Poppy Xander had $100 in her bank account when she quit her job as a music teacher. Armed with a dream and all the neon she could find from her neighborhood Michael’s, Xander, a pianist, locked herself in her closet and made her first transmission from the moon.
“It was a turning point for me,” Xander says. “And the start of our journey.”
The music video was the beginning of Helium Queens, a trio of local musicians who united in 2017 to bring a space opera to Dallas. Over a year later, the band is ready to release that transmission — and many more — to the public. Starting Jan. 21 Helium Queens will release one song and video on the full moon of each month.
The first song, "First Transmission of Helium Queens: A Space Opera," is accompanied by a video released Monday courtesy of director and Helium Queens’ “Dear Earthling Sage” Sarah Passon. Since the project is ongoing, the band wasn’t interested in releasing an album all at once.
Jan. 21 is the beginning of a musical odyssey that will take listeners through May.
“The first song is an introduction to our world,” Xander says. “It says who we are, why we have come and what we need from you.”
The Queens’ lineup includes electric violinist Sharla Franklin and drummer Chelsey Danielle, two artists who share Xander’s love of space music. And each queen brings their own flair to every song.
“We just jam,” Franklin says. “Poppy will find something cool on the keyboard, Chelsey will lay down the beats, and I’ll throw something in there. Then we have a song.”
The upcoming debut songs range from synthwave, to avant-garde noise, to dance tracks, each one complementing the last to form a cohesive message from the future.
But Helium Queens is about so much more than the sound. Danielle, who has gigged with Xander for five years, says the band’s aesthetic is just as important, and it has evolved alongside the music.
“The style influences the story, and the story influences the style,” she says. “The outfits, the story and the music is evolving all the time.”
As they experimented with sound, they experimented with black lights, wigs, their wardrobes and reflective drumsticks. It’s all part of what Xander calls a combination of experimental music, a stage play and performance art.
“It’s visually stimulating, it’s auditorily stimulating and there are so many textures and soundscapes,” she says.
As Helium Queens honed their sound, Danielle saw a shift in audience reaction.
“People used to say, ‘Oh cool, look at those girls up there,’” Danielle recalls. “Now, people say, ‘Look at those space queens.’”
Xander loves to give the audience something they don’t expect or won’t get anywhere else.
“A lot of people say, ‘I didn’t have enough drugs for that,’ or ‘I had just the right amount of drugs for that.’”
The artists are enjoying the ride, too. All three gig with several groups across Dallas, and Franklin is a part of 13 bands. Helium Queens gives her something no other band does.
“It’s powerful being a girl band, and being a future, neon, hot girl band is even more powerful,” she says. “With Helium Queens, I’m creating original content. I get to explore.”
That exploration knows no bounds. Poppy has come a long way since she made the first music video in the closet, but she knows there is so much more audio and visual territory to explore.
“Sometimes I hear musicians say, ‘The music should be enough on its own,’” she says. “Well, I believe the music is enough, but am I doing enough for the music?”
Helium Queens is her obsession, her “grand exhibit.” It’s a way to curate a musical and visual experience and send the Queens’ transmissions to as many Earthlings as they can.
“We want to present another world where anything is possible,” she says. “The parameters are not set, and they may not ever be set.”
Helium Queens plays Jan. 30 at Three Links.
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