If you haven't heard of XELLE, get ready to turn up the fun-o-meter in your life by at least 10 notches. Having already performed on tour with the RuPaul cast, XELLE have garnered millions of view on YouTube for their fun, sexy, campy music videos while attracting hordes of eager fans. The two person girl group, featuring singers JC Cassis and Rony G, are well on their way to pop stardom.
With their new EP, Darkroom (produced and co-written by Zach Adam), out in September, and a new video featuring the band dancing with strangers in New York's Washington Square Park, we caught up with the lovely duo to talk about inspirations, Joan Rivers, and bringing out the wild side in regular New Yorkers on the city's streets. Watch the video and read the interview below:
Out: Can you talk about the inspirations and the outfits in the "Juicy" video?
JC: We're really excited to be bringing on new music, because this is the first time that we've had a new EP in a little while, and we wanted to make sure that the EP included a song that was sort of, like, our new super happy party song, and we were thinking, What is something that really fits us as a band? We started talking about how to make a song about being a curvy woman, celebrating it, and recognizing what's positive about who you are, and just being fun, silly, and sassy about it. So there's a lot of really sassy lyrics in the song, and we had a lot of fun writing that. And actually we opened the tour of the Ru Paul's Drag Race Battle of the Seasons earlier this year. And so you might be able to hear in the track this "Oh" section. It goes "Oh-oh-oh." We just recorded the audiences on that tour. We recorded every single member singing that byte so that we could put that on the track. So there's actually like 2,400 vocalists on the track.
How did you manage to bring in so many different kinds of people to dance in the video?
Rony: To sort of conceptualize the video, we had the two of us, plus our producer Zach Adam, and we were talking about: "What's going to be something that really embodies the spirit of the song?" And we do what we call the "juicy dance," which is sort of like a 21st-century macarena. And we actually do that in our live shows as well, we have people come onstage and dance, and stuff. But we were thinking, How do we spread this message to New Yorkers? So we went out to Washington Square Park and did the dance with them, and really brought out their inner fun spirit.
So they were just strangers? You hadn't planned any moves with them?
JC: That was the insane thing. I knew that if we just got out there and engaged with people in those outfits -- any time you dress up in a crazy way in New York, people are going to start talking to you; they're going to ask for a picture; they're going to ask what you're doing. We had two girls in crazy outfits, with a camera crew and production team, so people were constantly wanting to get involved and wanting to talk to us. We had these girls who asked, "What are you doing?" We were like, "Want to dance with us?" And they jumped in, and they learned it perfectly in two seconds. They were like, "This is the highlight of our trip, this is amazing!" And we asked: "How did you learn this so fast?" They're like, "We're cheerleaders, from the South. We're in New York for the weekend, and now we're in this video!" It was just fantastic. We got a great cross-section of people we danced with -- like, the guy we danced with in the blue-and-white shirt is from Iraq; we found a clown; we found all different types of people. People that are in New York all the time, right beneath the surface, they're very silly and fun.
What's the new EP like?
Rony: It's called Darkroom, and it's currently available for pre-order on iTunes, and it comes out fully on September 10. We wanted to make a collection that includes the best of what we've done recently, like "Sweat," and then also add this new material. Round it out with a super fun song like "Juicy," and then we also have this sort of dark, more grown-up song called "Darkroom," on the EP, and then we also have a song called "Mr. Right Now," which really speaks to -- well, sometimes fortunately and sometimes unfortunately in our dating lives in New York, it's really hard to find Mr. Right, but you can always find a Mr. Right Now to have fun with, and sometimes you've just got to give yourself permission to have a little fun. And live in the moment. So it's sort of like a mix of serious, and sexy, and grown-up, and silly, and fun... everything that people, you know, expect from XELLE.
You've shared the stage with icons like Joan Rivers. What was that like?
JC: That was actually a really funny experience. We performed in Las Vegas a few years back, and Joan was judging an underwear contest at the club that was happening right before we were performing "Party Girl." We were standing backstage and getting ready for our set, and we were going to push it back and push it back because we were waiting for dancers to arrive. Suddenly this tiny little woman in this huge brown afro, with a signature sparkly sweater set, came backstage with Melissa and some security people, and we're like, "Is that Joan Rivers in that huge afro wig?" She actually popped her head into our dressing room and went, "Hi girls!" We're like, "Oh my god!" That was amazing. And obviously we're so sad she's not with us anymore, but we're totally lucky to have shared a bill with her at one point.
Where are you headed? What career do you want to emulate in the music industry?
Rony: Well, ever since we got together we definitely wanted to emulate groups like the Spice Girls. Groups that are all about fun and making great pop music that's sort of a guilty pleasure, you love to love. We don't take ourselves super seriously, we just take the music very seriously, but the whole point is just to make people have fun, and that's really the spirit of "Juicy" in the video, too.
Any celebrity crushes?
JC: I tend to like more, sort of, unusual people, and so Hollywood actors can sometimes be too... but I feel like David Beckham. I feel like Rony's type would be someone like The Rock. Ha-ha-ha!