Casey Spooner is quite pleased when I tell him that I used my press copy of Fischerspooner's hugely-anticipated new album Sir as the soundtrack to an impromptu, post-party threesome my friend and I engaged in with my next door neighbor. "YAS!" the 2018 OUT Eligible Bachelor erupts, "Thank you, that's exactly what I want to hear!"
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This is not to say that Sir is just a propulsive collection of floor-fillers ideal for a bedroom session (though it most definitely is), but that it is an immersive document of the gay male experience in 2018, in all its sweaty, smelly glory. A song called "Discreet" features a breakdown of routine Grindr messages, while "TopBrazil" describes a encounter with the titular stud. The cover art for lead single "Have Fun Tonight" depicts someone sniffing poppers on a dance floor. As far as LP's go, you truly can't get any gayer short of a feature from Cher.
Of course, Fischerspooner have always been gay. The dynamic duo of Spooner and Warren Fischer were a beacon of queerness in the oppressively heteronormative music scene of early 2000s New York--serving club kid realness while staging massive underground hits like "Emerge" with a heavy dose of performance art practice. But their evolution into the bards of bareback so proudly on display on Sir--a record that, in a perfect world, would be sold with complimentary lube--finds its genesis in a directly-opposing narrative: "to be perfectly honest," Casey begins, "I was a bad gay."
More than skipping over Drag Race, Spooner found that he "wasn't really an active participant in gay culture. I stayed more in the art world. I would never go to Fire Island for instance, or I would never do drugs and go to the circuit party, or watch the drag shows. That wasn't my scene. Then I felt like, 'Okay, if I'm going to make a record about considerate homosexuality, I need to engage in it."
Thus began Spooner's Homeric Odyssey through the clandestine world of sex, drugs, and dark rooms, spurned by a serious break up. "I started dating a much younger, crazy hot guy who was super gay," he says, "He was the one who was like 'You take this pill, you go at this time, you do it this way.' He really opened my everything. My friends all think I'm having a midlife crisis running out with 25 year olds doing modelling on circuit parties, but it was a good education."
While it might not be a full-blown crisis, Spooner is aware that a profound shift has taken place from this journey of discovery. "It's been a challenging time and a weird rebirth," he says candidly, "I honestly didn't know... I really didn't think I would ever make music again."
So how did this all manifest into the record we have today? For starters, it meant getting "super beefy." Spooner's lean frame was "beat into a pulp" to become a hunk of muscle mass straight out of a '70s centerfold. More than a cosmetic change, Casey says that it came from a place of consciously wanting to make a record "about the body. We've been living with this idealized version of the male form forever--these unrealistic expectations of male power and male form."
It also meant building a robust body of songs. Fischerspooner's previous projects were all collaborative efforts, and Sir is no exception. The duo worked closely with Michael Stipe on crafting and producing the record, while Chairlift's Caroline Polachek and super-producer BOOTS both lent their inimitable talents; the former on glitchy album highlight "Togetherness," the latter submitting the skull-crushing beats behind "Have Fun Tonight."
"Michael wanted to me to be more emotive and less plastic," says Casey, "That is a big shift, and the other is that I always write a kind of storytelling, while Warren usually edits that stuff out very severely and makes it more minimal. Michael found the in-between where he would take my storytelling and make it more rhythmic or melodic... it's a lot clearer now. People are connecting to the music because it's not just style. It's got a lot of style as always, but now it's got a lot of substance too."
The end result is not only the most compelling full-length the group has committed to tape, but a record with overwhelming immediacy. Sir courses with the excitement of a first foray into cruising and spins tales of lust lost and found under the spell of the dance floor, told through songs made precisely for said dance floor. It is a true rarity--even in today's crowded musical landscape--to find an album that so wholeheartedly celebrates the complexities of the gay male experience--in particular, sex--from one extreme to the other.
And though Casey's reawakening into gay culture may have been instigated by the album, it is here to stay. The longtime New Yorker has now uprooted to Paris--"I'm an expat now!"--living a lush life of runway shows, wine, and (in an especially ironic move from the "bad gay" who skipped Drag Race) budding friendships with drag queens. Namely, Violet Chachki.
"We had met socially, but to be perfectly honest I didn't know who she was," Casey says of meeting Chachki at a Moschino show. "It's an interesting relationship. She's at the peak of her early emerging part of her career, and I'm in my mid twilight comeback moment. There has been a lot of support and mentoring that was happening between the two of us, but also a really fun rivalry, like a healthy rivalry."
For all his verbosity, Casey sums up both his experience of creating Sir and the album's weighty themes in a single line; not in our interview, but on record. The track "Everything Is Just Alright" ends with the elastic production receding into the ether, leaving us with this line, delivered with just the right amount of emotion: "I'm a man learning how to be a man's man, man." By fate or by design, the legacy of Sir points toward teaching all lost gay men that lesson. That or simply being the best orgy soundtrack of all time.
Jake Indiana is a writer and gender performance artist based in Berlin who works as a music journalist by day and performs in the trash drag group The Real Housewives of Neukolln by night.
Photography by Emil D. Cohen