- Category: Music
- Published on Friday, 18 April 2014 02:18
- Written by Robert Roth
- Hits: 1983
Photo by Rachel Robinson/Nark Magazine
I was first introduced to Hi Fashion via a drag queen lip synching to their song “I am not Madonna” on stage at Seattle’s downtown Showbox Theater. I was immediately in love.
It was but half a year later that I had the pleasure of meeting the daring duo backstage at Neumos, another venerable Seattle music hall, where they were performing for Nark’s annual Pride event, now known as Gender Blender. I was happy to discover that, much like their music, the pair are absolutely delightful.
The two have such a great “cute meet” story. The attempted pick up in the smoky, seedy NY bar. Reconnecting again in Los Angeles. The fact that Jen said no when Rick first asked to work with one another, but ultimately ending up putting out fabulous, gorgeous music together. Seriously, cast it with Mark Ruffalo and Kate Hudson and it could be the next great chick flick rom-com.
In an era of continued homogenization of musical acts and pop culture, the queer music scene remains resolutely defiant of the need to become more mainstream. As queer artists, Hi Fashion leads the way. They produce music that is at once artsy and no-nonsense. They provide performance experiences that transcend the normal concert, incorporating elements of art, dance, and even fashion shows. They leave a blazing trail for other queer artists to follow, one that demonstrates that it’s still possible to find success through a lot of hard work and determination.
I've had the chance to see them twice since that first time, which makes them close friends in my book. I was curious, then, just what it is that makes friends Hi Fashion tick.
NARK MAGAZINE: What’s your chemistry like now, and how has it evolved in the years since you started working together? How does your friendship influence your relationship as bandmates, and vice versa?
RICK: I feel forever grateful that I’m working with someone so adult with all of this. I think we have come to know each other's quirks in this time ,and know each other's vulnerabilities, and it allows us to be more compassionate toward each other and less projective. Obviously we have had a lot of combined therapy and the band feels like another layer of it. We are so METALLICA like that. And then honestly, I just love this woman more all the time. Like we talk 100 times a day because of band business. But we also do have a CAN I HAVE A 5 MINUTE FRIEND TIME clause in it that we both take advantage of all the time and then we just want to kiki, and eat pie, and giggle for like an hour.
JEN: I concur with Rick. We are really turning into a well-oiled machine of a duo. We really pick up where the other one leaves off, we know our strengths and we encourage each other and support each other to work through our fears. There's no way I could do this without Rick. I feel so incredibly grateful to work with him as my business partner, and to also be able to call him one of my closest friends. I don't take this for granted for one second. And we really have matured together and within this project. It's inspiring.
NM: Mark and Kate, eat your hearts out! The past few years have seen a strong growth in the popularity, and number, of queer musical acts. Do you see yourselves as leaders or role models in the queer music community?
RICK: I think we are trying to be good artists, and are happy and proud to be honest about who we are. And if that does some good in the world that's amazing. I am happy to stand up for being myself, and accepting and loving of other people and their differences. I like imagining that if you have goals in the world, there are ways to attain them no matter who you are or where you come from. So, I think if we are spreading that in any way, then I'm good.
Everyone wants equality, to be loved, to be accepted, to be taken seriously no matter what your color, race, beliefs, or gender identification or sexual preference."
NM: How do you relate to other queer artists?
RICK: I always feel like I want a kinship with them! It's the hippy California part of me that collides with the New York fierce part that's like BITCH WE ARE SISTERS we are doing this TOGETHER.
JEN: I know I always feel like “'Why can't we constantly do queer music festivals together?” We are often looking for ways to bring the community closer together, collaborate on projects, videos, and live shows. We want to contribute to the growing queer artist community when we can. It feels crucial, and it's starting to really boom in LA.
NM: You guys grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. The experience of being an LGBTQ identified person now has changed a great deal since then, with everything from increased visibility and public acceptance, to an ever increasing number of legal rights. As queer individuals, how have your worldviews changed?
RICK: I was actively OUT in school, and always felt there was a strange disconnect that I hated, between groups that were all fighting for the same thing. I find that the world is catching up with my attitude about this and it is a RELIEF. Everyone wants equality, to be loved, to be accepted, to be taken seriously no matter what your color, race, beliefs, or gender identification or sexual preference. And now I am now so fascinated and excited by the world of gender which still feels like the frontier land in this dialogue. I never imagined it when I was younger, and I am so happy we are talking about it in new ways now.
JEN: I am so incredibly impressed with the reality that so many more people can proudly and fearlessly come out in an authentic way. It's beautifully empowering for our community. I was always a bit of a rebel when I was younger but when it came to my sexuality and how I expressed myself I was a bit of a closet case due to very conservative religious beliefs that I learned at school, not home. That all shifted through high school and college, and fortunately I have the most supportive parents who didn't skip a beat when I tried to break the DEVASTATING NEWS that I might be dating a woman before I could even vote! And hurrah for marriage equality. No one should have to fight to get married if that is their dream and desire to do so.
NM: So what do you feel are the biggest challenges facing the queer community today?
RICK: I kinda think the same challenge that has always faced it, that shows its face in different ways through the generations, and that is the struggle of PAIN, SELF LOVE, and ACCEPTANCE. I think it is pain that keeps people separated and afraid and defended against each other. Looking at, processing, working with, accepting, and transforming from that pain is the challenge I would say.
JEN: There's still a ton of discrimination, shaming, bullying, and violence happening towards and within the LGBTQ community. Internalized phobias can really bring a community down if given enough power.
NM: Given those things, then, what advice would you offer to the young artist struggling to make it in the queer music industry today?
RICK: I would say that it is important to recognize that your actions have consequences. What you say is important no matter what it is, so treat yourself with dignity and integrity and the world will treat you that way. This is a very grabby culture we are in, that is full of ego and desire, and it can seem like the most self-centered people win sometimes. Ultimately, I think making things and being a person that you are proud of is really the ultimate satisfaction. It touches other people and it changes the world. If you think in those terms, you will always succeed where it really matters.
JEN: Keep being true to your art, and know your mission. Take the big scary leaps despite the fear you feel. Your voice is extremely important and necessary.
NM: That’s why I love you guys. Your music has been turning up in some fabulous places lately, from the promos for the current season of RuPaul’s Drag Race to the soundtrack of the recent indie film G.B.F. Can we look forward to seeing more collaborations with TV, film, and other visual artists from you?
RICK: ALWAYS. We love to collaborate, and want to do it with as many people in as many platforms as possible. We both have insanely diversified interests and want to make everything, so if anyone wants to start a damn macrame class we will probably both show up with twine and ideas.
NM: Or shoot your next video there. You’ve been releasing your singles and EPs independently so far. Any hopes to sign with a major label?
RICK: I would love to sign with a label if only to have more people working toward the goals, so I am into ALL OF IT. Minor, major, indie, some dude making cassettes in his living room, sign me up.
I also love finding ways to bring any given community together, so I'm never more happy than when we have 20 dancers onstage because it feels like a big family to me!"
NM: Any future music in the works? Any plans for an LP?
RICK: We have a TON of new things in the works and are experimenting with new sounds and its all super exciting to us. I would love to make an LP but, at the moment, I feel like music gets so tired so fast we have been more productive making EPs and singles and getting them out as fast as we can. We just want to keep the momentum going, and release as often as possible. Making less and releasing more has helped us do that. But an LP will happen eventually for sure.
JEN: Also, we are exploring a more dance-y sound and dance music seems to be successfully released as single, so there's less pressure to produce an entire LP.
NM: Just as long as you keep making more music! But, you’re both so much more than musicians, of course. Your performances and your videos totally reflect that, too, from the fabulous fashion to the avant garde choreography. What sort of projects do you work on when you’re not making music together?
RICK: This whole project is so multi faceted I feel like I get to do everything I like to do and it all works for the band. So most of my creativity goes into it in the ways you said, clothing, music, video, dance, movement, hair, makeup, and photography, we are both really committed to doing more avant garde work though. things that feel more like performance pieces and installations and we are trying to find the time to make those ideas happen too.
JEN: Yeah, this is a culmination for me as well of all the things I love to do. And we get to have creative control when we do it. This project has been really empowering in that way for both of us. I also love finding ways to bring any given community together, so I'm never more happy than when we have 20 dancers onstage because it feels like a big family to me! In my free time I'm usually trying to cook dinners for about 20 people so it all feels aligned.
NM: What other projects, musical or otherwise, does the future hold for you guys?
RICK: New music and videos and collaborations with people for sure. We just did a collaboration with In Flagranti which we are totally excited about and also losing our minds over a song we are doing with JD Samson at the moment. So we are really kind of opening our process up to include new and other people at the moment. We also want to do a special full experience night with other artists in LA and we have been trying to come up with interesting places and people to work with on that that would include more dance, movement, soundscape, set, and installation so stay tuned for that.
NM: You guys are doing a song with JD Samson? That's awesome. I met you and JD at the same event! Talk about the circle of life!
JEN: We are! We are meeting with JD in about 2 weeks in NYC to record! We love JD. Small world is right!
NM: That’s so cool. You’ll be performing in Seattle on 4/25. Any other performances or projects you want to plug?
RICK: We are ecstatic to be opening for Big Freedia on May 9th at the Echoplex in LA. Thats gonna be insane. And then it looks like we will have a busy Gay Pride Season this year. Just trying to work it all out at the moment but we LOVE A PRIDE. We have been so lucky to be invited to so many. It’s like you get to go to the best day of the year every weekend somewhere else.
JEN: And there's rumor of a mini Euro/UK tour.
Stay tuned for that as well! Hi Fashion returns to the Seattle stage on Friday, 4.25 as part of Ferocious Memories vs Fierce Queen. They’re the perfect performers to stand up to a gaggle of fierce queens clawing it out on stage for a cash prize, so you betta not miss it. Tickets for Ferocious Memories vs Fierce Queen are available for a mere $16 at ferociousmemories.com. Advance ticket buyers will receive a discount code good for a reduced price Nark Pride Festival Weekend Pass, too!