Ficshe casts a spotlight on the Twin Cities' dark music scene
The Twin Cities has a thriving dark music scene. There are local industrial, metal, goth, electronic, and darkwave bands with devoted followings. Ground Zero is where you'll often find them. But this scene has too much boundless creative energy to be contained.
The Twin Cities' darksider scene goes back to the '80s, when a band called Morticia was making headlines in Europe and filling local clubs with its devoted following and smoke from the blazing (literally!) drum kit. Many of those musicians are still around today, like Matt Batchelor, the band's drummer and pyrotechnician, who plays with a band called Vicious Violet.
Venus DeMars is one of the scene's "godmothers." An imposing figure to behold but a kind and generous spirit, both artistically and personally, she has brought the decadence of glam metal into theater and art spaces (I first saw All the Pretty Horses at an art opening at Rosalux Gallery). As a trans woman, she has also brought the issue of gender with her, and as a result, the local darksider scene has proved a fecund ground for female artists who bring a rare beauty to the Twin Cities music scene and create a social space for people who want something deeper out of life than what pop culture generally provides.
Courie Bishop is one such artist. As Ficshe [pronounced fik-she], she mixes goth, darkwave, glitch, ambient, and New Wave into a synthesis of electronic composition, adding emotionally intense and, yes, Gothic themes (her stage name is taken from the library call number of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein--FIC SHE) to her vocal arrangements. She organized this upcoming show, reaching out to fellow frontwomen DeMars and Tabatha Predovich, the statuesque redhead and mistress of ceremonies for UZZA, an atmospheric rock band that combines driving rhythms with deeply spiritual themes. In a recent interview, Bishop spoke at length about the role dark music has played in her life, and about her hopes for a darksider Renaissance in the Twin Cities music scene.
Gimme Noise: How would you describe the music in this upcoming show?
Courie Bishop: It ranges from industrial to rock and roll to new wave to electronica to dance music, but the string that holds them all together is darkwave. It's more self-aware, and the sound is going to be a lot more lush and intricate, and the energy of the bands is going to be different.
How were you drawn to this type of music?
In the mid-80's, I shared a bedroom with my older sister, who listened to the Cure, Depeche Mode, the Dead Milkmen, Suicidal Tendencies, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. The first tape I ever bought was the Fascination Street album by the Cure, and the first record I ever bought was Would I Lie To You by the Eurythmics. So I was surrounded by it at an early age. And I really appreciated the men in the synthpop movement, because they were making songs that you didn't hear men make before. There's Cherry Pie by Warrant or there's Plainsong by the Cure, and they're very different aspects of men, and I think in the 80's you could take that turn--to be more artistic, more emotional, more androgynous, and not stick so closely to those to those boxes that were pretty prevalent in mainstream pop music. And the lyrics are amazing--the lyrics and the synth sounds. It's dance music, like New Order, and there's an energy to it, but the synth makes it beautiful and emotional and the lyrics are intelligent.
How did you discover that you wanted to make that kind of music, or any kind of music, for yourself?
Becoming a musician has been a lifelong journey. It's taken a long series of exposures to stuff I was afraid of, like performance and singing in talent shows. It's something I've carried with me my whole life--that urge to be a singer and to express myself vocally. So when I was a teenager, in the mid-90's, I was hanging out with a lot of riot grrls, and I learned how to play guitar and drums and I was in a couple of fun punk bands. When I was older, more introspective, with more life experience, the music became more poetic. I was writing songs about my life. And then I felt like I was actually accomplishing something--not only was I writing songs, but I felt something changing inside me that made me stronger. As far as what I take from my influences, it's that personal space. The music I love has always made me feel as though I'm going into the world in which it was made. Kate Bush's Hounds of Love is a perfect example of going into another world where you feel perfectly at home and you're curious about every turn.
You do something that's quite different than what people hear on the radio--something that's more experimental than it is pop. If someone is going to see this show, what frame of mind should they be in and how do you, as an artist, create that space?
It's like social introversion--being in a space where you can share your private experience with people around you. It's easier, in a group of people, to realize your uniqueness in that group and to see what traps you and what touches you. There are shows you will never forget. You might go in with a group of friends, but the effect it's going to have on you is going to be yours and yours alone. By allowing yourself to have a reaction and seeing where it takes you, you gain something more than just a nice beer buzz. And with this show that's coming up, there are a lot of people who have put a lot of themselves and their lives into what they're doing. There aren't going to be a lot of down points--it's going to be a big party. But you can have your revelatory, beautiful experiences and your happiness, even clad in all black. I've been to lots of boring shows, where the beer is better than the band. That's not this show.
How did you put this show together, and how does it fit in with your vision of yourself and of this music?
It's my Twin Cities Dream Girls show. Venus DeMars is going to be doing her electric set. The first time I ever saw her, I was seventeen years old. She's been a part of my musical history, my knowledge of what it is to be a darksider/darkwaver/goth in the Twin Cities since I became one. And Tabatha is a force to be reckoned with--she's beautiful and amazing and intelligent and kind. And Venus is sweet. And for as amazing as she is on stage, she's even more awesome in person. To be able to work on a project like that is gratifying in a way that's beyond playing a show and getting a couple beer tickets. It's about making sure that you support the other artists who are doing things from the same intent you are and being able to celebrate the individuality of the music. I wanted something unique that showcases the talent that surrounds me. I love having an impetus for a show, like I did for this one, and I wanted to play with Venus and Tabatha, and I wanted to see as|of, who formed within the last year or so. I try to book shows with bands I really like and that don't fall into the same category, per se--so there's industrial and goth and rock and New Wave. It's across the spectrum but all from the same community--we all play Ground Zero, we all have ties in local communities, be it local or spiritual or whatever, that bring us together and give us commonality, but we all have respect for the individual differences between us. We don't all sound the same. We don't all look the same. But we are all doing the same thing. I think this will be my favorite show of my musical career thus far. It's great to come together with people and share their energy. We need to do more shows like this. Shows can be life-changing for people.
There's a lot of passion and energy in this show that's focused on local female artists. What would you like to see come out of this show in terms of female artists in this style of music in the Twin Cities?
Remember the show on the boat during Art-a-Whirl? That's what I want to see happen. I want to take this stuff out of night clubs and make it big, and bring art and theater into it and make it an all-encompassing experience where people are totally transported into a musical landscape that has been created for them by the blood, sweat, and tears of the artist. I guarantee I will be playing more shows with Venus and Tabatha and as|of. I also hope that we can get bands like this to play better venues with longer set times, to be more prevalent in the scene, taking up the space we already occupy but with more people involved.
In a few words, why is this show a not-to-miss?
Because you've got one of the sexiest, curviest girls followed by the tallest, most imposing women you've ever seen. Because a lot of times I'll walk into a room with a suitcase and people will think I'm someone's girlfriend. They have no idea I'm a musician until I walk offstage. But this is not about excluding men by any means, because the opening band is all guys, and they support what we're doing. It's also about different styles--like different acts of a beautiful, schizophrenic play. And Wild Tymes is an awesome space--they have really great food and the bartenders are awesome. It's going to be a great night.
DEMO (Diverse Emerging Music Organization) presents: As/Of , Ficshe, UZZA, and Venus DeMars on Saturday, July 30, at the Wild Tymes. 18+. $5 donation.
Photo by Fairshadow Photography
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.