Few people have coined a term. Even fewer have created a performance genre. And yet even fewer than that have done the first two then gone on to headline the Legendary Art Car Ball here in Houston. To my knowledge, there is only one: Boyfriend.
This weekend is the 32nd Annual Houston Art Car Parade, which (if you don’t already know) is the largest art car parade in the world. That’s right. Last month, largest rodeo in the world. This month, largest art car parade. Bless your heart, Houston.
As in years past, the Legendary Art Car Ball will take place the night before the parade at City Hall and will feature a wide range of food, drink, entertainment, people in costumes, and of course, art cars. Topping the lineup for entertainment this year at Houston’s weirdest ball of them all is a musical performance artist from New Orleans who voiced “rap cabaret” into existence. Clad in curlers and vintage lingerie, Boyfriend will take the stage Friday night stocked full of her rhymes while rapping about sex, gender, identity and art.
Ahead of the performance, Boyfriend was kind enough to have a chat with Byline Houston.
Byline Houston: Most of the art car creators in this year’s parade are not classically trained artists, but that did not stop them from finding an outlet for expression. If musical storytelling wasn’t an option, what do you think your outlet for expression would be?
Boyfriend: I love this question! I’m not trained either and I’m fascinated with the intersection of craft and creation, skill and play. We all have creative, playful, expressive abilities, but they’re often stunted by our fears of inadequacy in the realm of skill, mastery, craft. To me it’s the playful dance between craft and inspiration that is really the goal — technical precision used on behalf of inspiration/expression. Pardon my rambling… ahem. To answer your question: I want to be a playwright! This entire music career is a scheme so I can retire at 60 and write plays! Hahaha
Byline Houston: What were your strongest influences in designing, choreographing and costuming such a detailed, high-energy live show? Was there a particular performance that you witnessed that stirred up the ideas?
Boyfriend: Well I’ve already given myself away a bit, but the theater is my biggest inspiration. I was a show choir kid — Thespian Society President two years in a row, mind you — and those adolescent days still serve me. So the aesthetics I’m drawn to — 1940s and ’50s soundstage musicals, the boudoir, Elizabeth Taylor, etcetera — conjure up a time in women’s history where it’s easier to recognize the inequality.
Byline Houston: Between music, choreography, costuming, staging and rehearsal, what is the most difficult part of developing your live show? What part do you love the most?
Boyfriend: I think the most difficult part is striking a balance between a fun, vibrant show and the statement. It needs to be art. It needs to be a party. So what are we saying in our bras? What are we saying with these brooms? Actually, this part is also the part I love the most.
Byline Houston: Are there any plans to tour your musical, Hag., in the future?
Byline Houston: How often do your fans write you in search of relationship advice or advice for the bedroom?
Boyfriend: Haha. We definitely get deep, but most often at the merch table — maybe folks don’t want a paper trail.
Byline Houston: Prior to moving to New Orleans, had you begun developing the idea of Boyfriend or considering an interest in performance art? If any, what role did New Orleans play in the creation and development of Boyfriend?
Boyfriend: I had already started writing while living in Los Angeles, but New Orleans helped me because, back then, and compared to LA, it was such an easier lifestyle. Crosstown in 20 mins! $300 rent! Folks were and are just more invested in expression too — and not as a livelihood but for joy. You have lawyers and veterinarians with hot glue guns creating dance routines! So it felt less scary to go make a music video. I was putting myself out there, sure, but so is half the city every Mardi Gras… Something about that playfulness lowers the stakes and makes it feel safe to create. The tricky part is holding onto that once it becomes your hustle!
Byline Houston: Will we see a new full album release before year’s end?
Boyfriend: Not in 2019… ahem, but soon. I’ll just say, Boyfriend for President 2020!
The legendary Houston Art Car Parade throws down this weekend. You can find more information about the wacky and whimsical motorized affair here.