God-Des & She are musicians on a mission. The out hip-hop and soul duo aren’t content with just making music — they’re building community and treating concert-goers to a unique experience where appreciation is fully reciprocated. This week they are performing at what I would consider, the festival of all festivals, South by Southwest , and in the next few months will be releasing their fourth full-length album. We got to speak to the group during a quick break from their packed touring schedule and talk festivals, fans asking for autographs in interesting places and their goal to bring musicians and fans together to stop the growing bullying problem in our society.
AfterEllen.com: Are you guys still on the road? I think last week you were driving to Texas or something.
God-Des: Yeah, actually we’re back in Austin now and we hit the road again in early March.
AE: Oh, cool! Where are you headed?
God-Des: We’re doing Knoxville, Asheville and Richmond and North Folk and then we come back to Austin for South by Southwest. Then we’re doing a really big west coast tour.
AE: Oh that’s awesome. Have you done South by Southwest before?
God-Des: Yes, this is our second year of being officially accepted. It’s awesome.
AE: That’s great. What’s the vibe there? Is there a nice-sized LGBT showing there? Like, is there a group that kind of gets together and says, “Hey, we’re gay. We like music.” [Laughs] “What’s happening?”
God-Des: [Laughs] We’re gay and we like music. Let’s dance!
God-Des: Austin in general is very liberal and laid back so there are like, queer people everywhere.
She: And we’re doing the Outlander Festival too, which is not official South by Southwest but Melissa Ferrick is doing it and there are a lot of queer girl groups doing that show. So yeah, we’re doing that and that should be really fun.
AE: I’m a bad lesbian apparently, I haven’t heard of the Outlander Festival.
She: A local promoter puts it on every year during South by Southwest just promoting queer artists. I think it’s mixed, male and female.
AE: I probably shouldn’t say this because it might spark some controversy, but I know with the Michigan’s Womyn’s Music Festival there has been exclusion going on in terms of who can come. There’s a whole trans policy where male to female trans people aren’t being allowed into the festival. And to me it’s like, it’s just music! Everyone just relax and enjoy the music and have fun. Have you experienced any issues within the community while you’ve been on the road?
God-Des: You know, we’re just who we are. We are very honest in our music and we’re very honest as people and I think people just respect the fact that we are very authentic. We’ve really hardly had any resistance from the straight music community, the music community in general, the hip hop community or the gay community. You know, when you’re being yourself and you take your talent and your craft very seriously, it’s very hard for people to really have anything to say. We’ve really been lucky and we’re super grateful and I think it’s helped us because we’ve always stuck to our merits. We’ve really only done what we’ve believed in; we’ve never closeted ourselves. We always stay after every show — even if we’re fried — and sign merch and take pictures for whoever wants something from us. And there are times we’ve had to stay out three and four hours after to sign stuff —
She: Four hours is my limit though girl!
She: After four hours I start to get real crabby and no one really wants me to sign anything at that point.
AE: Good, we’re making it clear right here in this interview so people know. There is a cut off, OK? [Laughs] Start your watches.
She: If you’ve been in line for four hours please step out of the line. [Laughs] More than anything at that point, I really have to pee.
AE: Well maybe someone wants you to sign some toilet paper.
God-Des No, no, no. [Laughs] We have signed weirder things.
She: We’ve signed everything!
God-Des Yeah, literally.
AE: Oh, it sounds to me like you have some good groupie stories. What are some crazy moments?
She: Well it’s not uncommon for us to sign boobs. That’s pretty common.
She: I would say butts and heads. People want us to sign their heads often. It’s weird but it’s a thing.
AE: No, I don’t know. Nobody has asked me to sign a head before. [Laughs] Or anything.
God-Des: People will ask us to sign their underwear and they’re wearing like crusty boxers.
AE: Oh no!
God-Des: Yeah, I mean, at least have us sign some nice clean ones! [Laughs] I mean we’ve signed people’s phones —
She: Purses —
God-Des: Purses, wallets, I mean, you name it we’ve signed it.
She: We’ve even signed blowup dolls.
AE: Oh my gosh!
God-Des: [Laughs] Yep. Everything.
AE: I was not expecting that.
God-Des: We’ve signed some fake portable boobs. They were like these silicone fake boobs that someone was carrying around. That’s what I’m talking about! [Laughs]
AE: I wanted to ask, what are the best type of boob to sign? Firm ones I would suppose would be the best just for handwriting purposes. I’d imagine you could get your calligraphy pen out —
She: We are respectful of the boobs.
God-Des: Yeah, we’re not like groping them.
She: If they get them out, then we respect the boobs. That’s what we do and that’s all we do.
God-Des: And we’ve traveled all over the world so it doesn’t really matter how high the mountain is. You know what I’m saying? We like all different kind of landscapes so we don’t really care.
AE: Tell me a little bit about your new single, “You Know My Name.” Who pissed you off? Obviously, somebody pissed you off.
She & God-Des: [Laughs]
She: That’s funny. You know —
God-Des: Do you want me to take that one?
She: Yeah, because I’ll get into trouble. [Laughs] Go head Boo.
God-Des: OK, I’ll take that one. We just got sick of just bougie people in general and the bougie bloggers. You know people that just don’t even do music and they are music critics and we just got annoyed with the whole scene. So basically we were like just “You know what? Screw these people,” so we wrote that anthem. We are really down to earth humble people and we hang out with all kinds of folks. When people think they are just too cool to even say hi to you because they think you’re different and don’t look the way they want you to look, that’s what really motivated us to write that song. It’s funny; like a funny kind of snarky upbeat song but there is definitely an undertone to it.
AE: Yeah, it’s kind of like Lily Allen’s “F–k You” or even Cee Lo, I guess.
AE: But different relationship.
God-Des: Totally. Absolutely. That’s a good analogy.
AE: Well, I like it a lot. What can you tell us about some of the other songs that will be on your next album?
God-Des: She, why don’t you tell her about “Never Give Up”?
She: OK, we’re currently, actually today we’re going to lay down the final vocals on the song “Never Give Up.” It’s basically for kids that are bullied and feel lost. It’s kind of an anthem to give them strength and encourage them to keep going and not let what other people say dictate who they believe they are. It’s pretty powerful; it’s very hip-hop, very driving and hopefully it will make people feel. We really want to bring awareness to this bullying issue. We hear so many stories and people write to us and talk to us when we’re on the tour and it just breaks our hearts. It’s literally story after story after story. I read all the things that are going on with the LGTB issues and come across these insane stories. We really felt like we should take this song and hopefully use it as a platform to bring forth real change like a federal law protecting gay kids in school.
In Minnesota, in Michelle Bachman‘s district, here is a policy in place that absolutely prevents any discussion about LGBT issues in school. Meaning a teacher can literally lose their job if they talk to a kid about being gay. So the gay kids are totally on their own and nine kids have taken their lives in two years in her district. Nine kids. Nine! This is absolutely crazy and unacceptable! So we wrote this song and it’s very intense and we’re going to try our best to make something good happen from it. We’ll partner with anyone who wants to partner with us and get the word out. We want to tell the real stories we’ve heard from people, which are just crazy.
God-Des: It’s one thing to talk about bullying — people have talked about it. There was a school in Ohio where this kid was beaten so badly for being gay and all the other kids sat around and taped it and put it on YouTube. The principal literally said to the kids that beat him up that he shouldn’t have dressed so feminine. We aren’t holding this principal accountable for his actions so we literally want to use this song as a platform to really really bring awareness and start a curriculum in all public schools throughout the United States that gives some sort of awareness to gay issues and teaches teachers how to deal with this kind of thing and hold school officials accountable when there is something that’s done so the kids feel safe. (Writer’s note: By the way, if you feel like flooding the principle and school administration with email, you can find them listed right here.)
God-Des: So that’s what our ultimate goal is with this song. It really means a lot to us. Kids feel like they don’t have a voice and they really don’t! A lot of times older adults aren’t listening to them and we really really want that to change. The amount of gay kids that have killed themselves, it’s like an epidemic right now. I mean it’s unbelievable. We were in Canada performing for the Rainbow Youth Forum right after Jamie Hubley had died there and we heard his best friend speak and we just can’t deal with it anymore. We don’t want to just talk about it we really want action done. So that’s our story about that song.
AE: That’s great and really powerful that you guys are doing that. You said you want other musicians to get involved — it sounds like the Outlander Festival might be a good place to get the word out there.
God-Des: Absolutely. We want to do a test market in Austin. We want to start with one school or two schools and make it really feasible for us to do. Then make it nationwide. We want to partner with the HRC, GLAAD and Gay and Lesbian Task Force. We know a lot of folks in those organizations but we need a lot of the powerful political people to come together for one big movement and really try to get federal laws put into place.
She: These kids have no recourse just because there is a bigoted politician in their district. Nobody helps them, nobody can help them. It’s absolutely crazy and it should be allowed at all. So federally if there’s a law that’s passed, then these districts can’t just choose to not talk about it. They have to. It’s a mandatory thing if they want their damn money.
AE: That definitely needs to happen and I wish you a lot of luck with that because it’s a big task to take on. Obviously we’ll do what we can to help spread the word.
She: That’s why we’re putting out a call to arms. Anybody that wants to help out financially or otherwise, we want that help. We’re not charging any money for “Never Give Up,”" we’re not looking to make money off of the song we’re really looking to force change. So anybody that wants to get on board, you’re not going to make any money from it, but it’s certainly going to help a lot of people.
We’ll be posting “Never Give Up” here on AfterEllen.com along with any information we can bring those of you who would like to join God-Des & She on their mission to stand up to the bullies, the children, the adults and the politicians included, and fight for social change in order to protect kids across the board. You can also follow God-Des & She on Facebook and Twitter and catch them live on tour. The ladies will actually be going on their first West Coast tour after South by Southwest winds down, so check out a few of the tour dates below and if you live nearby make sure you head out to a show.
|Tucson, AZ||03-30-2012||New Moon Tucson||10:30p, 21+|
|Phoenix, AZ||03-31-2012||Girl Club||7p, 21+|
|San Diego, CA||04-01-2012||Anthology||9p, All Ages|
|West Hollywood, CA||04-04-2012||Fubar||10p, 21+|