WFMU out of Jersey City is like a shining tower on a hill broadcasting the amazing creative potential of free form listener-supported radio to the world. Sandy opened up some kick-ass on them as she was passing through, taking down both of their FM transmitters and frying a bunch of computers and equipment. They were down for a couple days but didn’t take long to brush their shoulders off and get back on air.
Unfortunately, their annual Record Fair was canceled since the venue where it was scheduled was without power, meaning one of their biggest funding sources for the year was gone, like the dough they laid out in advance to organize and promote it.
But listeners have rallied to help out and it could have been worse. Some kind of aural providence kept these blessed stacks good and dry.
Even their collection of glitterized album cover art was spared.
Photos by Brianna Wilson
And, thank heavens, their cassette copy of The Rudy Schwartz Project’s Yodelin’ Satan. Still, the months ahead at WFMU won’t be easy without a little help from their friends. Good thing they’ve built quite the cache of goodwill with all the weirdness they’ve infused into the airwaves lo these many years.
It’s not quite clear if New York will have to weather the Sandy aftermath with or without Big Freedia — who we realize needs no introduction here. The Nola Bounce Queen Diva’s scheduled Halloween show at Brooklyn Bowl is looking likely — but nobody can make any promises. We got in touch with her Monday in the Crescent City via phone, where she chatted with us about the music and politics of bounce and sent her prayers from storm country.
There’s been a couple darker records to come out of New Orleans post-Katrina — like Juvenile’s Reality Check comes to mind. But overall New Orleans music is pretty joyful — especially for having been through something like that. Why is that? What makes it so resilient?
Well, definitely Bounce music is more of a happy music, and then you know we have all other other types of music here in New Orleans — the Jazz and Brass bands and even the Hip Hop, some of them keep it positive. We have a lot of versatility here and we use that.
Yeah, it seems like that can’t-keep-it-down energy is just engrained in the musical culture, sort of like a jazz funeral. How do you feel about the term “Sissy Bounce”? The piece in the New York Times a couple years ago said the artists didn’t really like it — not because of the word ‘sissy’ but because they just didn’t want to be separated from Bounce music in general.
Right, we don’t separate it here in New Orleans. It’s all bounce music. There’s no such thing as Sissy Bounce. We have some gay artists who do this music but we don’t separate it. There’s a lot of straight artists, [many who came before] the gay artists who feel offended when people be saying Sissy Bounce because it’s not Sissy Bounce, it’s Bounce music in general — New Orleans is really open to all artists.
Does it ever get competitive in Bounce? Are there battles like there are in other genres of Hip Hop?
Oh definitely (Laughs). We get competitive in many ways. When there’s a hottest artist all the other artists are trying to get to that point and they’re definitely gunning for that artist.
Any battles you’ve had you want to talk about?
No, but I’m always battling. That’s why I’m always on stage.
Are you still doing interior decorating?
Yeah, every chance I get I am.
As you tour more does it get harder to do that?
Yeah, it does. I’m touring a whole lot more and it’s been a challenge to try to decorate and perform at the same time. When I’m not here though I send out my staff and they go take care of it.
The more you tour and do shows around the country, is the vibe at a Bounce show becoming more similar to the way it is in New Orleans?
Yeah, it’s changing a lot. They’re learning the music. They’re jamming even more. They’re learning the dances. It’s feeling more and more like home everywhere I go.
How do you feel the rebuilding effort in New Orleans is going at this point?
I’m very excited with the way that the city’s coming back. It’s amazing what they’re doing. It’s an uplift on the whole city — it’s a slow process but it’s definitely changing.
Do you feel like the music scene is back in full swing?
I would say yes. It’s gotten back to where it needs to be at. It can always get stronger and bigger and better.
Quintron mentioned you in his shortlist of New Orleans artists when we interviewed him a few weeks back. Have you played with Quintron and Miss Pussycat?
Oh yeah, definitely. We’ve performed together before. When I first started touring a lot, Quintron was a big help with that. Yeah, he’s very familiar with me and I’m very familiar with him.
We have our own storm situation here as you know.
Yes and I’m very disappointed. I’m praying for you guys that the best happens, that God takes control over the whole situation. We’re a storm city here so we’re definitely praying that you guys will be safe.
Photo by Bon Duke for The Block Magazine