From the moment we saw Liverpudlian outfit Queen Zee supporting Marmozets at Concorde 2 earlier this year, and subsequently with their own headline show and tour with Dream Wife, we knew they were destined for big things. Having just announced their debut eponymous album, out on their very own Sasstone Records, we thought it was the perfect time to catch up with lead singer Zee, to talk everything from touring with Dream Wife, to being a DIY band and the struggles that come with that.
First of all, what a year you’ve had! Headline tours, festivals and a support slot with Dream Wife, but what was the moment where you truly felt like you were in a ‘proper’ band?
Zee: I have my moments where I step back and realise there’s kids in the audience watching us with the same look I used to watch bands with when I was 15. Especially when you play a venue like KOKO or Manchester Academy. But at the same time, it’s all the same behind the scenes. I write in the same way, I play the same guitar, I live in the same place, I still have the same phone as when we started. It’s not been a rocket to stardom, just a bigger stage.
I first saw you at The Prince Albert back in April. You played much larger venues on the Dream Wife tour. How did you adapt to that?
Zee: More cardio. In a lot of cases I hear bands saying they struggle moving to bigger venues, but I feel like Queen Zee is inherently glam and pop oriented enough to step onto a big stage and just do our thing without changing too much. While still raw enough to not be intimidated by a small space either.
Dream Wife have been strong advocates for safe spaces at gigs. Having played with them on tour, did you notice a difference?
Zee: Yeah it was a beautiful sight to see queer kids and female identifying people and aliens not scared to get involved at the front. That being said, it would be nice to not have to be an activist for it and for that to just be the norm. That’s what we can aim for.
You’ve just announced your self-titled debut album. What can we expect from that and how does the album process differ from making singles?
Zee: The album is comprised of most of our singles, remastered and in some cases re-worked, and then newer songs that I think better represent where we’re at right now. The process was pretty similar as we have yet to sit in a studio and do eight songs in one for record. The only time we’ve done that we binned it.
You’re self-releasing it on Sasstone Records, your very own label. What are the problems that come with that? How much does something like the PRS Foundation Momentum Music Fund help out with that?
Zee: As Wu-Tang say: “Cash rules everything around me”. Bands fees aren’t great, it’s no secret. It’s hard to make a living on live income alone, record sales are down and streaming for smaller artists who aren’t hitting the millions or billions of plays does very little. A lot of bands rely on tour support from their record label to make tours happen, a label will pay for promo, for video shoots, for quality photos, for a radio plugger etc. So when you do it yourself it means working within a budget at all times, which can be frustrating when you have to turn something down, that is literally your dream, because you don’t have the money. But on the flip side, we’ve maintained control of Queen Zee, we’ve made a boss record, we’ve toured Europe and done it all ourselves without any big wigs having to pull strings for us. So when the day comes when we are ready to sign, we’re ready, it won’t destroy us.
Do you have any plans to release other people’s music through Sasstone?
Zee: We already have, Zand released their ‘Luci’ single via Sasstone this month with a lot more planned. We also work alongside Piss Kitti who have things also in the works. We don’t pretend to be a big label, but what we can offer is a genuine dedication and support.
When the Queen Zee project first started it appeared to be more of a persona based around the band, but now it seems like there’s more of a ‘real’ side. Was that intentional?
Zee: I think I relaxed over time. It is still very much a persona, and hinges on the ridiculous. Yet I’ve just embraced that that is my everyday.
You’ve said that you, “See Queen Zee as a collective” and you’ve released things like zines for your fans. Is that personal connection important for a DIY band to thrive?
Zee: Queen Zee came to Earth from a different dimension and is just trying to learn as much about the world as possible. Connecting with the humans is vital.
As an overt, outspoken and proud advocate for queerness, have there ever been any moments, from the industry or audiences, where you’ve felt prejudiced or victimised?
Zee: Yeah of course we’ve had our negative experiences, it happens. It sucks, and that’s why we exist. But I’m dedicated to giving a positive example of queerness. It doesn’t hinge on my suffering, I want to show how much joy it brings me.
On the whole, your music is wholesomely provocative. Have there ever been occasions where you’ve overstepped the line or read the room wrong? I remember reading about a gig at a Cheltenham festival…
Zee: Yeah we do it all the time, people don’t always want some ravin’ scouser (wool) screaming at them on a Sunday afternoon. But at the same time, if we’ve been booked to play we’re gonna play.
Finally, what are you listening to at the moment?
Zee: Mostly whale noises, occasionally my own songs.
Queen Zee’s debut album Queen Zee is released on 8th February 2019 and they play The Hope & Ruin on 15th February 2019.