“I would never want someone to pick up a Queen Zee record just because of my gender,” insists Queen Zee And The Sasstones frontperson Queen Zee. Since coming out as transgender last month, Queen Zee has recontextualized the radical politics of their (Zee uses gender-neutral pronouns) band. Two months ago, it would have been easy to perceive the Liverpool group as light-hearted and charmingly crass; shooting misandrist fuzz punk songs from the hip in the name of radical feminist solidarity. Now, it’s evident that Queen Zee and the Sasstones has always been a platform to express dysphoria and confusion. A coping mechanism. “I created the Zee character in order to live how I needed to live”, Zapata-Jones explains, “I think I grew into it.”
That lovable goofiness that the band initially radiated doesn’t exist by accident, though. In fact, ‘Queen Zee and the Sasstones’ in its earliest form was purely a name on a gig poster, there was no intention for anybody to play under that name. Eventually, with five days to go until the show, Zee and Em Dee, a long time collaborator of theirs, decided that they’d bring the band to life and play the show; their set consisted solely of a chaotic cover of The Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter’. They put Scotland indie darlings The Jesus and Mary Chain to shame in terms of both velocity and volume that night, “As a statement against sound engineers we will never turn down”.
Their live show has pretty much managed to maintain the intensity ever since. Its urgent, visceral and totally vehement. Guitars and bones get broken with equal lack of concern. Queen Zee’ shows have people excited, liberated, and quite often genuinely terrified. Most, they concede, are “morbidly fascinated”. Talking of their band’s approach to playing live, Queen Zee says “I think parts of the queer scene have kind of just become rainbow capitalism, rather than a genuine aggressive force. It doesn't even have to be aggressive, just question it. When we’re on stage, it’s do or die.” You really do get the sense that, at this point, The Sasstones is a huge part of their identity rather than merely a route to it.
The band’s duo of self-released tapes (‘Demo Tape 16’ and ‘Hate Male’) are largely centred around their Buzzcocks-like knack of marrying vulgar sonics with earworm melody, creating something inexplicably endearing in the process. Em and Zee split the heavy lifting on the recordings, meaning that the guitars vary from shoegaze-indebted storms to raw, repetitive punk motifs. These songs are overtly queer and overtly personal, but manage to maintain an inviting vagueness. It's very much so the sound of ear-splitting confusion.
In terms of future plans, Queen Zee and the Sasstones are all too familiar with formulaic ‘new band’ rollouts, and are happy enough to bide their time. They cite Drop the Dumbulls as the city’s only genuine DIY mainstay, and take aim at venues that present as DIY whilst operating a standard capitalist model of live music, “your venue isn't DIY if you're charging £5 for a pint”.
Evidently, Liverpool’s stagnant scene has little to offer them. “The scene gets stale very quickly, you often just have the same five bands playing together every month; maybe they’ll have an EP release once a year and their family will come down. We have plenty of songs - about five records worth - the conversation now is about how we go about presenting all of that to a way that is accessible to our fanbase.”
If nothing else, Queen Zee and the Sasstones are an unavoidably loud force for good.
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Words: Marty Hill
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