Forced into femininity interview orlando music
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Forced Into Femininity: Fighting Corruption with Crazy

It isn’t too often that a show really surprises me — having spent countless nights at music venues, sometimes I think I’ve seen it all. But last week, I was thrown in truly undisturbed waters when Chicago avant-garde musician Forced Into Feminity turned Spacebar upside down. The music itself, semi-dancey electronic bangs, wasn’t too out-of-the-ordinary; it was the performance that left everyone looking around like, “WTF is happening?!” The set began with a pre-taped warning that cautioned anyone who was uncomfortable being touched, yelled at, or hearing lyrics about discrimination against transgendered people and other potentially triggering topics.

Jill Flanagan, the energetic bomb behind FIF, bounced around the audience screaming in people’s faces, giving piggy-back rides, climbing on top of the bar, and (in one case) stuffing a patron’s red beard into her mouth. And that was only when things were going according to plan. At one point the music and mic cut off, but Jill didn’t even blink. She proceeded to go outside (we all followed), climb onto the roof of Spacebar and start lecturing from up there. Needless to say, I was beyond excited to get into the head of this person. Enjoy.

Photos by Harryson T Photography & matthew warhol.


Forced into femininity interview orlando music

(I start recording in the middle of a conversation about Andy Warhol.)

Forced Into Femininity: I have this book he wrote about parties.

matthew warhol: Which one?

Forced Into Femininity: It’s just called Parties.

matthew warhol: Parties?

Forced Into Femininity: Yeah, it’s just about parties. He interviewed all these different party promoters in the ‘80s. It’s a really interesting book.

matthew warhol: That’s aweseome. I’ve only read A to B and Back Again which is just his sprawlings.

Forced Into Femininity: Oh I love that.

matthew warhol: Really? You’ve read that one?

Forced Into Femininity: That’s his biography, right?

matthew warhol: Yeah, I would say it’s kind of like an autobiography.

Forced into femininity interview orlando music

Forced Into Femininity: The Philosophy of Andy Warhol. It’s hilarious.

matthew warhol: So, for me, that’s the kind of writing I like to do. I’m just very — especially with the interviews — I keep it really real. So I’m recording now. How’s tour been?

Forced Into Femininity: Great, yeah it’s been really long.

matthew warhol: You’re from Chicago right?

Forced Into Femininity: Yeah, I’m from Chicago. I’ve lived their most of life. I lived in Oakland for a couple of years, but mostly in Chicago.

matthew warhol: How long have you been doing Forced Into Feminity?

Forced Into Femininity: It’s been like seven years … seven or eight years.

matthew warhol: And what was the initial idea behind it? Did you make similar music before?

Forced Into Femininity: Well, it was different. I mean, I was mostly in bands. This was the first thing I did that was digital — like on a laptop or editing sounds. I’ve been in bands since, but the band at the time … my band broke up and I was really trying like, to do music and stay motivated. And just make music out of a laptop, because I’d never done that. I hadn’t really made anything specifically about being trans, ya know? I had done stuff that had touched on that but like …

matthew warhol: You hadn’t done something that was fully about you?

Forced into femininity interview orlando music

Forced Into Femininity: No, fully me, but I felt like I wanted to focus more on being trans. because it’s a big part of my identity and I hadn’t really talked about it.

matthew warhol: Has it changed over the last seven years?

Forced Into Femininity: It changes a lot. I mean, musically, it’s changed a lot because I’ve learned how to make music on the computer. And what I’ve wanted to do is changing a lot — I don’t know. At one time it was more dance-based, but I still dance a lot when I’m performing. Yeah, it’s come through a lot of different iterations. It’s kind of like whatever I want to do, so I’ll just change it sometimes. Maybe just play keyboards and sing.

matthew warhol: That’s really interesting to me. I was just talking to one of my friends earlier tonight about how a lot people are leaving bands and doing it more by themselves. Because they can — the technology is there. And like, you’re more … like, not waiting on anyone else. Do you find that you’re more productive? Is it easier?

Forced Into Femininity: It’s not easier. I mean, it’s just different playing in bands. It’s like, you don’t really know a lot of times, when you do things, if it’s like, “Oh, is this good?” I don’t know. I don’t know until I play the songs for people, then I’m like, “Okay, this is good.” You don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of or to cover your mistakes.

Forced into femininity interview orlando music

matthew warhol: And so like, how often, when you’re playing, does what happened tonight with [the sound going out] happen? Because at that point it’s really out of your hands to a certain extent. You can obviously adapt to it, which you did. But are you prepared for that?

Forced Into Femininity: I had this tour once where I played two shows where there was no P.A. or like all the power went out. So like, I learned from that. I like improvising and just talking, so I prepare like lectures and things I want to talk about.

matthew warhol: Does it change from night to night? Do you build on an idea? Like you have a topic and it evolves?

Forced Into Femininity: Yeah, a lot of times I’ll say things and they’ll get more developed and I’ll turn them into lyrics, or I’ll stop saying them. But I have a lot of material that I’ve built up and fall back on. When I don’t know what to do, I try doing something old again.

Forced into femininity interview orlando music

matthew warhol: And does it happen a lot, where something will come unplugged and you’ll have to react to it?

Forced Into Femininity: Yeah, if something goes wrong, instead of trying to fix it, I’m like, “fuck that, we’ll just roll with it.” And we’ll have silence, or I’ll do something else. Because it can be anything, if you’re too focused on it being one way, then it gets stifled.

matthew warhol: Does that keep it exciting for you?

Forced Into Femininity: Yeah, definitely. Sometimes I enjoy not doing the songs more. Because it’s fresh. Because I can do whatever I want. Where as, since it’s electronic, the music is always going to be the same music. It’s nice to have freedom.

matthew warhol: That made me think of the interview I recently did with J.A.S.O.N., who’s the singer from Shania Pain. I did a story on him, and he was telling me about the reason he improvises. It’s because he gets really bored. Would you feel that way too, if it were to be the same thing over and again?

Forced Into Femininity: Yeah, I have a short attention span.

matthew warhol: That’s exactly what he said.

Forced into femininity interview orlando music

Forced Into Femininity: Yeah, I have a short attention span so a lot of times I’m like … “yeah, yeah, okay I gotta …” This time I’ve been … well, I’ve been on tour for four and a half months so I try different techniques to keep it fresh. Trying different songs, or now I have two different sets I play.

matthew warhol: What’s like, one of the craziest reactions someone has had to your performance?

Forced Into Femininity: I don’t know. I’ve had a bunch of weird shows. I had a show in a coffee house in Alabama where everyone got really upset and I had to stop. Yeah, everyone got upset. They were mad because there were children there and they got scared. So that was going on and there were angry parents and it was in a coffee shop, so they were more uptight about me climbing on tables, licking people.

matthew warhol: I mean, you have the warning at the beginning.

Forced Into Femininity: I have a warning, yeah but people are going to get mad. That’s what I realized about the warning, like if people are going to be offended, they’re still going to be offended. Like this guy the last time I played in Orlando, he was really mad that I licked him. And he wanted to fight me. And he was all mad because I didn’t mention it in the statement. He was like, “I heard touching! I didn’t hear anything about licking people!” I should make everyone sign a waiver.

Forced into femininity interview orlando music

matthew warhol: So like, what was something that was sticking with you tonight? Was there something specific in your head?

Forced Into Femininity: Well, I wanted to talk about the drag show in Key West that was really problematic. Yeah, there’s always a lot of things to talk about but I usually draw a blank when I’m up there. But I wanted to toss in a lot of things about that. It made me think about getting a dollar bill from the audience. Because, symbolically, you’re getting money and that money buys approval. And the drag queens that are less passing or more heavy-set usually don’t get as many people watching them, or they get a pity dollar. It’s kind of like a system of capital approval.

matthew warhol: Thanks for sharing that.

Forced Into Femininity: Yeah sure.

matthew warhol:  It was really nice talking to you.

Forced Into Femininity: Yeah, nice talking to you.

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Forced into femininity interview orlando music

Fat Night Honest Man Orlando music

Fat Night – “Honest Man”

In my heart, Fat Night will always be an Orlando band. And I can’t wait until the next time they come to town to rip a dancefloor into funky pieces. Their latest is already a live staple that kicks erry time. If you’re in Chicago, you should consider yourself lucky.

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Gia Margaret & Zoya Zafar Mutual Friends

Gia Margaret & Zoya Zafar – ‘Mutual Friends’ (split single)

Zoya Zafar lives in Orlando. Gia Margaret resides in Chicago. The two songwriters met a while back; Zoya was visiting the second city and ran into Gia on the street. They became great fans of each other’s work and wanted to collaborate on a project–smart. Zoya went back to Chicago; they recorded together and made Mutual Friends. Enjoy.

Gia Margaret — “Smoke”

Alrighty, Gia first because she’s a guest on this Orlando blog, and we will be cordial. The very fitting title of her song is “Smoke.” I call it accurate because the song rolls in like a strong haze. It’s thick. It’s grey. You sit in it. The tone is somber. There are elements of Beach House bliss–the constant ticking, blurry vocals–but they’re given a kick by the progressing drum and bass. The low tones and electronic hits make things heavier as we float along. There’s a pairing between the semi-distorted coos and a crystal smooth harmony that makes Gia feel both cold and warm.

Zoya Zafar — “Glass”

Zoya is dope. Every time I’ve seen her perform, the room stops. People are transfixed. I’ve never heard a more delicate voice get such attention. Her songs are hand strung melodies, personal and relatable. They work in dark bars or Sunday afternoons under a tree–I know because I’ve seen a focused crowd at both venues. On her effort, “Glass,” she warns an idling friend; “You’ll just look behind the glass, sitting at the window watching life past.” This person is getting on a plane and thereby running away from their life and loved ones. Her carefully strummed guitar lays the base for the story to be told, almost in a Bob Dylan type of way. A synth starts to hum and a cool clap begin with the second verse as Zoya lays out her feelings. When the song ends, she hasn’t quite let go. “Call me when you find your way back home.”

Fat Night Interview

Silent Night, Fat Night (sweater fest interview)

For the past few years, Orlando has shared funk darlings Fat Night with The Windy City, Chicago. The situation is similar to that of a divorced couple with kids. We get them on weekends, while weekdays are spent with that cheating whore. Luck for us, tonight happens to be Orlando’s turn, as Fat Night will be one of the many acts playing Sweater Fest. Dave Hanson (Sweater Fest organizer) and I (sweater aficionado) had a few questions for our Second City sons, some pertaining to Christmas, their latest release (that we reviewed), and that cheating whore I spoke about earlier. Enjoy.

Sweater Fest is TO-NIGHT. Check the lineup and set times here! And read more interviews here!

How did everyone end up in Chicago? What’s it been like relocating and have any new opportunities opened themselves up since the move? What are your hopes for having everyone together up there?

Gabe moved first, a couple years back, to pursue opportunities with The Second City Comedy School. Ted fell in love with the city while visiting Gabe and found a job (quite a few months) after college at a Chicago school. Daniel is still in the process of his move, so it’s still a bit of a work in progress. As of now, we’ve played here once while on tour and had a really great time. If Chicago becomes the place for us, the opportunities seem endless. There are so many outlets for the kind of music we play here, along with being in a more central part of the country, allowing us to explore places we’d love to tour more frequently.

What are the biggest differences in the music communities?

Orlando is so tight knit and centralized. Orlando definitely has a lot of killer musicians and great bands for a city of its size. Chicago has a population many times greater than Orlando, and with that, a staggering number of high caliber, session ready players, be they church musicians or kids that went to music school. There are many great shows and jams every single night and lots of cross pollination between musicians and bands. This can be both inspiring and intimidating as a musician, and both exciting and expensive as a fan of music.  

You guys put out an album called Lazy Days over the summer, how’s the response been to that, and how happy are you guys about how it came out? How has your sound and process evolved since the first release? 

We’ve had a strong, positive response to Lazy Days. It’s gotten more attention off the bat than our debut. We feel good about it too. It’s definitely a step forward from the first album, which had some songs written by us as 19 year olds. We were a little more meticulous this time around, as we were still writing some of the songs during the recording process. So we would do a bit of demoing up front to figure out not only where we wanted to take the structure of the songs, but how we wanted them to sound and feel along the way. With that being said, the vibes feel stronger and more like our own thing, which we’re super proud of.

I think more than most other music, R&B and soul relies heavily on a groove, a feeling, and that feeling is built into a song when the musicians mesh well together. How does this work in Fat Night? Is there some struggle to it? Do you guys give input to each other or kind of just let everyone do their thing?

Absolutely. Ted (bass) & Nik (drums) have been locked in from the beginning. They have really good chemistry and communication when it comes to establishing the back bone of our music. If ever there is a struggle, which isn’t very often, it’s worked out by just expanding upon the idea that someone brings in, or even trying hits on different beats or different parts of beats until a song or section is the grooviest and funkiest it could possibly be. Certain songs may have an instrument (including vocals) playing more of a lead role or being prominently featured, and we all know to stay in our lane and not step on any toes. We have a clear understanding of everyone’s style and usually go into the songwriting process keeping those factors in mind. 

After building an audience in Orlando, do you feel like you have to start over again in a new town?

Naturally, but it’s different. We’re going into something new with the knowledge we have of the past few years of growth we’ve experienced there.

How often should we expect to see you guys back in Orlando? Any plans to do a big tour between the two cities?

We seem to be able to play in Orlando at least four or five weekends a year. One reason Ted took a job at a school was for frequent touring and shows at home! No plans as of right now, but that sounds like a good idea!

What do you hope to see happening in the Orlando music community when you come back? What do you think it needs to grow into something nationally regarded?

I hope that the right people will make it possible for establishing a wider variety of venues in Orlando. Right now there are only a handful, and some aren’t accessible to every kind of show. Although what’s available is great, I think if there are more options, it will be more inspiring for all different kinds of events to start happening. 

Do any of you guys honor any strange Christmas traditions?

We often do an exchange with each other. The gifts have ranged from very thoughtful to very crappy. Sometimes during December shows, we will sneak Christmas lyrics and motifs into our songs, so keep your ears perked at Sweater Fest. 

What are you looking forward to most about Sweater Fest?

The crowd! Last year, everyone who showed up threw down. Will there be egg nog? The TG Lee Factory is right across the street…

Ghosthouse – “Carry On”

OOOooo scary! Ghosts! It’s Halloween. But, these ghost don’t want to spook; they want to party. Do you feel that bass? It’s not frightening, but it will definitely send shivers up your spine. Is that a fucking disco guitar solo? You’re damn right! Let’s exorcise those funking demons! Chicago boys Ghosthouse are all about fun, and I am very much about it. “I can be your Clark Kent, baby. You can be my Louis Lane.” Carry on boys! Enjoy.

Get down at Ghosthouse’s Soundcloud!