Campy, 1940s-inspired trio The Puppini Sisters has rocked practically every gay bar in England at this point – and with a new album out this week, the girls have embarked on an international tour for gays everywhere!
Debuting in 2005 with old-timer tracks such as "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," Marcella, Stephanie and Kate soon took their Andrews Sisters-esque musical act to new levels of fun with covers of Kate Bush’s "Wuthering Heights," Gloria Gaynor’s "I Will Survive" and even Beyonce’s "Crazy in Love." Seriously.
If you’d like an idea of what seeing the girls live is actually like, check out their label’s montage of Puppini Sisters performances. And now to the Q&A!
So I know you guys are performing at Splash tonight, but doing gay bars isn’t exactly new to you, right?
Marcella (M), Stephanie (S) and Kate (K): No! –laughs-
S: Not exactly. We’ve done so many gigs at gay bars for kind of the older gay guys, and we also did a gig at G-A-Y. It’s quite amazing. …
When we were starting out, you know musicians sometimes get residencies for a period of a few months? Well, our typical Monday night was going to this gay pole-dancing club and setting up at about 7 and waiting until about 11.
Oh, yeah – no one would be there at 7.
K: And every single time we would go on stage, we’d get the bitchy, Hm?
We were so new then; we weren’t so known in London.
How is performing for a gay audience compared to performing for a straight one?
K: Brilliant! The day we did the cover of Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights,” it was this amazing club night called Duckie. The crowd – it’s impossible to describe – first of all they knew all the moves ‘cause we lifted it from Kate Bush. –laughs-
It was quite a small place, but it was packed and sweaty and grimy and brilliant, and they screamed to high-heaven!
S: We still perform that ‘cause we can’t get enough of it.
What would you say about your shows appeals to the gays so much?
K: It might be a little bit campy – just a little bit.
M: We just don’t – well, we take it seriously – but we have fun … and maybe that tranny-ish look.
What track on your new album would you call the big guns for your gay club shows?
M: “Crazy In Love” – that’s getting a lot of attention – but also “Walk Like an Egyptian,” especially when we do it live, because we have the stupid moves.
K: But some of the originals as well. Steph wrote a song called “Soho Nights,” based on London’s Soho – which is gay as gay can be.
S: It’s kind of like my experience with going out with a very good friend of mine for two years of my life, and then he completely like – ditched me.
Oh, a gay guy ditched you?
S: A gay guy. And we had so much fun, and he opened my eyes to a lot of stuff. We went to a couple of clubs every Monday – Heaven and G-A-Y all the time – I was just this absolute fag hag! Like…ridiculous. I don’t know; it’s a song about the great times of Soho, but also that kind of guy – that kind of gay guy who is quite fickle and will look for his new best friend, his new girl best friend.
M: It’s kind of a bit sad.
K: But also kind of trashy and a bit…dark.
So he found a new fag hag?
S: Well, yeah – he got a new fag hag. I mean, I could not be replaced –laughs- but he found someone else. But we had our good times, and it was good while it lasted and that’s what the song is about.
How long ago was that?
S: That was, what? Five or six years ago…God, that is weird!
Puppini Sisters Perform "Wuthering Heights"
So, there are more original tracks on this album than on your debut?
K: We didn’t write any for the first; we just arranged them.
M: We’ve created lots of other things, lots of different influences: the tango feel – it’s a bit wonky. Even the band sort of … loosened up a little bit. We play a lot more of our own instruments as well.
What instruments do you like to play on stage?
M: I play the accordion, Steph plays the violin and Kate plays the melodica and the toy piano. We’re a bit like the orchestra in Some Like It Hot.
So your style is so great. How would you describe it?
S: Heavily-influenced by gay.
M: Obviously, it’s got more than a wink and a nod to the vintage 1940s, but it’s contemporary.
Yeah, that’s kind of in right now.
M: Exactly! In England, we did play our parts in making it quite popular.
So what are the gay influences?
S: Glitter! Glitter!
M: I used to work at Madame Jojo’s, a transvestite club; I used to work behind the bar, but I used to go into the drag queens’ room and get them to teach me how to do their makeup.
K: The eye makeup is amazing!
M: And back then, I used to have these big flames of red glitter like a mask. They did it for me the first time, and then I learned how to do it.
S: We like more-is-more. We like make up. We really like make up. I love make up.
So speaking of which – tell me about the title of your album [The Rise and Fall of Ruby Woo].
S: It’s a nod to our favorite lipstick.
M: Because Ruby Woo is the lipstick of women that are outside of the norm , especially in England; it’s all the burlesque performers and the alternative who would wear that. But it’s kind of a quite famous shade – even Dita von Teese wears it … and probably Marilyn Manson, even.
What about The Rise and Fall part?
M: It can be charted through the album really…
K: There’s some really sh*t stuff at the end! –laughs-
M: No, it starts with all the happy moments like “Walk Like an Egyptian,” “Soho Nights” kind of gets bittersweet, then it goes through “I Can’t Believe I’m Not a Millionaire,” and “Jilted” … and then it closes with “We Have All the Time in the World,” meaning it’s time to rise again.
K: Ruby Woo kind of personifies the woman who’s unafraid to be kind of different and be flamboyant and stand up for herself. And there are pits and troughs in life, and that’s kind of all it was really.
So how would you say the UK gays are different from the US gays?
M: The scene’s very similar – not that we’ve seen that much of the American scene.
S: We had a bad experience with a gay guy here; it was our first night in New York. He was a right -
K: Well, he did bitchy quite well.
S: We were trying to get into this really tiny, Thai restaurant, and you know they have that little booth outside the real doorway? OK. It was freezing, I was like, ‘I’m so cold. I’m not standing outside.’ And this guy comes out with his furs and his sunglasses and his boots, and he’s being really over-the-top about trying to get through the doorway.
And as a joke, kind of just making light of the situation, I said, ‘I wish I could just shrink; it would be so much easier,’ and he was like, ‘Oh, don’t we all.’
K: So I called him a twat.
M: Oh, I thought he did that bitchy thing quite well. That guy at MAC did bitchy really well! –laughs- OK, we went to get some supplies – like Ruby Woo and the like – we weren’t dressed up or anything … on that particular day.
Then we started saying to the guy, ‘I’m using this for the stage.’ So he felt compelled, ‘Are you in a show?’ And we said no, we’re in a band; I gave him our card, and I said we’re playing Splash on Monday and he went, ‘Mhm.’
K: I said, ‘Do you know Splash?’ and he said –in an American accent, frowning– ‘I know Splash.’
M: …put the card down, didn’t even look at it! Again, I quite like that. –laughs-
S: The thing is, it’s so bad it’s amusing.
M: Again, the bitchy gay guys in England are just as bad. I went to fashion school, and every single one of them was like that.
So which one of you is the campiest?
-Marcella and Kate both point to Stephanie-
Are you the gays’ favorite?
S: I don’t know what it is; I think my training with that guy influenced it. I just love that whole world of just being outrageous and loving it … and being glamorous and being absolutely shameless about it, really. It’s just so much fun; it’s such a funny world. When we’re on stage, I love it.
L: You’ve got to come and see us live with the boys: Three boys, they come everywhere with us; they play drums bass and guitar, and they dress in, like, swanky suits.
K: Yes, they are.
M: The gay boys love them.
K: They’re really campy. They don’t realize it, but they’re really campy.
I’m guessing they don’t mind the attention.
K: Well, they had to get used to it; they’re very straight, middle-class boys. They’re really straight.
S: We’ve come so far with them; now they don’t bat an eye.
M: They used to get really flustered.
S: Now they’re like, ‘Oh, not as good as the last one.’