Andy Warhol would have approved of the Sexual Side Effects‘ Franken-Party this Friday Jan. 25 at the Drunken Unicorn. A rock ‘n’ roll fantasy collides with an art show. The crowd is scantily but fabulously dressed, clothes replaced by body paint. Go-go dancers twist and shake in Nancy Sinatra boots as multi-colored lights sweep across the dance floor. The epic extravaganza launches SSE’s Franken-Tour across the Southeast and Texas and also boasts Sarasota, Florida’s MeteorEYES, who are on their Winter Migration Tour, and self-proclaimed Atlanta nerd-rock band Go! Robo! Go!
The Sexual Side Effects have only been playing Atlanta for a couple of years, but to say they have taken the city and the Southeast by storm is like underestimating a thunderstorm before it starts firing up a tornado. In fact, it’s hard to imagine with all the high-voltage energy lead vocalist/guitarist Amber Taylor is channeling into the band, it won’t be long until they have the attention of the nation and the entire world, maybe even the galaxy if ETs are tuning in.
Over time, we figured some Kats would be so Kool that they had to be Kool Kat of the Week more than once, and Amber certainly qualifies in spades. Last time we chatted with her in July 2011, she was plotting a neo-glam revolution with her Gilded Trash events in Atlanta and New York. SSE still sports its glam roots in some of their sound, their audacious stage shows and encouragement to people to wear outrageous, sexy costumes to their performances, but the band has revealed itself to be much more. On the Retro side, one can see in-your-face post-punk, new wave and even psychedelic influences, and yet their approach feels right in tune to the 21st century. With a successful EP,an award-winning video, scoring “Best Local Rock Act” and “Best Band Name” in Creative Loafing‘s 2012 Best of Atlanta, sell-out shows from DC to Florida and a Franken-Tour on the horizon, we felt it was high time to catch up again with Amber to find out more about why their kick-off party in Atlanta this Friday is not to be missed and what’s up in a future so bright we imagine they’ll have to wear shades.
Amber Taylor: Franken-Party! is our new party. It started by making a silly flyer with Frankenstein partying with a couple of cold ones, and it inspired a eureka moment. We (The Sexual Side Effects) realized that one of the funnest and most successful shows we produced over the years was at My Sister’s Room in October 2011. The concept was simple – Art + Music. We played, had a couple of guest stars and bands from around town joined us on stage, had an art show, body painting, burlesque queens and tons of other fun eclectic art.
This whole experience can be summed up by the name “Franken-Party!” Pull all kinds of art into a blender – music, visual art, performance art, film, burlesque, drag, costumery, you name it. If it’s art, it has a home. I know I wasn’t supposed to give it all away, but, oh well, I guess we just slept on the first date. Don’t worry I like to make breakfast in the morning.
If Franken-Party is a rock concert, why so much art and half-nakedness? Do I have to be at least half-naked to attend?
It’s only part concert. It’s really an art-party that’s all about the people. People have to enter covering up their “naughty bits,” but if things get a little out of control, so be it! It’s not a party till someone get’s nekid!
You’ve expressed on Facebook a lot lately that you feel this is a big year for you and the Sexual Side Effects. Why now, what’s up and how does this relate to Franken-Tour?
Well, we have been working our tails off night and day over the last couple of years, and have reached a point where we have a team built to help us get more accomplished. In 2013, we have established an agent, publicist, radio promoter and are flirting with a couple of managers as well. This will enable us to put more time and energy into our art.
We hear Ryan McDougall is leaving the band. Who is replacing him and will Franken-Party being his last gig with SSE give the night a bittersweet tint?
RyGuy – which Mike the bassist affectionately coined him – is leaving the band. This will be his farewell show, and a farewell to one part of our journey as a band. It’s a positive thing though! The SSE has always had its core three members – myself, Mike Sidner [bass] and Clay McClure [drums]. We have evolved into a group that incorporates different people into it from time to time or project to project. We still have the same sound, same direction and personality, but now we just get to share the experience with more people and make it a bigger family. We may continue as a trio, or may get another guitarist. We have a couple of people we have auditioned, but either way the train will never stop until our dying days. Art is my mission in life, and it will never stop.
Looks like SSE is playing all over the South in the next two months on Franken-Tour. You’ve also played a lot of Florida dates lately. Any plans to go north of the Maxon-Dixon line?
We are going to work on the Southeast, Florida and Texas for a while. Too many bands want to go national overnight, and this is the biggest mistake they can make. The Wall of China was not built overnight; it was built brick by brick on a solid foundation. The U.S. is a big place, and every time we play a city we have to go back within two to three months. We are going to do about five rounds on tour in the Southeast and then figure out what’s next once SSE mania has spread far and wide. In other words, this shit is on!
It seems like your five-song EP HIGH MAINTENANCE and the video for “All She’ll Ever Hurt,” directed by David Joseph and the Comcast/Xfinity Video Award winner at the 2012 Georgia Music Awards, really amped things up for the band. Do you consider that a key turning point?
Well, it has helped a lot, but nothing happens over night. Art is hard work, and there is a long road to travel to get to the point where we want to be in our hearts. The video and the album are the introduction for the band to the world and they still get discovered everyday by people. Surprisingly the UK has really embraced us! As some point soon we will start touring there.
What’s been your favorite gig on this crazy trip so far?
Phasefest in Washington, DC, with Hunter Valentine, Vanity Theft and Glitterlust was one of the most magical shows I have personally felt yet. The club sold out at 300 people, and they had to turn away 200 people at the door AND it was $25 to get in! It was off the chain! I’m surprised the fire marshall didn’t shut it down. Well, at least my amp stayed cool. What an insane night; on top of that, we played the night before in Atlanta at a convention, got in the van after the show and drove straight to DC overnight. I remember being exhausted before we hit the stage, but when we plugged in, it was like a firecracker went off - for the next hour. Thank God for Red Bull! The last song we played the whole crowd was singing along – and they didn’t even know the words!
OK, since we’re ATLRetro, we always like to talk about the past as much as the future. Let’s go back to your roots. How old were you when you discovered glam music? Who was the performer, what happened and why did it appeal to you then?
Well, in all honesty about the glam thing, we have moved away from glam as a definitive title for us. Because of who and what I am, my relationship to Glitterdome [at The Chamber] in the past, our parallel to the band Placebo, and of course, our Glam night we did called Gilded Trash, we kind of got that label in the begining. This isn’t totally fair to the listener though. We have a much different sound which is more rooted in Post-Punk, Psychedelic Space Rock, New Wave, Brit-Pop, Indie Rock and Indie Pop. Of course, there are elements of ’70s glam in what we do and our sound as well, but that is only a small part of the mixture. Of course, there is also the Joan Jett element of how I look, as well as the T-Rex-ness that gives that aura.
David Bowie, of course, was my all-time favorite. Pat Briggs from the Glitterdome was a big part of my fondness with David and glam in general. After I got to know and perform with him, I had a huge glam fetish. When the movie VELVET GOLDMINE came out, it seemed to boost that whole scene and the nostalgia of it all as well. Some people love that movie and some people hate it, but to me it is an important part of glitter fantasy that every child should have!
When we talked last year, you were talking about the Sexual Side Effects in the context of instigating a neo-glam movement. Do you still feel that’s the best term overall to classify the band is or has it progressed into something different? How do you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?
Well, we did set off down that path, but being true to the song and what has come out as an artist we found other elements and music we have drawn inspiration from. We are all about the fantasy of music, rock ‘n’ roll, and the show, but that manifests itself in new ways and new descriptions. It’s an art movement, creating musical art with no boundaries or constraints to what it is. We have come up with a new fusion of sounds that could be described as Progressive Psych Pop. The fun, charisma, and audience participation that glam has still manifests itself in who we are, but our sound is a little outside the box to perfectly fit in the neo-glam classification. We have grown a bit as artists as well which has made it morph into something new. Art in the context of the Flaming Lips is a better parallel for sight, sound, experience, inspiration for the show and audience participation.
OK, back to the future, are you recording anything else, perhaps a full CD, soon? What about more videos?
We have been writing and have a good number of songs laid out to be recorded. We plan to go back into the studio soon and record. We are hoping to have something proper released around Summer 2013.
You’ve said that “Really the next step for the band is to take our music and who we are and help change society beyond us.” That’s heavy stuff but all one has to do is look in your eyes to know you mean it. Do you have a master plan, and how can the Sexual Side Effects’ music change the world?
One person at a time. It takes a long time, but we have a whole lifetime. When a teacher has a positive life-changing effect on a student or a social worker or whoever, it’s that moment when they have a purpose greater than themselves. Music is our purpose in life. To help others, and to share it with others makes it even more amazing. It’s a universal language that connects us all, regardless of barriers.
Finally, you’re just having a helluva lot of fun, aren’t you?
Why yes! It’s been a mountain load of hard work though. I worked my fingers to the bone the last couple of years and realized I need to stop and smell the roses. So this year I have dedicated to having more fun in everything we do. I think part of having Franken-Party! is my need to throw down at an epic party, too!
If you miss Franken-Party in Atlanta, here are the preliminary dates for the Franken-Tour:
1/25 – Atlanta, GA – The Drunken Unicorn
2/7 – Knoxville, TN – Preservation Pub
2/8 – Birmingham, AL – The Nick
2/9 – New Orleans – TBA
2/10 – Houston, TX – Cactus Music In-Store
2/11 – San Antonio, TX – The Thirsty Camel
2/12 – Fort Worth, TX – Wherehouse
2/13 – Austin, TX – Parish Underground
2/14 – Houston, TX – Mango’s
2/15 – Baton Rouge – The Library (ex. North gate tav)
2/16 – Mobile, AL – Alabama Music Box
2/28 – Nashville, TN – 12th + Porter
3/1 – Cookeville, TN – Miracle Mountain Farms
3/7 – Carrollton, GA – The Alley Cat
3/23 – Asheville, NC – Boiler Room
3/24 – Charlotte, NC – The Saloon