Emo's Gay Dad
By Barry Walters
What's your perception of bands that really cozy up to sponsors?
When we were a band, marketing didn't really exist for independent bands. If you were on a popular independent label, they might take an ad out or maybe they would pay for you to make a video. We made a living, but now the culture of music is completely different. Bands that don't even have a record out are hyperaware of the industry and marketing themselves on MySpace. That stuff really is in their hands. I'm sure there's still a really good punk scene happening that doesn't have anything to do with bands that are able to secure deals with Red Bull.
Do you have any feelings about bands like Fall Out Boy that wear the emo tag you had 10 years ago?
Being labeled punk or emo is neither here nor there. It changes with the time and with the scene it's living in. Whatever they're doing, if they're enjoying it, that's great. We're not curing cancer here, people. It's pop culture. At best, it can do things that propel politics forward or bring light to causes that people might not otherwise think about. But, at its worst, it's pretty harmless.
How do you feel about straight bands who have a gay aesthetic or who work a gay angle?
To me it's a little duplicitous. While I was figuring out that I was gay, I was in a hyper-liberal political punk scene and everyone was saying things to show how open minded they were. And I thought it wasn't fair because the people who really are gay don't feel like they have that luxury. [Pause] Do you mean people like Pete Wentz being on the cover of Out?
Yes. How do you feel about people like him drawing from gay culture, looking gay, and then influencing how young gay boys look?
I think that's totally fine and interesting. I think there's a big difference between that and people who are sort of playing gay. I don't really think that Pete Wentz being on the cover will mean that everyone's gonna think he's gay. Yes, some people will probably say that or whatever. But there's probably also a bunch of kids who will see that and it's no different than Queer Eye For the Straight Guy or Will & Grace. It's desensitizing people from being spooked by gays in Middle America, and that's great.
Was there anything intentionally gay about the artwork you designed for the band?
No... You mean the artwork for Nothing Feels Good, the weird rainbows of dots?
Well, those CDs are certainly brighter and more vibrant and happier-looking than a lot of other indie stuff from 10 years ago.
Yeah, maybe that's just the inherent Velvet Mafia aspect of culture. [Laughs] Why are gays trendsetters? Why are they artists, photographers, stylists, fashion designers? I guess it's just human nature.
Calling your band's EP Electric Pink and putting a big block of fuchsia on it is pretty gay.
[Laughs hard] I guess we were kind of rolling with it.
Did you study graphic design?
I actually never did. I got my education through doing it when I was in the band. I started our own covers, and spread into doing other people's stuff. Then when the band was over, it was a logical evolution to move here and just keep doing that. I've done record packages for bands like Counting Crows, illustrations for New York Magazine. I co-founded a design collective, Athletics, a few years ago.
What are you working on now?
Lots of stuff. I'm doing graphic design, a small clothing line of printed T's, and I think I'm opening a bar. It's something that a few friends and I have been kind of rolling around for a little while, but we found this space that already has a bar in it, so this week there's been a flurry of activity in trying to make the deal happen. It won't be a gay bar, but I think we're planning on at least having a gay night.
What's your gay life like now?
It's great. When the band broke up, it was for me a huge sigh of relief. I absolutely had to get out of the Midwest. It was just not a good place for me to be. Being here is great. I have a five-year relationship, I'm buying a house with my boyfriend, Jeff Madalena; he owns a clothing store, a small men's and women's boutique called Oak. We can't complain.