- This Week
Myles Cooper and Alexis Penney are making San Francisco ground zero for gay pop creativity
07.20.10 - 6:44 pm | Johnny Ray Huston |
Alexis Penney (left) and Myles Cooper (right): new gay pop iconsPHOTOS BY MATTHEW REAMER
Cooper's look and outlook has some connections to a recent day gig working with boys and girls aged 5 and 6. There might be moments where he wishes some kids' face were an iPad so he can create or communicate on the job, but there's an honest and committed through-line between his daytime life and nightlife. A recent show by his group Myles Cooper USA included giant acid house yellow smiley faces that were painted by the kids. He says he recently gave them a fashion poll: which label is better, Ed Hardy or Baby Phat? Baby Phat won by one vote, cast by him ("I like the cat on the logo").
Cooper used to play in the Passionistas, a three-piece that put out one excellent pop-punk album in 2007 before disbanding. Going solo allows him to edit himself while giving his imagination free rein. That means he can incorporate his visits to Chicago (and greater journey to and from the Windy City and Africa) into the music he's making today; the city is where he filmed the video for his next single, "Hair," a many-voiced delight that places him alongside Morrissey and Jens Lekman in the hairdo-song hall of fame. "House music has always been a mysterious thing to me, because I've always thought of it as this perfected music that wasn't made by people," he says, when asked about the sound of Chicago. "I don't think that anymore, I see how human it is. Even if the people I see are just playing records, I want to see what tempo they are, what key they're in, what people are doing as they hear the music, and what they're looking like when they do it."
"I had a crush on Myles for a while, I thought he was so hot and the perfect boyfriend for me," Alexis Penney says at Aunt Charlie's. It's a few weeks later, and Penney is prepping the bar for another night of High Fantasy. We've met at the apartment she shares with Dade Elderon of Party Effects, where she puts Band-Aids in a pair of high-heeled shoes before we head out, a little move that seems especially necessary less than half an hour later, when she's scaling — quickly and faultlessly — a wooden ladder-like staircase to find and gather decorations. "The trick to having a club is that you have to go out a lot, so people know you," Penney declares, gathering and arranging a train of white tulle that's just long enough for the Bride of Godzilla.
Thing is, Penney — who grew High Fantasy out of Thing, a night she put on with Seth Bogart of Hunx and His Punx — shouldn't necessarily need to go out to be known. Her first recording, "Lonely Sea," produced by Nick Weiss of Teengirl Fantasy, could be the number one hit of 2010 for anyone who ever had a heart. Like Cooper's "Gonna Find Boyfriends Today," it takes touchstones of gay pop past — in this case, the churchy keyboard sounds and insistent crossover house beat of songs like "Supermodel" and Crystal Waters' "Gypsy Woman" -- and adds some plaintive MIDI saxophone sounds at just the right moment, while wedding it to a beautifully frank and completely modern vocal about a broken relationship.