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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 25, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 21
Arts & Entertainment
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Gossip's word is spreading fast

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

That cool song you hear in the background of the new Dior fragrance commercial belongs to Gossip. The alternative rock band, once based in Olympia but now scattered between Oregon and Arkansas, is scorchingly hot these days, partly due to that track's use in the trans-Atlantic TV ad, but also because they've returned to the forefront with a new album, A Joyful Noise. Led by the husky-voiced Beth Ditto and fellow Lesbian Hannah Blilie, the group received a GLAAD Media Award nomination and enjoys a strong following among LGBT rock fans.

I caught up with Blilie during a break in New York promoting A Joyful Noise, which arrived at North American record stores this week. The album's first single is 'Perfect World.' Feisty and engaging, Blilie chatted with me inside the Music Lounge.

Albert Rodriguez: It's cool to hear your song ('Heavy Cross') on a TV commercial, with Charlize Theron.

Hannah Blilie: I actually thought it was only going to be in a French commercial - I didn't realize it was going to be airing in the States. I was watching the Grammys, or the Oscars, or something a lot of people watch, and it came on. My mom called and was like, 'That's your song!' It was really funny. And Charlize Theron's a babe.

Rodriguez: Do you have any Seattle haunts or watering holes you're fond of?

Blilie: I used to hang out at the Crescent a lot. My friend Marcus owns that bar Pony, so I like to go there. I moved to Portland in like 2004 or 5. The last time I was up to Seattle around Capitol Hill, I was like, 'Wow, I don't recognize anything.' It's funny how much a place can change in five years or whatever. I remember going to Foxxes, and Jackie Hell and Ursula Android were on the scene. It was a really fun time to be in your early twenties, going to see some freaky-ass drag shows and knocking a urinal off the wall in the bathroom. (laughs)

Rodriguez: This has been a tough year, actually a tough week, for music, losing Donna Summer and Robin Gibb. Do you have a reaction to either of these? Did you spin any Donna Summer records back in the day?

Blilie: I was huge into Donna Summer. I was really shocked to hear that she died. She was only 63, or something. God, so many disco classics she was responsible for. She worked with Giorgio Moroder, that legendary producer, and he pioneered the amazing Euro-electro disco sound together with her on that song 'I Feel Love.' It's crazy, there's all these amazing musicians that have died this year. Whitney Houston's death really struck me. Obviously, Amy Winehouse last summer, that was super-sad. Etta James, [I'm a] huge fan of Etta James. There's all these amazing women/diva/legends who have all passed away this year.

Rodriguez: I'm sure you guys have played 'Standing in the Way of Control' dozens and dozens of times. Do you still play it close to the original, or do you change it up for each tour?

Blilie: We still play it pretty much the same way. We've added a new member now, so there's actually five of us. We've had a touring bass player for three or four years, and we just added a keyboard player in the last few months for this new record. So, I guess it's changed in the way that there's just more people involved. A lot of times, Beth does live mash-ups. She'll start singing Nirvana over 'Standing in the Way of Control,' or she'll throw in some random pop song. I guess anything can happen live, but we haven't changed it much. I never get bored with that song either. It's a song I feel has a real magical connection with the crowd.

Rodriguez: Is there anyone in pop music you follow religiously, whose music you always buy or are mildly obsessed with?

Blilie: In mainstream pop, ooh. Ugh. It's pretty sad right now. I follow Lil Wayne and Usher. Or, anything Missy [Elliott] does. She hasn't been very active for a while, but she just had a song with J. Cole that's really good. The stuff I've been obsessed with lately this past year has been underground electro and house music, stuff like Azari & III, really good '90s acid house. Grimes, I don't know if you've heard of Grimes. Just a lot of electronic music.

Rodriguez: The music industry is pretty open-minded and I know you guys have toured with lots of bands and met a lot of different people. Are there any fellow artists who've surprisingly been Gay-friendly or very, very open?

Blilie: You know what, we toured with Busta Rhymes (we both laugh) in Australia a couple of years ago and I'd always heard that he's really homophobic, probably more towards Gay men than towards Lesbians. But I have to say he was the sweetest guy to us and I know he knows we're a Gay band. He was this big, cuddly teddy bear and really sweet. The ladies from Salt-N-Pepa were really sweet to us, too. It was like this weird hip-hop/R&B tour we were on for some reason (laughs). I think attitudes are changing a lot. It's getting less and less cool to be homophobic, even in the mainstream. Even things you could get away with saying five years ago, people just aren't standing for it anymore.

Rodriguez: As recent as last week, President Obama and Jay-Z have come out in support of Gay marriage. This kind of endorsement got attention from around the world, especially when you have a president saying he's okay with same-sex marriage.

Blilie: Yeah, and regardless of whether that's going to be enacted into actual policy or not, just the saying of it is really symbolic as kind of a tide-turning statement. It seems like there's been a lot of progress in the last couple of years with the fight for marriage equality. Attitudes are sort of opening up and changing. There's certainly a lot of backlash and hatred, too. But it seems like people in music, Hollywood, and the president are trying to turn that tide into a civil rights issue and an equality and humanity issue more than a sexuality issue.

Rodriguez: Do you have an idea of when you'll announce a big U.S. tour?

Blilie: I really don't. I wish I had more information there, but I know it'll be in the next few months. We're doing some European festivals over the summer and I know we'll be doing some major U.S. cities in the fall. I'm really excited, all of us are super-proud of the record. It's been really fun to play the new songs live.

Rodriguez: Nathan [Howdeshell] being the straight guy, does he get hit on when you're on the road?

Blilie: (laughs) He's actually the sluttiest member of our band. He gets hit on by everybody. It's funny, people ask him, 'What's it like to be in a band with these crazy Lesbians?' And he's like, 'It's just my normal life.' You know, like it's not weird for him. All his friends are Gay, it's just normal.

Rodriguez: It's also been a crazy year with teen suicides and bullying. This new generation of Gay youth is going through a lot of shit. Do you have any advice for these young Gay folks on how to deal with this sometimes tough world and how to pull through it?

Blilie: I think the 'It Gets Better' campaign was really amazing. Go Dan Savage from Seattle! But just to know this doesn't have to be it, like high school is not the end of the world. Find another freak, whether in your school or online. There's just so many people out there feeling the same way as you, isolated and alone and hated on. There's just this huge community of people who feel the same way. Try to seek out a Gay and Lesbian group at school, or something online. Just to know that you're not alone is the most important thing.

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