Get ready New Yorkers: You will soon have the chance to see and experience two queer music institutions under the same roof this month in Brooklyn, New York.
JD Samson (of Le Tigre and MEN fame) has teamed up with Tami Hart to create the band The Soft Batch and they will play a show on Feb. 25 at Cobra Club in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York with The Dead Betties. Samson, Hart and The Dead Betties have served as seminal contributors to the narrative of the queer music scene in New York City and beyond for quite some time, having laid the groundwork for the inner-workings of the scene in the modern day.
In anticipation of this upcoming show, The Huffington Post chatted with JD Samson and Joshua Ackley, the lead singer–bassist of The Dead Betties.
How have you seen the queer music scene change and develop in NYC over the years?
Joshua Ackley: The Dead Betties first got our break playing Dean Johnson’s Homocore at CBGB’s and subsequently toured the country multiple times with other queer artists. I’ve seen the NYC queer music scene come full circle -- from punk to electro-clash to complete underground submersion and back around again to the homocore days. Now there seems to be a cool mix of DIY-punk and electro-goth, and I’m extremely excited to see the current scenesters in Bushwick really exploring gender nonconformity.
JD Samson: Wow. This question could be answered in like 500 pages. I guess the short answer for me is that I was younger, and now I'm older! But I see so many of the same elements of my queer music life happening as the generations switch places. For example, DUMBA was my world, now there is Secret Project Robot. There is still a punk scene, even if the music has changed a bit in genre, its about making rad work, letting go, creating a community and going deep into it.
How would you describe the current state of the queer music scene -- not just in NYC, but as a whole?
Joshua Ackley: I think as a whole the queer music scene exists in ever-expanding regional pockets -- San Francisco, Asheville, NOLA, Bushwick -- and it’s exciting to now see some legendary performers like Big Freedia receive much-deserved national credit. Outside of music, there is so much to be excited about on television. Laverne Cox is a national treasure.
JD Samson: I think as "queerness" is "normalized" more and more in mainstream society, the queer population is growing, as well as separating itself into a lot of smaller groups. There are circuit parties, performance art spaces, queer punk parties, queer pop, queer hip hop and queer folk. Whereas it used to happen all at the same space, there's more of a separation between subsets of the queer music world now. I don't have much of an opinion on that; I just kind of feel like it is what it is. We are growing so we win anyways.
How do your identities as queer artists inform your work?
Joshua Ackley: Whether you are straight, gay, trans -- you name it -- it is the ultimate privilege to be considered a queer artist. To me, being labeled a queer artist means you are responsible for making art from an outsider’s perspective. It’s really liberating.
JD Samson: I'm one of those people that thinks my work is inherently queer because it comes from a queer body's perspective. I can see how my music is also just music, but my community, my struggle, my choices, my dreams and my wins are all political to me. So, being a musician is really part of my activism. And in that sense it doesn't just inform my work, it is my work.
What projects are you currently working on?
Joshua Ackley: The Dead Betties just finished a new record which we could not be more proud of. We will get it out on a label and campaign it like we’re running for office! In step with our recent single "The Way We Live Now," we are really into the idea of releasing singles as Maxi-singles -- making each single its own experience, with b-sides and covers, etc.
JD Samson: So many things! DJing, remixing, promoting PAT and ScissorSunday. Playing live as JD Samson, playing live as Soft Batch, managing a record label (Atlas Chair) and writing/producing for other people. Maybe a new calendar...
What does the future hold for you?
Joshua Ackley: A Grammy or three! The future is wide open.
JD Samson: All those things over and over and over again.
The Dead Betties and The Soft Batch will play at Cobra Club in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn New York on Feb. 25.