It was a matter of time before singers Sudie Abernathy's and Teddy Waggy’s fantastical worlds became one. The critically praised artists and It Girls quickly became each other’s muses after meeting only a year ago.
Abernathy is known simply as Sudie, and she’s been on the cusp of fame since she — and her sultry operatic voice — broke onto the scene four years ago. Waggy’s known for her singular guitar playing as one of the mad masterminds behind Midnight Opera, a glam-pop band that worships at the altar of theatricality.
Abernathy and Waggy emerge after doing each other’s makeup, like mod kittens from the Valley of the Dolls. They sit in bed as Abernathy prophesies Waggy’s fortune as told through her tarot cards, while consulting the deck’s accompanying booklet.
“I’m new at tarot,” she says coyly with a giggle.
Abernathy might not have the guiding spirits wrapped around her finger quite yet, but they seem responsible for conjuring the lightning storm taking place outside.
They lie facing the same way on Waggy’s bed, in the home she’s shared with her graphic designer mother, Lannie, for the past 15 years. The house is dimly lit and elegantly bizarre with vintage treasures and oddities at every turn. A cage holding Barbie dolls hangs from the kitchen ceiling, one of Waggy’s artistic statements from childhood. Lannie sits on the rainy porch reading, too proud to care that her house has been overtaken by a late-night photo shoot.
The two musicians first met in passing after a Denton show.
“But maybe our most picturesque meet-cute is when I came to your show from my show and I was wearing my costume and you were like, ‘Hey, will you make me a costume?’” Waggy tells Abernathy, while pulling out the ice-breaking memento from her closet, a sheer purple two-piece.
They became close while designing Abernathy’s stage outfits. Abernathy tries on their latest design, a see-through hooded cloak with floating petals.
Earlier this year, when Waggy was offered an artist residency at a friend’s ranch in Albuquerque, she invited Abernathy to join her. They spent two weeks co-writing music in a shared bunk bed, and on their last night played a show at an art gallery, consisting of four original songs and one cover. While composing, they finished each others’ lyrics.
They speak of the trip as a pilgrimage where they harnessed the inspiration needed to blast their dual writer’s block. Waggy says she had been focusing industriously on the business end of her art, by promoting her band and booking tours.
“For a while now I’ve been pursuing music in a way that wasn’t the healthiest,” she says. “I don’t think I’ve spent as much energy in developing myself as an artist and following the art itself.
“So I started shifting that thinking and wanting to pursue art for art’s sake, and to take a break from thinking about it from a monetary way.”
Likewise, Abernathy relays the same sense of recovery in breaking from an obsession with goal-focused ambition.
“I think for me I kind of was putting a lot of pressure on myself to only make stuff for [solo act] Sudie,” Abernathy says, “and whenever we went to New Mexico I was like, holy shit, this is really awesome to be able to bounce ideas off of someone else because I’m kind of like [breaks into a Gollum-like voice] ‘Nobody deal with me, and don’t talk to me,’ [she continues normally] and we went out there and it totally changed my perspective. I want to be creative all the time, and it doesn’t feel stifled.”
The conversation steers off for a minute into the force of artistic collaboration that propelled artists like the Dadaists or the Beats.
“Capitalism has this assembly line mentality where you’re trying to squeeze every last drop of whatever it is you’re trying to produce,” Waggy says, “and ultimately we’re weaker than if we stayed in that tribe mentality and took a more interdependent approach to our artistic community building.”
Their jocular rapport fills the room with charm, but they say that their bond often molds into a bubble impenetrable to outsiders. They communicate in sing-songy sentences and crack each other up with facial expressions with a meaning only they understand.
“Most of our time together is spent just the two of us,” Abernathy says, singing Will Smith’s “Just The Two of Us.”
Waggy describes their attempts to mingle with others.
“I can’t be the version that I am here,” she says. “We’ve created such a specific interaction between the two of us that is just so different in a group, and I can’t reconcile the two.”
Abernathy nods in agreement.
“We are so weird together,” she concedes.
While in a spa out of town, they decided to cultivate their sense of humor by co-writing and co-directing comedy sketch videos. They say the name of their production company simultaneously, after counting out loud to three. “Electric Flesh Trick,” they announce proudly. The name was inspired by the book Big Magic, the first read in a book club they formed with friends.
“It’s sort of words of encouragement for people who feel insecure about their artistic merit,” Waggy says of the book.
Abernathy got the audio version.
“I’m a musician,” she says, “so I’m more of an auditory learner.”
They came up with the concept for their first video when they were at a coffee shop and one of them had food in her teeth.
“We were talking about the absurdity of perfume commercials,” Waggy says, recalling a conversation that evolved to Chanel-scented feminist statements. “A lot of our video ideas center around taking the idea of femininity or female objectification.”
“And turning them into the most extreme version," Abernathy continues.
“There’s a frustration with being catcalled or being objectified no matter how gross you’re being,” Waggy says. “And the challenge to saying, do you still look at this body as an object that you want to fuck even when it’s doing all of these [gross] things?”
Abernathy and Waggy are often outspoken about sexism.
“When it’s appropriate,” Abernathy says. "We don’t talk about feminism every day.”
“It’s threaded into a lot of conversation at this point,” Waggy says, “and when you’re a woman you’re more likely to see little examples of things everywhere.”
They plan to use Electric Flesh Trick as an umbrella under which to pour all their collaborative efforts, including a podcast. However, they are left speechless when attempting to describe each other.
“I have no words,” Abernathy says.
Waggy responds by singing “You Take my Breath Away.”
Waggy says that if they had to define each other’s soundtrack, Abernathy’s onscreen appearance would prompt a grand intro as in a silver screen musical, ‘50s orchestra included. Abernathy ponders the hypothetical concept with grave consideration and decides they’d score their own soundtracks.
“For Teddy, it would start out very sensual because you always walk around with a big presence,” Abernathy tells her, while imitating her strut.
“This story sums up Sudie,” Waggy says, standing up excitedly from her bed to impersonate her friend. She describes a recent conversation with Abernathy, where she relayed a compliment told to her by her last date. “And Sudie looked at me and she goes awwww.”
Waggy’s aww sound crescendos into a glass-shattering pitch, while moving manically in an interpretative dance. Abernathy recalls that moment.
“I don’t know what came over me,” she admits.
Waggy is currently working on the latest Midnight Opera album, in which Abernathy sang opera and backup vocals. The band changed its name from the original Siamese, she says, because “there were eight bands called Siamese by the time we changed it.”
The group returned recently from a three-week tour of the East Coast.
“It was so long that you were away from me,” Abernathy complains to Waggy, “I was dying.”
“For as many calamities that befell the tour,” Waggy says, “it went really well.”
Midnight Opera’s roadbound misfortunes included a flat tire, running over a bear carcass and having items stolen when their car was broken into.
Abernathy just became roommates with her other frequent collaborator, DJ Sober, and says she’s taking time off to focus on writing new material. Her latest single, the synthy anti-ballad "Je Te Deteste," was released this past Friday. Abernathy had been working on an album of cover songs in the last year but abandoned the effort.
“I got burnt out on it,” she says. “I want to start making music that will be better and being able to tour and be confident; a lot of the stuff that I’m playing is from my first two records and I kind of feel like it’s outdated, and I don’t feel comfortable continuing without revamping what I’m doing.”
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Waggy is developing a small fall line of designs inspired by her friends and selling them through Instagram. She’s been picking up commissions from local artists faster than she can sew.
“I would really like to have a career that was mostly collaborations with other artists,” Waggy says, citing the example of David Bowie and Kansai Yamamoto, who transformed him into Ziggy Stardust. “That’s what I’m getting to do with Sudie.”
Waggy sees more residencies and cheap Airbnbs in their joint future, starting at the end of October, when the pair will perform two dates in New Mexico and one in Amarillo. They talk about eventually crossing the border to Mexico, with the romanticized lust for worldliness that took Kerouac and Cassady on the road.
“It seems like a place where we could make something magical,” Abernathy says, adding, “Big magical.”