Black Kids would be the Sly & the Family Stone of indie-rock if Sly Stone were a Morrissey freak. With a biracial, two-gendered lineup, this Jacksonville, Florida buzz band went from total obscurity last year to conquering the UK charts this year with their pungent yet frothy debut album Partie Traumatic and particularly feisty single Im Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You. Theyve spent the last several months overseas playing both clubs and massive festivals, and are about to embark on their first major US tour. Even if youve somehow missed all the internet chatter about Black Kids, youll soon understand why Out has been itching to catch frontman Reggie Youngblood in a rare casual moment back home.
Out: Whats your life been like since your album was released?
Reggie Youngblood: Weve been out of Jacksonville for about a year now. It feels like five years. Were constantly moving. I mean, I went to Paris three times in the past two weeks. It just feels like Im squeezing a whole lot of life into a very short time period.
What kind of people have been coming to your shows -- and how has it changed in the past few months?
It seems to be a very odd mix. Sometimes we play and theyll be a lot of young girls up front. And other times theres a lot of young boys up front. And then therell be these older, middle-aged people who seem out of place but Im glad that theyre there. We get all kinds, misfits, yeah, and I think thats preferable. The music is a bit populist. Its sugar, really. Everybody loves candy.
Do you have much of a gay audience?
Yeah, I think so. Yes!
What do you feel your band has to offer potential gay fans?
Gay people may derive some pleasure from the fact that we have been influenced by wonderful artists -- Neil Tennant [of Pet Shop Boys], the Smiths of course. [Gay culture] has always been a large part of pop and rock music. Ive always loved the freedom to play with gender.
Why do you refer to yourself as a girl in some of your songs?
Guys are always trying to get the girl. Shes the desirable object. Am I saying that Im the desired object? Maybe not. I do feel like a bit of a girl sometimes. Im not gonna elaborate on that. [Laughs]
How do you reconcile your religious backgrounds with being in an androgynous rock band and doing the things that rock bands do?
Theres not much to reconcile. Thats part of our lives, but firmly in our pasts. Our logic couldnt support those beliefs anymore, even if it does kind of inform who we are. I think because [the band] met in Sunday school, it calls a lot of attention. For some people its kind of a novel thing, but in this part of the country, its pretty common to experience some kind of religious upbringing.
What do you feel is different about being an African-American being in a rock band?
I dont know if its had any effect. That sounds like a grossly ignorant answer. I spend so little time dwelling on that sort of thing. One of the reasons why we decided to call ourselves Black Kids was because many traditions in pop music have started with young black people. There arent a lot of black people playing rock music, but instead of making me feel like an outsider, I kind of think I belong there.
Im wondering if you launched your band first in England because of this issue. The parallel would be Scissor Sisters taking off first in the UK, where the industry is much more accepting of a gay-fronted band. Did you do a similar thing because race is a much less controversial subject in England?
The reason why we were based out of the UK is because thats where the interest was for the most part. But youre right. I think there was some concern with how people would take to our name and in the UK, thats just not an issue. And to be fair, thats not been an issue here, really. People are just kind of waiting for it to be, but I just dont see how it ever will.
Im glad to hear that.
One thing I love about Arthur Lee of Love [an interracial 60s band from Los Angeles that played with androgyny] is that hes been described as a black man imitating a white man imitating a black man. It just comes out odd. I think thats something we try to do, whether its influences from English music or gay artists we admire. Taking those things, and I think theyre still sort of recognizable when its all said and done but slightly different as well.
I dont think youd be as exciting if you were all white, and all guys.
Yeah, it became painfully obvious over the years when it was just four guys posing on stage that something had to be different. I think it turned out to be the girls, really. It added an element of fun and otherness that was sorely lacking before.
Despite the fact that England isnt as racially charged and being in a band that draws upon gay traditions isnt all that unusual there, I dont get the sense that England is any less sexist.
They certainly have their share of white trash over there. Oh, that sounds horrible! I think its been ingrained in our minds that the English are very quaint and polite. They can seem very tight-laced but at the same time can be completely wrong and raunchy. I kind of like that about them.
I think they take glee in crossing the line between being proper and being vulgar.
We get a lot of joy out of doing that too, taking basic pop songs and making sure theres something a little off about them. Thats in the mainstream there. I love that our record was in the charts over there and the things that we say in the album are so inappropriate at times -- people having sex with statues, compromising nice, chaste virgins. Its a seemingly little thing, but just changing the gender [in Im Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You] to When I was a little girl is just a mindfuck. People have to wrap their minds around why I would say such a thing.
Theres always been -- particularly since 70s disco and the early gay liberation years -- an interesting relationship between white gay men and African-American performers, a shared experience of being on the outside. I wonder if you have something to say about that.
I love how disco originated from gays, blacks, and Hispanics. It was something underground and then of course it became mainstream. It just kind of mutates. Post-punk bands like New Order incorporate that stuff, and were influenced by that. Im not sure if I answered your question.
I just wondered if youve thought about the connection between African-American performers and white gay audiences and if you feel a part of that cultural exchange.
I havent thought about it much. Were straight, but weve been called derogatory things.
I would think so!
Yeah, especially while walking around England. But it will be those same exact guys at our show, buying us a drink because they like our band! [Laughs hard] Im just mystified by that. I find it interesting where the lines blur between whats considered masculine and whats considered feminine. When you get the right combination its very admirable. With Prince, hes this very effeminate guy, but in Purple Rain -- Im not saying this is admirable at all, but hes smackin women around. That [androgyny] was something we were trying to feel out throughout the record.
I received some unusually vicious attacks for reviewing your album enthusiastically in Spin. Its amazing to me that people would begrudge your success and that youve already had a backlash.
Its interesting to me as well and I feel very accomplished! [Laughs] Its like, Really? Already? I cant help but feel pride in creating something thats potent enough to make some people wretch whereas other people enjoy it thoroughly. I think its preferable to have that extreme range of reaction as opposed to right in the middle where its just, Yeah, its okay. We prefer the enthusiasm or the hatred. It just makes it feel like were making something valid.