Jessie Frye Is a Goth Pop Superhero
Marcus Junius Laws
Jessie Frye is obviously in her 20s, but she appears as though she could have stepped into the present through a rip in time from 1994, when The Crow was in theaters and Brandon Lee’s death was fairly recent news. Frye laughs at the notion, but admits that she is staring at a theatrical poster of The Crow as she speaks. Her look does not come across as cartoonish or contrived, and her persona is genuine. This is probably because some of her first memories are of listening to The Cure.
“My mom is a badass,” Frye says, and laughs. When she was young, her mother was playing Nine Inch Nails, Front 242 and Tori Amos. The Cure has been her favorite band since she was 5, and some of her earliest memories are of watching their videos. She has a specific memory of seeing The Cure’s frontman, Robert Smith, in a music video: “This creature with these red lips and black eyes and big hair,” Frye says. “I understood him.”
When Frye was 10, her mother took her to see Type O Negative perform in Deep Ellum. If you are not familiar with this band, we are talking about some really tall guys best known for the scary gothic metal they recorded in the '90s. “My mom was super open-minded and very liberal,” Frye says. “She exposed me to some things at a young age that some parents would have a heart attack over. But I have my mom to thank for a lot of the parts of my personality that are very real and honest.”
She remembers the show was darkly lit in a dive bar and everyone was wearing black. She vividly remembers watching Type O Negative frontman Peter Steele, who was 6-foot-7, perform. “It was creepy and sexy, definitely an otherworldly experience. It was heavy. But I was not out of my element at all. I was totally in the right place.”
Frye is a great performer and her recent set in front of a huge crowd for Oaktopia showed that she is ready for the festival circuit. She also believes the intensity of her live performances has finally been captured with her new album, Boys’ Club. Now she is preparing for a show at House of Blues this week to celebrate the album’s release. After testing out a few different sounds with previous efforts, Frye seems to have found her place.
She has kept the visual aspect of goth, but this is ultimately pop rock. With a background as a classical pianist, Frye belts out pop anthems. She is also a big fan of Madonna and Michael Jackson, and as a live performer and songwriter, Frye is interested in how they are thought of as both entertainers and artists.
Boys’ Club is fun music. “I love really catchy melodies,” Frye says. “The power of a melody is something I’m really attracted to.” The title references a few different things. “It has multiple meanings that are personal and a little political,” she says. It acknowledges sexism in the music industry and also gives it the finger. She likes the sound of the name and thinks it’s appropriate for a fun album. But she is also a bit of a tomboy.
Frye picked out a single, “One in a Million,” leading up to the release of her new album, but initially struggled to develop a concept for a video. One day she sat in her car, listened to the song, and thought about how it made her feel. “I was like, ‘Man, this makes me feel like a fucking superhero,’” Frye says. “It gives me this larger-than-life feeling.”
She started piecing together an outfit on an indie budget. There’s some influence from Gwar, Xena: Warrior Princess and especially goth. Frye learned how to sword fight and suited up for a video about a depressed teen who draws comics. Frye plays the teen's creation, a superhero brought to life to battle an evil character that symbolizes the negative thoughts. By the time the smoke clears, the bad guy is gone. “I guess I won,” Frye says, with a laugh. Leading up to her performance at Edgefest last year, Frye had been sad. But after an enthusiastic response to her first performance in a stadium, she felt inspired and hopeful about her future in music. Frye remembers exactly where “One in a Million” came from. “I can’t write songs when I’m sad,” she says. “I was really weak and then I found strength through writing a song.”
The odd combination of gothic rock, classical piano and pop music works for Jesse Frye, and her wardrobe keeps getting more elaborate. Some of the clothes are edgy to the point of having spikes. “It does get a little more involved,” she says. “The more people respond positively to it, the more thought I have to put into my stage outfits. I can’t just wear blue jeans onstage now. I have to dress up like a Gwar creature.”
Jessie Frye will perform with Son of Stan and Buffalo Black at 7 p.m. Thursday, October 29, in the Cambridge Room at House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St., $11.
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