Hot Fruit cooks with fire
The humid, socially progressive environs of the Olympia, Wash. music scene and Evergreen State College serve as a fertile breeding ground for radical art and music; Kathleen Hanna's an alum, as is Matt Groening. Self-described “all-diva” electronic trio Hot Fruit is Grace Ellis, Mica Huntley and Sara Blumenthal. If Evergreen's smart, it'll snap up the threesome—with its two active students and one alum—for its official school band.
The Alibi convened a group Facebook convo with the situationist/feminist synth-pop power trio. Read highlights from that convo—sadly, sans emoji—below. With lyrics like “I wanna make the sky cum,” what’s not to love?
On a Reddit thread (R Cringe) sending misogynistic YouTube traffic over to their debut video, “Falling Off the Grid”:
Grace Ellis: A lot of people came at it with the mindset that it was awful. It's cool though, because it meant that we got a lot of support from our music community, and a lot people have been really excited about us. People got polarized.
On whether transgressive lyrics are liberating:
Sara Blumenthal: Liberating? Yes and no. I am definitely dealing with my sexuality and cultural expectations with those [paraphiliac] lyrics [in “Falling Off the Grid”]. I feel like what I say in my lyrics is rather common socially as jokes. Haven't you had friends look at poopy butt fetish websites? And laugh at it? These sexual extremes are presented for you to look at to determine your own identity. I am simultaneously admitting I occupy a paraphiliac identity and also that it’s not really matching up to my physical body. What I like most is when people tell me how stuck the lyrics get in their heads and how they are worried that when walking down the street they will be singing out loud: “I'm into shit and blood.” It’s like pop music and then suddenly you realize what you’re singing about. I like that it brings awareness to the boundary or limitation of when something becomes too fucked up and when something is still permissible.
On accessing “white feminism”:
Grace Ellis: White feminist performance art has done a lot of amazing things and opened a lot of doors for us, but white feminism has also ignored a lot of people who I believe should benefit from the same liberations that we do. I don't think that you can help liberate women without understanding how complex and fluid the word “woman” is or can be ... how many different identities exist within that one word.
Mica Huntley: Basically being a woman is never just being a woman; it means a cross of hundreds of other identities within one body.
Mica Huntley: As far as Hot Fruit goes, camp and humor are essential to this goal of bringing out the diva inside of everyone. ... I really think that camp is extremely radical; just look at how [genderqueer artist] Vaginal Creme Davis used camp. It is accessible, and it holds a kind of humanity that fancy pantzy, avant-garde feminist art doesn't. I’m not sure how to explain it. It’s just not ever trying to be too good or too sophisticated for anyone. Still camp creates dialogue. It extends the possibilities of human potential on a beautifully low budget.
On her YouTube series, “Virgin Domain”:
Grace Ellis: I've been studying how we interact with embodiment—how life is experienced through a particular body—versus how we interact with the Digital Image. In particular I've been interested in Queer cultures on Tumblr, and video diaries on YouTube. I'm interested in the internet as a democratic resource for sharing information, and the internet as a rich site for creating doubles, alter egos and digital avatars. I wanted to know what would happen when I acted an alter ego on the internet versus in real life. I feel like this work is important because the difference between a person's identity and their constructed alter ego that inhabits the same body feels really similar to the difference between a person in the flesh and the identity on a blog they curate. Digital culture is so fascinating. It's tempting to fall in love with an image, a series of pixels—with vulnerability that some people will only display online.
On the concept for their new video, “Motel 6”:
Mica Huntley: The project made me see semi trucks really differently. On our way to Canada, I saw these trucks swarming around the Love’s gas station. They reminded me of beautiful large beasts, and I imagined that this was an extremely aestheticized and dreamy portrait of the trucker and his life and relationship to his object, his truck.
On their whys:
Mica Huntley: I'm a freak, I perform, and I'm going to create a notch in this world for myself and my freaky friends. This is the most radical thing I could be doing right now.
Sara Blumenthal: For me it is a release and a psycho-physical exploration into personal content and sexual expectations. It is a way to create work with people that I love while making music that is unlike anything else and impossible to re-make under different conditions. Although our music video brings us much more so into the realm of performance art, our music is at the core of what we do. The performance is more peripheral.
On the Hot Fruit brand:
Mica and Sara: We understand that we are unpackaged; failure is a strategy that we use to keep our potential open. The ugliness and unfinished-ness is part of what we choose to inhabit within our music-making process.
Grace Ellis: Hot Fruit is a place where I began to work through my own acceptance of my power, my sexuality, my ability to be a happy person who doesn't need to apologize for my failures. And this isn't all about me: It's about how I was socialized, and open acceptance of what is not “perfect,” “immaculate,” “virgin[al]” to other people through showing my own personal work. I think revealing the work is a part of what they're talking about ... failure to arrive untouched, prepackaged and exactly as expected.
Mica Huntley: We are not interested in mastering freak pop or whatever. We are not interested in being experts. We just want to fuck it up.