Ella Riot, I Could be Your Love Child: The New Gay Interview
Ella Riot (formerly My Dear Disco) are my new favorite musical crush. I want these dancethink mavericks to put me in their pocket. Is that a bit much?
I had a chance to sit down with Michelle Chamuel, Bob (Robert) Lester, and Tyler Duncan on Saturday before their show at Iota in Arlington. Here’s what Ella Riot had to say:
TheNewGay: Tell me about the “Love Child EP,” which dropped on Tuesday, right?
Bob: Yeah, so we have been getting in the habit of not calling it an EP because that has the connotation of being an in-between project. For us, it is really a new strategy for a new way to release products. In general, making shorter records allows us to keep updating our sound as we keep updating our interests. It has been two years since we last released something. I think it is a good expression of the energy of the band. We want to present more of, not exactly what it is like to see Ella Riot, but more of what we are, because we are a live performing band. We don’t use loops, everything is produced live. We wanted it to be something that expressed more of our musicianship.
TNG: The “It Could Be” video is rather rad. I actually read one review that interpreted it though a “business bear goes bonkers” lens. (Readers: I showed them the review online and they were totally stoked.) Who cooked up this concept?
Bob: This was a Tyler concept.
Tyler: I think the concept was just this sort of an unlikely person having the ideal response to our music. I guess if you had to put it in a nutshell. An unlikely situation, but the music is doing what I would hope what it would do to somebody, and then letting that unroll.
Michelle: I think that liberation is something that gets thrown around a lot with this song.
TNG: Ya’ll seem to have a solid media/image strategy, which is even more impressive since it’s more of what I would expect from a band a whole lot older than four. How did you develop this art/business acumen; or is it innate?
Michelle: It hasn’t always been this way, but it has been a direction we have been moving towards. We recently joined Management who has been helping us. We have made our share of mistakes, but as music school graduates we’ve always had the mentality that this is serious: this is our work. Mom calls ‘cause you don’t have a nine to five, but it’s like: this is my nine to five. We are an LLC. This is a business.
Bob: We’ve always taken this as a very serious opportunity to make this into something we can live off of as much as possible. Working with Management this has really taken us to where we want to be.
TNG: What is up with “Clubbing”? I really dig it. Like within the first 30 seconds I wanted the Bronx Zoo cobra to emerge from a basket and kick mega man’s ass. The bagpipes are wicked unexpected with phrasing that is like Queensryche-Celtic-Indian. How did this instrumental song happen?
Tyler: It’s just a massive mix of influences. It has got the bagpipes as lead so it will come off a little more bizarre. The influences are the same maybe a different blend. A little drum and bass.
Michelle: Celine Dion.
Tyler: It’s like “Love Child,” but sped up. I’m an Irish bagpiper who got into all this other stuff after the fact, so a lot of songs combine my various influences.
TNG: What would be your dream tour? Like, in my little fantasy world I’d like to see you guys play Phase Fest with Scissor Sisters and the Gossip. I think that would be kind of ridiculous and I would drink so much PBR and dance so much and I want that to happen. But anyway, back to you.
Michelle: Yeah, that would be awesome. I think a huge influence on the band right now is the Brazilian Girls. That is a band we would love to play with.
Bob: It would be great to play with Scissor Sisters, especially the latest album. Brazilian Girls would be a dream to play with. I would love to share a show with the Faint too. They have a similar vibe and I think the intensity would be great: a dance party formatted like rock concerts.
TNG: So I’m with The New Gay, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask some homo-gay oriented questions. You guys are from Ann Arbor, which may be where non-coastal queerness was invented. Do you think the different locations your tour through impact how comfortable you are with talking gayness? Like, we are in the D.C., which is hella gay, but you guys are traveling to Alabama in the soon, which I understand may be less queer-embracing.
Michelle: We’ve never been asked gay questions in Alabama. The most south we have been is when we performed in Kentucky Pride in 2009.
Bob: I think one reason this is an interesting question is that we don’t incorporate a lot of queer themes, like Scissor Sisters or Peaches. We don’t have a queer message so to speak.
Michelle: We are happy to be in support, but our music is more about love and peace and being who you are.
Bob (to Michelle): Do you even use “she” in any song?
Michelle: No not really … I refuse to change gender lyrics though in covers. But it’s great to watch crowds, maybe in places where it’s traditionally less tolerant, yelling along when I sing.
Bob: I do think there is something about our band that is aesthetically androgynous. So it’s hard to tell if we are queer leaning or are we spectacle and flash. Some people on stage dress kind of “queer,” some don’t.
Tyler: I had a couple of bros come up to me in Boston when I was wearing some kind of really eccentric clothes, and these frat guys were like, “Great show man, rockin’ shit. You want a beer?” It was great, like they were talking to me like they were at one of their parties and I was one of their bros, but if I showed up to one of their parties they wouldn’t be like that. They really were feeling our music.
TNG: What do you think is the current most pressing issue the gays need to rally around in order to further civil rights?
Michelle: We’ve made some good headway this year with DADT repeal. Something I’m following closely is how marriage is going. I thought we had it for a split second. We had marriage rights integrated into immigration protections…but that didn’t stick for very long.
Tyler: There are so many issues, and I think anyone of them would be a step in the right direction.
TNG: For the straights: When did you realize you were straight and how did you come out to your family? Were they supportive?
Bob : For me; I dunno. I’ve never really decided that I am straight so I never had to announce it my parents. But they would be supportive either way. Announcing I was straight might creep my dad out at first, but I think he has gotten better about that.
Tyler: I’ve never decided that I was straight. I’ve gone with my instincts. If I had a crush on a dude I would roll with it.
Michelle: I’m going to have to go with Tyler. If I ever had a crush on a dude, I would roll with it. Oh wait, that was a question for the straight people. I wasn’t supposed to answer.
TNG: Are you guys at all TV people? What do dancethink music magicians watch on the TV. Please say Archer!
Bob/Michelle: The Office is probably the most common love, both the British and the American versions. Parks and rec, 30 Rock, Weeds, Veronica Mars (Michelle)
Bob: Probably for gay reasons.
Michelle: What?! No, because she is a bad ass…
Bob: Come on, you got to put it out there. What if she reads this?
Michelle: She’s bad ass! I don’t have any ulterior motives.
All: But we aren’t really TV people. What is an Archer?
Ella fucking Riot. Go.listen.now.
(Did you want to know more? This dude has done a good job historicizing Ella Riot.)
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