I hate to be objectifying, but journalistic integrity be damned- Orchid and Hound are damn good looking. The queer pop duo, comprised of satyr-esque John Constantine and the coyly shaggy Lawrence Alarcon, were also charming and beautifully turned out when I met them for drinks the other night- and, of course, they are brilliant onstage. Their upcoming show at The Blue Macaw (Thur/11) promises to look a lot like what would happen if High School Musical came out of the closet, hired a better stylist and started partying. So you’re going to have to excuse me if the following article starts to sound like Tiger Beat at times. I’m a little smitten, so shoot me.
This is what you will see at an Orchid and Hound show. Lawrence Alarcon will bang out lovely up and down tunes on his piano, while John Constantine provides jazzy vocals that ease over here to a sound reminiscent of Broadway, then smooth down there to recall a smoky lounge somewhere in Vegas. They’ve dubbed it “queer pop”- a highly listenable, intimate little cabaret. "We like to think of 'queer' as 'different,' like melodrama," says Constantine of their sound.
But you’re not going to hear the typical “where ya from” one liners and “waitress, get me another drink” admonitions at O & H shows- you know, the typical lounge standards. “I suck at banter,” says Constantine. “He rambles,” offers Alarcon. Perhaps it’s for the best- the pared down nature of Orchid and Hound makes it a little easier to focus on, you know, the music. “It’s just a show where you shut up and listen,” Constantine says (“ideally,” adds Alcarcon).
The sound the two put out is lighthearted, the piano rhythms and Constantine’s voice bouncy, even. But their lyrics are expressions of a life as a pretty 23 year old in the Castro- a life can prove more complicated upon closer inspection. “I find inspiration in the dialogues I have with the people around me,” says Alarcon, who penned one song for O & H born of a conversation he had with his boyfriend about nothing less than the end of the world. “We were talking about the Mayan prophecies for 2012, but my boyfriend’s a scientist. He was more concerned about 2013, when the oil crisis is set to hit.” Alarcon turns to Constantine, pondering the difference between their songwriting styles, finally hitting on the pith of the issue. “John’s more angsty, more metaphorical.” Ooo… angsty!
“I like to sing about the human condition,” says Constantine, picking up Alaron’s musings. One of John’s songs, ‘Sabotage,’ is a catchy dirge that hinges on a theme familiar to most dashing rock stars; self destruction. “[‘Sabotage’] is about that daily battle you have with the destructive side of yourself, that you live with but must control,” says Constantine, toying earnestly with the stem of his cocktail. To date, their audience favorite is "The Drinking Song", a depraved little interactive ditty whose success amuses Alarcon. "Who knew our most disturbing song would turn out to be our most popular?"
"Who knew our most disturbing song would turn out to be our most popular?" Photo by Erik Anderson
So back to our bar date (because that's what I'm calling it, so there!) The two have a knack for finishing each other’s sentences, and where Lawrence can be artistically reticent, John is more than happy to tell me about the origin of O&H. Herein lies the duo's sychronicity; they’ve known each other “since forever,” growing up best friends at an arts high school in Los Angeles. John and Lawrence even dated each other for three years, during which they moved up to SF into a shared apartment- where they live to this day, despite having subsequently broken up, moved on… and formed a band. When asked how this is earthly possible, they smile sweetly at each other as though nothing could have been easier. “It was rough, but we’re much more productive now- minus the sex,” says Constantine. “We would have killed each other if we’d kept dating.”
Though the two first collaborated on musical compositions for an installation artist in LA, John and Lawrence only just formed their current act last year. They can still tell you how many live shows they’ve had; a sprightly “twelve!”- blurted out in unison, of course. “We don’t fuck up that much though,” says Constantine with a winning smile. “The one time we noticeably fucked up, someone told me ‘it was cute when you fucked up,’ so I guess that’s good."
So what does 2010 hold for these darlings, who are still unsigned to a label as of press time? Well, besides the trail of broken hearts and rehearsal hours they're working on a studio album and recently announced their gig at this year's South by Southwest festival. And then? Says Constantine “We’ve planted a lot of seeds, we just have to water them all.” Somebody hand these boys a hose- the world hearts Orchid and Hound.
Orchid and Hound w/ Audrey Ryan & Il Gato
Thur/11 8 p.m., $5
The Blue Macaw
2565 Mission, SF