It's the 23rd Century. A vivacious laser-toting superheroine vanquishes the bad guy and gets the girl. Sci-Fi Channel? No, The Atomic Swindlers. And while it may be true that there is nothing new in this world, the Swindlers occupy a another space where this law does not apply. Perhaps their ascent through the GLBT clubs saved them from the concessions that lead so many bands to serve up the mediocre fare we expect. There is a spectacle on the stage called April Laragy. She may be the alternative energy source we're looking for. Her mission appears to be shooting some steroids into Classic Glam. If that is her goal, her band is succeeding. Without label support their rough cuts sail to the top of Sirius. Rolling Stone and the Village Voice put them at the high end of their lists. Perhaps the band's greatest asset as an unqualified commitment to fun, but not at the expense of depth. You want to dance. You want to understand the lyrics.
T. Virgil Parker: Most people who dress up like a superhero are acting. You aren't.
April Laragy: No. It comes from the need to make people feel super-human, and be comfortable with themselves at the same time.
TVP: You're April 24/7 onstage and off.
AL: I hope so.
TVP: You're in an industry where people fall all over themselves to become artificial.
AL: People are doing that, aren't they?
AL: I think there's an art in being yourself that many people have gotten away from. We see so little of that now that you get children growing up in an illusion almost. When you find something that's here, and real, you don't believe it and you almost don't know how to respond. I don't know how to be any other way. For people who want to be artificial, fake, to reach their goals, that's fine if it works for them. Maybe being artificial is their way of being real. When some people tell a lie and it keeps growing, eventually they can't tell what the truth was.
TVP: I'm going to say something outrageous: The best thing that has happened to the Atomic Swindlers is that you haven't gotten signed.
AL: It's funny. It's always the first thing that critics, reviewers, fans, industry people, say. Nobody can believe that we haven't gotten signed.
TVP: It is hard to believe. I think you're top 20 on Sirius Radio?
AL: We've done that several times. And we're scratching our heads. At least we can say that we did all this ourselves. We didn't have a label's support, with industry people doing the work. If somebody does pick us up, all the work is already done. Our CDs get amazing reviews, or video has won international awards and is hitting all the festivals. That's the stuff the label is supposed to do for you.
TVP: I'm going to fish out some of the bands' DNA, let's say Blondie and The Pretenders- I wouldn't call them inspirations.
AL: I tend to get inspired by people I know.
TVP: It isn't like you're quoting that stuff in your material. You have these foundations and you sail right past, into new territory. That isn't being done much.
AL: And we will continue to do that. You've heard some of the new stuff?
AL: Those are rough cuts, not even finished, demos sailing into the top 20.
TVP: The entire group has a melodic unity that lets you to do a lot with a little.
AL: We have three writers in the band. A lot of groups are one person's vision. Collectively there is a great deal of unity between the writers. That is what springboards the band. This part takes you here, and another part will take you somewhere else. On this last one we had the story line in mind: A 23rd Century space heroine and her adventures.
TVP: The video is awesome, but you really need a comic book.
AL: I wanted a comic book to come with the CD, but it was a little expensive. Our manager had our disk on his desk when Joel Trussell from Disney and Nickelodeon stopped by. He grabbed it and he called and asked if he could do a video for it. We were like, you want to save us the struggle and expense of doing that, and you're a world-class animator? OK, I guess! He just happened to really like the music.
TVP: It's so much hotter than what's being played on top 40 it's mind boggling.
AL: Curves Magazine did a story about Gwen Stephani and at the end they called me the next Gwen Stephani. I got a call from a friend who said that Gwen Stephani has my hair style now. She thought that Gwen must have read that edition of Curves.
TVP: This is the kind of idea that belongs in a history museum, but do you think that homophobia as anything to do with not getting signed by a major label?
AL: If it does, then I don't want to get signed. If loving us for what we are is wrong, then I don't want to be right. We're so much more than that, but even if we were just that, shame on them is what I say.
TVP: Meanwhile, you're creating such a positive image.
AL: Not that we're out to save the Gay/Lesbian/ Transgender world, but whenever people think of the gay community they always think of Disco and ABBA. I wanted to create a cool, Bowie-esque kind of music, because he was the king/queen of all of it. We wanted to embrace that. The Gay community has been so helpful, overwhelming. The non gay community hasn't been that helpful, so if that's the reason we're not on a label right now, screw them.
TVP: As long as that's still an issue, then it's really good that you're providing that image, good for the culture as a whole.
AL: There was a councilman who asked us to play his campaign party, so it's going through the arts, it's going through politically. Being an artist and a musician I have to say that if it weren't for the gay community, there wouldn't be much good art and music out there.
TVP: Meanwhile, you're just having fun.
AL: Exactly. People tell us to change this or that and I don't believe we need to do anything differently. This is who we are, how we write.
TVP: A lot of people have tried to drag Glam into the 21st Century. You're not trying, but your succeeding.
AL: The authentic cultural phenomenon- somebody put a label on it afterwards. It was something that was happening. Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Iggy Pop- they just did what they did. We just do what we do. I hope there's a modern twist on it, but I'm also hoping that if it does anything, it encourages people to listen to those great bands. Somebody 19 or 20 years old actually wrote this? Somebody that age could actually write Space Oddity, or Bang a Gong, and it's just not happening now. When we play out we do a few carefully chosen cover songs. There are people in the audience who think that that stuff is ours, they don't even recognize that stuff.
TVP; You also paint. How is that different from composing music?
AL: It feels the same to me, except I don't collaborate, which is very different from writing music. If people insist on a title for a painting, I snag one from one a line in one of my songs.
TVP: Your art is getting a lot of attention.
AL: It is. It's fun. I guy I work with is really moving the art around, which is really helping. I donate canvases to a lot of different causes also, AIDS, cancer. Also, we don't have many ways to thank people who help us. I give them paintings.
TVP: What do you really want to see the Swindlers doing?
AL: We really want to get out and do more shows, especially at the colleges, where people really get what we're doing.
TVP: Last question. How can you process the unmitigated lust being directed at you from both genders?
AL: I do the best I can. It is an honor being lusted after. Sometimes I lust back.