WATCH: Deborah Vial’s ‘Don’t Make Me Take It’

Although Dallas used to be her stomping grounds, singer Deborah Vial now calls Hawaii home. But every so often, she comes back — like this Saturday where she hosts a CD release party for her new album Stages and Stones as well as being instrumental in the reunion of Jane Doe.

Israel Luna continues his tales from the darkside with this dark, twisted take on Vial’s bluesy track. I don’t think we’ve seen Vial like this before. Here, she’s the kinda gal you don’t take home to mom. Instead, maybe the asylum. Check it.

—  Rich Lopez

Spin streams CSS’ new album ‘La Liberacion’

Back in April, CSS co-headlined a show at the Granada with Sleigh Bells and pretty much all I remember hearing about the show was that it was loud. At the time, I wasn’t sure why CSS was on tour. Their last release was in 2008, but perhaps La Liberacion is the reason.

Their third album isn’t officially available until Aug. 23, but give the Brazilian party pop band an early listen. SPIN is streaming the entire album now and it could be the perfect thing to pump up any droll afternoon. The caffeine in my iced tea is clearly not doing the trick. Starting off with some strong dance beats, the queer-centric band continues in successfully delivering a a dance party sound but with subtle complex touches that keep it a step above simple disco.

—  Rich Lopez

Nuclear gay bomb alert: Cher & Lady Gaga to duet

It’s not breaking news that Cher has recorded a song for her new album that was written by Lady Gaga. Towleroad posted Cher’s tweets about recording “The Greatest Thing” last week. Now, Out’s Popnography has posted Cher’s tweet today that leads us to believe Gaga herself will be on the song.

Talk about a glitter-bomb!

But is the effort already being undermined? The below demo recorded by Gaga is already all over the interwebs, so there goes the initial surprise for what the song sounds like. Still, it’ll likely be a big hit for Cher and just another day at work for Gaga.

Earlier this year, Jennifer Lopez released a Gaga-penned song on her album Love? “Hypnotico” was actually one of the better songs on the entire album, but has yet to be released as a single.

—  Rich Lopez

Best bets • 07.01.11

Friday 07.01

Do not mess with the lez rocker
Otep Shamaya is quite the unpredictable rock star. She’s dead serious about her place in heavy metal and her band OTEP. Last time we interviewed her, every joke we cracked went by without even so much as a chuckle. Or maybe we’re just not funny. She and her boys in the band are on the road supporting their new album Atavist.

DEETS: Trees, 2709 Elm St. Doors at 7 p.m. $15–$19. All ages. TreesDallas.com.

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Sunday 07.03

Camping out
The 23rd Annual Miss Firecracker pageant returns just in time for July 4. Heavy on the camp and actual singing, the contest is also a benefit for TGRA and its charities. The winner goes on to compete for Miss Charity America. The lovely Victoria Weston will serve as one of the hosts.

DEETS: Dallas Eagle, 5740 Maple Ave. 7 p.m. DallasEagle.com.

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Thursday 07.07

‘Beat’ of a different drum
Chicano beat poet Christopher Carmona signs copies of his new book Beat. He’s a staunch LGBT ally challenging notions of gender roles in his poetry. Sounds like a cool guy to us.

DEETS: Cliff Notes, 1222 W. Davis St. 7 p.m. Free. Facebook.com/OakCliffNotes.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 1, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Fishing with Juan

‘CRUSH’ ON YOU | Abe Vigoda ventured into electronica territory with its new album ‘Crush.’ Gay member Velasquez, second from right, hopes this might increase fans for the band — especially gay ones.

As indie band Abe Vigoda tours the country, lone gay bandmember Juan Velasquez sometimes just wants to settle down with a boyfriend

GREGG SHAPIRO  | Contributing Writer
gregg.shapiro@gmail.com

Juan Velasquez has been with Abe Vigoda since the beginning. No, he’s not the lover of venerable Fish and Godfather star Abe Vigoda, but the indie band that co-opted the actor’s name.

Velasquez is one of a growing number of out musicians who play in cool indie bands including Grizzly Bear, The Soft Pack and These Arms Are Snakes and Vampire Weekend. Crush, Abe Vigoda’s new disc, might take some of their existing fan-base by surprise, considering the (welcome) use of synthesizers and dance beats. At the same time, the band has definitely increased its potential for a larger LGBT audience.

Velasquez spoke about being the only gay in the vill… er, tour bus, and whether the actor knows about his eponymous rockers.

Dallas Voice: Were you and the other members of Abe Vigoda listening to different music than you ordinarily would have prior to recording Crush? Juan Velasquez: No, not really. It had been two years since we wrote music together. Influence-wise there’s different music that we like, stuff that we’re interested in and enjoy. I think it was a natural thing that happened. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. We don’t all communally love one thing.

You said that it was a natural thing, so would you say that the sonic difference of Crush was a conscious decision or did it occur organically? Definitely organically, but it took a while. We write sporadically, usually when we’re practicing. Our drummer [Dane Chadwick] really likes dance music, so he introduced electronic elements to the band. We toyed around with them as a thing that we would be able to use and then we realized how much we liked it. It’s fun because you’re not restricted to guitars and drums. There are more things that you can use. I think we were finally more comfortable using synths.

How has the response to Crush been from longtime Abe Vigoda fans? It’s very varied. Some people just don’t get it. To me it sounds more “accessible” than other things we’ve done through the years. Some people are not so jazzed on it and some people like it. It’s not what they expected and because of that they like it. Sometimes we’ll play shows and mainly play songs from Crush and people will be like, “Why didn’t you play anything older?” I think people are still getting used to it. Even more important, people that didn’t like us before are maybe not getting into it because it’s a whole new thing and they didn’t know what we sounded like previous to this record. It’s a mixed thing, which is kind of what we expected. It never enters our mind when we’re writing what it’s going to be like on the other side of it. We just want to produce something that we like and then after that, it’s up to unknown forces whether people will be into it.

You run the risk of alienating some people, but you also stand the chance of reaching a whole new audience. Yes. For me it’s more exciting than just doing the same thing that people are going to like. I’m excited when bands change and evolve. We’ve never been a band that sticks to the exact same thing. It’s fun to try new things and push yourself.

The songwriting on Crush is credited to the band Abe Vigoda. How would you describe your role in the process of song creation in the group? It’s different for different songs. Sometimes Michael [Vidal] and I will have an idea or something we’re fiddling around with on the guitar and bring that to practice. Then everyone does their own thing on it. We generally jam together as a band. Everyone is in charge of their own instrument as far as what they contribute. Within the structure of the song, my main part is already there and we’ll work on it together. Sometimes I’m just adding something to what Michael has already laid out. We all edit each other and edit ourselves. It’s pretty democratic way of writing songs, I think.

What’s the best part of being the lone gay member of a band? [Laughs] What’s funny is that some people think everyone [in the band] is. Or they think there is one, and it’s Michael, the singer. When we’re on tour, the other guys in the band aren’t looking for girls. They’re really nice guys, which is awesome. If anyone, I’m probably the one who’s more like on the prowl [laughs]. I get really excited when I find someone else in a band who is gay because there aren’t that many of us in indie rock. Sometimes I’ll venture out (while on tour in a city) and check out the gay bars or if I have a friend in town we’ll go out and do our thing. In a way, I have a little freedom where I can go and do my own thing. I get some space away from the whole touring thing and being in close quarters with everybody.

Because they’re not going to tag along. Sometimes they do. Sometimes we’ll all go out to a gay bar. It’s a non-issue, obviously. I don’t think I could be in a band where it was an issue.

Are you aware of a contingent of LGBT fans among Abe Vigoda’s fans? I’m not aware of one if there is. Not to generalize, but we’re usually playing for kind of a straight crowd. Sometimes, someone will mention that, come up to me and say, “I’m gay, too.” But that’s rare. But I’m sure there are [gay people in the audience].

I’m not even sure people know that there’s a gay member of the band. It’s also not the focus of our music. There are some bands for whom that is the focus of their music, to be in a queer band to give voice to queer issues, even in a fun or punk way.

Like Scissor Sisters. Exactly. Or Hunx and His Punx. They definitely have a gay following, whereas we have a more mainstream indie rock following.

Does being in a touring band make it difficult to maintain a relationship? You betcha! If you would have asked me this at this time last year, I would have said, “No! I have an amazing boyfriend.” I never really until last year had a relationship or somebody that I was really excited about. It was the first time that I legitimately fell in love with someone. Before that it had been more casual. In January of last year, I was in love. We went out on tour with Vampire Weekend and then recorded Crush around this time last year. I was gone and missed him and talked to him on the phone. It felt like a relationship. It was great and exciting. Then I got home and soon after I got dumped. He didn’t enjoy that I was gone for so long. I never saw it that way. Being gone for a long time is rough on relationships, but I’d never really thought about it because I wasn’t in one. You only have a certain amount of time when you’re home to meet someone and once you get started then you have to leave again. Hopefully, I’ll meet someone who doesn’t mind that their significant other has to leave for a while. It’s definitely stressful. I don’t mean to sound like a cry-baby. I’m over it now. At the time, it was pretty shitty. Because it was something I couldn’t control. It’s my job. I’m not going to choose somebody over this.

Do you know if your namesake is aware you named your band after him? I have a pretty strong feeling that he does. One time somebody who wanted to interview us, instead of contacting [the band’s publicist], found his publicity person and messaged them. They got a response saying that it wasn’t the band’s publicist that they had reached, it was the actor’s. If his publicist knows, he knows. And he doesn’t seem to care, which is good.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Concert Notice: Ricky Martin at Verizon in April

Ricky Martin is back out on the road and he comes back to North Texas later this spring. He’s touring in support of his new album, Musica Alma Sexo, which drops Tuesday. This is his first album release after coming out last year.

I was kind of worried because his lead single “The Best Thing About Me is You” isn’t the usual bombastic Latin dance music people are used to from him, but after listening to other tracks from MAS, it’s clear he hasn’t abandoned his signature sound completely (check out the feel-good vibe of “Best Thing”). MAS is a Spanish-language album, but he recorded “Best Thing” in English with Joss Stone. Check out the video below.

Martin is scheduled to play Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie on April 22.

—  Rich Lopez

LISTEN: Dallas singer Brandon Hilton shows his ‘serious side’ with new single ‘Adrenaline’

Brandon Hilton seems to be on a roll. Just a few weeks ago, I blogged about his new video. Now, the Dallas singer is releasing his new single, “Adrenaline,” from his upcoming album Nocturnal. Not too bad from a self-made ce-web-rity. According to his e-mail sent out last night, this album will show a whole new side to Hilton. “Adrenaline” is Hilton’s first ballad which he figures will show his more artistic side.

“People were complaining because all I usually create is fun dance music, well my new album isn’t like that, I’m showing my serious side as a serious artist,” his e-mail states.

Personally, I’m not really sure an “artist” would bow to pressures of people complaining. Hey Hilton, if you don’t wanna do ballads, don’t. “Adrenaline” is a decent effort with just enough going right and wrong to balance it out. Overall, the tune is simple but I have to say, it hooked me. I mean, it’s auto-tuned to hell and a little cliche in the lyrics department, but it works well enough.

And we’re all in agreement here that Hilton provided one of the best lines ever in his press release. According to the e-mail, when he was asked about Nocturnal, he said — get ready for it — “this is all I will say, this album is about my death as an Internet Celebrity, and my birth as an Artist!”

So priceless.

Listen to “Adrenaline” here

—  Rich Lopez

Himan to join Brannan for Loft set next month

About a month ago, we blogged that Texas-born Jay Brannan — whom we profiled last year — was coming back to Gilley’s Music Center (The Loft) in December. Well, now we hear who his opening act will be … and it’s none other than our friend Eric Himan. We profiled Eric, too  ealier this year, and just reviewed his new album. We’re fans of both these out artists, though sometimes if feels like Jay’s not all that fond of us, but that’s OK.

The concert is on Dec. 14.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Two spirits

Trans singer Antony Hegarty talks up gloom in his essays and on his band’s latest CD

LAWRENCE FERBER  | Contributing Writer lawrencewferber@hotmail.com

Antony Hegarty
STARE OFF | Antony Hegarty is quite comfortable discussing his own death in his book ‘Swanlights,’ also the name of the latest CD from his band of Antony and the Johnsons.

Antony Hegarty wants you to gut him with sticks.

In “Wild Life,” the essay that closes his art book, Swanlights (a companion to his new album of the same name), the transgender-identified musician with Antony and the Johnsons reveals a deep connection to the earth, nature and environment and detachment from the industrialized, Judeo-Christian society at large. That includes a description of the way he wishes to go.

“I don’t want your future,” the U.K.-born, NYC-based Hegarty writes. “I hope when I die, that I never return to your world. I will go where the trees go, where the wind goes… I will leave you all to enjoy the world that you are creating for your children. I want then to be a dead body at the bottom of the lake. Gut me with sticks and stuff my body with lavender crystals.”

Brave, vulnerable and profound, Swanlights features collages, illustrations, poetry and manipulated found items, while the album boasts 11 tracks of beauteously moving, haunting vocals and arrangements, including a duet with Bjork, “Flétta.”
Hegarty discussed the book/album, just how eccentric Bjork is and the process of writing about your own death.

Dallas Voice: Where does the word “swanlights” come from? Hegarty: I kind of made it up. To me it’s a suggestion of a reflection of a spirit on the surface of water at night. Almost like the reflection of a ghost on a lake. The spirit or energy jumping out of a body, you know? I know it’s kind of high-falutin’.

You released an EP in late August, Thank You For Your Love. What are the biggest differences between the EP and Swanlights? The EP is like a little sorbet or something. It’s not that thematically connected to the album, except I did this one cover of [John Lennon’s] “Imagine.” Really the album wrestles a lot with a sense of hopelessness but also carrying a sense of joy as well.

How does Swanlights differ most from your previous efforts like 2005’s I Am a Bird Now? What sort of evolution does it represent?  I feel like the work is the most volatile and expressive to date. I’ve always sort of threaded my own stories through creative imaginative narratives. When you’re making work it’s always a combination of personal and imaginative things and just dreams. The album is actually the most broad, sonically. Usually I edit things down within an inch of their life, tightly composed, and this one is more open, a little bit rougher, organic. A collage of ideas. It was almost put together like a collage and the visual part of the work and album are of equal weight to me.

Swanlights’ lyrics talk about surreal, ethereal things like the “salt mother” and ghosts. There’s a spirit glow to everything. I’ve been spending so much time researching indigenous cultures, especially for instance the “two spirit” tradition in Native American culture, which affords a privileged seat for the transgender members of their community — a creative, shamanistic seat. I was really inspired by that. Generally speaking, the last few years I’ve separated myself completely from Judeo-Christian models of thinking, although I do still use some of that imagery in the songs. But I’m more interested in spiritual, theological systems and those emerge more from indigenous cultures. The Native Americans are so beautiful. I love this Cherokee thing called The Seven Generation Principle. You don’t employ any technology or development that you can’t promise will positively affect seven generations of people. Can you imagine such a principle governing our developmental affairs in this world today? It’s such a good healthy tenet for creating a sustainable world and it’s something we’ve gotten so far away from.

How sincere are you in the essay about not wanting to be part of our world and just be found dead in the lake? It’s totally sincere. I think the essay is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever put forward and it makes me feel quite vulnerable. There’s something witchy about that essay that made me uncomfortable because it expresses a kind of hopelessness, but I think a lot of people in their hearts of hearts are feeling a bit hopeless right now. So it was in service to that I decided to go forward and express myself quite vividly. It’s not an endpoint. It’s another point in surrender to figure out what I can in fact impact and what is the source of my life and of my joy. This constantly changing thing, which is the experience of living.

There are a number of photos of dead animals in the book. What’s the story behind that? Yes, definitely images of animals that have been slain. There’s a whole series in the book called “Cut Away the Bad” which is about taking a picture of a circumstance or situation and the energy is out of balance or some crisis is unfolding and try to repair it visually, first by removing corrupted elements. There are pictures of animals that have been hunted or killed and the first thing I did was pick out the parts of the hunter and try and restore the integrity of the animal, give it space to die with some dignity. I know it seems almost futile, but it’s a catalyst for a feeling someone can influence things on a spirit level. Also I’ve been preoccupied with the idea we’re in the midst of a massive extinction event in the world today and some of the animals, especially the big mammals, are really disappearing. Sort of a good time to be aware of all these other species and be dreaming for them.

You’ve been very outspoken about being transgender in mainstream interviews around the world. Have you detected any sort of shift in your career or life as a result? I don’t know. I haven’t been measuring the response and I don’t think I ever didn’t use that way to describe myself. I feel a responsibility to be honest about it mostly for the sake of other transgender people. Also, especially in regards to this body of work I like the idea of a kind of feral, empathic connection with the world around you. It’s the nature of the transgender person just on account of their increased sensitivity to their environment.

How did the Bjork duet come about? We did [her song “Dull Flame of Desire”] at the same time we did the recording for her album Volta. I wrote it for her and we were doing a lot of vocal improvisation and she came up with her response to the piano track. It was very organic and I asked her if I could do this for my record and she was into it. It wasn’t even planned. It was just something we did.

Is Bjork as eccentric as she’s been parodied to be? She’s definitely a dreamer. I don’t really think of her as an eccentric, but then I may not be the best person to talk to about it. I like people who are interested in exploring themselves and their creative world. For me that feels normal.

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‘Swan’ songs: Antony & the Johnsons get (mostly) happy on latest album

Listening to Antony Hegarty can be an enlightening experience. The usual go-to with him is his unique voice, one not to be ignored: That haunting quality is like nothing else in music now. He works a trembling vibrato to no end against a texture of apropos songs that are dreamy and ethereal. Sometimes, there’s just too much of that. But Hegarty and his band straddle the line this time with Swanlights.

A & the J sway between despairing songs of death and uppish tunes celebrating love. That dichotomy is expressed completely, but boringly, in the opener “Everything is New.” Dancing lightly on the piano, it’s more of the expectedly moody tone, but the piano and strings get aggressive offering hope. The lyrics are simply a repeated title track with warbly moaning and ultimately nothing new, but it may be a harbinger of songs to come.

When the band ventures into familiar territory, it’s always beautiful, but their weepy slow songs are never ballads — they are dirges. Sometimes, no matter how mopey, emo, goth you may be, funerals aren’t always a musical go-to. But the band pulls it off sublimely in “The Great White Ocean” where Hegarty sings of death and asks his family to join him. He boldly whines in lyrics like Swim with me my mother / When I dive into the ocean of death / I will cry if I am not with my family. Total buzzkill.

The bleakness returns after several tracks with “The Spirit is Gone.” Hegarty wails us into despair, yet we can’t tell if he’s singing about a person who’s passed or a relationship. His dreariness is confounding, yet he can still make it undeniably fascinating.

Where the album succeeds is in the happier moments. Not for mere sake of tone, but because they thrive here more than expected. The opening piano of “Ghost” is optimistic and they are shedding anchors of pain and misery. Perhaps here is the “new” part hinted by track one. “I’m In Love” is pop music that all radio bands could strive for. Delicate lyrics and distinct layers of instruments offer a true gem.

They go back to the mellow with the much hyped duet with Bjork on Fletta. Maybe because of her, it’s easy to pardon their usual frigid disposition. She takes the lead vocally where Hegarty seems to follow like a hungry kitten with only a piano that begins lightly as if it is skimming on water and then shifts up to punctuate the song. Now this is a ballad.

— Rich Lopez

Three stars

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Hear ‘Holly is a Homophobe’ live at Trees tonight

Straight local band Bible Fire hits with ‘Holly is a Homophobe’

Clearly, you should watch what you say around Rob Halstead or it could turn into a song.

When a day-job co-worker of the Bible Fire songwriter went on a hostile rant against the gays, Halston ripped her a new one by putting it to music.  The result was “Holly is a Homophobe,” a single from the local band’s new album The Pursuit of Imperfection. Unexpectedly, when the group performs, it’s one of their most requested and popular songs.

“Holly is this girl me and Grant [Scruggs, the band’s guitarist] both worked with,” Halstead says. “She’s an enigma to me because she’s so nice and caring and then prejudiced all the way around.” An example of the lyric: Holly is a homophobe / Disdainfully, she told me so / Her biggest fear is turning queer / And I just thought that everyone should know.

Read the rest of the article here.

DEETS: Trees, 2709 Elm St. Sept. 16. Doors open at 7 p.m. TreesDallas.com

—  Rich Lopez