With queer cred to spare, Joan as Police Woman cops to experimental pop on her new album
RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
Cazwell isn’t the only artist who can put beefcake in his videos. Joan as Police Woman can do it just as fiercely … and she doesn’t even mind if the gay boys aren’t looking at her. In fact, she’s glad for it.
“Good!” she laughs when asked about the stable of muscle daddies in her music video “The Magic.” “Why would you want to?”
It is hard to concentrate on the singer in front of you when she’s flanked by hot studs working out and washing cars — that is, if you’re into that sort of thing. Joan Wasser (her everyday name) had no input on this concept, but loved the absurdist art of it against her song.
“The person that did it obviously is a total genius,” she says. “They gave me a bunch of treatments for it that were kinda fashion-y or too involved, but when I got to that one, it was a no-brainer. Videos are so ridiculous anyway and I don’t think of the visual, just the music. But when I read that treatment, I thought, ‘How wonderful.’”
Anyway, she digs the irony of it: Scantily clad men surrounding a female lead are the antithesis of hip-hop. And although she didn’t think it would be overtly gay and didn’t know the bodybuilders would be wearing “tiny scraps of fabric” (for real, girl?), she cannot gush enough over the final product.
The video hasn’t been seen too much in local gay bars, but she had a tearful moment when it played in, of all places, Pontiac, Mich. After a gig in the drabby city, Wasser and her band went to eat at a bistro called Liberty Bar.
“We very quickly realized we were in a gay bar,” she recalls. “They were playing Gaga and Pink videos, so we explained that we just played a show and I have this video. I got to watch these guys appreciating the video and clapping. It was the most beautiful moment! I almost started crying.”
Joan as Police Woman plays Friday at club Dada, bringing her indie sensibilities to town, but not without some major queer cred behind her. Having worked with Antony Hegarty in 1999 and then with Rufus Wainwright on his 2003 tour, she came out of her shell as a solo artist. Shattered by her boyfriend Jeff Buckley’s death in 1997, she and a new band tried to release an album, but it was a scary time for her and the songs were kept to themselves.
Then she joined Antony and the Johnsons. With some budding confidence, she eventually dipped her foot in the waters of going solo. Then Rufus happened.
“He had asked me to join his band to tour with and also open as a solo artist,” she says. “I had to take the chance at some point and opening in front of his crowd — a crowd of music lovers would be amazing.”
Four albums later, her latest release The Deep Field finds Wasser at her most confident. The package of experimental indie pop is challenging yet accessible. She’s mellow without being boring and she can rock without trying to prove something. But mostly Field reflects a newfound fortitude and poise.
“This record was like a declaration of freedom for myself,” she explains. “I spent a lot of my life up confused, fearful. Once I made the choice to be happy, things fell into place. I hate to make it sound oversimplified, but if you wish to feel good, happy, and free from worry, you can if you just decide.”
But for the record — and despite her hanging around muscled men and queer artists like Hegarty and Wainwright (oh and living with Scissor Sisters’ Del Marquis) — the one thing Wasser is not is a fag hag.
“Oh, I wouldn’t call myself that! I’m just comfortable around gay,” she laughs out loud. “I definitely cannot call myself straight, but I make no distinction. Those guys and I are all in the same game and get along. But I do appreciate anything homo. I heart gay.”