Shear Madness


By Matthew Breen

'Can we get out of here?' Jake Shears asks me as I meet him in the lobby of his West Hollywood, Calif., hotel on the day of the Scissor Sisters' last show of their U.S. tour. The digs are nice, but the caf' upstairs where I'd planned on talking to him is, admittedly, a little stuffy. Shears, lead singer of the New York'based band, is justified in being tired of hotels and tour buses'and interviews, for that matter. With only a few minor breaks here and there, the Sisters have been touring constantly through the United States and Europe for over a year and a half. At times their schedule has been so grueling that last winter Jake found himself coughing up blood from exhaustion. Frequently, he, vocalist Ana Matronic, band co-mastermind Babydaddy, guitarist Del Marquis, and drummer Paddy Boom were sleeping only every 48 hours. 'We'd play a gig at night, get on a plane or the bus, arrive in the morning, do press during the day, get ready, and do another show that night. It's crazy.'

But at this moment, Shears, dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved black button-down shirt with metallic threads, looks rested. It's a good thing, too, because he has another full day ahead of him. After lunch with me, the band members are headed to The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson to tape a performance of their single 'Take Your Mama' ('I wanted to play 'Laura,'' says Jake, 'but they insisted') and are then off to the Wiltern Theatre to play their biggest show in Los Angeles thus far.

Less than a year ago, when I first met the band, they were about to play a considerably smaller venue in Los Angeles's Silver Lake neighborhood, with a capacity of about 200. They'd come off an amazing series of shows in the United Kingdom, where they were quickly becoming major stars, opening for Elton John and Duran Duran, and playing enormous venues like Wembley Stadium. Since then, their disco cover of Pink Floyd's 'Comfortably Numb' was nominated for a Grammy for Best Dance Recording, their self-titled debut album'the top-selling album in the United Kingdom last year'was nominated for and won three Brit Awards in February, and they released a DVD of concert footage and music videos. In the States they've appeared on Live With Regis and Kelly, Late Night With Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and the ultimate live TV gig, Saturday Night Live. A river of ink has been spilled over the album's anthem-like perfect pop songs, the band's outr' fashion sense, Shears's ambivalent relationship with clothing when performing (he likes flashy costumes, but they don't stay on long when he's onstage), and the fact that three members, Shears, Babydaddy, and Marquis, are openly gay.

While Shears's stage performance is certainly riveting, up close it's even easier to see why fans and the press have been taken with this lithe, shaggy-haired, 26-year-old former go-go dancer. His wide eyes and frankness are disarming, almost flirtatious.

Yet, while the band is clearly flourishing stateside, Scissor Sisters have yet to see their phenomenal success in the United Kingdom repeated here. Various band members have attributed the discrepancy to American radio politics (Shears has called it 'fascist') or to the press's pigeonholing the band as making gay music. Jake says U.K. audiences 'don't give a fuck' about the band members' sexuality. 'From little kids to teenagers to full-on grandmas,' he says, sipping a giant caf' Americano in the French bistro on Melrose Avenue where we ended up. 'They love the music and they love us and they don't really concern themselves with it, I don't think.' But here at home, where the prevailing cultural climate is considerably more conservative? He admits he doesn't read much of the press on the band but says that 'music, no matter what it's necessarily saying, transcends sexuality.' Performing, he says, 'is like putting on an outfit. I would feel absolutely comfortable singing a love song to a girl with gender-specific pronouns. Even though in a certain way I'm lying when I'm singing it, I can still be honest and tell that story and be totally comfortable with it.'

Because of the band's sensational accomplishments in the United Kingdom (where they've sold in the neighborhood of two million albums), offers have been pouring in for Shears and Babydaddy to work with other artists. They've discussed collaborations with Elton John, and Shears has received an invitation from Andy Bell of Erasure to sing a duet on Bell's upcoming solo album.

Babydaddy and Shears also wrote a new song, 'I Believe in You,' for Kylie Minogue's greatest hits collection Ultimate Kylie. Shears even confessed to Minogue his desire to write a movie musical vehicle for her. 'Oh, yeah!' he says, visibly excited about the idea. 'God, wouldn't it be fun? I have fantasies about a psychedelic Kylie Minogue rock musical. That would be just sick!'

To read more about Jake Shears, pick up the April issue of Out.