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Shear Madness

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 Id planned on talking to him is, admittedly, a little stuffy. Shears, lead singer of the New Yorkbased band, is justified in being tired of hotels and tour busesand 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. Wed 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. Its crazy. But at this moment, Shears, dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved black button-down shirt with metallic threads, looks rested. Its 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 Angeless Silver Lake neighborhood, with a capacity of about 200. Theyd 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 Floyds Comfortably Numb was nominated for a Grammy for Best Dance Recording, their self-titled debut albumthe top-selling album in the United Kingdom last yearwas nominated for and won three Brit Awards in February, and they released a DVD of concert footage and music videos. In the States theyve appeared on Live With Regis and Kelly, Late Night With Conan OBrien, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and the ultimate live TV gig, Saturday Night Live. A river of ink has been spilled over the albums anthem-like perfect pop songs, the bands outr fashion sense, Shearss ambivalent relationship with clothing when performing (he likes flashy costumes, but they dont stay on long when hes onstage), and the fact that three members, Shears, Babydaddy, and Marquis, are openly gay. While Shearss stage performance is certainly riveting, up close its 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 presss pigeonholing the band as making gay music. Jake says U.K. audiences dont 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 dont really concern themselves with it, I dont think. But here at home, where the prevailing cultural climate is considerably more conservative? He admits he doesnt read much of the press on the band but says that music, no matter what its 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 Im lying when Im singing it, I can still be honest and tell that story and be totally comfortable with it. Because of the bands sensational accomplishments in the United Kingdom (where theyve sold in the neighborhood of two million albums), offers have been pouring in for Shears and Babydaddy to work with other artists. Theyve discussed collaborations with Elton John, and Shears has received an invitation from Andy Bell of Erasure to sing a duet on Bells upcoming solo album. Babydaddy and Shears also wrote a new song, I Believe in You, for Kylie Minogues 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, wouldnt 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.
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