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Chicks on Speed

Written by Carrie Fellner on July 7, 2009

“We do a lot of things most people would be ashamed of all the time,” admits Melissa Hogan, lead singer of female outfit ‘Chicks on Speed’ “But shame is not in my terminology ever since I humped a car in the pouring rain for our film Visitors… I mean traffic stopped, you do not stop traffic in NYC. Ever.”

In a scene where bands tend to take themselves a little too seriously, Chicks on Speed are a much-needed breath – or shall we say gust – of fresh air. In fact, the band found its humble roots as a joke act; parodying other bands by carting around their own smorgasbord of fake merchandise (including a t-shirt, cassette tape and paper record).

In 2009 they are producing eccentric, irresistibly catchy dance tunes that land somewhere between The Teenagers, CSS and The Prodigy…on speed.

“We think it is a healthy strategy to exaggerate or say the unusual and then before you know it, it becomes common place. Culture must move ahead,“ says lead singer Melissa.

Chicks on Speed have just released their fifth album, Cutting the Edge. Having shared the stage with flamboyant contemporaries Peaches and Le Tigre they see themselves as a ‘musical collective’ and this album was no different:

“It was great working with Douglas Gordon, because, being an art star, he reminded us of pop pleasures. The instant feed back, the delivering of a show in the moment,”

In the meantime Chicks on Speed have been on an amphetamine-fuelled frenzy of activity. As well as running their own record label, Chicks on Speed Records, they set up art exhibitions, design clothes, and have written a book.
If that hasn’t blown your experimental radar they have even created their own kooky set of instruments, ‘Objekt Instruments’, including a high-heeled shoe guitar. I asked Melissa where such a bizarre idea came from?

“For a while we took a guitar, just to play it in ‘we don’t play guitars’ that was fun, but too ironic to last too long. Then we took our miked up cigar box and the sewing machine more seriously. This lead on to more and more.”

Despite the band’s do-it-yourself style, they don’t limit themselves to a niche audience and are open to releases on major record labels:

“We licence all the time, to films or commercials or anything, we don’t say no. Our first job is as artists and the purpose is for music to be heard. We like the music to be used in other people’s work, we embrace being part of the world we live in, though we are not satisfied with a lot of things.”

With such a gargantuan workload, perhaps the band’s moniker is more fitting than I originally thought?

“Sometimes the brain does hurt, but it is the kind of pleasurable pain of a good hard run.

“What is important is that the projects bleed into each other. The fashion is the art, the museum is the celebration of live art, the contemporary, pop becomes activism and the Girl Monsters invade the ivory tower of theory with a street edge and humour,” smiles Melissa.

Of course, she admits, it’s early days yet.
’”We still really want to build a building, of course this would require being on to one project for a few years intensively, so perhaps for that we have to wait until some of the speed wears off.”

Photo By Matti Hillig

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