Need to Know: Seth Bogart
By Nisha Gopalan
In addition to being the rare entrepreneur who owns a vintage store/record shop/hair salon, Seth Bogart also bears the distinction of being one of the few resurrectors of the doo-wop '60s pop/garage/rock hybrid. That this front man for Hunx and His Punx also happens to be queer only stokes his appeal: A former member of the electro-pop band Gravy Train!!!!, Bogart -- backed by an all-girl band -- is a crafter of feel-good/feel-you-up tracks with names like 'Cruising' and 'I Won't Get Under You.' (Both can be found on his full-length compilation, Gay Singles). Lest that seem niche, the Oakland resident's playful sing-alongs are so irresistible they've won accolades from The New York Times and NME alike, not to mention the vanilla ad team at LensCrafters, which just licensed the tune 'Gimme Gimme Back Your Love' for a commercial. Out caught up with the indefatigable Bogart, who, fresh off a six-week European tour, has hit the studio to work on 'the gayest dance record ever' for his side project, H.U.N.X., and to polish new tracks for Hunx and His Punx's proper debut album.
Out: How do European audiences differ from American ones?
Seth Bogart: I think that when they're milder, they're way milder. But when they're crazier -- like in Paris, people were literally ripping off my clothes. Male and female. There was this topless girl in the front [row] desperately trying to take off my pants.
Is this a typical reaction to your music?
People feel compelled to do that to me. Usually I go with it, but that was a little intense just because I was having a hard time performing. Actually, this one guy did get really crazy, and I had to, like, throw him off stage. He was like trying to get me to go home with him after the show. I was like, 'You're crazy. No way.'
You've also taken a strong anti-manscaping stance. What are European men like?
I'm into hairy dudes but not exclusively [laughs]. I think it's just good to be natural. In Europe, so many people shave their chests! But in America, I've noticed more dudes in clubs flaunting their hairy chests, which I think are cool. I also love the way '70s dudes look. I think they're so hot. Pre-AIDS.
You're so playful with sexuality. Do you ever get criticized for that?
There are always some anonymous comments about me on message boards, like, 'AIDS tour' or 'STDs everywhere.' I think some people still have homophobia like that. Not to be a jerk, but I know so many straight people who are so much more irresponsible. I just think it's not worth it for one fun night. So I'm safe. You should be able to talk about what ever you want, but it does worry me because I've met so many young guys with HIV. We played this gay bar in Chicago, and they gave us this giant bag of condoms. We handed them out at every show.
Since you're from California, do you feel any obligation to discuss Proposition 8 with fans?
It's hard because I think marriage it just so stupid in general. But it sucks to not be able to do it based on being gay. My personal opinion is to be political just by doing what I'm doing -- especially in garage rock, which is pretty straight. If someone wanted to talk to me about it, I would. But I don't really want to go on stage and preach to people.
What does your mom think of your persona?
She saw the album when she was drunk at our show. [The cover of Gay Singles features a close-up of Bogart's crotch, swathed in a zebra-print Speedo.] She was laughing, 'Is that you? Ahhhh!' She's really cool and funny. But when I did this photo shoot in Paris where I was naked, she wrote on the [site], 'I'm shocked and dismayed.' I don't know if she's joking, because I still haven't asked her.
How do you feel about the fact that many people discovered your band after you appeared naked in the band Girls' video for 'Lust for Life'?
It's crazy how many people have seen that! That was so random, actually. I was kinda friends with one of the directors, and he was talking to me about making a video for my band. One day, I got a text from my ex-boyfriend saying, 'Come over. Aaron wants to tape us getting sexy.' I didn't even know what it was for until I got there; the guy from Girls was sitting on the floor, and they were playing that song. But I'm glad I did it. I feel like it gave them a lot of attention. And, yeah, it got me attention.
Well, most folks don't normally drop trou for a video...
[Laughs] I know. You only live once, so you should just go for it. You know what I mean?