In addition to being the birthplace of the riot grrrl movement, the 90s also birthed the queer core movement. Bands like Tribe 8 screamed out loud and proud that they were out—and proud of it.
A band like Durham, North Carolina’s Ex-Members brings that inclusiveness.
They’re fun, rhythmic and when you listen to them it can’t help but to bring a goofy smile to your face and a tap to your toes. I could say I’m living proof of that, as I don’t like to dance—unless it’s to something like the Ex-Members.
Ex-Members is made up of Shirlé Hale (a renowned local chef by day), Melissa York (of the Butchies!) and David K. It’s clearly a match made in rock-n-roll heaven. From their live performance, it’s impossible not to see the connection the band mates have and the fun they are having on stage.
The band is not afraid to speak up—at NC Pride in 2007, the Ex-Members took the stage and spoke up and sang for LGBTIQ rights. In addition, this past summer they toured with Team Dresch—who had decided the time for a reunion tour was right.
But they also know how to rock. And in relation to music—that is what matters!
For those of you who live in or around Durham, North Carolina, it’s time to check out the Ex-Members (and while you’re at it don’t miss the Midtown Dickens or Beloved Binge!). And, for those of you who aren’t in the area, bookmark the band’s myspace page and check up for updates on their tour schedule. From the electro pop-dance music to the amazing live performance—they are not to be missed.
*Each one of you have been in bands before Ex-Members (thus, the name of your band!), so I’m curious…what meaningful lessons have you taken from your former bands that you have put to use in your newest venture?
SH: That it’s ok to try new things when writing songs. It’s ok to have the drummer explore her desires and to get off the kit. It’s ok to not play an instrument and just sing.
DK: Communication is key.
MY: I agree with David. Let it all out. Love first play later. Have fun.
*What makes Ex-Members different from your former bands?
SH: That we all are coming from a completely new approach at writing a song. No one single person writes anything unto themselves (except the vocals and lyrics which I write). We are also all on the same wave length with the style/sound we are creating.
DK: The writing process is completely different and as a result the material is darker, sexier and more fun to perform. We’re also working with a producer, who has great ideas and gives wonderful outside advice.
MY: Not taking ourselves so seriously and really letting go of our fears. Realizing that the music isn’t so precious…it can be fucked with.
*How long have you all known each other/how’d this venture (Ex-Members) come together?
SH: We have now been playing together for 2 years …seems like yesterday when I had heard that the Butchies had dis-banded and I sent Melissa an email asking her if she would like to check out what David & I were doing. We had never met before. She came out to a show and saw us playing with a drum machine and liked what she heard. She had always wanted to do more songwriting with electronic beats composing…It was a perfect fit!
DK: This was when Shirle’ and I were in the band Gerty!, we were looking for a drummer, but they had to be willing to play with samples and beats. Melissa “helped us out” for about 6 months playing drums. Then we all fell in love and decided that we wanted to get rid of Gerty! and start writing music together. So, Ex-Members wrote its first song in July 2006.
MY: It’s cosmic really. I had wanted to start playing more dance music for a while. I had especially wanted to play to tracks or a click track live. It’s funny what you wish for cause right about that same time I got an email. And I actually read it. You know how your inbox can get inundated with junk mail…and maybe you trash emails that are actually not trash? Well this particular email was read and I responded! Yay!
*If you were to describe Ex-Members in 3 words or less, how would you describe it?
SH: dark, rhythmic & sexy
DK: Shirle’, Melissa & David K
MY: I can name that song in one note. NAME THAT TUNE!
*What sort of people/bands have influenced you as a band/as an individual?
SH: As a band, I would say, Depeche Mode, B-52’s, good underground 80’s…for me, influences from the groups that are coming out now using similar techniques that we have been using, such as Gossip & Peaches.
DK: I’m an avid music collector, so everything in my collection has influenced me in one way shape or form.
MY: Shirle’s got the band influences down. Personal…Led Zeppelin, B-52’s, etc.
*What inspires you when you’re writing songs?
SH: Mel’s beats for the music end. Lyrically, just things that have happened or dreams I’ve had.
DK: Rhythm…I’ve always been more rhythmic in my approach to the guitar and I love a good groove. I think the phrasing of notes and chords in vintage jazz and reggae records has been a huge part on my personal style as a guitarist.
MY: Trains, Math, Meditation
*how long have you been playing music?
SH: I started playing piano at 4 years old, started guitar at 12, bass at 24.
DK: Singing since I was a little kid and I started playing guitar at 22 and I just noodle around on keyboards and drums.
MY: I started playing flute in 8th grade (I think?) I moved to clarinet cause I thought the flute was too girly (isn’t that funny?!) then to bass clarinet, then tuba! Yes…TUBA! I always wanted to play drums since I was very little. I grew up in an apartment so there wasn’t enough room for a drum set. I would air drum and then I officially started playing drums when I was in my early twenties. Now I want to actually LEARN piano not just dick around like I do. Actually LEARN it. Ya know?
*You are opening for the band of your dreams–what band is it?
SH: To support all members of this planet earth, whatever gender they chose to be, whomever they choose to love ,whatever they want to become is an honor and an obligation that we all need to share. I am a proud supporter of the GLBTIQ movement.
DK: A lot.
*Where do you think the queer music scene is now? The 90s had the queercore movement w/ Team Dresch, Tribe 8 (great piece on them in Angry Women in Rock. made me buy a CD!) and-of course-the Butchies…so where are we now?
SH: It’s only getting better, louder and out front more each year with great bands like Gossip, Peaches and CSS at the helm.
DK: I think the queer music scene is growing in a sense because it’s a lot easier for kids to come out and be excepted than in the ‘90s, There also is support for them thanks to the foundation that was built over the years. With that said, with things like myspace and glee.com and these social networks it’s easier for queer bands to promote themselves and also easier for the kids to find music that is queer-centric.
MY: Hmmm. This is a hard question to answer. I love being queer and I love queers. I was around when the whole queer-core movement was just starting out. It was very liberating. Really amazing. It helped me become the person I am today. So when I think about the queer music scene now I think that it’s not really that big. There are queer bands/musicians out there but maybe they (or the press) don’t label themselves queer. Maybe they don’t want to these days. Maybe they feel it’s not necessary. Which is fine. But I do however know that there are kids today that are having the same experience I had back than and that is amazing. So maybe it’s not dead…? What do you think?
*What part does having a message play in your music?
SH: I mainly write about life experience and try not to box it in to any one gender/meaning. It is open to interpret the way you need to hear it. I write to create a feeling or vibe that goes with the music. If the music is dark and angry then I write lyrics that are dark and angry like with “Big Black Goodbye”. In the case of “Wishes”, the lyrics are positive and uplifting…even ethereal. That’s how I heard the music to start with.
DK: I completely trust Shirle’ to write lyrics that “say” something. My main focus in this group is the music.
MY: A huge amount. The personal is political. Lyrics have to mean something to me. Sometimes I’ll give Shirle a subject. That’s fun.
*What part does living in Durham have on your band? When I interviewed the Midtown Dickens they mentioned that if they had lived anywhere else, the MtD probably wouldn’t exist. Does Durham have the same impact on you? or would Ex-Members be just as feasible in, say, Seattle as in Durham?
SH: We dearly love our town of Durham… but I think Ex-Members could exist anywhere the three us are. I will say this is one of the most supportive scenes anywhere and our peeps aren’t afraid to dance! Yea for Durham!!!
DK: Durham is a great location to be in if your in a band. You can get up North and down South very easily, the housing is very affordable and there is a great arts community. I think we could do Ex-Members where ever we would live but for now location is everything.
MY: I love Durham. Ex-Members are an anomaly in Durham. Don’t get me wrong we get much love here but we are not of the norm. I think we could exist anywhere. BTW… I think MtD could too. They put on a great show. That’s all it is really.
*What is in your CD player right now?
*Speaking of CDs–now that you have your e.p. out–when can we expect a CD?
SH: Whenever we find a label who wants to marry us…we don’t put out without a promise ring.
DK: Need a label first.
MY: Like the punkers say… 2 weeks. ; )