- 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
Penney is a busy girl. She edits, writes and photographs for SORE, an online magazine that captures San Francisco gay nightlife. SORE was born in Kansas City, where Penney is from, when she and a friend named Roy and Cody Critcheloe from the group SSION decided they wanted "a sort of punk answer" to the popular lifestyle magazine BUTT. "I photograph things because I think they look funny, I don't do it because it's nightlife photography," Penney says, bunching a ball of electric blue tulle into a ball against the back wall of the bar. "My ultimate fantasy for SORE, which will never happen, would be for it to be a print magazine. None of this 'We talk about sex, but we make $100,000 a year' material. Real gay life."
Penney's gay life, buoyed by friends like Monistat, is realer than most. "I wander around in my T-shirt and jeans a lot in the daytime, that's normal," she says. "But I needed to challenge myself with fashion. And [cross-dressing] went in line with the fact that I was dating someone [Bogart] who owned a vintage store. We were constantly thrifting and I had so much clothing at my disposal. I decided I'd just wear a bra, because you just don't see a guy wearing a bra. Or I'd wear a bra and a lift, or a really slutty cocktail dress. I dress in women's clothes interchangeably. I don't trip about it. As much as people in SF say they're trans-friendly, people really trip about gender. A lot of drag queens, they're in or they're out. I don't even care."
True. Except in Penney's case, not caring is actually caring more than most people have the guts to in a society where every micro-subculture seems to breed conformity. It's this directness, different from Cooper's, or Bogart's flirty and radically seductive candor, that distinguishes the music that Penney has made so far with Weiss. "I instantly felt a musical connection with Alexis, and the shine of her confident aura," Weiss writes, when asked about first meeting Penney and the making of "Lonely Sea." "My celebratory buoyant house beat mixed with Alexis' love-lost lyrics so instantly I knew we had a hit."
Both Penney and Bogart (as H.U.N.X.) have been recording with Weiss, and the results are everything from moving ("Lonely Sea") and slinky and ebulliently powerful (Penney's "Like the Devil", the sun to "Lonely Sea"'s elemental moon, and every bit its equal) to sexy in an existentially lonely way (H.U.N.X.'s "Can A Man Hear Me") and hilarious (H.U.N.X.'s vampire cruising track "I Vant to Suck Your Cock"). For the prodigious Weiss, the connection to Penney might go back to a shared childhood love of Annie Lennox, particularly her 1992 album Diva. "Seth and Alexis are both really hyper-specific about what they're going for," he says, breaking down the collaborations. "Seth likes to work really fast and doesn't usually go over two takes on a song. Alexis likes to throw out tons of reference points while we're writing: 'Give me something a little more trip hop-acid-tropical-wave-current please! And could you make it a little more world?'"
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