Siamese's Avant-Glam Performance Rock Changes From One Show to the Next
The members of Dallas band Siamese, who are always up for a good costume and a game of pool.
You may never recognize Siamese from one show to the next. The Dallas band is an avant-garde dream-pop experiment whose members try on different personas seasonally. By changing their concept every few live appearances and rotating themes according to their latest inspiration, the band's like a DIY Cirque du Soleil, or a smaller-scale Beats Antique, whom they actually haven't heard of. Through their crafty onstage production and their performing alter-egos, they've placed themselves on sci-fi horror and '60s space-themed sets, while portraying many parts, which range from stoic aliens to a character they describe as a "petulant queen witch."
The members of Siamese materialized their collective concept into a live show that unravels like a musical, one with a very faint plot. While there's no overt theatre or dialogue taking place, they relate that their live show's mood is story-boarded from start to finish. "Some of the shows have a clear story arc. Throughout the set there are plot points that develop, it's not just music and costumes," singer and guitarist Teddy Waggy says. They make no alterations to the songs, however: "The performances change, but the music stays the same. It's just perceived differently according to what character we're projecting."
While the group is heavily influenced by the glam rock of the '70s (they say they were inspired by David Bowie and Brian Eno), it's also a bit of a surrealist outfit, being the result of years of Waggy and fellow singer Nicole Marxen-Myers' (who also plays synthesizer) day-dreaming of their concept out loud, and other subconscious motifs, like the upcoming set design based on a nightmare that Grass once had. "I think it involves Tetris cubes and maybe blood," Waggy surmises.
None of Siamese's members have a background in theater, although, like consummate thespians, they rehearsed their act for about a year before making their live debut. "We always wanted to create a music project where it was okay to branch out, and where anything goes," says Marxen-Myers. "That was one of the seeds of how this all started."
The members — which also include bassist Paul Alonzo and drummer Paul Grass — met after playing with each other in past bands, some since their teens, and brought together their disparate resumes, which include rock 'n' roll bands and a punk-rock group that used marching band instruments. They split up the duties on the non-music side of things as well: Alonzo and Grass are in charge of building sets, while both women handle the costumes and makeup. "It's a little cross-dressy," Alonzo says, of one particular theme. "I wear pretty makeup."
Siamese's first venue show, which also featured Pinkish Black and Unconscious Collective, took place at the Texas Theater in July of last year. The bands performed behind the theater's screen at the showing of a film directed by the brother of composer Danny Elfman. The director was present for his screening and "too lit," as they recall, "running around with clown shoes with his scantily clad burlesque dancer wife." The band decorated the stage with 2,000 paper flowers that they'd crafted themselves, and took on the character of psychotic funeral directors.
"They write great songs and are true artists in every sense," says Amy Miller, the programming director for 91.7 KXT. The band gets regular airplay on the station and even performed at their Summer Cut festival at South Side Ballroom last Friday. "It's obvious that they take great pride in their live performance and put a lot of time and effort into it. It's like you're watching a wonderful piece of performance art, accompanied by a really cool soundtrack."
At Summer Cut, Siamese brewed a seance-themed performance, with black tulle draped over their instruments, candles and silver flowers scattered onstage, all while looking Goth or like unhappy witches. Waggy, whose eye makeup went up to her hairline and covered her forehead, has a speaking voice that's barely audible, but it becomes a wail of expert sweetness while performing a song like "Neon Lights," which gushes in rivulets of shoegaze sounds. In between her wide-eyed quiet mania, Waggy skipped over to Marxon-Myers mid performance to tenderly kiss her forehead. Whether it's a plot point or spontaneous affection, their playfulness is still endearing.
They've taken on a handful of mini-tours this year and break into a collective laugh when describing how they're received out of town. "It's 90 percent positive and 10 percent negative, which is mostly just confusion," Waggy estimates. They recall one particular "Simon Cowell-looking dude" who approached them after a show in Tulsa. "He was really opposed to the way we looked," Marxon-Myers remembers. Waggy adds that the man asked Grass, "What is this?" "'I guess that's fine. I just don't think it's fair,'" she remembers the man saying. "'Because people might want to hear your music but they might not want to see THAT.' "
The group is currently mixing their debut album, which was recorded at John Congleton's Elmwood Recording studio with producer Alex Bhore. "Alex had a lot of really awesome suggestions," Waggy says. "We're all very visual people so we end up describing musical ideas in very abstract, kind of dumb ways. I remember I was writing a guitar part for one of the songs. We were talking about it and I was like 'I think it should sound like a drunk uncle at Thanksgiving who just barreled into the conversation.' And he said 'Okay, like this,' and just twisted some knobs."
"He was very patient," Alonzo deadpans.
Marxen-Myers (left) and Waggy performing at Summer Cut last Friday.
In preparation for their album release, which will take place at an undetermined date later this year, they've been collaborating with the Tribe, a group of playwrights and actors/directors, in order to hatch out a plot and work on their choreography. They're currently in the rehearsing process with several actors, and they unanimously conclude that their biggest struggle as a band has come from executing outlandish ideas on a budget.
"I think this is the first time I've been in a band where I think everyone was really invested in it," Waggy says: "I know we all want to lean into more ornate and lush sets moving forward."
But Siamese can't stay out of the Imaginarium too long, and they return to their afternoon reverie, by speaking of films that they find influential. Fittingly, the movie Labyrinth comes on the outdoors screen at Sundown just as they're preparing to leave. "If you have any more questions, please refer to this movie," Marxen-Myers jokes.
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