When one thinks of gays’ affinity for music, the genre that springs to mind likely isn’t rock and roll. The image of shirtless, sweaty gay boys gyrating and frottaging to overly processed, high-energy dance remixes is a staple. Or perhaps it’s lesbians’ devotion to butch grrrls with acoustic guitars that springs to mind. Either way, amp-frying rock and punk music don’t always find a place on most gay hit lists.
Beyond the realm of “gay music,” however, is an entire subculture of out gay musicians who prefer to create tunes by plugging in real instruments and laying down thick meaty slabs of rock riffs that would curl Rufus Wainwright or Ani DiFranco’s toes. You may have to dig deep to discover these gems, but they’re there, and thankfully a few can be found even in a paint-by-rainbow-colors gay mecca like Atlanta. David Magazine introduces three of these local rock saviors to you this week.
Prior to its founding in 2007 by gay vocalist/guitarist Chuck Brittain, Flat Cat began life as the gay-themed cover band Mulva Twitch. Brittain was a member of Mulva Twitch but his desire to have an outlet for his original music led him to strike out on his own. After playing a solo show with a handpicked backing band, Brittain officially took Flat Cat public with a performance on the AIDS Walk stage in Piedmont Park, in what was essentially a revamped Mulva Twitch lineup. A subsequent gig at Star Bar with a different lineup marked what Brittain feels was Flat Cat hitting its stride. The band continued performing and writing songs for the next year under a rotating lineup.
Flat Cat’s current lineup since 2010 consists of Brittain on vocals and guitar, popular Atlanta music scene veteran and gender-queer bassist/vocalist Bucky Motter, Amy “Catfish” Rollinson on guitar and vocals, and gay drummer Clay McClure. Rollinson is the sole straight member.
“We see ourselves as musicians who some just happen to be queer or transgendered. We would never want to make our queerness a political statement,” Brittain said, noting that being out queer musicians can sometimes be a hindrance to booking gigs at some local rock venues.
However, “we do like to toy with our lyrics to be a bit queer flirtatious sometimes out of fun,” he said.
Citing band members’ diverse influences from genres like ‘80s college radio, punk, and jazz, Brittain said Flat Cat has played a diverse mix of venues that traditionally draw either gay or straight crowds. Dragging gays out of the rock and roll closet, however, is a challenge.
“Our only frustration with the gay audience is that it often lets itself be pigeon-holed into a particular musical genre, especially with the older queer community,” he said. “If they would take their musical blinders off, they will rediscover all these different genres of music that are really amazing.”
Flat Cat played a Northeast U.S. tour in 2011 that included stops in New York City and Connecticut. It also tries to swing by The Nick bar in Birmingham once a year. Locally, it has an upcoming show at Kavarna in Decatur’s Oakhurst neighborhood, schedule to be announced.
With two CD’s under its belt – Buy Our 8 Track (2008) and Artbreak Hotel (2011) – Flat Cat is currently writing new songs with hopes to return to the studio next year.
You can follow Flat Cat on Facebook and more:
Frisky Monkey was created in May 2011 by vocalist Juan Cezar, who hails from Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
“My last band The Sex Kittens had just broken up and I wanted to return to a more synth-pop type of music with my next band, so I placed an ad on Craigslist for a keyboard player along the lines of Vince Clarke,” Cezar said. “I had a few responses and met a few people, but gut instinct told me that John was the one.”
“John” is John Miklaucic, who handles guitar, keyboards, and programming duties for Frisky Monkey.
Frisky Monkey is perhaps an anomaly on the Atlanta music scene: a duo that writes and performs wholly original music that harkens back unabashedly to the ‘80s New Wave sound. In fact, Cezar and Miklaucic are influenced by classic ‘80s synth acts including Depeche Mode and Erasure, bands that “have that sense of melody and musicality yet are electronic acts that rock.”
Cezar is queer and Miklaucic is straight, but Cezar marvels that his musical partner “is one of the coolest, most laid back straight boys I’ve ever met.”
Perhaps because of that dynamic, there’s never an agenda to veil Cezar’s sexual orientation in coded messages in order to make Frisky Monkey more palatable to the masses.
“My lyrics are always from my life, so I think they’re pretty queer,” he said. “I never worry about changing pronouns no matter the venue. On stage I never think if something is too queer. I’m just me.”
Frisky Monkey primarily plays straight venues because once the lesbian bar Bellissima closed, there are no gay clubs in Atlanta that book live music, according to Cezar.
“We get good responses on the rare occasions that we play to a gay audience, maybe because we’re kind of retro sounding and harken back more to the New Wave sound of the ‘80’s,” Cezar said. However, “I think that GLBT audiences in Atlanta are just aloof to live music in general. The sad fact is that they seem to think that if it’s not drag then it’s not entertainment.”
Frisky Monkey has taken the stage at such venerable Atlanta venues as Smith’s Olde Bar, Kavarna, and Red Light Café. It also performed at Savannah Pride in 2011 and the Spring Bear Fest weekend at the gay Roy’s Hideaway Campground earlier this year. Cezar and Miklaucic are scheduled to play Marietta Pride on July 28th and again at Smith’s Olde Bar on August 10th. The Pride gig will also serve as the duo’s unofficial one-year anniversary; it first played live on July 30th last year.
Check out Frisky Monkey’s self-titled 2011 CD. Cezar and Miklaucic are currently recording that disc’s follow-up, Involved But Not Committed, which Cezar promises will be more upbeat and will feature a few guest vocalists.
You can catch up with Frisky Monkey on the following sites:
The Sexual Side Effects
Trans front woman Amber Taylor’s band The Sexual Side Effects started out unofficially in 2007 as her solo project after she’d contributed to several other local bands, including an early incarnation of Flat Cat. Taylor performed with an evolving roster of backing musicians and band name changes before settling as The Sexual Side Effects in 2011.
Taylor is the grande dame of the quartet, rocking the lead vocals, guitar, and keyboards. Her hunky eye-candy band mates are Ryan McDougall (vocals, guitar, “charm”), Mike Sidner (bass, “hotness”), and Clay McClure (drums, “sex appeal”). McClure also drums for Flat Cat.
“We are all inspired by different things in music which combine to give us a unique sound,” said Taylor, whose own influences include such rock and glam icons as Peter Murphy (of Bauhaus), The Cure, Joan Jett, Echo and the Bunnymen, U2, Faith No More, The Jesus and Mary Chain, David Bowie, T-Rex, and more.
Taylor is trans, McClure is gay, and as Taylor said with her usual humor, “the other two guys are straight-ish. Well, one’s try-sexual.”
That trans and queer component to the Sexual Side Effects lineup is present, if not overt.
“We made a decision to not make my trans status the focus of this, since this is really about the music first,” said Taylor. “By leaving that subject to be uncovered by new music fans on their own, we have been able to win them over with our music first and then help to open their minds to trans awareness.”
Although Taylor assures that the Sexual Side Effects does have a moderate percentage of gay fans, she feels that the downplaying of her trans status in favor of pushing the music first has perhaps been most instrumental to the band’s ever-increasing blockbuster popularity with hetero fans.
Because the band members’ – particularly Taylor’s – musical stylings draw so heavily from rock, punk, and glam genres, they’ve been a hard sell to gay audiences, particularly males.
“Most gay men don’t stereotypically listen to our style of music, but we have had so many people become obsessed with it once they get a taste. I swear we are not spiking it with anything illegal!” Taylor said.
The Sexual Side Effects has already done three tours in 2012 on the East Coast, in Florida, and in Texas, where power issues in an Austin club caused Taylor’s amp to catch fire and nearly burn down the venue. They’ve been touring to support their recent 2012 EP release High Maintenance.
Upcoming dates include the Drunken Unicorn (Atlanta) on August 11th, Savannah Pride on September 8th, Roanoke (Virginia) Pride on September 16th, and the transgender Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta on September 21st. The band is also about to announce a two-week national tour with a well-known artist.
You can find more information about the Sexual Side Effects with the following links: