“We've got no time for music, art or politics that are bland,” say Liverpool newcomers Queen Zee & The Sasstones “Bands that sing songs about nothing, that aren't musically adventurous; art that is just a heap of clay with no purpose except for Facebook likes and Instagram followers.”
Fronted by the direct and articulate Queen Zee (vocals/guitar) the band is completed by fellow songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Em, aka Em Dee (guitar), Frank Flag (bass) and The Gimp (drums).
With Zee and Em both in and out of “shit hardcore bands” as teenagers, eventually landing on solo projects just so they could play shows, one of Zee’s online demos subsequently caught the ear of Em, who got in touch asking if he could play guitar on the project.
“I'd met him a few months before when both our solo projects had supported a black metal artist” says Zee “Until that point I'd had no intention to play live with Queen Zee, it was my goodbye to playing music. I'd been whacking the name on gig posters I'd been running as a dumb joke. So with a few days to go we took the joke a bit further and played the first show, which featured 5 minutes of music.”
A review of that first gig claimed that the band had covered The Prodigy’s anthem ‘Firestarter’ - which they hadn't - “but we thought it‘d be funny to spread that around, and now someone on the BBC has read it out” smiles Zee wryly.
Drawing heavily on a variety of musical influences from the 70's garage rock explosion to the world of 80's pop, for Queen Zee, blurring the lines between the establishment and the DIY scene is something the band are clearly already au fait with.
What the notion of home conjures up for the band is a feeling of “pure unsaturated boredom” with “more than enough reasons to be fed up”. Often caught between the cracks and out on a limb, they’re too much of a pop band for the hardcore scene and too punk for the pop scene. Ultimately, they say, they’re more influenced by the city’s working class politics, LGBT+ community and ethnic diversity than by its music scene.
“Aristotle said that it was catharsis which makes good art and Marcel DuChamp said it was the social statement, so I think we try to do both” Zee explains of the band’s philosophy “We try to capture some element of human emotion and by doing that you play into the social statement. It's not necessarily political, it's just a re-claimed voice. I think you can have the same ‘wow' experience you get from looking at a beautiful cathedral that you can get from listening to a hardcore band at 500 decibels. Ultimately everything including your lifestyle can be art, because everything's got a story and everything is relative.”
Much of their material stems from their experiences as young, working class, Northern, (queer) punks, and although the music they make is inherently political, it’s not something they lose sleep over cementing into their sound.
“You don't have to have a message,” they say “Sometimes bands should stick to making great music, and sometimes you have to remember you're in a band and not writing an essay, but I think if you don't have something to say in the current climate then you've been living under a rock. You're forced into being political when it feels like everyone's out for your head. We don't really have a manifesto, it's kind of anarchic in that way. We don't have a single cause or message. We're a band and we're here to make the best music we can.”
Straddling the underground art and music scenes in their hometown, searching for inspiration amongst a community they feel disconnected from creatively, they’re a band who are constantly looking for a way to push themselves out of their comfort zone.
“Total chaos is the end goal with this project” says Zee “moshing, crowd surfing, Morris dancing - whatever people want to get into. I wish we could have played Trump’s Inauguration. Not being scared to go to places minority groups aren't welcome and fly the flag for them is important to me. Sometimes I think punk bands that only play punk gigs are preaching to the converted. Go into those spaces where you're not welcome and tell your story.”