By Adam Rathe
Photography by Pamela Littky
Seth Bogart recently read an academic essay about his member. Perusing a website -- FuckYeahSethBogart.tumblr.com -- that usually posts concert photos and gig posters, he found the essay, penned by a fan, which analyzes his in-the-buff turn in Butt and a porno-worthy cameo in a video for the rock band Girls. The essay considers the outrageous, hypersexual, and hilarious Bogart -- or really, his alter ego, Hunx—through the lens of Baudrillard and ’90s gay punk zines. It made Bogart slightly uncomfortable, but is something that Hunx would love.
“He’s definitely different from me,” Bogart says. “I’m a little bit shy and reserved -- and Hunx is into being in the spotlight and being crazy and putting on a show.” These days, the character, whom the 32-year-old Bogart invented in the early aughts for his dance-rock band, Gravy Train!!!, and continued performing as in Hunx and His Punx, has more in common with his creator than ever before. As Hunx, Bogart is releasing his first solo album, Hairdresser Blues, a thoughtful and addictive collection of pop songs that bridges the gap between Bogart and his persona. Sure, there are tracks like “Private Room,” a winking seduction begging to be shimmied to, that are classic Hunx, but there are also tunes that show a more somber side.
“I kept writing all of these songs and they didn’t really fit with the music that my band was doing,” says Bogart, a fixture of the San Francisco underground scene who recently moved to Los Angeles. “I wanted to do something a little different.” Hairdresser Blues -- named for Bogart’s part-time tress-taming gig -- gave him a chance to explore a new direction.
“The songs are weirder, more like British pop,” he says. “They don’t really have a punk or oldies vibe to them, and some of them are pretty sad.”
A standout track is “Say Goodbye Before You Leave,” a paean to Bogart’s friend, the late rocker Jay Reatard, who died of drug-and alcohol-related causes in 2010. The ode is touching and strange, not unlike their relationship. “He had taken us on tour right before he died and he started calling me all the time and he released a record of mine and we became good friends,” he says. “He was super funny and crazy, and we would make out sometimes. I was really bummed.”
Another blue note, the album closer “When You’re Gone,” addresses his father’s suicide, which occurred while Bogart was a teenager. “I have all these weird dreams where he’s not dead,” he explains. “I woke up from one of those dreams and the song just came to me.”
Despite the seriousness of his solo subject matter, Bogart says he won’t be toning down his lascivious antics as he tours the U.S. and Europe for the record.
“There are times when people scream at me to take my clothes off,” he says. “It’s not that I’m opposed to that, but it’s about getting on stage and seeing what happens. I’ve seen so many bands that are just straight dudes in jeans and a T-shirt on stage not putting anything into it—so, taking clothes off is for entertainment value, really.”
Hairdresser Blues comes out February 28.