon in my mind than particularly gay. I think it refers to things that stand out because they are SPECIAL.  Not the average experience.  And that is true of queer people as well.  I find people like that eternally inspiring and I am thrilled if anyone thinks of me like that. EVERYONE has special unique traits and I love the idea of making art that celebrates that.  This is a culture that is ambivalent about difference.  On the one hand, It sensationalizes it, and on the other hand, it's obsessed with normalcy.  I would like to make and represent queerness that inspires people to explore their queerness no matter who they are and what their gender or orientation may be and imagine it is what is uniquely them and wonderful.   
JEN: I love it and I own it. I am queer-identified and have been for a long time. I used to really struggle with it-I came out when, at least in my circles, everyone was a dyke, a fag, or straight—and bisexuals were ‘those we don’t speak of.’ I didn’t know where I fit in and people would by default label me a lesbian. I was a little passive about it because I wanted to belong and I didn’t feel bisexual. Today I am so proud to be queer. What Hi Fashion is doing is really queer-and also stands strong regardless of that identity. It’s a culture, too, and we are steeped in it. (Thank God).

NARK: We’re thrilled to bring some magic up to Seattle this summer for Hey Tranny it’s Tranny (6/22 at Neumos), it’s quite a smashing entrance into the Seattle scene you’ll be making! Any special plans for the show or your trip? Is it your first time to the PNW?
RICK: I am so ecstatic we are going to perform in SEATTLE. I LOVE THAT CITY!!!!!!!!!! It is so beautiful and fun and spectacular.  I am building a spaceship so we can drop directly out of the sky onto the stage and capture its most interesting specimens for copious testing.
JEN: When I’m not singing I will be slurping oysters. And there’s no double entendre there—I will literally break my own record of 36-oysters-in-one-meal….which, might I add, was set in the beautiful city of Seattle.

NARK: Would you rather roll around in a pile of kittens or puppies?
RICK: No brainer- PUPPIES.  I could die after that.  I love cats but its only because they hate or are indifferent to everyone.  If there's gonna be a pileup, gimme the dogs.  The ecstasy and love would make everything after pale in comparison.  The kittens might just kill you.
JEN: Without a doubt: puppies and me in an empty kiddie pool.  They are kissing me and napping on me and kissing me some more. I am sniffing their little baby puppy breath as they try to bite me with their tiny little razor sharp baby teeth.

NARK: If you got the chance to perform at a Rick Santorum event, what would you do to just fuck it allll up and ruin everyones day/life/eyes?
RICK: This is when the scorpio part of me would really come to life.  I would do nothing to ruin the event.  In fact, I would do everything in my power to make them believe I was one of them.  And then the fun would begin... (the screech of dissonant violin chords)
JEN: It would be an all-out sneak attack and if we reveal it here then we can’t follow through with our plan…..mwa-ha-ha-hahahaaaa!!!!


NARK: Give me some background to Jen and Rick? Or did you just congeal somewhere fully grown and start performing?
RICK: I love the part of our story when I asked Jen to do a music project with me and she said NO.  Somehow, to me, thats the best part. Because at that moment, HI FASHION was GOING to happen, but neither of us knew it.
JEN: It’s true! We had no idea!!! We clocked each other early on-and several times in our past. Rick and I first met at a bar in NYC-when bars were filthy, super seedy, filled with smoke, and dark.  At the time I could have passed for a guy and Rick was trying to pick me up!!-but very quickly realized I was A. of the lady variety and B. totally flattered. So we became chummy. And then we connected again in LA through a mutual acquaintance.  Rick was doing a solo project and I sang back up for him and then he proposed we start a band. I absolutely told him I was starting an all metal girl project (with someone I had a crush on for 5 seconds). So naturally, in Rick form, he writes 3 songs and asks me AGAIN- Like BLAM-now what are you gonna do with these 3 tracks? What did we do? We wrote a track, Amazing, on dinner napkins and we’ve been partners ever since.

NARK: How does it feel to know that drag queens are performing drag acts around the country to some of your songs?
RICK: the first time I saw a drag rendition of one of our songs (it was to Amazing) I actually literally cried.  And then I texted Jen and said simply, ”WE MADE IT.”
JEN: Last Friday night in Nashville Raja of RuPaul’s Drag Race Royalty performed our track Amazing.  And that’s AMAZING!! Anytime a drag queen performs our music we are thrilled. It’s the highest honor.

(Amoania and I performing "I'm Not Madonna" at BUMP)

NARK: Now give me the dish- Rick, Ever been to jail? Ever had a really embarassing moment whilst performing? Do you wanna make out?

RICK: I have never been to jail although I do have fantasies about it.  I sang ON THE GOODSHIP LOLLIPOP dressed as Shirley Temple to a packed house at my rather conservative/ homophobic university in Connecticut, but that may also be my greatest accomplishment so kind of hard to callibrate. And yes of course I wanna make out why do you think I am COMING to Seattle? Do you think I like RAIN?  

NARK: Jen- Who do you wanna bone, more than anyone? Ever have a shop lifting phase? (maybe that’s what got you into high fashion...), Do you think I’m pretty?
JEN: I want to bone every single one of our dancers, I want to bone Robyn, Rosario Dawson, Nomi Ruiz... Lets just say that at any given moment I’ll want to bone someone- at least once.  I also want to bone Debbie Harry circa the late 70s, Lady Miss Kier circa 94, Joan Jett from age 16 on, all of the Go Gos in ’84. All that said, YOU are gorgeous (read: easy bone fantasy material), and I totally shoplifted makeup all the time in my tweens at the mall. And garlic at the grocery store. My grandmother taught me that as an Italian it was our birth rite to always have garlic-and that we didn’t need to pay for it.

NARK: Oh sorry, I didn’t mean to turn this around its just been fifteen minutes since we talked about me. Any note you would like to leave us on? Something enticing to keep us wanting more and more and forcing us to buy tickets to Hey Tranny??
RICK: I have A LOT of money.  And I intend to give it ALL AWAY at that show. So.  If you like that sort of thing, maybe come.
JEN: I will be giving away free puppies at Neumos.

Seattle, get your first chance to see Hi Fashion do what they do best this year for Gay Pride Weekend at our Nark Magazine event, Hey Tranny it's Tranny (also featuring Sharon Needles, JD Samson, Alaska Thunderfuck, Edgar Um, Phyllis Navidad, Ben Delacreme and more) Friday, 6/22 at Neumos. Check Neumos website for tickets once they go on sale!


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