Back in September, we at So So Gay took great pleasure in introducing our new favourite band of New York City divas BETTY, after encountering them in what was arguably the show-stealing performance of Reykjavik Pride’s Opening Ceremony in August. Quite apart from the girls’ undeniable talent and fantastic showmanship, (or should that be show-woman-ship?), we were immediately drawn to what was an obviously passionate commitment to the cause of equality. Once we scratched further below the surface, we found an amazing record in the field of equality campaigning that left us quite stunned by the band’s energy and drive. So So Gay was lucky enough to catch up with the band recently to find out more.
We start by asking BETTY how the whole project started; ‘We started out in Washington D.C. when we were in college. Alyson came over to Elizabeth and Amy’s parents house to audition for the band – we were looking for a bass player – and we all became best friends. Then and there, BETTY was born!’
This great friendship is something which is most evident when BETTY perform, not to mention the genuine enthusiasm which struck us when we saw them at Reykjavik Pride. There was no doubt that appearing at a Pride event was something the band took very seriously, and we were curious to find out how the band first got involved in this area; ‘Since we began performing, we have believed that there are certain responsibilities you have as artists. We have always supported gay (and LGBT) rights, and fought for funding and research to end AIDS and breast cancer. Performing at gay prides and festivals around the world, even where it is dangerous to be out as gay, is something we will always be ready to do.’
BETTY are based in New York, and this summer was their first visit to Iceland, a country with quite a party atmosphere, which the band summed up in one word; ‘FABULOUS’. But on a more serious note, we were curious to ask the band about some of the changes they’ve witnessed in New York, particularly given the recent introduction of gay marriage, not to mention the band’s involvement in gay issues since the 1980s and the emergence of AIDS. The girls from BETTY have a unique perception of how far we’ve come and how far there still is to go; ’We are so proud to live in NYC for a myriad of reasons, especially for the progressive and clear-sighted support of gay marriage and Human Rights. We are all very afraid of the horrific possibility of the Republicans taking office in November and having the clock turned back to the Middle Ages with regards to women’s control over our bodies, social programs and gay rights.’
Indeed, anyone who follows the band on Twitter cannot help but notice that the band are pretty staunch supporters of the Obama cause, not to mention fearful of the impact that a Romney win would have for LGBT rights in America; ‘Shudder to think about f***ing Romney and Ryan in the driver’s seat. If Romney wins, it will be a dark day in America’s history and ‘her-story’ for sure. The Republicans are hateful and homophobic, misogynist and racist, xenophobic and phallocratic, and just plain mean. LGBT rights will be eradicated along with every other vestige of civilized progressive inroad that America has made. YIKES.’ This obvious commitment to equality quickly led us to wider issues, such as the field of women’s and girl’s rights, struggles in which BETTY are just as involved; ‘We want to lend our voices to help those who have no voice. Also to help raise money and awareness for things that have to change. Otherwise what is the point of being artists? Aside from groupies of course!’
Aside from the politics, the first thing which obviously drew us to BETTY was their unique brand of funky pop. Bright & Dark has quickly become a bit of a favourite of ours at So So Gay, especially the stonking ‘Did You Tell Her?’ The album is striking for its stylistic diversity, and we were curious to learn about the influences behind the band’s brand of music; ‘Wow. Great question. We all have really diverse tastes in music. You have to ask each of us individually and on any given day it can change!’ Another interesting aspect of the band is how the bond between the members has been fostered by their diverse musical development, from being the featured band on The L Word, through to spending a number of years as a house band on a US TV show, even before considering their successful recording career and appearing in their own Off-Broadway show. We mused over this longevity with the band; ‘We must be crazy! Anyone that stays in a band for a long time knows how hard it is. But we love each other, and have grown up together, and want to help change the world together and want to have more adventures together, and keep making music together…’ One of the by-products of this success was performing and becoming friends with Gloria Steinem, the noted US feminist and political activist, which the girls from BETTY rank as their greatest achievement to date.
Having considered the band’s past achievements, our conversation quickly turned to the future, particularly their plans to visit the UK; ‘We are desperate to go back to the UK! We love performing there – hopefully in the Spring! Wanna sponsor our tour? C’mon!’ That was a subject that we quickly dodged, moving the conversation on the band’s future plans, which involve new material and tours; ‘We are writing new music to record now. Also, we have some shows lined up in Argentina, where we will be Arts Envoys from the US to help promote tolerance and diversity through music. Then, back to the States to do some holiday show touring. Then, find the best place to throw a party and celebrate an Obama win! Wanna come? We promise to rock you, and make you a fantastic custom cocktail!
With the prospect of either commiting ourselves to sponsorship, (or the scary prospect of what would presumably be a fabulous, but potent, cocktail), So So Gay called it a day there! It was certainly great to catch up with the band again; here’s looking forward to the band’s UK tour.
You can follow the band BETTY on Twitter here @bettymusic
For further information, see their official website here