Dada Masilo

Queen Zee Want to Glitz Up the Current Music Scene

17 February 19 interview: Emily Booth

There is no denying that the genres of rock and punk have seen one heck of a revival recently, with Queen Zee leading the way. The rowdy Liverpool-based band, deemed 'an unavoidably loud force for good', are not only renowned for their explosive live shows, but also for championing the LGBTQ+ community. We caught up with lead singer Zee ahead of their gig at The Bodega this Friday…

What sort of a band would you describe yourselves as? And what is most important to you as a band?
I think it kind of goes beyond the band to the live shows, which are really important to us. We've been called the Rocky Horror Picture Show on steroids by Phil Taggart on Radio 1, and we also quite often get compared to the Scissor Sisters. We're all about creating a show and injecting a bit of glamour into what I personally think is a kind of boring music scene at the moment.

Iggy Pop described you as "strange, weird & crazy" and you've had some other fantastic comments from people in the industry. How important has this sort of support and advocacy been for Queen Zee?
Obviously I love it, it's fu*king cool hearing that Iggy Pop digs your band, it's a serious nod of approval! But it's not why I do this - if he came out and said he hated it, it wouldn't stop us doing it either. It's a nice bonus to add onto the motive of why we do what we do.

You're currently on tour to promote your self-titled album Queen Zee. How’s it going and what has been the highlight of the tour so far?
It's been amazing. Once your album’s out you definitely get a different response from the crowd. I think there's less trying to win people over. The people who come love the band and love the record and just want to hear you play it. The highlight of every tour is meeting the fans and the people that take on Queen Zee. We're very lucky to have a cult fan base that follow us around. They won't just check out one Queen Zee gig, they'll come to every one religiously and they all have the t-shirts. Seeing them is absolutely amazing. There's one guy called John who's on his 25th gig and has two Queen Zee tattoos, and I'm like wow that is a serious commitment!

You are famous for your raucous live performances. How do you prepare for each show and do you have any weird rituals or superstitions?
An hour or so before we go on we'll get changed and put on our make-up and stuff, and then we take a moment to ourselves. We listen to music to get us pumped, like The Prodigy, then we just go on and do it and the adrenaline kicks in. But I think having that moment before when you're just sat there, quiet and focused - that's the most important thing.

What have been some show highlights for you?
There's been loads! One that really stands out to me is Liverpool Pride, as Pride shows now so rarely include live music. It's normally just drag queens or dance performances or people just singing along to trap. So to be a live band in a Pride show was really amazing. Just to look out at the twenty thousand people, on the front row with all the thirteen and fourteen year-old queer kids with rainbow face paint, flags tied round their necks, on their dads’ shoulders, was such a beautiful empowering experience.

So you'll be playing in Nottingham on Friday 22 February at The Bodega. This isn't your first time in the city is it?
We've done Rescue Rooms twice, with Dream Wife and Marmozettes, and we played in the DIY space JT Soar which was really amazing. We've played in Rough Trade as well. We kind of grew out of the DIY scene, and JT Soar is definitely on the map for that. We had a really rowdy show in there with like fifty kids going really crazy. That was one of our first shows there as a band, I think Nottingham for some reason just totally embraced us. We always make sure it's on the tour schedule, I really love it.

You've also played abroad - how's that been? Do you get a particularly different crowd?
It's brilliant, it's such an amazing experience touring a different country with your music. In the UK it's slightly different. We were in Amsterdam in January, and it's just phenomenal to be walking around a city that's absolutely amazing and quite exotic to you. To play a show to people who know all your songs and are singing along is a wow moment. Some members of the band had never been there, never mind played shows there. For people to know us and know our songs in other countries is always strange but really cool.

So you've recently released your debut self-titled album. What was it like to write and record? Has it been a long time coming?
There wasn't really a process for it, we decided we should put an album out because we won a PRS award. So it was quite organic, we picked the best of what we had. Some things got reworked, we recorded two new singles so there was something new on it, and then just put it together! I think working with different producers, even in different countries - we did two songs in Ireland, really lent a nice vibe to the album and gave it that versatility. I think punk records and records that are quite heavy and adrenaline-fuelled can start to sound a little bit similar after the second or third song. But I think this album actually has enough versatility to it to not get too boring too quickly.

What is your favourite song on the album to play live?
It changes all the time. When the album came out I really hadn't been paying much attention to Victim Age, then I listened to it when I was doing the album and I was like wow, this is really cool. But last night we played Boy and it absolutely went off, so at the moment it's definitely that one.

What is the album all about? What do you want people to get from it?
What I always try to do, whether it's a live show or a record, is to let people lose themselves in it for a short period of time. Our lives can be so chaotic or cruel, especially for the LGBTQ people that get referenced in our music. So I wanted to create something for this community and for everyone as a whole, where you can just lose yourself in the music. Whether that's for half an hour, an hour, or whatever – find somewhere that's welcoming and flies your flag. It's out there for all the misfits and wierdos and kids that don't fit in.

You recently asked on Facebook who your followers think you should collaborate with, but who are your dream collaborators?
Someone that would make me loads of money! But artistically, get Iggy Pop on a song, I feel like we've got him in there now, now he knows who we are. Iggy Pop would be absolutely amazing. I'd love Brooke Candy, I love Mykki Blanco, I think they could be really fun on a Queen Zee tune.

Which artists are you loving and being inspired by right now?
I really love this band from Brighton called Ditz, they're amazing - kind of post hardcore, reminiscent of Single Mothers. I'm also loving the band we're touring with: ItoldyouIwouldeatyou. They're emo with a different slant to it, a bit more electronic. Amyl and the Sniffers are my new favourite band, I saw them a year ago at Great Escape. They're a crazy Aussie punk band, I'm loving that whole Australian Pink scene right now like Skegss and DZ Deathrays.

So finally, what are your hopes, dreams and plans for the future?
I want to play in space, I want to be the first band in space. I keep tweeting Elon Musk but he hasn't got back to me, but I'm hoping if I carry on we'll get there.

Queen Zee play The Bodega on Friday 22 February

The Bodega website 

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