In case you didn’t know, Sateen is a band. The high glam, high femme duo hails from New York, which is where Queen Sateen and Exquisite craft dreamy dance tunes to get you out of your head and onto your feet. The band is now putting out a new EP, which takes their electric energy to a whole new level.
Although Sateen has already released a full-length album, their new self-titled EP is pushing their sounds and glamour into new territories. To celebrate the release of Sateen, which is available on all major digital distributors (including iTunes and Spotify), we talked to Sateen about music, glamour, DIY, and trans rights. Read on to learn more about the dragulous duo.
HelloGiggles: If Sateen were a person, who would she be?
Sateen: If Sateen were a person to our fans, we think she would definitely be a cool aunt. She is somebody who knows how to be serious, a disciplinarian, and an adult. Though, she is also always fun and someone we hope people welcome rather than dread. To us, Sateen is more of a spell that we cast on ourselves. When we conjure all the drag spirits and fabulous energy needed to be Sateen, we definitely transform. It is pure magic to us. In our opinions, all the hard work leading up to any Sateen appearance or performance yields a certain kind of energy and presence that we feel is unique and sorely needed in this world.
HG: Congrats on your new album coming out! Can you tell us a little bit about it? What can we expect?
Sateen: This six-song EP contains tracks we have been working on for a while. Everything was written, recorded, and produced by us. We are so proud of this album. Most of the tracks are high energy dance songs. They reflect the kind of music we love, which is female vocalist driven disco and house music. We are committed to making music that is fun, but also has deep meaning. A few of the songs’ lyrics attempt to challenge the listener to question certain cultural and societal norms. We think the record is really well-rounded and keeps you engaged throughout the entire EP.
HG: Why do you think music is an important form of self-expression?
Sateen: We love music as a medium of self-expression because it combines so many facets of creativity. In making the music itself, we are able to take poetry and combine it with melody. Then, through production, we fill that combination with texture and atmosphere. Once we have a complete song, we bring it to life by performing it in front of a live audience. At a performance, we are able to dress up in costumes that present ourselves as not just musicians, but also as living reflections of our personal, aesthetic style. While we could belabor the reasons why we love music, there is also an intangible, inexplicable feeling that we both share when we hear an amazing song or see an unbelievable performance.
HG: How has recording this album been different from your experiences with past work?
Sateen: Recording this album was not terribly different from our previous work; we are completely independent and do everything by ourselves. This has been a blessing, because we have total control of the end product; but also, it can be a burden. Still, having to forge ahead independently has taught us so much, and we feel like we are much stronger and wiser than we were, even just at the beginning of the year. Also, these songs are the first new material we have really developed since Exquisite came out as a trans woman last year. That revelation has so deeply impacted our band’s trajectory — it is difficult to overstate. Now that we are living our truth as two queer women, we have a definite sense of purpose that our previous work was lacking.
HG: How does glamour, beauty, and style play into your performances? Why do you think it’s important to incorporate these things?
Sateen: We definitely think the aesthetic side of our band is just as important as the music itself. Sateen arises out of the whole Brooklyn, indie rock scene of the late 2000s. We started doing drag as a reaction to the stale visual presentation of the bands that we were seeing at that time. They were wearing a lot of black, usually doing the jeans and a t-shirt kind of look.
As we evolved into a more feminine band, we began to champion our feminine take on glamour and beauty in a similarly reactionary way. It seems, to us, that women who primp themselves, wear makeup, etc. are often seen as less serious than their more de-sexualized or un-gendered counterparts. We have no problem with a woman, or any person, who does not want to wear makeup or dresses. But if a woman does wear typically femme clothing, has her hair done, or a full face of makeup on, she is quickly objectified in a sexual way. To us, this is just wrong. We hope that, by appearing in what can be perceived as a sexually provocative way, we are able to give visibility to queer and trans women who are clearly primping and dressing up for themselves; or moreover, for each other! We are most certainly not doing it for men or to be sensationalized.
HG: How would you describe your aesthetic?
Sateen: Honestly, our look now is just a more evolved version of the drag that we started doing years ago. We used to do more club kid-type looks, with crazy makeup and a very DIY feel to them. But we have really tried to refine things. We still do the styling and makeup ourselves, but we have gotten some help with our hair (thank Goddess!).
We have two literal angels helping us. One is Sean Michael Bennett, the genius behind all of Exquisite’s high ponytails, Miss Queen’s more crazy hair looks and, most notably, the hair extravaganza that graces the cover of our EP. The other hair guru who we call upon is the legendary Brooklyn drag queen Severely Mame. She is responsible for all of the vintage hairstyles that we have been donning more recently. As far as the styling, we have tried to hone in on a something a bit more in keeping with a showgirl, performative kind of look. But we are definitely still queens on a tight budget, so we get the majority of our costumes by going thrifting.
HG: You are both very vocal activists, especially around trans rights. How does this play into your music, and why is it so important to you?
Sateen: The issue of trans rights is definitely the centerpiece to our activism. It is something that we obviously can’t help but participate in, since Exquisite is trans herself. As we mentioned earlier, some of the songs on this record are about questioning the fallacy of societal constructs. This line of songwriting specifically pertains to Exquisite’s trans identity. That said, we did not want to be too overt about it because we still want the messages to be more universal. But being trans, and also being queer and femme, are inextricable from our identity as a band. We feel like there is a certain, watered-down, version of gayness that is acceptable to mass culture. We don’t feel like we fit into this, primarily because of being high femme lesbians in a cis/trans monogamous relationship.
We don’t feel like our relationship is well represented in pop culture, and therefore our visibility and honesty is necessary. We hope to serve as role models, not just for other high femme lesbians who are trans (Exquisite) or pansexual (Miss Queen), but for all kinds of people who have exceptional and unusual gender identities and sexualities. We want to serve as a beacon for these kinds of individuals, so that they know love and acceptance is possible and that they deserve it!
HG: What is the message you want Sateen to share with the world?
Sateen: Without sounding redundant, we just want people to know that, regardless of their gender identity or sexuality, everybody deserves to be loved. We want everybody to be able to dance, even if it’s by yourself in your room. Even if it feels like the world is against you, you are not alone. Every day, we are getting stronger and our numbers are growing. We are becoming more visible. We are getting louder. We don’t have to hide who we are anymore. So we hope that, if you are on the fence, you will jump over to the other side and join us!