Photo by Danielle Levitt
If you’ve never heard of Alexis Blair Penney, you probably shouldn’t admit that. I met him about a year ago and have been thinking about it ever since. Now his single, “Lonely Sea” has been called the summer song by basically everyone. Purchase the 7″ at Honey Soundsystem and watch the video below. Oh, and Alexis has a blog, a Twitter, a tumblr, a YouTube channel and who knows what else.
Natasha Stagg: What are you wearing?
Alexis Blair Penney: Purple flannel unbuttoned, jeans and boots, Tommy Hilfiger briefs, I just got off work. Super sweaty and gross.
NS: Your performances and music are inspiring, but what I see of you most often is your Twitter updates. I’m sure a lot of people are like me. How much importance do you place on Twitter?
ABP: Twitter is vaguely important to me because I have so many thoughts rattling around in my head that it’s nice to just put them out in the world and not have to hear them again, and I’m an entertainer, I like the idea of people reading what I say and laughing or being interested by it. It’s kind of weird though, like using twitter makes me think of more one-liners, I’m always thinking about what to write on there. It’s weird. I don’t really think it’s important at all I guess but it’s funny.
NS: I think it’s something that sets you apart, especially from the drag world, because it’s not self-promotion, it’s insight, and it’s definitely not lip-synching. Who is your favorite tweeter?
ABP: Roy Danielle, my best friend from back home in Kansas City, is sooooo so funny, I live for his tweets. I like Susan Powter a lot on there, she has her own weird style of wording things and she also never lets you know what she’s talking about, hahaha, so she’ll be like, “Jesus, these women…” but not elaborate in the slightest bit about who or what or why, I love that, it’s totally bizarre. I like keeping up with all my friends, too. I also follow all these weird teens from who even knows where that say just random bizarre shit, it’s a lot.
NS: How do you relate to the drag scene? Do you ever get called out for not being classic-drag enough? And does it matter less, now that it’s all more popularized in the mainstream?
ABP: I mean I love drag and I’ve always been super into it, performing drag now has made me more of a stringent judge about what I think is good drag and what I think is just schlock, but on a base level I just love it all, not sure what it is but it just gets me. I definitely feel a part of the scene here but also an outsider at the same time, becuase I’m pretty naturally aloof and also have a lot more going on than just some lip synching, but I try to be humble about it and just appreciate what each queen is bringing to the table. I definitely get a little shade or I have in the past, and there are definitely just circles that I don’t operate in because I’m not wearing tits or hip-form or huge wigs or anything, but for the most part I feel a lot of support and love. San Francisco is pretty open to weird shit. I get confused for transgendered here actually sometimes, just because I live so fluidly, I can easily wear a dress on the street in the daytime no problem, so that makes me a little different than queens who keep a clear distinction between their drag persona and their day boy persona. At this point it probably matters less, the public and drag queens are way more open to androgynous, weird stuff, but there will always be some conservative, conventional drag queens plugging along with their Celine Dion. Not that I don’t love Celine!
NS: What inspires you?
ABP: Strong women inspire me, pretty sunsets, subversive androgynous weirdos in music and life…Quentin Crisp is a major one. I also love anything that’s exaggerated or dramatic, obviously.
NS: So, speaking of classics, and Twitter, and inspirations, your themes come off to me as very literary. Very progressive, in a tongue-and-cheek way. Are you in a book club?
ABP: I wish! I really want to be exposed to more good books. I try to hunt them down but it’s really hard to tell if a book is going to be cool or just schlock, even if a friend recommends it. I’ve been reading Truman Capote and am totally awed by him, again Quentin Crisp is a huge one, I like weird sci-fi and fantasy, this one book by Tanith Lee, The Birthgrave, in particular is like my ultimate, it’s this crazy fantasy epic told from the point of view of this insane woman, it’s super feminist and punk and weird, it changed my life. Yeah I dunno I’m a big reader but I have really sparse weird taste. I subscribe to the New Yorker and read that faithfully every week and I also take Elle magazine and read the shit out of that. I subscribe to a ton of magazines but those two are my favorite article-wise. Tell me some books I should read! I love to sit at my kitchen table and read that’s my all-time favorite thing.