Scissor Sisters Biography
The group rose to public attention with the release of their self-titled debut album in 2004, from which they gained chart success in Australia, Canada and parts of Europe – particularly their "spiritual home", the United Kingdom, where Scissor Sisters was the best-selling album of that year – although not their native United States. Several singles from the album were also successes, including "Comfortably Numb", "Laura" and "Take Your Mama". They followed this with their second album, Ta-Dah, in 2006, which again proved to be a commercial and critical success, with singles including "I Don't Feel Like Dancing" and "Land of a Thousand Words". Their third album, Night Work, was released in 2010, and displayed a shift towards a more club-oriented sound.
The band have collaborated with a number of other well known pop musicians, including Elton John and Kylie Minogue, and were received positively by a number of other notable figures, with Bono describing them as "the best Pop group in the world at the moment" in 2004.
Early career (2000–2003)
The band, originally named the Fibrillating Scissor Sisters, was founded in 2000, after Jake Shears and Scott "Babydaddy" Hoffman, two friends who had met in 1999 in Lexington, Kentucky, both moved to New York, enjoying its relatively gay-friendly ethos, something which was in contrast with their respective hometowns. They subsequently decided to begin producing music together, with Babbydaddy composing the songs and Shears writing the lyrics. The duo released a couple of singles to little success and began appearing at underground clubs on New York City's Lower East Side, which at the time was in the grip of electroclash, a genre that subsequently influenced them.
On a trip to Disneyland, they met a woman named Ana "Ana Matronic" Lynch at a screening of Michael Jackson's Captain EO, and on a subsequent teacup ride they discussed the type of music that they liked, they discovered that they had a lot in common. Shears would later remark that "I really thought she was a freak but when I started singing "Just Another Part Of Me" she showed me the best moonwalk I've ever seen." Ana Matronic ran a weekly cabaret event known as Knock Off at a club called the Slipper Room, where she liked to hire eccentric and alternative acts; one reporter described it as a place that "served up a racy, multigender revue of kitsch", and that a performer dressed as a giant vagina "enfolded me with her labia while singing "Lick Me in My Wet Spot" to the tune of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"." Matronic invited the Scissor Sisters to appear at Knock Off, which they did on 21 September 2001, ten days after the 9/11 terrorist attack shook the city. Shears dressed as his character of "Jason the Amazing Back-Alley Late Term Abortion" whilst Matronic was dressed as a reject from Andy Warhol's Factory. During the performance, she joined them on stage and sang, something which Shears and Babydaddy felt to be very effective, and so they asked her to join their band on a permanent basis, something which she accepted. The trio then began appearing at other clubs, having dropped the term "Fibrillating" from their name, and primarily played electroclash, which was then popular in the underground New York Club Scene with bands like Peaches and Chicks on Speed.
They were soon joined by Derek "Del Marquis" Gruen on lead guitar, a man who had already known Shears from when they both worked at the IC Guys club where Shears had worked as a go-go stripper. They were then joined by a fifth member, Patrick "Paddy Boom" Seacor, as a drummer, who – being heterosexual – had to explain to his mother after joining that "it's not a gay band… there's gay members, but it doesn't matter. It’s about the music and about performance."
In 2002 the band signed with a small New York-based record company named A Touch of Class for a two single record deal. This allowed them to finally release their first single, "Electrobix", which dealt specifically with the concept of gay men's obsessions with working out, but the song itself proved to be less popular than the B-side to the single, a cover version of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb". Later commenting on their rendition of the progressive rock classic, Matronic stated that "It's one of those songs that people were either gonna love or hate, and that's really, really powerful, because it basically means you're evoking a reaction in everyone. The first time I heard it, I thought that if it doesn't make us famous, it'll make us infamous because somebody will shoot us!" "Comfortably Numb" became a hit in many dance clubs, and after sending Pink Floyd themselves a copy, the Scissor Sisters received positive remarks from the song's original writers, Roger Waters and David Gilmore. The song proved to be particularly popular in the United Kingdom, where various record labels soon took an interest in the Sisters, and so they decided that in 2003 they would tour Europe, which they believed would be more accepting of them and their music than their homeland.
Debut album and breakthrough success (2003–2005)
The song later came to the attention of British label Polydor, who signed them to a contract. The group's first single for the label, "Laura", had a limited release in 2003 (reaching #54 in the UK Singles Chart), receiving little attention with the exceptions of British music paper New Musical Express, Channel 4's entertainment programme V Graham Norton, and the same channel's music programme Popworld for which they were interviewed. The track also got plenty of radio play in Australia. 2003 also saw the inclusion of the atmospheric "It Can't Come Quickly Enough" on the soundtrack of the film Party Monster; the song played over its ending credits.
Their first hit was in 2004 with the release of "Comfortably Numb", a Pink Floyd cover (reaching #10 in the UK), featuring Paul Leschen on piano and keyboards. This success was followed by "Take Your Mama" (#17 in the UK), a re-release of "Laura" (#12 in the UK), the ballad "Mary" (#14 in the UK), and the hedonist anthem "Filthy/Gorgeous" (#5 in the UK).
All the singles came from the eponymous debut album Scissor Sisters, which reached #1 on the UK Albums Chart and became the best selling album of 2004, beating Keane's Hopes and Fears by just 582 copies. As of 2006, it is the 10th biggest-selling album of the 21st century, and the 51st biggest-selling of all time in the UK. Several media outlets have noted that Scissor Sisters 'stick out like a sore thumb' on the list of artists who have sold over 2 million copies of an album in the UK in the 21st century—the others being James Blunt, Robbie Williams, Keane, Dido, Coldplay, and Norah Jones — all artists considered 'mainstream' or 'middle of the road', as opposed to the Scissor Sisters' brash and controversial image.
The band had been particularly keen on producing an album that fitted together well rather than simply producing a string of singles. According to Babydaddy, their purpose in creating an album was "to create a perfect pop rock album that would pick you up at the beginning, take you on a journey in the middle, and set you right back down again in the same place at the end."
About six months after its British release, Scissor Sisters was released in the USA and to publicise it they appeared on the popular morning television show Live with Regis and Kelly, an event that Shears later recalled; "Kelly Ripa loved us, after the first time we played, she gave me a hug and whispered in my ear, "I just want you to know that this is my favourite music performance we’ve ever had." It was amazing." Nonetheless, neither the band nor the album proved to be a big commercial success in the States, with the major supermarket chain Wal-Mart refusing to stock it, claiming on their website that it contained "a snarling, swaggering attack on conservatism" in the form of the song "Tits on the Radio". The band refused to produce a "clean" version of the album, and Babydaddy remarked that "We did have to slap a parental warning sticker on the disc, which is completely absurd. I think a kid listening to Eminem is getting a much more negative message than what we've been putting forward. We've only got one 'shit' and a few 'tits'!" The band have shown their dissatisfaction with the decision on a number of occasions. Shears is even heard in a Spanish live performance on the band's DVD saying, "Wal-Mart won't stock our album... well, ya know what? Fuck Wal-Mart!"
At Halloween 2004 they performed a special concert at Brixton Academy, where they asked all the audience to dress up, and they themselves performed dressed as the characters from The Rocky Horror Show.
Recording of the second album, Ta-Dah, commenced in mid-May 2005, at the Discoball; sneak previews of new songs were played at live performances, including "Everybody Wants the Same Thing", performed at the Live 8 concert, "Paul McCartney", "I Can't Decide", "Hybrid Man", "Forever Right Now" and "Hair Baby" (a title which refers to the phenomenon of tumours containing partially formed fetuses). Among the assumed pseudonyms used to play a series of secret shows to test this new material were "Bridget Jones' Diarrhea", "Portion Control" and "Megapussi".
The band fulfilled one of its dreams: Elton John collaborated with them on "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" (as pianist and co-writer). The song reached #1 in the UK on September 10, 2006 and remained in the top spot for four consecutive weeks. "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" also peaked a number one on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart and the Euro Hot 100. "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" became their biggest hit to date.
Elton John also contributed to the song "Intermission" on Ta-Dah and played piano on a demo of the song Bad Shit (that can be found on the Lights CDsingle).
The album was released on September 18, 2006 in the UK, and on September 26, 2006 in the USA. According to Shears, the album is a combination of sixties-era psychedelia, glam rock and disco.
In 2006, they acted as an opening act for Depeche Mode's Touring the Angel Tour. Their first gig in the UK for promotion of the second album took place at the KOKO Club, Camden, London, on August 31, 2006 and was filmed for MTV. 2006 performances at the Bowery Ballroom and Siren Music Festival in New York, and the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival have allowed for the band to showcase an array of songs taken from the new album. A free concert was given in Trafalgar square to 10,000 ballot winners on the September 16 in order to promote the Red charity.
The new album Ta-Dah leaked onto the Internet on September 10, 2006, five days before its release in the UK.
It reached number 1 in the UK Albums Chart in its first week of release, officially taking the top spot on Sunday, September 24, 2006, completing a historic first for the Scissor Sisters, a double consisting of a single and album at the top of the UK charts simultaneously.
The band has also been in the Latin America Top 40 Airplay. "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" is still charting and is so far their biggest hit to date in Latin America, reaching #23, charting mostly in South America, particularly Peru.
"Land of a Thousand Words" was released as the second single from the album, peaking at #19 in the UK. "She's My Man" was the third single released in February 2007, only peaking at #29 despite moderate airplay.
"Kiss You Off" was the fourth and final single released in May 2007 but failed to dent the Top 40, their first single since their debut Laura to do so. The "Kiss You Off" video centred around Ana Matronic in a futuristic beauty salon.
Night Work (2008–present)
At the end of the band's 2007 World Tour, the band confirmed that they would be taking some time off to work on their next album, which would later be announced as Night Work. On October 13 and 14, 2008, they premiered new material at secret gigs in New York City's Mercury Lounge under the assumed band names Queef Latina (on the 13th) and Debbie's Hairy (on the 14th). New songs included on the set list were "Television", "Who's Your Money", "Other Girls", "Major for You", "None of My Business", "Singularity", "Do The Strand", "Who's There", "Not the Loving Kind", "Taking Shape" (with Babydaddy on lead vocals), and "Uroboros". Shears later stated on the official Scissor Sisters website that there was a possibility that none of these songs would be on the album, as the band was less than satisfied with most of them. This was confirmed to be the case when the tracklist was revealed.
Drummer Paddy Boom was absent at these gigs and replacement drummer Randy "Real" Schrager introduced. On October 16, it was announced that Paddy Boom had amicably parted from the band. The Scissor Sisters also contributed a cover of the Roxy Music song "Do the Strand" to the 2009 compilation album War Child Presents Heroes.
Scissor Sisters spent much of 2008 and early 2009 in the recording studio. However, after working on new material for approximately 18 months, the band decided to shelve their third album. Shears explained: "In my heart I knew it wasn't right. I didn't really know what it was trying to say. It left me a little bit cold." On May 8, 2010, it was reported a record had been worked on but that the group had "shelved it about a year ago." Singer Jake Shears said: "If it wasn't something we could fully get behind and believe in, I think the band was going to be over."
The band returned to the studio and began work on new tracks in June 2009, which made it onto their replacement third album Night Work. Produced in collaboration with Stuart Price, Night Work was originally slated to be released in March 2010; the release was pushed back to June 28. The album, described as "supersexual and sleazy", was originally suggested by Shears to include the tracks "Hollywood Wives" and "Permanent Wave". However, when the album was officially announced, no songs by these titles were included. The first single was said to be "a really epic song that makes you feel really good".
"Invisible Light" has been described as "a magical song" by Ana Matronic in an update from the official Scissor Sisters website. In an update on the November 6, 2009, she talked about another song on the album, "Skin This Cat", which she wrote with Babydaddy.
The album, released on June 28, 2010, was preceded by the lead single "Fire With Fire" on June 20.
Content of music
The lyrics of their songs, largely written by Shears and Babydaddy, are known for their mixture of wit and tragedy. The songs on their debut album dealt with a number of subjects and issues in a variety of styles, from drug abuse within the gay community ("Return to Oz"), to Shears' deep platonic love for his best friend in real life, Mary ("Mary"). Mary died of a brain aneurysm in April 2006, news that devastated members of the band.
Their music can be generally described as a mixture of glam rock, disco, and alternative music. They appear to have been heavily influenced by Elton John (Elton John also played the piano on "I Don't Feel Like Dancing"). However, Shears has gone on record as not having been very familiar with John's work prior to the release of their record, although he's stated he's since become a big fan. The band echoes not only Elton John, but also ABBA, the Bee Gees, Blondie, KC and the Sunshine Band, Duran Duran ("the reason we got into music", as Ana says), Supertramp, Siouxsie and the Banshees (Ana said at the 2005 BRIT Awards that "she wouldn't be here without Siouxsie"), David Bowie, 1970s-era Kiss, Queen, Chic, Richard O'Brien and various other dance/disco, rock, and funk acts; they admit that their music is hard to categorise. During a public signing in Brisbane, Australia, Shears stated that The Beatles have been an influence for him, and that he is a huge fan of Paul McCartney and Wings.
Many of the Scissor Sisters' songs deal with themes in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community, echoing the fact that three of the band members, including the two who founded it, were gay. "Filthy/Gorgeous" for instance dealt with transsexual prostitutes whilst "Take Your Mama" dealt with the idea of coming out of the closet to family members. Despite this, the group refuses to consider itself to be a "gay band", with Jake Shears stating that "I don't believe sexuality really matters when it comes to music." In an interview featured on the We Are Scissor Sisters… And So Are You DVD, Jake states, "The fact that some of us are gay affects our music the same amount as it does that some of the members of Blondie are straight".
They were the opening act for Duran Duran's 2004 reunion tour and opened for U2 on some of their UK dates for the Vertigo Tour. They also supported Depeche Mode on some of their dates of Touring the Angel.