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Queer Representation, Creative Authenticity, and Witchcraft: An Interview with Chicago's Drama Moth

Updated: May 19, 2021

From the minds of Michael Brandt, Elma Husetovic, and Arch Valentino, Drama Moth is a Chicago-based queer pop trio that mixes ‘magic, glitter, and depression’ has been steadily building momentum since their debut in 2018 and they refuse to back down. With a sound comparable to Grimes that combines spiritual influences with authentic expression, Drama Moth is constantly redefining artistic expectations. Now, Drama Moth is back and better than ever with the release of their new single “Speed Limit” on October 2nd.

Speed Limit is enirely self produced as it tells a story from the perspective of a confident, queer individual that exists in an industry where the queer narrative is frequently minimized and washed over. The lyrics are attitude packed and Drama Moth are not discreet about their refusal to be pushed aside. 'Speed Limit' serves as a reminder that Drama Moth is here to stay and that they’re only just beginning to push the limits with their work.

First off, I just wanted to thank you guys for taking the time to chat with us about your incredible new single, Speed Limit. You said the song is about being queer in the music industry, and how the industry often diminishes the queer narrative. Can you tell me a little bit more about the inspiration for the song?

"The original demo of Speed Limit came from Archie’s first attempt at writing a synth and bass line with a MIDI during a hypomanic episode. Th inspiration for the story behind Speed Limit is about embodying an electrifying persona and being celebratory of your power, in spite of characters who doubted that power before. It’s about being everything that no one expects of you, and being loud in a space that is dominated by voices who want to hush you out."

What a beautiful message, I think this song will speak to a lot of people who feel their voices and stories are being overlooked. Now, Let’s talk about your personal experiences being queer musicians, how does gender identity and sexuality, and societies perception of being queer, influence your music and overall ethos as creators and performers? 

"Our identities reflect onto everything we do. Every story we write is from a queer narrative. We always make it a priority to perform with and support other LGBT+ musicians."

It's really special to be able to embrace yourself completely and maintain that authentically, it's something that is often lacking in the music industry, and I think you guys set a really great example for other musicians. Creating art is a really vulnerable process because you’re giving part of yourself to the world allowing not only your art, but yourself as an individual to be criticized or judged, how do you maintain creative and personal authenticity as an artist? 

"We try not to care what other people will think and instead focus on how one another feels about the art we’re making. We try to make sure everyone is on the same page with our sounds and aesthetics so that we can create something authentic to us rather than creating something to please someone else."

Well you guys are really doing a great job of that, I think your music really gives people a strong sense of who you are. You have a really unique sound and visual element that's captured both in your personal styles and your cover art. Who or what has inspired your sound and persona as creators? 

"From the moment we all met, Grimes’ sound, looks, and production has had a huge influence on our work. We also take a lot of inspiration from more macabre areas of art, and we definitely are heavily influenced by nature."

I also noticed themes relating to witchcraft and other supernatural practices like tarot are prevalent in the visual and lyrical aspect of your music, can you tell me a little bit more about the significance of that? 

"We’re very loud about the fact that we are witches. Every detail of work is ritualistic to us and incorporating our craft into our work is important to us. The three of us complete the earth sign triangle - Michael is a Virgo, Elma is a Capricorn, and Archie is a Taurus. We follow lunar calendar dates with our releases, hide spellwork in songs, and embrace the occult and all things mysterious."

I love that! I'm a Leo and a deeply spiritual person and I love seeing spirituality represented in music because music connects us all to each other in such big way and we all need to recognize that power that comes with producing and writing music and handle that with social and moral responsibility. Speaking of that, you write and produce all of your music independently, can you tell me a little bit about what that process is like and why you’ve decided to maintain your independence as artists? 

"We are control freaks, and we always have very specific visions for what a song should sound like, and that’s mainly why we don’t work with anyone else. As for the production process it generally starts with one person sending a short demo to the group and then we all add our own bits and pieces. Sometimes one person will produce a lot more on one song and not as much on another it really depends on who comes up with something the fastest."

I really appreciate your vision and I think you guys have done a great job creating music and art that is special. In regards to The music industry, in my opinion, has a lot of work to do especially in terms of representation and diversity. What changes need to be made in order to better support queer musicians? 

"Change with representation and diversity in the industry starts with the individual. People need to start evaluating the art, music, and media they are consuming and take note of who it is dominated by. Are you listening to music made by mostly white, cisgender, straight men? We all know that’s not the only group of people that makes good art. We want to encourage people to step out of their comfort zone, and explore art outside the realm of what is spoon fed to us. Listen to more queer artists, more artists of color, more trans+ artists, more independent artists. They’re all out there and they’re all incredibly talented at what they do."

You guys summarized that perfectly, I don't think people truly think about the implications of the art and media we consume and how it shapes our perception of art and society as a whole. Thats why I think its so important to handle music with that moral responsibility whether your consuming or producing it. I wanted to ask one more question before we finish up, I know the world has felt pretty dark lately, how have you managed to find inspiration and stay motivated to create art throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and the social and political insurrection happening around the country? 

"We’ve definitely slowed down a bit, but not much has changed in the way we work since we've been working long distance for a while anyway. It was difficult at first to stay motivated because we had a couple shows get cancelled that we were looking forward to, but we always keep each other in check and make sure we get back to work."

Keep up with Drama Moth on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and listen at Spotify and Youtube.

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