According to Bono they’re the best pop group in the world, while The Advocate officially declared them the biggest, gayest band on earth. Their debut album went to number 1 in England and they’ve been nominated for a Grammy up against Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue, who’s current hit I Believe In You they wrote and produced. Since releasing their first single in early 2004, a cover of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb, the Scissor Sisters have become an international sensation and one of the hottest things to hit the music scene in years.
In an industry where being openly gay is still considered a risky proposition, especially in the US, one of the most refreshing things about this New York five-piece is that three of its members happily wear their homosexuality on their sleeves. Lead singer Jake Shears, guitarist Del Marquis and keyboard player Babydaddy are openly gay. Singer Ana Matronic is a self-confessed gay man trapped in a woman’s body, while drummer Paddy Boom is straight (though his band mates say they’re not so sure after seeing him pose for photographs).
Speaking down the phone from Indiana where the Scissor Sisters are passing through on their US tour, Marquis said that closeting their sexuality from public view was simply never an option.
I wouldn’t have done it, and I don’t think any of us would have done it any other way, he said. And it really wasn’t to make a statement. I came out of the closet when I was 15 years old, so you know after 10 years I’m not going to shut my mouth up just because I’m playing guitar.
All of us have lived openly about our life, our sexuality, for years, and moving into music and as a band, it was just a natural continuation of our life.
While the Scissor Sisters were an instant hit in the UK and Australia, America still isn’t quite sure what to make of the queer, high-camp pop performers who sing songs with titles such as Tits On The Radio. Then there’s the fact the band’s name is a term for a lesbian sex act. It’s a sexual position two women get into to bump. If you make two scissors with your hands and then, you know -¦ Marquis explained. Maybe draw a diagram in your newspaper to help.
However Marquis believes it’s not the US public that is being cautious but their record company Universal. They don’t really know how to market a band that isn’t doing rap or metal. We just don’t fit into a category, which is odd because we’re writing pop singles, he said.
It took garnering an audience overseas to make them think twice. Once they saw we were pulling crowds that would go mental, they thought, -˜OK, this can work.’
Universal need worry no more. Marquis and his fellow Sisters have just appeared on the high-rating US TV show Saturday Night Live and have been well received on their US tour. Plus there’s the nomination for best dance track at the Grammy Awards, which will be broadcast into the homes of millions of Americans. But while Marquis said the band is honoured by the nomination he’s not particularly fussed. He hasn’t even watched the Grammys before. Most of my friends who are musicians don’t really pay attention to the Grammys, he said. No offence to that awards ceremony, but it’s kinda just like fodder to me. My mum thinks it’s amazing, but I don’t really have much of a comment about it.
When it comes to dealing with their newfound fame Marquis said the band is doing its best to take it in their stride. But don’t some of the obsessive fans gushing on internet bulletin boards how they want to marry him freak him out a little? No. I certainly can turn back the clock and put myself in that position. If someone’s presented to you on video or on television or on stage, I think it gives you the freedom to think about them in a way you wouldn’t normally fantasise about somebody you know. There’s a certain element of detachment. I’m not bothered by it and if anything it’s educating.
Marquis met the Scissor Sisters’ charismatic frontman Shears when the singer was dating one of Marquis’ best friends. They instantly hit it off. There aren’t that many musicians who are gay and who have an expansive view of music, Marquis said. I mean we like so many different types of bands. Often if you grow up in the gay world you might feel a little short-changed and think, -˜Why doesn’t this club play good music? Why can’t I hear the bands I listen to at home when I’m going out for a dance or a drink?’ And it’s just nice to meet kindred spirits. There’s just a love of all types of music and, you know, our sexuality is something that brings a gel to it. We shared a love of music and we wanted to break out of the gay ghetto with it. And we did.
His coming out story is a happy one. Marquis always knew he was gay and by 15 felt comfortable enough within his family and at school to tell everyone. Most people took the news well. Some people were supportive and some people were confused. You get comments. But it certainly isn’t something I look back on and think, -˜Oh that was a mistake,’ he said.
The band is excited to be coming to Australia in February as the headline act of the Good Vibrations Festival because every Aussie the band has met are by and far the nicest people, Marquis said. They’re just very easy to talk to, very genuine, so for a whole country to be full of that attitude I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of fun.
But that said, the Scissor Sisters are also looking forward to the tour being over so they can start recording their new album in March. I’d say by the time we’re done touring your country we’ll be ready to call it quits. We’ve been playing these songs for a while and although we find ways to make them exciting, we really want to get new songs into the set. So we’ll be excited to write songs full-time again.
Good Vibrations is on in Sydney on 19 February. For tickets and information go to www.ticketek.com.au.