INTERVIEW: Queen Zee | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Few bands fill me with as much excitement and joy as Queen Zee. The Scouse five-piece only formed in 2017, but they’ve already made quite a splash thanks to their brash queer pop punk. This month sees the release of their already greatly anticipated eponymous debut album.

“We always knew we wanted to do [this album] even before we had the full band together. We were writing songs, but they actually came together in the form of an album quite recently. We got fast funding for a vinyl press, so we thought, ‘Let’s just stick what we’ve got so far on it.’” Explains Queen Zee, aka Zena ‘Obscene’ Davine. “But it has been a quick process for quite a long idea… Songs like Sissy Fists we first wrote when we got together, whereas new ones like Loner and Lucy are really quite new, written just before going into the studio to record them. It’s quite a nostalgic record in some senses. It’s looking back and forward, and it’s saying this is everything that is Queen Zee at this moment right now.”

Lauded for their DIY spirit, it seemed only right that the album was released on the band’s own Sasstone Records. “For us it just felt right, you know? We’re such a DIY band. We do everything ourselves when it comes to the artwork and the writing. There’s no team or no mad machine pushing us. There’s no major label. So it just felt right that we would control the release of our own debut album. I’m not against labels, I think it was just us making sure that we knew ourselves and that we had our identity solidified before we made that step and before we’re ready to go looking somewhere else.”

The album really does embody everything about this eccentric bunch of rockers; honesty, humour and politics are tied in to a true DIY punk sound. From the charged anthem Boy, or the borderline ridiculous but somehow fantastic taboo track Porno, there’s no mistaking who Queen Zee are or what they stand for.

We live in this world now that is so utterly strange, you turn on the news and you don’t know what you’re gonna get. I think this record reflects that.

“We want to be one of those bands that are fairly honest with their songwriting. It’s been a really bizarre couple of years. We live in this world now that is so utterly strange, you turn on the news and you don’t know what you’re gonna get. I think this record reflects that. But I hate the idea that people view stuff they think is important – political and ethical things – and think that it’s got to be totally serious all the time. I think you can actually make your point with a little bit of humour, a little bit of tongue and cheek.”

The band had a fantastic year in 2018, the highlight of which was a live session at BBC’s Maida Vale studios: a crowning moment for any DIY band, and an exceptional one for a group so new on the scene. Even this incredible opportunity turned out to be a moment for the herstory books, with it being the first time an all-female production team worked on a session. As a trans woman, Zee’s mantra is about breaking down gender barriers, and this was the cherry on top of the cake.

“You start off with a little play on your local network, then you get invited down for a chat and maybe to do a song. We played the BBC Introducing stage at Reading and Leeds… Huw Stephens came down and watched the set and liked it…then, there you go, we’re on the Huw Stephens show at Maida Vale…. It feels like fate. As soon as we got in the room, the engineer told us it was an all-female team. It felt like destiny that this would happen with Queen Zee. It was a pleasant surprise, if I’m totally honest. It was a brilliant crew, and it was a brilliant session. I’m really glad that we had that moment.”

Queen Zee put everything into their songs, and they put even more into their live shows. They exude a bizarre energy, at once fuelled by a traditional angry punk mentality whilst also fostering a friendly and safe atmosphere. Seeing Queen Zee perform is an experience in every respect, and I believe part of that drive comes from the statement this band makes simply by existing. “The idea behind Queen Zee was to take these ideas from my group of friends – the queer punk community of Liverpool that was so underground – to take these ideas that just seemed totally obvious to us, like treating people as people, the idea that someone shouldn’t be judged on their gender identity or that gender or sexuality could be fluid. It’s shocking to me how the mainstream couldn’t adopt that belief. Why haven’t trans issues caught on in the same way as gay issues? I think it’s purely because of people’s lack of exposure to it. Queen Zee was literally about taking that and exposing people to it, and just saying, ‘I’m just a human that writes songs and I’m no different from any of these other people around me in this scene.’ We do this as humans.”

Queen Zee play Think Tank? Underground @ Digital, Newcastle on Thursday 21st February. Their self-titled album is released on 8th February via Sasstone Records.


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