A little over three years ago in New York City, a young vocalist and electronic music producer from Mentone, Alabama named Tyler Stone put together the sci-fi, electro-rock-orgy, five-piece Liquid Blonde as if he were assembling a hit squad of vicious, hyper-sexual, leather-clad cyborg vampire bounty hunters from the future. The band’s natural aesthetic, as Stone often puts it, is a mix between White Zombie and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome with a splash of Hellraiser and some Rocky Horror Picture Show thrown in for good measure. Lines are only partially blurred between the members’ day-to-day existence and their larger-than-life nighttime personae. Stone can be found DJing at The Pyramid Club, or sometimes behind its infamous bar, a stage on which Madonna used to dance for cash before making it big, where RuPaul learned how to work!, and where both Nirvana and The Red Hot Chili Peppers played their first New York City gigs.
The history of the establishment isn’t lost on Stone, a born entertainer who is witty, playfully bitchy, and delightfully generous with his dry, yet breezy Southern charm. He’s also fiercely protective of his fellow band mates, particularly Brianna O’Hara, Liquid Blonde’s bass-playing goddess and the owner of Salon #15, a plush Victorian hair salon on Clinton Street that’s a magnet for downtown rock stars and cool local celebrities. David Barton, the tanned and impossibly ripped owner of the high-end lifestyle gym resorts of the same name, is the band’s loyal drummer. Barton not only keeps pace with Stone’s equally swollen out of the box Industrial beats, but also fills in the gaps with his own unique off-kilter flourishes. Kiss, the band’s internal DJ and multi-instrumentalist, is a custom jewelry and accessory designer for Calvin Klein. Rounding out the group is the band’s guitarist, Noah Kaplan, a successful studio player who hopes to one day parlay his growing accessibility to some of The City’s biggest personalities into an irreverent nighttime talk show hosting gig.
On Sunday, July 27, at the Highline Ballroom, Liquid Blonde will headline the Mike Madrigal-produced “Planet Rox,” a showcase of some great bands that are exploding out a New York City underground, a scene that’s long since bubbled over to the surface without losing its shock value or street-cred. Joining Stone and his band of misfits will be HRT BRK, Sand Flower, Elliot Has Powers, Coley & Prince Malik, and more. Ego and rock-star braggadocio will be flowing in spades as Madrigal often creates a bit a friendly competition amongst his chosen performers. Stone, who more than once has had to cough up some out of pocket money due to his penchant for slamming the microphone post show à la Chris Rock, sets the “swagometer” to 11 and takes absolutely no prisoners. It seems like after three years, Liquid Blonde has finally settled on its minimal, yet ideal, lineup and is finally hitting its studded punk rock, sex-cheetah stride. Expect an EP to follow shortly behind their latest monster single, ” (Give Me My) Headphones.”
We caught up with O’Hara and Stone sometime around midnight outside of their rehearsal space on 30th and 8th, in that shady and somewhat awkward part of town between Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen. The interview was conducted in the back seat of a cab en route to scoop up their band mate Kiss in front of The DL, before making its way to Susanne Bartsch’s fabulous Saturday night “Kunst Party” at Verboten in Williamsburg.
KURT MCVEY: The thing I find most interesting about your band is its overall ambiguous nature. The sound is hard to pin down. The various lifestyle choices of each member remain an ongoing mystery. The whole thing is up for grabs. No one is putting Liquid Blonde in a box.
TYLER STONE: It’s definitely difficult to dumb down who and what we are. We’re a lot of everything and also nothing. We’re always looking to say or do what others are afraid to say or do. I come from country western and horror movies and sci-fi soundtracks, and then I moved to New York and it’s all about punk rock, dance music, and the scene. I want to combine all these things without it being too overwhelming.
BRIANNA O’HARA: I come from a melodic and classical background primarily, but now I just want to create music that makes you want to fight, fuck, and drink.
MCVEY: [laughs] People can expect all that and more at a Liquid Blonde show.
O’HARA: Two out of three, guaranteed or your money back.
STONE: Bring your own lube and fire.
MCVEY: Tell me about the shows where you opened for Phillip Glass.
STONE: We played with him twice. The first time was with Laurie Anderson.
O’HARA: When I met her, I peed my pants.
STONE: I thought you creamed your pants.
O’HARA: It was probably both. [laughs] Just sound-checking on stage with her was an honor.
STONE: Phillip Glass has a special place in my heart because he did the Candyman soundtrack. He plays his 20-minute loop on piano over a video projection and it looks like his fingers are going to catch on fire because he moves so fast, which is crazy to me because he’s so old.
O’HARA: [laughs] We went on after a band called Transgendered Jesus, so Mr. Glass had a lot to live up to.
STONE: Earlier in the night we were backstage standing next to a few highbrows who were discussing Phillip Glass’ masterful use of minimalism and fortissimo and all that and then we jump on stage and start screaming about butt sex. I think it was a bit of a culture shock for them.
MCVEY: [laughs] Let’s talk about this upcoming showcase. You’ve got some cool bands involved; HRT BRK, Sand Flower—you guys are headlining, kind of bringing it all together. How close are you with the other bands?
STONE: We’re really close with the people in Elliot Has Powers, a band fronted by Emily Powers of Eva and Her Virgins. She’s been singing with this cool musician named Elliot Klein. In a way, we’re all part of this weird Mike Madrigal community. He booked our first show and he’s producing this show. He doesn’t exactly manage us, but we do pretty much every gig he wants us to do.
MCVEY: He kind of shepherds you guys.
STONE: Yes, and we shepherd him as well.
MCVEY: [laughs] Bri, you cut Emily Powers’ hair.
STONE: She cuts everyone’s hair.
O’HARA: I do. I do.
MCVEY: I was actually just talking to Christian Benner…
O’HARA: I love Christian.
MCVEY: I wasn’t surprised when he told me you also cut his hair.
O’HARA: And Jimmy Gnecco’s.
MCVEY: Actually, I was surprised to see Jimmy walking in Christian’s show last season. When he walked out, I was like, “Jimmy?” He totally rocked it.
O’HARA: He’s got an amazing voice, crazy range, and he’s a total sweetheart.
MCVEY: You’re the go-to rock-star hairstylist who’s actually a rockstar. I’ve asked you this before Bri; who’s your favorite hair icon out there right now?
O’HARA: One hundred percent Alicia Keys. My mentor Antonio Diaz has done amazing things with her hair. Mullets, different wigs, every look, they’re just killin’ it. He’s a genius in so many ways.
MCVEY: What about you Tyler?
STONE: I’m gonna be cliché and bring it to New York right now, and you’ll see her tonight; Amanda Lepore. Her and Susanne [Bartsch] both have their own hair people, but in terms of always-on point and rockin’ hair, it’s Amanda. You never know, she might have it slicked back like the female Terminator or it might be in a gigantic bow made of hair balancing precariously on her head—either way it’s gonna look great.
O’HARA: She’s so sweet and gentle.
STONE: And she never forgets to tell you how great you look.
MCVEY: There are a lot of godmothers in the New York City club scene, Amanda is one, and Susanne Bartsch, who you mentioned, is another. Susanne also has that intimate connection with David [Barton], your drummer. Is your connection with her a little more intense due to their relationship. Is she Liquid Blonde’s official godmother?
STONE: I guess you can say that. She’s definitely blessed us with some really rad gigs, but honestly, if it weren’t for David, she probably wouldn’t give a rat’s ass.
O’HARA: [laughs] Lesbi-honest.
MCVEY: So much of America’s rock-n-roll’s history can be tied to different scenes; whether it’s CBGB’s or Seattle in the ’90s. I mentioned earlier that you’re hard to pin down, but how much is the growing Susanne Bartsch family, or “scene” if you will, a part of Liquid Blonde’s success?
STONE: The thing about Liquid Blonde, is that it transcends many scenes. We’re pulling in the gay crowd and the gender non-specific artistic Susanne Bartsch crowd, but we’re equally respected by the The Dirty Pearls and KILLCODE—these hard, straight up rock-‘n’-roll Lower East Side bands. We’re not pandering exclusively to the punks, the metal heads, or the goths. Our music is a melting pot of all those worlds. It’s a little confusing for a lot of people, but it seems to be working for us.
O’HARA: It can feel a bit like high school out there sometimes. I like to think there’s a piece of me in everything I see and vice versa. Don’t pigeon hole me in regards to my sexuality, my music, or my art. I can’t deal with borders. I need to spread it the fuck around in all aspects of my life.
STONE: Susanne does that to me sometimes. I wanted to DJ one of her parties and trust me when I say, I can spin house music like nobody’s business, and she says to me in her crazy Swiss-German accent, “No Tyler, you’re too rock-‘n’-roll.” I just wanna choke her out sometimes!
O’HARA: [laughs] You know, I wanna choke her out sometimes too. There’s a song we have called “Bump in the Night.” I played it for her once and a few days later she goes to me, “I don’t like all this bumping in the night.”
STONE: “The night and the bumping. I don’t like it.”
O’HARA: [laughs] When that weirdo was masturbating in the audience at our last Highline Ballroom show, while everyone else was totally grossed out, Susanne was just laughing, jumping around, and taking a bunch of selfies with the guy.
STONE: She was loving it! [laughs]
MCVEY: Tyler, you’re a southern boy. Do you ever go back to Alabama?
STONE: Not since 2008, when my mother passed away. It should be mentioned that I killed my former self once I moved here. I terminated him.
MCVEY: Are all New York City club kids orphans in a similar respect, or are they more like phoenixes?
STONE: Some are orphans, some are phoenixes, and some are trust-fund kids who still live with their parents and don’t work for shit. They deserve to have fun, too, but I work hard for everything I have. Everyone in this band works his or her ass off. When I say I have nothing to lose, I mean it.
MCVEY: Bri, you’ve taken a lot of people under your wing in a similar capacity. Your salon really embraces the full potential of that word.
O’HARA: I’m the fairy godmother of Clinton Street, and I love all my children—the fucked-up transplants, not the daytime soap.
MCVEY: I was walking by your salon after midnight the other night. I looked through the window and you were sitting in the dark, alone at your desk in deep thought. You looked like Michael in The Godfather planning a hit on the heads of the five families.
O’HARA: [laughs] Pacino in the mid-’70s; not bad. You know what’s funny, I know exactly what night you’re referring to. Don’t worry, no one died… yet.
MCVEY: Do you ever feel like you’re too accessible or that you take on too much?
STONE: In this city, if you don’t feel that way most of the time, you’re doing it wrong.
O’HARA: With great accessibility comes great responsibility.
STONE: You should tell him about the major celebrity that threatened to kill you if you didn’t marry him.
MCVEY: I’m sure he won’t mind you dropping his name here.
O’HARA: I don’t kiss and tell.
STONE: [laughs] Please darlin’, you own a hair salon. I’ve worked there. I know what goes on.
O’HARA: Mum’s the word.