May 14th, 2009 | Interviews

christine hale

Download: The Polyamorous Affair “Eastern”


(from Bolshevik Disco out this summer on Manimal Vinyl)

The Polyamorous Affair make bolshevik disco-pop in a mossy compound in Los Feliz and emerge only to teach kindergarten, play shows or get snowed on. They have an album due on Manimal and co-founder Eddie Chacon used to be in a band with Cliff Burton. This interview by Dan Collins.

It’s nice to interview people at 8:30 PM and not AM! Are you guys night owls? You’re probably jetlagged from your tour of England.
Eddie Chacon (production/vocals): We’re definitely jetlagged, man!
Sissy Sainte-Marie (vocals): And I think I caught swine flu today, too.
Did you eat some infected swine? Or get it from the air blowing around airports?
Sissy: I think I just got it from the 24-hour news.
There’s a rumor going round that you are married.
Eddie: It’s actually amazing being in a band with your wife because we just work on it 24/7. We don’t really have to go to a rehearsal space. Even though we try to take a break from it, it’s almost impossible. We always somehow wind up coming back to what we’re trying to achieve with the band.
Sissy: And we can always work in the studio. It’s right here at our fingertips, at any moment when we get inspired. We don’t have to wait for other band members show up or not show up.
When you guys play live, though, do you have people backing you?
Sissy: We have a DJ and a live visualist.
Eddie: De Ja Francois is the DJ and Mr. Cocoon is the visual artist.
You guys are very visual! I love the video for ‘Babayaga.’ It’s really witchy and disturbing. Sissy was doing such a creepy dance! Do you have a background in dance?
Sissy: No, not at all. This really great choreographer named Dola Baroni—she choreographed that for me. She was very patient. She was a very good teacher, because I have no rhythm—no coordination. And I had to do that dance in 33 degree weather, and I was wearing close to nothing in the middle of the night, and I had to replicate the dance three times perfectly to get the triplicate shot. And I think I had to do it about a hundred times.
Eddie: And then it started snowing! It was in the Angeles Crest Forest, and then it turned out to be the coldest day of winter. We totally got rained out, and it was a low-budget video, and that was like a really big deal.
Sissy: We had to schedule a second night, but it turned out great! All’s well that ends well.
Who wrote that song?
Eddie: Everything we do is 50/50. We work around the house and toss ideas around. Often things come together by osmosis. I’ll be in the studio, and Sissy will be in another room, and she’ll come in and throw something down. We’ll just get inspired by each other.
Sissy: I was inspired by the Grimm fairytale ‘Hansel and Gretel.’ In Russian, ‘babayaga’ means ‘witch.’ I liked the way that word sounded in that song. Lovers go on vacation, and they were living a life of decadence, and I think they both died. And the ghost of the little girl doesn’t know that she’s dead, and she thinks that she’s still alive and he’s dead.
The same thing happened to me! How did you guys decide to make this kind of music?
Eddie: The initial brainstorming happened when we were staying in Denmark a couple years ago with some friends of mine. At the time, we were really getting into John Lennon and Yoko Ono and reading about David and Angie Bowie, and we were getting into the mixed media idea—of how Yoko Ono brought this whole different artistic direction to John Lennon when they got together because she was already sort of a famous underground artist.
Sissy: We were inspired by this book called Still Lovers about people and their Real Dolls. We originally wanted to make a doll the artist. But they’re really expensive! When we first started performing live, and I was so nervous and stiff, so many people would tell me, ‘Aw, you’re just like a little doll on stage!’ I can be this icy robot puppet vampire love doll. Like a replicant from Blade Runner.
What was your career before you guys met?
Sissy: I was a school teacher, and I still am. I was teaching third grade, and now I just substitute—so it’s a different grade every day. Today I taught kinder.
There was a band in L.A. called Third Grade Teacher, where the singer really was a third grade teacher. So you’re not the only one.
Sissy: No, no! We all have our double lives, I guess.
I feel like in 1975 or something, or even ten years ago, somebody could have a career and be sort of a middle-class musician. Not everybody was rich, but some people could do okay. Now either you’re totally rich or you have a day job. Is this something new?
Eddie: I absolutely think this is something new, but there’s also something great that comes from it—that you don’t really need a big fat record company anymore to reach the public. You can put out your own material and distribute yourself.
Are you saying that Manimal Records isn’t a big fat record company?
Sissy: Ha ha—they’re well on their way!
Eddie, your career has been wildly eclectic. You started off in a metal band with Mike Borden from Faith No More and Cliff Burton, then you worked with 2 Live Crew, then had sort of a soul band in the early nineties with Charles & Eddie, then worked behind the scenes with acts like the Neville Brothers. And now you’re doing this. It kind of boggles the mind!
Sissy: His talents know no end.
Eddie: I just do music. It sounds kind of trivial, but I just have a passion for music and just continue doing it no matter what. I just kind of follow whatever I’m obsessed and into at the time.
What do you think Cliff Burton would say if he could see the Polyamorous Affair?
Eddie: We’re doing a sort of electronic disco thing, so he probably would want to beat me up.
Have you ever considered going back and sampling your own back catalogue since you have the rights to it?
Eddie: You know, I haven’t! Paul, the owner of Manimal, was asking me if I’d be interested in doing a version of ‘Would I Lie to You’ with Alexandra Hope. That was the first that I’d really thought of that. A few years ago, a friend of mine was making an indie film, and he wanted to use seven of my songs, but at that time I was a Universal Music Publishing songwriter. And I couldn’t even let my best friend use seven of my songs for his movie, and I thought that was very frustrating! In the olden days you were kind of a corporate entity, and you didn’t even really own yourself—and now you might be like more of a mom-and-pop business where you’re kind of a smaller entity, but at least you own the rights to yourself and everything you’re doing—which gives you a lot more freedom in the long run.
You have a song called ‘Whoever Controls the Groove Controls the World.’ Is the inverse true? Does the Skull and Bones fraternity at Yale have a lot of groove?
Eddie: Ha ha—no, it’s about Clear Channel!
They have the groove when it comes to billboards.
Eddie: My God—we were just in England, and we were meeting with a PR company, and she was talking about Clear Channel owning everything over there, and I was like ‘My God, I had no idea it was a worldwide thing.’
Speaking of which, Eddie, I wanted to ask you about Scientology! You dabbled in it eight or nine years ago—do you have any deep dark secrets that could get L.A. RECORD in trouble?
Eddie: I didn’t get to the point where I found out about the space ship! I was actually studying with a legendary acting coach—Milton Katselas—who has since passed on. He taught a lot of really big movie stars, and there were a lot of Scientologists in that class—like Giovanni Ribisi and Jenna Elfman—and I just got to be friends with them. And I was like, ‘What the hell, I’ll take a couple of introductory courses and see what it’s about.’ But like with all religion, what you get for free is the essence of what it’s really all about.
Was there a part of you that was like ‘Isaac Hayes is in this religion!’?
Eddie: That was probably the coolest thing about taking my two little introductory courses! I was just coming down from the fourth floor of the little celebrity tower and the elevator door opened, and he was in the elevator, and I walked in and I got to have a little chat with him! He’s been my hero ever since I was a little boy. I went to see him at the Circle Star Theater as a child when he was Black Moses, wearing the full-on gold chain vest!
Don’t you guys have a song that’s all heroic quotes about stars and circles and space time?
Eddie: ‘Like Animal.’ The wormhole video.
Sissy: That’s just a dialogue for the video—that’s not in the song.
Eddie: We always make fun of each other that we’re a bit like Grey Gardens, because we live in a compound in Los Feliz hills, and we really just work in a bubble. We were kind of making fun of that when we made the ‘Like Animal’ video.
Sissy: Crazy hermits living in a state of decay!