Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Sound of Queer Music, Vol. 4

Here's the latest in my series of blog entries featuring LGBTQ musicians. It's all about the sights and sounds of talented people fucking with the heteronormative cultural bias in some quietly breathtaking and flamboyantly splendid ways.

Well-Strung. They're an all-male singing string quartet. The sound is classical meets Top 40, covering everything from Mozart and Vivaldi to Rihanna and Lady Gaga. And the adorable quotient is kinda off the chart.

From the left, Christopher Marchant, Edmund Bagnell, Daniel Shevlin & Trevor Wadleigh

Here's their mash-up of Mozart's "A Little Night Music" and Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone." If you can't find something to like here, there's a real good chance you're a curmudgeon.

You can find their YouTube channel here and a pretty good article about them here. The music is on iTunes.

Extra Fancy. Led by openly gay and HIV+ frontman Brian Grillo, this post-alternative punk band made two damn good (but largely unappreciated) albums in the late 1990s.  Grillo has a commanding presence and a great voice -- thankfully, he never resorts to the kind of screaming vocal work you typically find in this genre. He was superbly supported by bassist D.A. Foster, guitarist Mike Hateley and drummer Derek O'Brien.

Extra Fancy lead singer Brian Grillo.

The video for the band's most successful tune -- "Sinnerman" -- regularly appears and disappears online, but you can hear it below. Grillo's aggressive swagger is wildly effective, but it's his lusty voice that gets me every time.

I became curious about Brian Grillo recently, hence the inclusion of Extra Fancy on this list, and decided to see if I could find out what's going on with him these days. He lives in Los Angeles, still performs occasionally, and is a sexy fiftysomething dude who can still rock the house. Here's your proof. Both Extra Fancy albums are available on iTunes.

Zebra Katz. His real name is Ojay Morgan. He's ambivalent about being categorized as a queer rapper, but had this to say to UK's The Guardian in May 2013: "Creating a strong, black, other, queer male is something that really needed to happen because you don't see that often, especially not in hip hop. But it's terrifying standing up as a queer man. People are getting attacked all over the world, but you have to use your sexuality as a tool, instead of having them use it against you."

Zebra Katz
His formidable single, "Ima Read," made a big impression last year when it was used at a Paris fashion week show. Featuring guest vocalist Njena Reddd Foxxx, the track exploded, in large part due to it's repetitive use of the word bitch. Says Katz, "It's seen as a very misogynist word in hip hop, but we're trying to numb it." The song is deceptively minimal, requiring a bit of explanation to really understand. It's an homage to New York's voguing and drag culture scene immortalized in the 1990 documentary, Paris is Burning. In that context, the phrase "Ima read" means to cut someone down to size by flexing your bitchiness. Here's the creepy, menacing and visually striking video for "Ima Read."

The Zebra Katz website is here. His music is on iTunes.

Tom Goss. This native of Kenosha, Wisconsin spent his high school and college years as a wrestler. After a brief stint as a teacher, he moved to Washington, DC and entered a Catholic seminary in 2004. He abandoned his quest to become a priest and started playing music in DC coffeehouses.  That led to recording and music videos and appearances all over the country. While building a dedicated national following, this very busy guy even managed to find love and get married in 2010.

Super-cutie Tom Goss
Goss is an unabashed romantic, known for his songs about love, but recently he made a departure from pensive pop ballads to record an ode to gay bears. The video was an instant hit.

Check out his YouTube channel here and his website here. All his music is available on iTunes.

John Grant. Sometimes you discover a musician that just moves you in some remarkable way. Like John Grant. He used to front the Czars, a Denver-based alternative rock band, but when every member of the group departed, Grant was left solo. I admire the Czars, but I love John Grant. His first solo effort, Queen of Denmark (2010) was filled with smart, evocative, autobiographical angst. I wondered, Could he get any better? Happily, yes. His latest album, Pale Green Ghosts, is filled with some deeply personal stuff and surprising arrangements. Wisely, Grant's rich, caramel-coated voice is always above the mix, where you can hear the wry, painful or bitter lyrics. Grant's been out for years; in 2012, he publicly acknowledged that he's also living with HIV.

John Grant

One of several standout cuts from Pale Green Ghosts is "GMF," which features Sinead O'Connor singing backup and a bridge (beginning at 3:10) that's just one of the most lyrically exquisite things I've heard all year. And don't worry, you'll know exactly what GMF stands for about a minute into the song. Here's the video, which follows Grant around for a day, presumably a day not long after a break up.

John Grant's music is on iTunes. Check out his YouTube channel here.

Peace out,


  1. Re Tom Goss: and a special nod to the song he did with Matt Alber 'Who We Are-a song for U.S. Service members unfairly discharged or serving in silence' obviously recorded before the Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal.

  2. If the author of this article sees this, here's two new links for the Extra Fancy "Sinnerman" video -- + -- and it would be great to re-imbed it.